Monday, May 15, 2006

"Under Fire!" From Crazed Parents

In an earlier blog titled “An Insider’s Joke Outed,” Laura responded in a comment about the professionalism of the staff at her son’s school, and related her own rude treatment by teachers and the school personnel. However, she raised a different issue.

I believe Laura is uninformed as to how modern teachers are “under fire.” Some of our other readers may also be uninformed. That means I will have to open up and relate to you some of my own horror stories, which means I will have to tell you about accusations made against me by crazed parents. I fear you will say to yourself, “If he was accused of this, maybe he did it.” Or you will do like some of my friends have done. “A parent accused you of that? Did you do it?” No one goes through life telling others about complaints made against them at work. “Yeah, my boss thinks I am stealing from the company.” “A customer charged me with sexual abuse and I have been suspended form work until the court case decides my innocence or guilt.” You’ll tell close friends, and then find out who your REAL friends actually are. So here goes. There are so many I don’t know where to start. However, I am going to go easy on myself and tell a few of the less questionable and more ridiculous accusations, although any one of them, if found to be true, could have cost me my teaching license.

A parent who persistently had me “under fire” would obviously debrief her son every time he came home from school. I taught second grade, and her son was only seven years old. Sometimes events became distorted and some facts get left out when you are seven.

I was accused of refusing to let her child use the restroom. It is true, kind of. He wanted to go inside the school building during recess to use the indoor restroom where there are no duty teachers. This is against the rules and has been for years. He said, “I need to use the restroom.” I said, “You can’t come inside the school building. Use the playground restrooms. You are at recess.”

The same boy was purposely getting in the way of people coming down the hall in the other direction. I hated to touch him, but there were a lot of witnesses, so I took him by the hand and walked with him down the hall. Suddenly, he yanked on my arm and yelled, “Ouch! That hurt! You hurt me!” Fortunately, another teacher saw the incident or I would be back in the wholesale millwork business.

In one of my more stupid moments, I used an expression that was popular but never caught on. That expression was, “Take a tablet!” meaning relax and chill out. The whole class was very rambunctious so without thinking I said, “You guys need to take a tablet.” This same parent accused me of threatening to drug her child, and she got a couple of other nut case parents to go along with her.

All of these incidents required the principal, the parents, the school district’s legal representative, a “school investigator,” and me to attend a meeting. They would usually be taped for legal reasons. I got off (found innocent) of all these accusations. There were more accusations though, lots more. The principal recommended I leave the school. He said that if I ever actually do something, even slight, and admit it, I would probably be terminated because all the accusations made against me, though false, would lead the school district to accept the defendant’s claim that a pattern of behavior had been established.

I left that school after the principal made that statement. Just a few days before I left, a new teacher in the school stopped me outside the school building and started talking about my predicament. I could tell she wanted to talk so we went on awhile about my situation, and then she opened up to me.

Four or five years before she had been a first grade teacher in a nearby school district. Her class watched the Walt Disney film, “Lady and the Tramp” as a class treat. A week later her class was doing a unit on their family tree. All the students were asked to research their genealogy with the help of their parents and then give an oral report to the class. All the children were making nice speeches. “My family is German.” “My family is part Cherokee Indian.” "My family is this and that.” One of her students went to the front of the room and started crying. The teacher asked what the problem was and the student said something to the effect that her family didn’t know what they were. They were a mix, and they didn’t know their family tree. The teacher then used the analogy of “Lady and the Tramp.” Lady and a lot of the dogs in the movie were pure bred, but the hero of the story was a mixed breed. She told the child that is what they were like, a mixed breed, like “The Tramp,” with a lot of other breeds mixed in, but maybe that made them the hero.

Within a few days, the teacher had been accused of referring to children as dogs. She admitted it. Her school district told her that written letters of apology needed to be submitted to all the parents and the school district. Once the written apologies were accepted, the teacher was startled to be told that she was terminated. I was shocked she was terminated for that, but I now realize that parents have a lot of power. I am sure I wasn’t as shocked as this teacher, though.

This teacher had been telling me this story and then started crying like a baby. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew that my recent battles “under fire” had drawn her to me as possibly someone she could talk to, someone who might sympathize with her embarrassing and humiliating situation, maybe someone that might understand. She got herself emotionally together and said that our school district had hired her reluctantly and given her a stern warning that her employment was under constant scrutiny and no mistakes would be tolerated. I told her that someone needed to apologize to her for the years of shame and agony she had undergone, and I apologized to her for those who had hurt her. I apologized profusely, and she started crying again.

When I suggest that teachers are criticized, I don't mean that their rudeness has been thrown in their face. They have that coming. I am talking about accusations of crimes commited against children. I'll tell more if I get requests, but some of them upset my stomach and bring back terrible memories I would rather forget.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Holy cow. You're right, my issue was "off topic" now that I know what your issue really was talking about. In my own inimitable naiive way, I thought you were talking about rudeness. Your story is so much more, and makes me worry about the future of our society. Maybe it isn't education that needs to be revamped, but all of us. The litigation lawyers adveritising all day to the unemployed, I cannot help but think, are part of this. I could not do a job, that was already hard to begin with, knowing that people were so gunning for me. I had that once in business, and it nearly wrecked me. Even if the percentage of these kinds of parents is small, it would be horrible. If you get the one parent in a hundred who acts this way, it must feel 100%.

Jake has had one seriously bad teacher. And I know what it did to us. The bad parents must make you daily question your commitment.