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  1. #1
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    Mar 2006
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    Florida
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    Default Appropriate response to a teacher's assault on a student

    A middle school student and teacher had a verbal dissagreement and the student was asked to leave the classroom and wait outside. The student did as told by the teacher. The student was still outside when the teacher slammed the door closed in the student's face. The student opened the door to say something to the teacher and the teacher pushed the student away from the door causing the student to stumble backwards hitting a railing and closed the door again. No serious physical harm was done however it is my understanding that a teacher is not allowed to use physical force like this.

    When the class was questioned about the incident 2/3 of the students who were paying attention reported that they saw the teacher push the student. We have written witness statements by the students.

    There is a lot more to this story, things like the VP telling certain students not to use the words "pushed or shoved" in their witness reports and another student was not allowed to comment on the teacher pushing the student at all. The VP initially refusing to get witness statements from the whole class as requested by the family. The VP threatening to have the student arrested for causing a disruption in the class. The VP overheard making light of the situation saying that the family was "going to go to President Bush...no, GOD!" The VP leaving a voicemail later appologizing for being unreasonable and saying that the family was being reasonable (this after the family went to the principal with the above details).

    The child was put on a 2 day suspension although the family asked that the suspension be delayed until all of the class had a chance to comment on the situation. The reason for the suspension is because the student supposedly caused a disruption in the class because the other students clapped after she finished having her say. 5 of the witness statements specifically mention the tone of voice of the student as being calm, not yelling, just loud enough for the class to hear. The argument between the student was a result of the teacher repeatedly cutting the student off before the student could finish asking a question. This had been happening all year to this student as well as many others. The teacher told the student she was being rude and the student said the teacher was the one being rude. After the student was told to leave the class the student replied that she wasn't the only one who felt the teacher was rude and that is when the class applauded the student as a "thank you" for standing up for not just herself but for all of the class as well. (18 of the 29 students who wrote some sort of statement about that day said that the teacher repeatedly cut the student off in the middle of her question. There are a total of 29 witness statements but only 18 of those students were paying attention, the other 11 students either had left the room or weren't paying attention to the situation.)

    The teacher's version of the story is different of course and claims that the student spoke to her in a very intimidating manner. It even includes a lie saying that the student didn't go to the time-out room when in fact the student did exactly as directed, and as soon as the bell rang for that period to be over, she stepped outside, was applauded again by the students, then she went directly to the school police officer to file a complaint and the officer escorted the student to the vice principal's office to file the complaint.

    Initially the vice principal and principal were not very cooperative until the family said they had no other way to resolve this other than going to Law Enforcement to file charges against the teacher. That afternoon the school officials got much nicer and cooperative, getting witness statements and appologizing.

    Long story short, the teacher was mad at the student and pushed her away from the door causing the student to stumble back and go into a railing. The teacher has denied laying a hand on the student however 12 of the 18 students that were paying attention during the time of the incident reported seeing the teacher push the child.

    This teacher has been in the school system for over 30 years and is probably fed up with the kids and just lost her temper but she lied about her actions, caused grief for the student and family, and should be held accountible for her actions. Pushing a child is not the right way to handle the situation. In fact, propper protocol in this school system for a child who is truly out of control is for the teacher to call for an administrator to come and remove the child from the classroom.


    How should this family proceed? They are upset that the child now has a suspension on permanent record when the suspension seems to have been done in haste.

  2. #2
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    The part you won't want to hear, but there are lots of educators in my family: The family should stop making excuses for a bratty kid who mouthed off in class. The teacher's conduct was wrong, certainly, but so was the student's.

    Is the suspension issue or any school discipline issue now resolved to your satisfaction? I take it there were no physical injuries to speak of?

  3. #3
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    Mar 2006
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    Florida
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    The thing is, this child isn't normally "bratty" and is in fact quite respectful. The other teachers really enjoy her, especially the ones who've known her for 2 or 3 years and I am sure they would be able to give upstanding character descriptions of the child.

    However, the student was lectured about disrespecting authority. Even if the child is right, she shouldn't have pushed her point with the teacher. She accepted her 2 day suspension and even before the suspension was given, she appologized to the vice principal.

    Like I said, she really is not a typical bratty kid.

    She tied for first place for her team's science fair (she is in the advanced classes team). She and her friend just came in 2nd in the school for their oral presentation at the history fair and tomorrow they go on to compete for the entire district. She is not a bad kid or a trouble maker. She stood up for herself after being disrespected by this short tempered teacher all year.

    I did not want her to have a suspension on her record because I feel that due to the circumstances, the suspension is really going overboard for the offence. Since this is the way the school wants to act I feel that the teacher should also be punnished. What lesson do the children learn if she is not?

    Moral of the situation can be looked at as student does wrong and pays the consequences, teacher does wrong and pays the consequences. Or it can go a different way where the studen takes her punnishment yet the teacher lies and gets away with it.

    In our home our child is taught that she can question authority, respectfully, because you know what? Sometimes adults make mistakes! Imagine that!

  4. #4
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    I'm all for democratic parenting; the authoritarian style often results in kids who ultimately neither think as well or behave as well as their peers. Please excuse me if this was an isolated case; I'm used to hearing of the kids who are consistently bratty, and whose parents can't tolerate any suggestion that their child should behave better.

    Being able to stand up to an unreasonable exercise of authority is a good thing. (Although, as you are seeing, there can be negative consequences.)

    A middle school suspension probably won't have any significant long-term consequence, but that's not to say "walk away from it". There should be an administrative appeals process you can pursue, probably culminating with the school board, to contest the penalty and to try to have it removed from the child's record. If that fails you could litigate to have the suspension lifted; but that would likely be an expensive process.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2006
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    Thank you for the reply. I did look up our local school board personnel and made a few calls yesterday, however I never got to speak with anyone as the phones just kept ringing off the hook.

    Our district has a zero tollerance policy with unruly, class disrupting children's behaviour being punnished by suspension. I personally don't feel that my daughter's actions warrented her being labelled as disrupting, especially when she did not raise her voice. The teacher initially told my daughter she was being rude and to leave the class, which she did while responding that the teacher was the one being rude by cutting her off and not allowing her to ask her question.

    Her schooling from the pre-school years through to the end of grade 5 were done in a Montessouri school except for a portion of 4th grade with me when I home schooled her due to limited space at her school. I moved her to a mainstream public school at the beginning of grade 6 to help prepare her for high school and dealing with the real world. She is also in the orchestra at her school and has the first chair for chello and just helped them win a trophy this weekend. She is not a punk, smart-ass kid. However she is also not afraid to stand up for herself or others who are being wronged. She wants to be a lawyer when she grows up and if she continues the way she's going, she's going to be a darn good one.

    I'm guessing the next course of action for us to take is to speak with the principal again. I will go over the student witness reports with him pointing out consistencies of the reports. I would like to see the teacher disciplined for putting her hands on my daughter and lying about it. I would also like to have the principal review the statements of the children who were in the class describing my daughter's actions in an attempt to get the suspension off her record. I know it's not a big deal but she is about to enter high school and I don't want her going in there already labelled as a trouble maker. If I don't get anywhere with the principal, then I will go to the school board.

    I don't envy anyone who is a teacher these days. I even told the police officer that they couldn't pay me enough to work in the school system. There really are some horrible kids and parents to deal with on a daily basis.

    The teacher asked for my daughter not to be allowed back in her class room so today she started with a new teacher. That is a relief and now she can focus on her work again. My daughter had been complaining about this teacher from the beginning of the year so she's happy she has been moved. Some of the stories she's told me about this teacher just blow my mind...like telling the students if they marry a cousin and have children, the children will die by bleeding to death if they get even a tiny cut and that it's not just a possibility but it is 100%. I was sure my daughter misunderstood the teacher so I asked another student and sure enough, she recanted the same story.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    12

    Default Re: Appropriate response to a teacher's assault on a student

    An assault on a minor is a criminal offense, even by an teacher and is not justified under any circumstances. Even misbehavior. File a complaint of abuse with your local child protection services. Another option is to file a criminal complaint with the police. If this behavior is allowed to continue, another student may suffer greater harm. Do not expect anything from the principal of the school- they are there to protect the teacher in such cases. You need to go to the agencies designated to handle these matters carefully.

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