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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Open Letter To My Sons Preschool

Hello X,

My son won't be coming to school today. Our family has not decided if our son will be returning to your school. At this point however, I have huge concerns about his physical and emotional well-being.

I picked X up yesterday. I asked the teachers on duty how his day was, since we don't get the daily logs until Fridays, since as you explained, it isn't cost effective to print them. I was told he had a good day by the teacher on duty. We get in the car and literally a block away from school, he tells me he needs to go to a doctor. Stunned and surprised, I asked him why. He then proceeds to tell me that another child had hit him in the teeth with his head, and that his tooth is falling out, he couldn't eat, and there was blood. I immediately pulled the car over, got out, and asked him to show me his tooth. He smiled and I touched his tooth. Much to my dismay, his tooth was so loose it appeared ready to fall out.   I asked him if his teachers knew about this, and he said yes, that he complained of his inability to eat and that he was asked to spit in a cup, but no teacher saw the infliction of the injury. I am assuming that the spitting was done to verify that he was bleeding. 

I drove us home to get our emergency credit card, as well as to explain to his dad why he couldn't go to his after school activity, and that instead, we were going to the dentist. I then called the school's main number and spoke to a teacher who answered the phone, although I do not remember the young lady's name. I asked her what happened to X today, and she told me that she was so sorry I had not received an incident report, that no teacher had saw the injury occur, and that teacher X was the one who was most involved in the situation, but she didn't have time and forgot to write one, as she had to leave work early.  I thanked her for the information and asked for your phone number. As you know, I then called you and left the message asking you to return my call as we were in route to the dentist. I will provide you with the copies of the dentists report, along with the x-rays that were taken.

Upon returning home, I was still far too upset to speak rationally. I was and remain upset because 1) my child was injured badly, 2) there was no incident report and I was not notified by a teacher telling me when I picked him up, nor was I called, 3) appropriate medical care was delayed due to this, 4) I had to find out about it from him immediately after driving away from school and 5) I had just informed you that physical violence was being inflicted on my son just 48 hours prior to his injury, and trusted that my having informed you of this situation would produce positive results in making sure all the children were safe while at school.

Further, I was shocked that when Xs dad returned your call (because I was in no state too), he was told that no injury occurred that warranted an incident report. That directly contradicts what your employee told me over the phone. Clearly, the medical facts would suggest an incident did occur, and the injury was severe enough to warrant medical attention.  Attention that was delayed because teacher X had to leave early.

His dad also informed me that during the course of your phone call, you asked to only have contact with me, since I am the one who picks X up and drops him off everyday. Dad's name is all over the enrollment paperwork, his email address is part of the parent group email address list, and he is X's father.  He doesn't pick up or drop X off because he is working. We are not separated, and he is a critical and daily part of Xs life and is extremely invested in both his education and safety. I'm upset this even needs to be explained, as even if we were not together, he remains Xs father and retains his parental rights to be involved in his care and education.

Lastly, I was extremely disappointed that my email asking for your assistance helping my son navigate the violence (or rough play, or any other euphemism it's commonly called) was apparently disregarded. Your reply, which I'm sure you have retained a copy of, suggested that violence was okay for those boys who exhibit characteristics that represent "110% boy" personality traits (ie hitting). Let me ask you, what does that mean? What does 110% boy mean? Does it mean that physical aggression from boys is acceptable? Does it mean that another child is viewed as less of a boy if they are in control of their own bodies? If they happen to be more intellectual versus physically inclined? Is a gentle boy like my son viewed by your school as not 110% boy because he refuses to defend himself when being hurt, because he knows violence is wrong? While I respect your desire to honor the individual uniqueness of boys who happen to "play rough", you have an equal responsibility to honor the individual uniqueness of the boys who don't. Most importantly, you have a responsibility that trumps everything thing else - the safety of children.

We are of the opinion that school is designed to prepare children for the real world. In the real world, when people commit battery, there are consequences for their actions. Those consequences generally don't involve the victim needing to confront the batterer and working it out between themselves. The police and courts (in this case, you as the teachers) intervene, because they recognize the victims right and society's (or the class as a whole) need for order and safety. As you clearly know, in the real world the batterer goes to jail. As adults, we do children a disservice when we teach them that because they are "110% boy", or they have ADHD (and yes, a teacher did tell me about another child's confidential medical condition, used as an excuse for his rough play with my son), they can physically harm others and have a valid excuse for doing so, that serves as a get out if jail free (no discipline of any kind) card.  All of this is simply unacceptable on so many levels.

Further, in that same email you suggested that it would be best for my son and the aggressive boys work it out themselves, without a teachers involvement. X is five, the other children are likely younger. How is a 5 year old to work it out himself? Clearly, he would if he could, and when he could not, he reached out to me to help. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I let you know he was being hit and was having difficulty navigating the situation. Not only were my concerns initially dismissed, 48 hours later his teeth have been knocked loose. Not once did anyone, including you, ask if he was even okay. And I am to believe he is safe in your care?

When we enrolled X at your school, we relied on the handbook that was presented, which included a strict no violence policy. After the first conflict my son had at school you informed me that the parent handbook is not up to date, nor was it being used in practice at the school, despite the fact it was being distributed and published on the schools website. Discipline at the school seems completely arbitrary, unpredictable, and contingent upon the incidents being seen.  My sons dad told me you said that my son didn't express he was in any pain. If that is true, did he complain when he couldn't eat? How was anyone aware of the presence of blood if he didn't seek out help? Or is he seeking out help and being ignored? I think it's possible he has given up seeking out help because it's not working. He routinely indicates that unless a teacher sees it happen, nothing is done.  Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen.  The failure to write up an incident report and seek medical attention, or to just simply call his mother, who you know is hyper involved, or his father for that matter, and allow me to make the decision regarding the need for medical attention, clearly isn't justified when teachers were aware of the injury to the extent that they provided him a cup to spit blood in.

I initially got the feeling that we would be great partners in Xs care. You spend more waking hours with my son during the week than I do, and I have to trust that at a minimum, he is safe going to school. That fundamental foundation of trust was shattered for our family yesterday. 

I honestly don't know where we go from here. I'm at a complete loss. X enjoys his time at school, with the exception being only when he's being beaten by other children. He has friends, has adjusted well, and enjoys his teachers. I will keep you informed of our decision.

Mother of a Gentle boy

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