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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teachers Have More Rights Than Children ~ According to Colorado District 11 (Part III of III)

Advocacy for Your Child
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Now that thanksgiving has passed, it's time to get back to the heart of my posts...ADVOCACY issues for children!  This is Part III of concerns that lead me to remove my second grader from a classroom where the teacher was emotionally abusive to students.  Colorado Springs School District 11 has continued to allow this teacher to remain on staff and has been evasive regarding what steps are being taken to protect the children who remain in that teacher's classroom.  The Principal of the school informed me that her "hands were tied" and was unable to reassure me regarding what if any disciplinary action had been taken based on my reports to her and to the Superintendent.  She cited "legal reasons" and "human resources regulations" when I inquired why a parent cannot know the plan of action regarding allegations of emotional abuse by a teacher.  I believe it is our right as parents to be fully aware of the following:  Here is a copy of the email I sent to the Superintendent:

Dr. G:
I want you to know that I spoke with Dr. M prior to Thanksgiving break and was unsatisfied with her responses to my concerns.  I believe it is my right as a parent to understand the following:
1. What is the formal plan to address the concerns that I stated as the parent of a child affected by his teacher's behavior?
2. What is being done to correct the problem?
3. How is the school going to prevent the emotional abuse from occurring again?
4. How will the situation be monitored?
5. Length of time the teacher will be monitored before a review of the concerns is conducted? 
6. How does the school intend to find out how many other children have been affected by the teacher's behaviors?

I find in unethical and negligent that the school district has not taken precautions to protect the children in the second grade classroom who may not be aware that it is OK to speak up for themselves and question the behaviors of their teacher.  Furthermore, with the school district's policy on anti-bullying, I am disappointed that these expectations are not filtering through to the teaching staff as well.  When I asked Dr. M if a teacher who had physically abused a student would be allowed to continue in a classroom, she stated that the same procedures would be followed and a thorough investigation would be conducted.  I told her that would mean the teacher would be allowed to return to the classroom if the "same" procedures would be followed as in the case of suspected emotional abuse.  She stated that I was putting words in her mouth.  I said logic follows that if a teacher has been allowed to return to teach class (according to procedure) for an emotional abuse allegation and the "same" procedures would be followed for cases of physical abuse, then the teacher would be in the classroom.   If this is true, then there is something seriously wrong with the system that reviews such allegations!  

I also questioned that the incidents of emotional abuse had been "thoroughly investigated."  If no other children were asked if they had concerns or were "sad" about anything in the classroom, then basically all you did was have my report versus the teacher's report.  Unacceptable.  That is not a "thorough" investigation at all!  It lacks integrity!  I reminded Dr. M that I gave names of other children in the classroom who had been targeted.  So it's not just my child who was affected.

I want you to be aware that I am not letting this issue drop and will continue to pursue a satisfactory result even if this means consulting with my own attorney on this matter.  I have been conducting my own research regarding other school systems who have encountered the same road blocks that you (or your "legal team") have placed in my way.  I am deeply concerned that the teacher in question has more rights that the children with who he has been entrusted. 

The sad part is this could be easily solved by being more transparent with your plan of action.  I will be advocating for the following:

1. Parents need to know what protective measures are in place including frequency of supervision of the teacher.
2. What additional training will be provided to the teacher to help understand the impact of emotional abuse on children? Training regarding what constitutes "joking" versus "bullying" is important.
3. How can you incorporate humor, music, and movement opportunities in the classroom for this specific age of children that will enhance attention versus diminish their self esteem?
4. How long will you monitor teaching behaviors and expect completion of additional training?
5. Career counseling should be provided to offer options within the teacher's areas of talent.  It could be that elementary school is not his specialty and he would be a better instructor with a different age group.  Perhaps teaching adults is a better choice so at least the playing field is more even. 
6. There needs to be additional counseling sessions available for children so they can learn to become self-advocates!  I am teaching my children, but many others may need help addressing this skill!  It is one that will serve them well throughout life!  I am more than happy to volunteer my time toward these efforts and have started creating some activities that could be used.  I will be posting these to my blog site for parents in the future.

The school district has an opportunity here to make a difference.  There has to be something that will satisfy parent concerns and still remain within the legal boundaries that apparently "tie the hands" of those who could step up and do the right thing.  I do not accept that you are unable to reveal the plan of action to prevent further incidences.  I believe the other parents will feel the same way when I provide them with the information in this correspondence and on my blog site that promotes advocacy. 

Hoping you respond to my concerns so we can work together to effect positive change.  As I have stated before..I want to be part of the solution to this very serious issue. 

Mary Varville-Rodriguez
Reflections Beneath The Poetz Tree
(Parenting Observations, Insights, and Inspirations)

Another Note:

Since my last post, I have additional information that I provided to the School Principal regarding other comments and interactions of the teacher in question:
A child's name was used to mock him when the child was having a hard time with math and other subjects.  The child's last name is "Wiser" so the teacher said, "Be more wise, Wiser!"  (A second grader will not appreciate the sarcasm and application of last name to make a point.)
A child who has a hard time paying attention had the teacher come up behind him, with the teacher waving arms out to the sides, as the teacher shouted " (Child's Name_) I believe in you."  He shouted so loudly that it scared the child.  So the teacher could say he was shouting words of encouragement when in fact he was emotionally abusive in that situation.  (I find this especially reprehensible since he could technically tell school administrators he is being supportive.)
To the entire second grade class, the teacher said, "In order to go to the library, since people are going willy nilly, then you have to work hard and say, "Mr. M is the best teach ever."  
The teacher also asked the entire class, "How many of you say a bad word when you are angry?"  Not sure why he would say this or how this is part of the lesson plan.  

Your comments and experiences are welcome and I would like to collect as much anecdotal documentation as possible from my readers.   I hope to launch another site soon that will be dedicated to self-advocacy, how to help children develop this skill, and a place where other resources are listed to help in the pursuit of this critical life skill.  I look forward to your participation.  If you are unable to post of Google Account, then submit your comments to or with permission to copy and add to my site.  

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