His teacher is hitting my son

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Malika, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Sorry about the dramatic title - attention grabbing :)
    For some time, I and other people have noticed that when we scold J, he looks frightened and immediately covers his head with his arms, as though he expects to be hit. Yesterday the childminder talked to me about it. I talked to J about it. He was reluctant to talk about it, which makes sense to me (kids who are being abused, of which I suppose this is a mild form, know they have to keep it secret) but told me that his teacher hits him hard on the head... also pulls him by the ear.
    What to do with this knowledge? Again, it all comes down to culture and environment. I'm afraid that while it is (I think) technically illegal, hitting in the form of cuffs to the head, etc, does go on in schools here and seems fairly widespread from what I hear. It is also not right and obviously not good for the children in general, and J in particular.
    I could go straight to talk to the teacher, but that would not necessarily be wise. This is a tiny community, all based on good relations and personal interaction (a bit farcical when you consider the dreadful relationship I have with my immediate neighbours in the village :)) and there is no place to play the outraged parent... Apart from this, the teacher is devoted to the children, passionate about teaching and has apparently taken J under her wing, spending a lot of extra time with him, and so on. She has a reputation of being strict and for losing her temper easily.
    I want this to stop but do not know how to go about making that happen without causing a mini-furore that will do no-one any good. It is certainly not appropriate to complain to the "authorities". This morning I went to talk about it to one of the assistants at the school, a sympathetic young woman. She clearly felt in a compromised position and repeated that it would not be appropriate for her to talk to the teacher (I had not intended that she do this) and that if she were in my place, she would talk directly to the teacher. She obviously has no idea it is going on - she did say that she absolutely never hits the children (I believe her) and that if she did, she would lose her job...
    Does anyone have any inspiration about how this can be dealt with?
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Malika...I am stunned. If anyone laid a finger on my kids at school, the teacher would be in grave trouble and I would be ready to pound the teacher myself...is this a public school? And hitting ON AND AROUND THE HEAD???? I would not send my child back to that school again...ever. Do you have other options where they don't hit?

    I am truly flabbergasted that in France, which I thought of as a progressive country, would allow corporal punishment in school let alone on the head. Whether nor not she is a good teacher in other ways, she has no business hitting your child. Is there a chain of command there where you can fail a complaint? Heck, she has no business teaching if she is hitting four year old boys on the head and pullilng their ears. Sounds like something out of an old, old movie with poor kids who lived in orphanages. Of course this will make your son think he is "bad" and make him even more hyperactive.

    Poor little J. As you know, this is usually a poor way to deal with any child, let alone a difficult child...

    Hugs. Hope somebody else can help you more.
  3. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I'm with MWM. She should not be hitting him, especially on the head. I could see using special holds on him if he is doing something dangerous, but not hitting him on the head or dragging him by the ear. Sounds like the stories my Dad told me about when he went to Catholic school in 1940s & 50s.
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    She can do PERMANENT damage to him, some of which may not show up for years. My bro had ear problems. Then the day he returned after ear surgery his teacher (3rd gr) lifted him up out of his chair by that ear. I know because I heard him scream from down the hall and ran to see him with blood coming out of his ear and the teacher telling him he couldn't call home. Years later he has hearing damage from it. Some is from music too loud, but it started far earlier than it should and some things that happened were caused by that assault.

    Head blows can cause brain injuries. We are learning more and more about them. She can actually cause damage and scars on his brain that could accumulate and eventually stop his development in one or more areas. Or weaken areas of his brain that may have problems and actually kill him. A hard enough blow to a child's brain is NOT hard for even a small adult to do. It doesn't have to be a frying pan to the head.

    Head blows also can cause serious neck issues. Head blows cause soft tissue damage and he may develop neck problems that might LOOK like tense muscles from overuse. But in reality the blows could injure how the muscles attach to the vertebrae and to other bones and cause tears, even cause him to rupture a disc if it happened hard enough and often enough.

    And that is just the physical stuff. in my opinion he is already acting abused. NO CHILD should be beaten. He shoudl NOT cower in fear from an adult, not at age 4. Trust me, I had a very difficult 4yo. Into EVERYTHING, incredibly intelligent and super stubborn. he was already violent with his little sis by age 5. The ONLY thing hitting him EVER accomplished was for him to think that if you are bigger you can hit anyone who upsets you. Well, not true. The times when I smacked his hand for trying to touch the stove he did learn to never do that. Ditto a swat on a diapered bottom for trying to run itno a busy street. For those things, they got his attention enough to let me get through his thoughts to make a lasting impression. But he NEVER cowered from me over that.

    You MUST talk to the teacher. What are the laws about hitting children in schools in your area of France? Quite frankly, you may have to go to the headmaster or principal and raise a fuss. Yes, it won't be fun and the neighbors may be upset. But i would rather have neighbors angry at me than have my child cowering in fear of a teacher.

    I really do NOT CARE what else she does for him. SHE IS ABUSING HIM. Flat out. It is what it is. IF the aide would lose her job for hitting a child, how come the teacher wouldn't and how would YOU be the bad guy for complaining? How many other children is she abusing? Can you put some sort of recorder on him and not tell anyone (including him) and get video of her hitting him or threatening to? We have nannycams that are cameras embedded in toys or other household items so that no one can see that it is a camera. many people use them to be sure the nanny or sitter is not abusing the child when the parents are gone. Maybe you could get a cheap spy camera inside a button or a lapel pin that you could put on his shirt. Or arrange to have in the room somewhere with his things so that the entire room could be video recorded? I wouldn't care about legal at that point - I would want to know what she is doing to my child.

    There really seems to be something wrong with the town you live in. I don't know if it is France or jsut this place. I know you have mentioned moving. IS this a real possibility for you? Given this abuse, it really might be a wise idea. If you stay there this is likely to get worse. Because he will likely become more outspoken as he gets older.

    No teacher who strikes children about the head or pulls their ears is a good teacher. It doesn't matter what else she does, she is teaching fear and that makes her a bad teacher. Now if she chooses to learn to stop, to control her anger and use safer, more humane methods to keep her classroom in line, well, she might become a good teacher. Good teachers do not make students cower in fear and toss their arms up to shield themselves.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    This article reviews France's stand on corporal punishment: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/france.html

    This is a part of that article regarding the current legality of corporal punishment: Ministerial circulars state that corporal punishment should not be used in schools (Circular No. 91-124 of 6 June 1991 regarding primary schools and Circular No. 2000-105 of 11 July 2000 for secondary schools) but there is no explicit prohibition in law and 'light correction' is tolerated in the same way as it is for parents. A High Court ruling in 1889 allowed a 'right to correction' for teachers; a ruling in 2000 stated that this did not apply to habitual and 'non-educational' corporal punishment.

    It seems to me that hitting him on the head or on the ear is habitual for this teacher and sure doesn't seem educational. But I don't live in France, speak the language or understand their culture very well. So that is with my own personal bias. I do think that hitting a 4yo at school should be at least as against the law as hitting a prisoner.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Back when easy child was in primary school (roughly equivalent to elementary), a teacher who was a friend of ours found himself in court charged with abuse of a student because he had spanked the kid. The issue was complicated further because he was living with the boy's mother at the time and acting as step-parent. But the judge, at the time, said that the teacher, any teacher, was within his rights to spank a child who was being naughty, the teacher was acting in loco parentis and could apply whatever discipline was legal for a parent to apply.

    Since then, our Dept of Ed have brought in stricter rules and our teachers are not permitted to touch the kids. Also in the country next door (New Zealand) it is now illegal even for parents to spank their kids.

    Times change, faster in some countries than others.

    Malika, I also live in a small town and had problems with local teachers. I had to make a choice - be polite, friendly and let them abuse my child, or speak up. it was difficult, I had a narrow tightrope to walk, but I finally chose to say to the school, "I respect you, I live in the same community as you, I understand how frustrating the job can be. But here is where you and I part ways - this is MY SON and you WILL NOT HURT HIM. Because we have been friends, I am giving you warning now, and not immediately going to the authorities to lay charges. But that is now. There will be no next time."

    I also went out of my way to be useful to the school, to be a hands on parent doing stuff. If you are useful, the school needs to keep you happier than if you are merely a distant parent.

    That is how I managed in a small village school - it was the best option for me.

  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Thanks all for your input. The article you found, Susiestar, seems to sum it up. So-called "light correction" is quite widely practised and tolerated, it seems.
    I really don't know what to do. My immediate neighbour is poisonous and I feel increasingly unhappy here (this morning heard her telling another villager that J had broken something of hers, but what could you expect since I allow him complete freedom and let him do whatever he wants? This a complete lie as J has not been out unsupervised for two weeks or me - not even for a moment...). Wild thoughts of leaving this area altogether, going to a large town in France (where I have just one friend!) where there is an alternative school that is one I would in any case like for J in the longer term (not necessarily in this town), go back to Morocco... Going to England at this point is not possible for all sorts of reasons, not least to do with visas for England - I won't bore you with the details...
    I do feel the hitting on the head is completely unacceptable. But it is J's cowering in fear from adults who scold him that really has me worried... That means it's habitual, frequent and frightening to him. I know this sounds lily-livered but going to confront her will lead nowhere good... and she will deny it, more to the point. Will it get her to stop? If there is no legal recourse, if she is not doing anything illegal, there is nothing I can threaten...
    I need to think good and hard about this. Other than that, J has been so happy in the school, loves going, loves his routine there. This is not an easy decision.
  8. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    This being France and all... do you have any other parents there who have kids in school? esp. who have or have had that teacher? What do they think about her and/or any options you might have in dealing with it?

    The fact that J is cowering from YOU means he has generalized this... which is a HUGE problem. Its going to affect him go-forward.

    When does school let out for the summer? (or does it). Or, when would he advance and get a different teacher?

    Have you got a therapist yet? If so, I'd start there, rather than at the school. Tdocs can raise red flags everywhere - and tend to get listened to more than "just a parent".
  9. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hi Insane. School finishes for the summer at the end of next week... Unfortunately it is what they call a "single class" school. Which means that J would have this teacher for the next two years.
    I've talked to two friends about this today - one English, one French, both with children in local schools. The English friend says that, based on the experience of her three children, this kind of thing is widespread and the French parents do not care and never complain. A different story from the French friend (and her mother!) who understood the difficulty of stirring things up as a foreigner in a village but said that it was illegal and that parents DID complain - they even felt that parents sometimes complain unreasonably. They were shocked, but not as shocked as the English friend... I'm seeing another friend tomorrow morning, whose son is at the same school - I want to ask her what she thinks.
    The trouble is that speaking out about abuse really does something odd to people. When I saw the assistant to whom I spoke this morning, she kind of ignored me, when usually she gives a friendly greeting and chats. I felt I must say something to J about it, to make it clear that this is not acceptable and that I will protect him from it - so I said that "maitresse" was a very good maitresse but she shouldn't hit him on the head but I am going to speak to her and say she must not - he immediately said vehemently "No, no, she doesn't hit me!". At four years old, he instinctively understands the dynamics of secrecy...
    I have decided I have to speak to her (so help me god!!) I cannot go in all guns blazing saying "What the hell are you doing?" But I am going to start the conversation by talking about hyperactivity, that with the child psychiatrist we are almost certain he has ADHD though no diagnosis will be given before age six, and that she has recommended that non-punitive approaches be taken, etc. In the context of that, I may bring up specifically hitting on the head if the conversation is going well and I am brave enough :)
    I tried to sit and have a "clearing" about the best thing to do this afternoon. What came up was that running away to another entirely new place and school, though tempting, was not the best for J. I am going to give myself the next year to decide clearly what the next step is - where we settle. Time to organise, time to plan. No impulsive decisions. That said, emotionally I would love to get out of here tomorrow...
  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    "What came up was that running away to another entirely new place and school, though tempting, was not the best for J. "

    I hear you! We've just gone through the same discussion... and what it boils down to is, are you better off with the devil you know or the devil you don't know?This being Canada - where we're allowed to get pushy, and the concept of "foreigner" is not so well-defined - we've gotten pushy. But, even then, its tough - step on too many toes, and you close the only doors currently open... then what... move and spend 3 years trying to get established again? by then, he's done school! So... It is REALLY tough.Is there any chance you could observe in the class? Do other parents do this? If so, its possible to see the sequence of events that leads up to this happening... which provides FAR more data than just dealing with the final last-straw action.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  11. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    And yet... when I think of J being hit on the head, with all the possibility of damage as pointed out by Susiestar, and him cowering in fear, I just want to pull him out once and for all... I do need to talk to more people about this. Hey, it never rains but it pours...
    Susiestar, I read the report you gave the link for and found this excerpt interesting:
    "A questionnaire survey of 130 secondary school pupils in Toulon in 2001 found that fewer than one in ten had never been hit; 72 pupils reported having been hit moderately, 19 violently. (Survey by Olivier Maurel, reported in correspondence with the Global Initiative, January 2004)"
    Very different picture in Britain where all hitting in schools has been outlawed and infractions taken very seriously.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I know what you mean by wanting to run away to another city. Sigh. What a mess.

    This really caught my eye: At four years old, he instinctively understands the dynamics of secrecy...

    I wish I had some sage advice. I'm sending hugs.
  13. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    That line about secrecy worries me. If it's a common and open practice in France, why would he feel the need to hide it?
  14. exhausted

    exhausted Active Member

    Oh, my heart is sick! I avoided this thread, so angry for you Malika. This is aweful! Unacceptable! Horrible! I think you have to talk to her. I think if it ends up that you are all alone and this little village runs over you, so be it! I think saying something like "It has come to my attention that you bonk J on the head when he is naughty. You and I come from different cultures, I know. However, I believe in the research that says children who are hit, are more violent than children who are not hit.I also believe it can be psychologically damaging. I really like your dedication to this little school and to J,I don't want to move him,but I am asking you not to hit J. Can we talk about some effective ways to manage his misbehavior other than hitting?"
    I am thinking of you. Don't take a year to get the hell out-it's too long.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Malika, how's this for a suggestion?

    "Maitresse, J has begun cowering form me when I scold, as if afraid I am going to hit him even though I do not hit him when I scold. Can you think of anything that may have happened, perhaps an interaction with other students, that could account for this? It is much more difficult to manage a child with ADHD through fear. His therapist is deeply concerned, as am I."

    Of course she will not admit to hitting him herself, but it gives her 'wiggle room' to be on your side, to say, "I will keep an eye open; can't think why he would do that," but perhaps to NOT hit him that way again. And it protects J form repercussions because you didn't say he told you anything. He specifically said it was not the teacher, didn't he? (even though we know better).

    Wherever he goes next school year - cultivate other kids as 'spies'. It was one such kid who came to easy child and reported that Mrs W had grabbed difficult child 3 by the back of his shirt and dragged him along the corridor, the shirt choking him. With our stricter new rules, this constituted assault. Mrs W is also a neighbour and a friend of mine, but I know she has a temper. I did not say anything to Mrs W, just reported to the principal that I had been told this had happened and could he please investigate? Because of course, such a thing should not happen to my child, and I would know if it did in the future.

    Principal got back to me, said he had investigated and it hadn't happened (yeah, right!) but I can assure you, it certainly never happened again! The school learned fast, that I would know if they did the wrong thing, and I would not be happy. I also gave them enough wiggle room to save face. And the need for them to save face is vital in a small village.

    A couple of years later I was in a position to save Mrs W's job - the school numbers had dropped and she was about to be transferred at no notice to a much more distance school. That was going to cause other problems for difficult child 3, so I went on the campaign trail with the state government. By the next day the situation had changed. Mrs W came to me and thanked me for my intervention. I didn't tell her I had done it for my son and not for her. I let her think what she wanted. She had a year to plan her move instead of a day.

    (Interestingly - Mrs W and her family are currently a target for local village vandals, they and their house get attacked regularly - by former students, now delinquent.)

    So cultivate your spies, never divulge your sources, and always in a small village, give the school plenty of room to say, "I didn't do it!" as long as what they did doesn't happen again.

    I would use the next week to make some phone calls to other schools, including the one in the area closer to the larger city. It doesn't matter if you don't know anybody - you can make new contacts. But they need to be the right ones. I would hunt around for a support network for children with learning difficulties, or behavioural difficulties. if there isn't one, start one. In France it might have to be a secret society! A coffee klatch...

  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Marg -

    As usual, you are absolutely brilliant!

    Of course! - this being France that we're dealing with - the whole culture is "one small village" mindset... You have to think "France-think" or "Japan-think", not whatever-think the rest of us are.

    If you lived within a thousand miles of here, I'd hire you as our advocate.
  17. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Because he's frightened of her, I think - frightened of her reaction if I "tell". I don't know that hitting is openly tolerated in schools. A blind eye is turned, one can put it like that. I did a little google search on "my teacher is hitting my child" (in French, obviously) and it came up with quite a few responses, these kind of stories. Interestingly, the complainer often becomes the subject of persecution and villification... and so it goes...
    Marg, your approach is sound. Trouble is, I'm not particularly well suited to it! Have never been much good at hiding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (as I see it, needless to say :)). And I don't know how credible I could be asking disingenuously: "Do you know why he might be reacting like this?" But I think you're right - I think it's wiser to describe his reaction of cowering in fear and NOT that J has told me that she hits him. Another dilemma - do I tell the parents of the other little boy she hits on the head? In J's class, there are just five children - two boys and three girls. Probably largely under J's influence the two boys are always up to mischief and on the far side of the law... :)
    One of the hesitations about doing a moonlight flit now is that I am seriously considering returning to Morocco or going to England to live in autumn 2012. I therefore don't want to impose yet another change on J before then...
    Thanks all for your insight and support. I appreciate it so much!
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Malika , you have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of moving several times, vs letting him stay in an environment where he is being hit. If you move it will be disruptive, but he will know you are not accepting the hitting, you will protect him. How disruptive will it be? I can't say. Will it be worth the move? I can't say.

    What I can tell you - we began going on regular holidays (about once every two years) when difficult child 3 was 5 or 6 years old. We didn't realise, but he didn't understand that we were only going away for a week we would be back. So this poor kid thought we had left everyone and everything behind - his own home, his own bed, his toys, his favourite things. No wonder he clung to us and panicked if any one of us got out of sight! But We explained it to him when we realised. Once we got back to our own space he understood. The next holiday - he had to learn it all again. But each time he learned it fast, and over time he became a seasoned traveller, the social lessons were marvellous. He learned how to order a meal in a restaurant and he also learned to eat food that is a bit different. We did different things and he adapted, far more than we thought he was able. And it all has taught him to be more adaptable. He still doesn't like going on holiday, until we get there. Then he enjoys it, as a rule. And when he looks back on it, he really values the experiences.

    Something you could do with J, that we did with difficult child 3 - we got him to do a journal of the trip. We let him use the camera to take photos, we encouraged him to write a story about the adventure. Fort a very young kid, I would get him to dictate it while you type, if he finds his own slow typing too frustrating. Then you put the photos and text together for him in a presentation. It is a record of the adventure. Whether it be a holiday or a move, it doesn't matter. It also gives added credit at school. We also find that the process of planning to record the adventure gives the child a focus, makes it more of a distraction from the anxiety of the change.

  19. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Marg's approach is golden. She truly has a gift for this sort of thing. I must say that the vandals attacking her Mrs. W seems to me to be the students she abused striking back at her. NOT an uncommon mindset, in my opinion.
  20. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Susie, you're right. It's sad, really - I quite like her, despite her problems when she had to interact with difficult child 3 in a school setting. We have absolutely no problems with them in the neighbourhood, but I do know that some people, including former students, do bear grudges.

    I do think another moral to that story is, "never teach in your local village school. Always go further afield."

    Thanks for saying I have a gift, but really, I think it's just that I had to find a way that worked, in a small-minded small village environment. I had to find a way to not only work with these people, but continue to live with them too. I fight back a lot more than most; too many parents in our village will either roll over and put up with stuff, or just move their kids out of area (and begin daily long commutes, we are isolated here). With so many other parents putting up with unsatisfactory practices, the rest of us had little chance to force change. But sometimes it worked. Always, however, in the small village environment, the best results can be obtained with "Let's work together to find some answers."

    I think I earned a halo with difficult child 3's last teacher at that school - as far as I have earned any halo. I never thought I would be able to work with that woman. I suspect the feeling was mutual. I suspect they get their windows attacked too, but they live further away from us than the W family. Mrs W was perfection personified by comparison with this - person (trying to find an acceptable word - I give up). It was a tough year for difficult child 3, he coped with this new teacher by simply being sick every day, running a low-grade fever and vomiting as soon as he arrived at school. Genuinely ill, but it took us most of the year to confirm that it was all anxiety. THAT is how extreme anxiety can get, especially when you have a teacher who WILL NOT adapt, or listen to the experts provided to support their teaching of a special needs child.

    One last point, Malika - difficult child 3's anxiety ramped up further each year he spent in that school environment. We ended up having to move him, and it took a few years to undo the damage done. Your son already is damaged. It will get worse if it continues, and as he gets older. You have a week of school year left, to check out other options. Do check them out first - there is no point making a move, if the new place is just as bad. You would have the moving costs to deal with, with no benefit. But if you check it out and find out that it will be better, then who knows what the future will bring? You might find that the place is so good, you don't feel the need to move to England or Morocco in a couple of year's time. Or if you do, he will be more adaptable and generally easier to deal with, if he is in a good learning environment. He also will know that you have set certain standards for people to adhere to, in their dealings with him. That he matters to you, that you love him enough to fight for him. Of course we all love our kids that much, but often our kids don't realise it, especially if something bad is happening and we are unable to make it stop.