The news echoed through the phone’s earpiece — two day suspension. The words cut through this mother’s heart like a hot knife through butter. The assistant principal was asking me to come pick up my second grade son. My body went numb. The only feeling was the force of my wounded heart pounding against my rib cage.
Wait? Why? How could this be? Haven’t I been a good enough mother? Haven’t I taught my children to be kind, show respect, and never harm another person? Don’t they get enough love? Did I drop the ball as a parent?
My son has no sense of aggression or violence. He wasn’t attacking another student, but rather defending a friend from a school yard bully. He wasn’t the first one to hurl the water bottle, the weapon of choice; he was just the one with better aim.
Why weren’t we notified prior to the ax being dropped on this first time offender? I’m in no way upset that my son was disciplined for his poor choice. I’m disappointed that we were not involved in the life of our son. We were not called in to the school, so that, as a team, we could do what’s best and most effective for our son. Had someone called and talked to me, I could have told them that missing two days of recess would be a much more effective to a seven-year-old boy than two days off of school. My son calls that vacation.
But no one called me.
Instead, the severest of punishments was administered to a first time offender. A black mark that will follow him the rest of his school career. A label that will put him in a category, a box of high alert for future detentions, future suspensions, and future visits to the principal’s office. They can say what they want about not putting labels on children, but I’ve worked in a school. I was a teacher not that long ago.
I want to protect my boy from this system. I want to pull him out and hold him close to me, never to let him out of my reach. He’s still so innocent, still so pure. He’s not ready for the harsh reality of this world. So, for two days I just wanted to run, and never look back.
Then, after two days of playing the victim and feeling like a failed mother, I changed my mind. I dried my tears and began working to turn this negative experience into a positive one.
The system is broken. The system isn’t perfect, like everything else in this world. I know I won’t be able to change the system, but it’s the system that we’re a part of, right now, so we’re the ones who can make some changes.
We wrote a letter to the superintendent, expressing our disappointment.
We set up a meeting with the principal, to get to know her better, and discuss our concern with how the situation was handled.
We set up a meeting with his teacher and counselor, to discuss ways to make sure he is successful in school, not how he can fit in their box.
I filled out the background check, so I can volunteer in the school.
I set-up a babysitter for once a week to watch my youngest while I volunteer in the school.
Then, this week my mother-in-law is baking cinnamon rolls and we’re taking them up to the office staff.
I won’t be able to change the system, but I can change the way the system relates to us.