Thursday, March 22, 2012

the facts of life

You know that whole ditty about taking the good and taking the bad? Yeah, there was a big old dose of the bad last night and today, and I'm certain that we haven't seen the end of it yet. The last 24 hours has likely torn a hole in the lining of my stomach from all the churning that's been going on.

Outrage is the only way to describe how I felt all evening yesterday. JAM has been having trouble with a teacher this year. When I say 'having trouble,' I'm being generous. I have no reservations saying that his teacher is dishonest and lacking in integrity. All school year, we've counseled JAM to ignore the general "teasing" and playing favorites that he describes. We've told him that not all teachers are going to be great, but that he needs to always be respectful and just do his work.

When he came downstairs a few minutes after going to bed last night, stood before us and choked out, "I'm sorry, but I just worked up the courage to tell you this," my heart stopped. He told us that he had gotten up to use the bathroom yesterday, only to be questioned by his teacher who told him that another male student had just left to use the bathroom. Then he dropped the bomb. "He said I was gay." My heart started beating again and threatened to pop out of my chest.

There's more to this story about other inappropriate things people have heard him say, or heard kids report that he has said, but at this point, we're simply in a JAM's word against his teacher's, who denies this completely. I would love to quit my job and spend every minute in this man's classroom, every single freaking day, just to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Over the course of the last few months, I've showed JAM some online videos that address the use of the word gay as a slur. I showed him Ellen DeGeneres' fabulous monologue about her job as spokesperson for JCPenney. I've talked to him about my support for gay marriage. I've told him that I have friends who just want the right to marry the person who they love, the person they're building a life with, just as his father and I have the right to do. I've emphasized the importance of never using the word gay in a derogatory way. This is one of those basics to me about treating people with respect. To think that he then has it thrown at him as a taunt, by a teacher, no less. Disgust.

My opinion of this teacher has steadily decreased this school year as JAM continued to tell us of his mannerisms and ways of communicating and interacting with the class. If he likes you, you're golden. Unfortunately, he clearly does not like JAM. And our multiple meetings with him to address JAM's special needs and appropriate accommodations (legally required by his 504 plan), have always left us feeling like he'll say what he needs to say in front of his higher-ups, but that he truly does not regard JAM's ADHD as something real, and that he'll continue to do as he likes in his own classroom.

Needless to say, we're in a state of disbelief that this is the situation we're facing right now as parents.  JAM has no other option but to stay in this man's class, since he's the only teacher of that particular grade level subject. I'm sick at the thought of the first time JAM has to face him tomorrow. I hate that I have to let my eleven year old child face this.

These are some entirely shitty facts of life: Some people misuse positions of power. Some people get away with reprehensible behavior. Sometimes life is so inherently unfair.

But, I can't help but applaud him for working up the courage to tell us. He told me today that he figured out why he was afraid to tell us. "Telling you that a kid said something bad to me is one thing, but saying that a teacher said it... well, I was afraid I was going to get in trouble for telling." How is it that we enforce this idea to children that they are so much less worthy than the authority figures in their lives? I want him to always know that he can tell us anything, but I can also understand his fear. My husband and I let him know that we thought he was incredibly courageous to stand before his administrators and tell his story. Even if no disciplinary action can be taken, we at least have that to celebrate.

Unable to come up with a witty sign-off,