MommaMia, I am so sorry, and I'm glad your son recovered so nicely. That was our situation too, except that my son entered that year with a lot of concerns, so even though he had our support, he was vulnerable. My dad and our best friend had both just died, we'd just uprooted him and moved across country and I'd just had a baby ( thankfully, one he requested and was excited about). It was just too much to then deal with an ogre who talked trash.
I was also inexperienced and trusted my MIL who had been a K-1 teacher for 42 years. I did everything she told me to work my way through the system. I joined the PTA and was on the board. I became room mom and I ate in the lunchroom with the students 3 days a week. I found out that by law you only have to have kids in school 4 days a week, so I pulled him out every Thursday and took him to museums. I took my son to a psychologist who advised private school, which we could not afford. Meanwhile, I was trying to work with the school, but the assistant principal was the real ogre, the principal refused to see me and the superintendent wrote a drunken and aimless reply to my letter, along with his denial to transfer him. A week later he was fired ( for other incompetency, which made our county almost loose it's accreditation). The new one was too unfamiliar with what was going on and there was just too much water under the bridge by then to start over. I did have allies, especially in his counselor, but the principal promptly had her removed as his counselor and gave him someone who was not even trained. The teacher of the gifted program was 100% on his side and stuck her neck out, but she was abused too ( her peers called her the weirdo teacher of the weirdo class) and the county head of Spec ed was on our side but had no power in the schools. My son's class had a para pro who seemed kind, but did nothing. Years later she looked all the students from that class up to find out if they were okay, and told us she feared for her own life and that is why she never stepped forward. Instead she went home every day and prayed. Gee, thanks.
On the urging of a neighbor, I considered homeschooling, but was afraid, and also knew my MIL was uncomfortable with it. Then I got a call from the nurse that my son was sick, and she let me talk to him., He got on the phone and said "Mom, I'm not sick - I just had to get out of that place, and this was the only way I could think of to do it". My MIL was in agreement, but the whole thing threw her into a depression over how schools have changed. She quit teaching and gave in to the lupus she'd been fighting for years.
He was 6 when we pulled him - he'd started first grade, but without much improvement. When he was 9, the county begged me to try again, and said I could put him in any school in the county. We went for an interview at one and it was just as bad. What bothered my son the most was the way kids in special ed were treated. Their teachers didn't even pretend to respect them. When he saw a teacher yell and shove a kid who had Downs, his body went stiff and he stayed that way until we left. As soon as we were out the door, I bent down and said "Don't worry - I will NEVER put you in a place like this again" He looked up at me and said "Okay, but can we go around back and let the others out?" My heart sunk as I realized that simply pulling him out had not been enough. As long as others were still locked up, he was too. I think he felt that way until he was 14, when he helped a boy overcome his fear of water awhile teaching at a BSA camp. He wrote me that night that he had found a calling to be a teacher. He cites that incident as the single most important moment of his life. He's found a way to turn this into a positive and gets to devote his life to setting kids free. That has made him a happy person.
Physical abuse is nothing compared to mental abuse. In some schools mental abuse is systematic. Ours began each child's day with the accusation "Are you going to stay on your star today? If you don't, you won't get your reward" With that threat, few could, and the teacher got to keep all her trinkets - along with some of the kid's souls. Kids do not bounce back - like all of us they either internalize trauma or they work it out in some way. I'm glad to hear yours has done that.
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