As she justified to her supervisor why she had suspended my 9-year-old son indefinitely from the classroom, my heart sank, because the more she spoke, the more she showed me what kind of educator she is.
She had no care nor concern for the child and her job in the meeting that day was to justify and ensure she kept her position as the principal.
Though I had asked for the agenda for the meeting, my emails were ignored. I realized why later: by not providing me the information, there was no way for me to find out from my son what happened from his perspective. If they were to bring out any incidents and I would be caught off guard.
The P3 form teacher even told me she was on gag order by her principal.
Nobody communicated anything to my family prior to my son bringing home a letter that had only three sentences in it, saying he would be suspended from school: no action item required, no date of when he would return, no mention of what he did wrong, except that the school did not know how to handle him.
I called the form teacher, all she said was that she was not allowed to talk about it and asked her why she recommended for my son to be suspended. She said she didn’t and it was ‘management’s decision’.
I called the principal, who said he was not to go to school until further notice. I asked her what she wanted to achieve and what she wanted him to learn – no answer.
Round about February, the school wrote to me to ask my son to go for his term 1 exams in March. I was surprised – not allowed to go to school but he was to sit for term 1 exams?
I told the school he did not even attend school for months, so how was he to know what to study? I was not going to set him up for failure like that.
The principal’s reply was that if we refused, he would not be eligible for school honours which he won the year before (even without attending school). But I was not going to take it anymore, I complained – after almost two years of unreasonable on-and-off suspensions from a principal who thought she could get away with anything.
Our piano teacher rejoiced! She asked me why I took so long to make this complain, being a seasoned teacher to gifted children, she told me he was not very different from other gifted music students and did not understand why I did not do anything to help him, and accepted ‘rubbish’ from those educators.
The schoolbus driver was happy he could go to school! Even though he was suspended, I continued to pay for the school bus hoping he would get on it again. He too felt that I complained too late and asked me why.
The reason was very simple, I was convinced by this principal and his teachers that my son was not gifted and of no use, could not be handled whatsoever, and I was hoping that by not complaining, my son would have a better time in school.
I did my son a disservice that I regret to this day. I did not stand up for him against school bullies: the educators.
At the end of the meeting, I was told my son was autistic (Aspergers), and the superintendent assured me that he was not to be officially suspended again.
Special Support Denied
As he often finished his work fast, the ministry suggested the school give him extra and more challenging work but that was not taken up. I offered to prepare the worksheets so that the school could use them for other kids as well – no response. He was too bored after he finished his work, but no one wanted to acknowledge that.
After so many threats from the school, we agreed to send him for an IQ test, it was a disaster because it was raining heavily and he was so worried about me driving around, he refused to answer the junior psychologist any question.
When I told our own psychologist that the test might not be exact, she said it was not important, as all they wanted to know was that he was at least average. Riding on this result, they believed he was not gifted, so nothing was done.
I was lost – not gifted, not special, so the only possibility was exactly what they said: that he was a monster.
“Your child cannot be gifted, and I will know because my son was from the Gifted Program,” boasted his P2 teacher who insisted my child was so bad, I should be caning him, and that I was responsible for his behavior as an incapable mum.
Interestingly, a year later, my son also made it to the same Gifted Program.
A Monster to the Educators
“And you will sit next to the monster as a punishment!”, his P3 teacher told another student, JC, when the very brilliant boy made her furious. But to his surprise, that monster turned out completely different from what his teachers described.
JC’s mother, being an excellent parent and counselor, taught his son to love and accept my son, the ‘monster’.
With that, my son proved the teachers and allied teachers wrong: he could make friends and he could keep friends. JC remains one of my son’s best friends to this day, five years later.
Sadly, instead of being happy for my son, their student, the educators were upset that they were proven wrong.
“So my teachers are falling sick because of him, we cannot have him in our classrooms, he is hurting them”, his P4 (different) principal told me, “and even after his P4 form teacher no longer teaches the class, he is still falling sick – all because his health was weakened by your son last year!”
I wondered if the group of educators and teachers in the room felt a tinge of regret for saying such things or if they had any proof. I wondered if they were parents themselves.
They told me I was part of the reason they were withdrawing support, because I was too demanding and it was difficult to keep up with the weekly reports. It was painful yet funny, because I did not ask for weekly reports, and now that they found it hard to sustain their own standards, it was my fault.
I began to wonder if it was right to deny a child of his education even if his parents were difficult.
The Journey Alone Starts
After trying and trying and trying for years and years, I realized the journey was mine to travel alone. If I did not as his mother, stand up, fight and look for an education for him, he will be exactly like what they predicted – useless, a monster, weakening people’s health, and the only place for him was the Special School for Autistic children, whether or not he has autism.
So I hung on with all my might, while every educator gave up. I searched for that someone who would teach him and show him what his gifts are. I knew that if I failed to give up, I would find a solution.
If you think your child is hopeless, hold on. I will share with you in the next article of the journey I took to look for recovery for my son from educators’ mistreatment, ways to teach him social skills and at the same time search for educators who know how to teach him find his passion and gift to build up his self-esteem again.