How to Deal with Pathological Liars?
October 2, 2009 3:08 AM   Subscribe

How does one deal with a pathological liar? It's an icky trait that I've come face to face with in the past year with not one but TWO people who just make up the craziest nonsense.

At the school where I work, I have a 14 year old student who makes up attention-getting, blatantly untrue lies (dead relatives, student was recently arrested, student has steel plate in body, needs open heart surgery, etc.). I kind of get this...looking for attention, teachers just keep directing him to his work. He also sees the school counselor and we do have daily contact with his separated and highly unpleasant parents who advise us to ignore him.

I get why he does it and we can all redirect him, but is there any way to get him to cut it out?

Which dovetails into PL #2: a paraeducator (or classroom assistant) who doesn't work with kids or cover classes but lies that she does? The daily routine with her is that she's rarely doing the job but makes up BS instead (was making copies, was getting mail, all sorts of things that when investigated turn out to be all untrue).

She's got an iron-clad contract and really truly can't be fired. They've tried firing her for the past 2 years and because she's doing such slippery lies (she'll say she WAS in a classroom assisting kids when she wasn't, but it always comes down to we have to prove she wasn't there. So it becomes our word against hers, it goes to mediation, and she keeps her job after she threatens to sue for unfair termination.

So she won't get fired but is there a way for the rest of the dedicated staff who does their jobs to kind of let her know we think she's full of it?
posted by dzaz to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
No clues about the boy. I"d be inclined to leave that up to the experts.

But as to the paraeducator.... if a whole group of people collaborate to show someone negative feelings... that is bullying. She obviously has something going on and it's not really your business to confront her. That's up to management. But please don't bully her.


I used to have a colleague who was a pathological liar.... like the boy you refer to. I just simply said to her once "I simply don't believe you, but anyway, about xyz..." and changed the subject.

Good luck with it. But please don't bully an unstable person.


Oh, should clarify... I wouldn't say to the boy that I didn't believe him.. but to the adult colleague. To the boy, you could say "It's interesting that you feel the need to tell me that you have a steel plate in your head, why do you think you need to tell me that?"

Anything more "interventionist" than that and I'd be asking for expert help. A teen boy's mental health is so fragile at times, and really should be advised by experts... not idiotic parents.
posted by taff at 3:28 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


How to deal with the kid:

Create a notebook for him. Write down every detail. Ask him irrelevant questions. Don't tell him when you're asking him relevant ones. Don't react with sympathy or surprise. Don't let him story tell. All you want is the facts.

When you have enough material, talk through it with him. Gently point out the inconsistencies, and the ridiculous charades he goes through. Tell him he can have attention, but only at certain points in the day.

The lying isn't just about attention getting. He is also testing the boundaries of what does and does not get him called out. There is a thrill seeking element to how far it can be pushed. And there is some enjoyment from the act of storytelling itself - it's an outlet for his creativity.

How to deal with the adult:

You've identified that you can't prove where she was. Is it impossible or difficult? Tech is relatively cheap enough that you could remotely and covertly stream a view of her classroom to a computer and create a log of how much time she spent outside the room. I'd also create a hard and fast rule that additional tasks could only be done at x times. If you need to make that rule fit for everyone in the short term, so be it.

You're also pitching the problem wrong. It's not that she is a workshy liar. It's that she is potentially endangering the kids by not monitoring them appropriately. If you get the parents on your side when this all comes to a head, it will make the issue much more clear cut.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:36 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


MuffinMan, great ideas.

remotely and covertly stream a view of her classroom to a computer and create a log of how much time she spent outside the room.

This was suggested last year but there are pretty hard and fast rules about recording with kids in the room. But when she was presented with a schedule and told when she could leave the room, etc., she started screaming and became frighteningly unstable, so the admins decided to leave it alone.

And yeah, parents have complained about her and at this point she has 7 letters in her file to keep her away from certain children.

It's one of those things that everyone knows about her all all of our hands are tied.

I was just wondering if there was a way to make her aware that we all know she's full of crap.

Probably not safely, though.
posted by dzaz at 3:42 AM on October 2, 2009


#1 not your job to correct his behaviour, sounds like its already being dealt with by professionals. Ignore him.

#2 by the sounds of it, this doesn't directly affect you, other than you disliking the fact that she's getting away with it. If your higher ups wont fire a mentally unstable person who doesn't do the job she was hired for, has numerous complaints about her from parents and 7 'keep away from my kid' orders then there's really nothing you can do about it. Organising a staff 'snub' of her just gives her a case for 'constructive dismissal', which I don't think your bosses would be pleased about and you could be on the chopping block if they found out that you were inciting nastiness against her.
posted by missmagenta at 4:15 AM on October 2, 2009


(dead relatives, student was recently arrested, student has steel plate in body, needs open heart surgery, etc.)... separated and highly unpleasant parents who advise us to ignore him.


As a reformed middle school and highschool pathological liar, I may be projecting here but what I get from that is loud and clear: If I tell people I need extraordinary care, I may be able to get the basic care and attention I need.

It's convoluted and subconscious, but that is the basic thought process. Don't just redirect the kid to his work. Find a way to make him feel valued and noticed - in a good way.

FWIW, I went through this as an adult with a neighbour who told people she had had a kidney transplant. Occassionally she would have a "bad day" and come sleep on my couch for the afternoon and have cups of tea. I knew it was BS but I read it as "I need someone to take care of me right now" and I'm a fan of people having their basic human needs met, even if the way they do it shows an extraordinary lack of social skill.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 AM on October 2, 2009 [31 favorites]


This was suggested last year but there are pretty hard and fast rules about recording with kids in the room

dzaz - fair enough - could you not just cover the door?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:01 AM on October 2, 2009


For #1, the best thing an adult who is not his counselor can do is to express a genuine interest in the boy and the life he is actually living. I've never met a student who has this type of behavior and doesn't have some sort of neglectful home life or shitty social life, and the one's who've stopped are the ones who receive some support from adults and are treated like an actual, almost-adult human being by at least one other person. Calling him out is not going to endear you to him--disregard the blatant lies, try to draw him into conversations about his interests (or even your interests), and respond positively to him whenever he says something that isn't about his problems (as long as it isn't a completely obvious fabrication).

It takes a while for these kinds of things to become an internalized behavior, and he can change given an opportunity to learn a different way of social interaction. Give him the opportunity to try out more mature behavior with an responsive adult--this is something he may literally never had an actual chance to do. Think about that--14-years-old, and never given a chance to act like it because your parents ignore you. You'd pull some weird stuff too.

And don't try to fake an interest in something he likes--he can tell your faking it, and it only reinforces the idea of lying as the appropriate manner of social interaction.

This is my advice from personal experience both as a former teen who attracted weird, angsty friends, and as a current adult who deals with these types of students in a professional setting.
posted by Benjy at 5:24 AM on October 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


The adult:
Since she's directly affecting the kids, why not get them to write down when she is and is not in the room. They are the clients in this situation.

Also, where is she going when she is not where she says she is? Find this out and monitor this space. Then you won't be in the position of having to prove a negative. Don't have time to monitor this? Create hall monitors and make them keep track of everyone who passes by.

Screaming and frighteningly unstable? Should she be with students at all? This is her get out of jail free card and it can be used against her. If you are present at an outburst like this, you can make a complaint that you feel threatened by her behavior.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:29 AM on October 2, 2009


The adult: this is a management problem. If there's no way they can justify the firing of someone after that many incidents, complaints and reports, they have a serious organizational problem. "Her word against ours" is not going to make any judge fail to do his job, especially when the "ours" includes a dozen other people, including supervisors.

(Also, for crying out loud: how hard is it for her manager to check on her and find her not where she's supposed to be? I mean, doesn't she report to someone? How can it be this hard to fire a person? Someone is not doing their job, and I don't mean your paraeducator.)

The child: as others have said, not really your problem, and it sounds like the official handling is already the correct/normal way to deal with it. Common, anyway.

These really don't seem very related to me. Everyone lies. These two are doing it in different ways for different reasons, and the only thing they seem to have in common is they piss you off.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


who advise us to ignore him.

I wonder why he's looking for attention. Someone should give him some.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:36 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


As for #2, there was a #2 at my last job I worked for. Honestly, the best way to deal with someone like that is to move them out of a position where they are doing their job poorly. So next year mysteriously there are no classroom assignments for her - she can sit in the front office and file or take dictation from the counselors or help the librarian or what-have-you. She clearly cannot handle being unsupervised, so provide supervision. Of course, it doesn't sound like you're the principal, so I don't think you can make this decision.
posted by muddgirl at 5:45 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


So she won't get fired but is there a way for the rest of the dedicated staff who does their jobs to kind of let her know we think she's full of it?

"Claire, everybody knows you're full of it."

But really, why do you assume she doesn't already know this? (Mind you, if she's "frighteningly unstable", then this knowledge is only going to be somewhat - provisional.)

And why do you want to tell her? It'll only give her ammunition for any potention wrongful firing suit. Hostile work environment, that sort of thing. Try to ignore her. She's already in a weird kind of personal hell.

Also, your admins sound like a bunch of cowards. Not that that's unusual.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:00 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


1# - If you feel compelled to try and help maybe you should give him assignments that channel his creativity. If you get him to use it on his work then you can assign good grades and will help become a very positive thing in his life. Everyone likes to hear that they are good at something.

2# - Nothing you really can do as a fellow employee. The management has to see her for what she is. One thing I can think of is have everyone that doesn't like her voice their concerns. Obviously the violent, unstable outbursts and parents complaining should be enough for her to not be allowed in the classroom. Honestly I hate to say this but someone is going to have to get hurt before she gets fired.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:14 AM on October 2, 2009


There are already other people working on these problems.

They little boy sees the school counselor. She's a professional at helping children with myriad problems. If there was a simple solution, she would have already done it. If you want to help him, talk with the counselor for ideas.

The coworker has a file with HR. It seems they are doing the very best they can to either make her a more productive worker, or have her exit the school district. If there was a simple solution, they would have already done it. If you want to help, talk with HR for ideas.

I can understand being annoyed with the coworker. I can't understand being annoyed with the child. If you find yourself annoyed with children with special needs, perhaps you are not cut out for work that requires you to be around them, helping them, and being understanding of them. Many people are not cut out for it, so there's no shame in leaving if you've found you are like many people.
posted by Houstonian at 6:40 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I'd just try to avoid speaking with the psycho coworker as much as you can. If she's THAT unstable AND that untouchable, I think it'll only hurt you and not her to do well, anything.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:52 AM on October 2, 2009


Can someone (maybe the principal?) observe her classes just to make sure she stays? Like, sit in the back of the room and write notes. I remember people doing that when I went to school. Or let there be someone right outside the classroom door to see when she leaves. Not sure what a paraeducator does and I know everybody works, but maybe a work-around can be found. Where does she really go when she leaves?
posted by bunny hugger at 7:03 AM on October 2, 2009


Not very relevant to your situation but my group of friends has a guy who used to constantly make up stories and tell lies. We eventually got sick of it and started calling him out on his bullshit every single time he did it. Very quickly he stopped and we still joke around with him about some of the stuff he said.
posted by comatose at 7:18 AM on October 2, 2009


About the adult pathological liar: I think it's alarming that such an unstable person is allowed to work with children in any capacity, even "assisting" them in some unspecified way. Not only is she lying; she's also throwing fits when confronted with her lies. Parents assume that people who have contact with kids in school have been vetted as trustworthy. If I worked at your school, I would bring it up to the superintendent of the district-- NOT emphasizing that she is getting away with slacking, but that she is someone who shouldn't be trusted to work with children because she is consistently unstable. At least get it on the record that you've raised a flag.
posted by keener_sounds at 7:26 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


At the school where I work, I have a 14 year old student who makes up attention-getting, blatantly untrue lies (dead relatives, student was recently arrested, student has steel plate in body, needs open heart surgery, etc.). I kind of get this...looking for attention, teachers just keep directing him to his work. He also sees the school counselor and we do have daily contact with his separated and highly unpleasant parents who advise us to ignore him.

I get why he does it and we can all redirect him, but is there any way to get him to cut it out?


As a kid who used to lie alot, let me say that (respectfully) I think you may be waaaay off base on why he lies. I know that when I lied, it wasn't to get attention, it was because making up stories was fun to do, regardless of how much attention I was paid.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:42 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could be a mental illness. Pathological lying is a fairly common symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder ... I wont get into details of BPD ... but if this is the case it not so much that the person is choosing to lie, but that hey can't help it.

BPD is pretty scary/weird stuff. There was a post in the blue on it before here
posted by jannw at 7:49 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Compulsive lying in children really indicates a much deeper issue and probably indicates that the child needs some more positive attention and possibly additional emotional/mental support.

I was a compulsive liar as a child, and I had no idea why I did it at the time, but I could not stop. Lies just came out. I had a pretty fucking shitty childhood (my mom was battling cancer since I was 2 years old, and lost the battle when I was 9; my teenage brother was completely dysfunctional and failing out of school; my dad was severely depressed and would spend days in bed at a time in between temper tantrums; also, I was the "weird kid" and was often bullied by my classmates and my only friends were a girl from another school I met through swim class and a girl 4 years younger than me -- a huge difference -- who lived next door). I was so desperate for attention and interaction that went beyond being made fun of by my peers or being pitied by adults, and I also had a very overactive imagination and probably blurred the lines because I just wanted my escapist fantasies to be real.

The only thing that really helped me was genuine interest from stable adults (the one teacher who realized I was actually smart and was not succeeding in school early on only because I was always daydreaming and also could not see the board because I needed glasses; my aunt who invited me out to spend summers with her in California and took me shopping and to the movies and to do normal things; my new stepmom who really helped to just heal my whole family situation), and later to switch into a new school system where I was able to give myself a fresh start with new kids who had never known me as "the weird kid".

Ugh, I feel for this kid. :-(

Can't help you with the adult. Have you ever just asked her why she said she was doing x when you know she really wasn't? Maybe she is having trouble due to learning disabilities or attention problems and is trying to cover up for it with lies.
posted by tastybrains at 9:43 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was a compulsive liar as a child, and I had no idea why I did it at the time, but I could not stop. Lies just came out.

Yeah, me too, and as an adult I'm a pathological truth-teller, so you never know how a kid's going to turn out. I know that personally I responded well as a kid when an adult asked me for help with things, which made me feel important and noticed, and I've had much success with my own children's lying using the same method.

As for the adult, her supervisors should be camping in the room, doing random drop-ins, and otherwise making sure the kids are okay -- a teacher like this can't be doing a good job with the kids, and that's what really matters, not that the teacher is getting away with anything. I say this as a kid who had a teacher in fifth grade who treated him like crap, told my parents I did horrible things I never did, and eventually got suspended for throwing a stapler at a child's head.
posted by davejay at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2009


Don't try to call the kid out, it'll just embarrass him. Just be nice and pretend like he's a younger child who is lying--"oh, really? That must have been scary/fun/interesting." Then move on. He is in counseling for a reason. The commenter who said he is probably trying to get basic attention and care seems spot-on, to me. If you really feel the need, you could ask the school counselor for some suggestions, but she might not say anything due to confidentiality.

The co-worker--leave it alone. You gain nothing from interacting or trying to police her. That's not your job and it's probably stressful, right? Just leave it alone.
posted by kathrineg at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2009


I was just wondering if there was a way to make her aware that we all know she's full of crap.

When people like this--volatile, defensive people--feel cornered, they get worse.

This would do nothing but worsen her behavior and make her feel bad. What's the point for either one of you?
posted by kathrineg at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2009


I can't understand being annoyed with the child.

I'm not. I'm distressed for him and I'm wondering (other than already being very positive and encouraging to him) how to get him to stop doing it in the classroom.

The scenario usually goes like this: I've got a bunch of kids in the Resource (sped) Room, and he strolls in daily and starts a very long story, which gets the other kids off task. During his time with me I sit with him and we do work and chat, but he keeps offering up these incredible stories ("I may not be here for the rest of the week because my uncle in Iraq died,"...he has no uncle). To which I reply something noncommittal like, "Cool Patriots jersey," or "Did you see there's a new pizzeria in town?"

But he keeps at it.

About this horrid coworker, it just seems that admins aren't dealing with this. I had a meeting with HR and the sped director about her last year because she said I was creating a hostile work environment and was lying about her documented work performance. Little did I know at the time that she does this every year. It came down to being a building decision and my principal just isn't doing anything about her.

Every year she gets passed along to a new teacher in the school because everyone refuses to work with her; last year was my turn and this year I'm watching as this lady just keeps at her nonsense and a new teacher is losing her mind.

My question was the same as it is about the kid. Is there a tactful way to let them know that we know they're lying?

I've just never encountered this before.
posted by dzaz at 10:44 AM on October 2, 2009


Is there a tactful way to let them know that we know they're lying?

Dzaz, you clearly want to do the right thing and you're clearly frustrated -- who wouldn't be? But you seem to be asking the wrong question. It isn't really a matter of tactfully letting them know you know they're lying. The child has deeper problems, as many of these posts say. And, as a few of us have been saying, the main issue with the co-worker is whether a person like this should be around children! She's annoying as a co-worker, yes, but the main thing to deal with is her suitability as a worker in a school. That has nothing to do with the way she bugs the teachers she's assigned to help, or how to deal with her tactfully; it has to do with alerting someone to the fact that a clearly disturbed person is in a position of authority with children.
posted by keener_sounds at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2009


It seems that she is trying to avoid interacting with kids, if she says she's with them and is lying. Keep letting her do that!

No matter how tactful you are, she's going to flip out. You are trying to use reasonable-person tactics on an unreasonable person. In your mind, you say something reasonable and she listens to it and thinks about it. That's not going to happen. Everything is going to go through a filter in her brain and she is going to hear something completely different. If she has accused you of unprofessional behavior in the past, even better reason to avoid her as much as possible.
posted by kathrineg at 11:14 AM on October 2, 2009


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but you are a Special Education teacher? Meaning, you have a BA or MA in Education, with an emphasis and certification in Special Education?

As the teacher, aren't you privy to the diagnostician's reports about the child? Didn't you and a team of specialists -- perhaps even a psychologist or counselor -- put together the child's Individualized Education Plan?

I'm having a hard time matching that up with, "is there any way to get him to cut it out?"
posted by Houstonian at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2009


jannw: "Could be a mental illness. Pathological lying is a fairly common symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder ... I wont get into details of BPD ... but if this is the case it not so much that the person is choosing to lie, but that they can't help it.

BPD is pretty scary/weird stuff. There was a post in the blue on it before here
"

Can we stop blaming all bad behavior on BPD? Look, there are 9 diagnostic criteria (and pathological lying is not one of them), of which you have to meet 5. There are over 200 possible combinations of BPD symptoms, none of which the OP mentioned. There is also a difference between pathological and compulsive lying.

The co-worker seriously needs to be dealt with. Maybe all the teachers as a group should go to the school board? I find it quite disturbing that there are 7 "keep away from my kid" letters on her file and this isn't sending up a million red flags to the admin. Is there a shortage of qualified paraeducators? When I worked at a special ed facility (as an intern), our paras were just as professional as the teachers and they would not have tolerated this kind of behavior.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2009


If she's a classroom assistant - in that she's supposed to be assisting the teacher, how is it that you can't prove she isn't doing it? Surely the teacher she's supposed to be assisting knows that she isn't in the room helping?
posted by missmagenta at 2:00 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Houstonian, yes to what you said about my background; I'm a qualified special education teacher and this kid has only been getting services for a specific learning disability in reading. The lying started last year and has gotten much worse since this year started. The most I can discern is there are some family issues. I've convened team meetings, gotten him counseling, etc. His parents won't allow us to do any psychological testing to pursue this further. He's beginning to get into trouble in general education classes because of the incessant lying.

And about the classroom assistant, what can I say? I know, I know. It seems like for whatever reason, she's not being fired. Everyone up the chain knows about the situation. We tried last year to get her transferred to a position in the office and the admins didn't want her, either. And other teachers have quit in the past partly because of this issue.

I appreciate the advice, but she's not going anywhere. It seems the best dealing with her advice is to continue ignoring her.
posted by dzaz at 3:24 PM on October 2, 2009


Houstonian: "As the teacher, aren't you privy to the diagnostician's reports about the child? Didn't you and a team of specialists -- perhaps even a psychologist or counselor -- put together the child's Individualized Education Plan?

I'm having a hard time matching that up with, "is there any way to get him to cut it out?"
"

Depends what his primary diagnosis/problem is. His emotional problems might not be a subject of the IEP. They might have developed recently. His parents and/or the school counselor might not know what the problem is, school counselors are NOT necessarily psychologists. Special Education teachers are NOT psychologists. This behavior would frustrate almost anyone.
posted by kathrineg at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2009


Whatever happens with the kid, give him a graceful way to save face if you talk to him about his stories.

I saw a teacher deal with this by laughing and saying "awesome story! can you imagine how cool that would be?" when offered tales of weekend special forces training and first aid rescue heroism. He never contradicted the student. He offered praise and attention, and at the same time, let the kid know it was not because he was impressed by thinking they were true. Eventually, this kid, while still spinning super tall tales, would follow them with a "ha ha, not for real", which was a great improvement.

I think a lot of the reason why was the unconditional positive attention from that teacher. The kid got liked even if someone discovered the true horrible secret of his complete and utter ordinariness.

Document the hell out of your co-worker. And please don't give in to the temptation to apply pressure to her or to warn new teachers about specific behaviour. You don't want to be the reason she can claim a toxic work environment.
posted by Sallyfur at 5:37 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sound like a broken record bringing up my brother all the time, but he's spent his entire school-life in special education classrooms and the fact that this woman is getting away with being on the payroll without having to do a damn thing (especially in this setting) is outrageous. My brother has always gushed about his teachers and TAs; they mean the world to him. That someone is there under the pretense that they are supposed to have that role and aren't, despite it being brought up to higher-ups several times, is boggling my mind. I feel like I missed something you said or that I don't understand how your school operates.

I'm sure you and everyone around you is well aware of the shortage of assistance (teachers in general, but especially special education) and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how or why given the circumstances, this woman can't be put on some sort of unpaid probation. She obviously doesn't want to work or be around the kids for whatever reason (maybe even a good one), so switch her out with someone who does want to be there.

Her running around and lying is not only not in her job description but it is adding "adult babysitter" to you and your colleague's resumes. You've got enough on your plate. I disagree with Sallyfur in that she's the one making it a toxic work environment by stressing everyone else out.

Is she related somehow to someone in the school district? I am so at a loss as to why you keep saying nothing can be done, especially if her wages could be used on getting the children she's supposed to be helping.. say, I don't know -- some help?

My brother was in an incident at school this week wherein some boys started harassing him. This harassment was in a bathroom and he has no one to "report to" in situations like this.

I'm in the process of trying to have a sit-down with the school to see if we can't have him transferred or at least persuade them to allocate more funds into his program for staff or special facilities where he won't have to worry about this sort of thing.

That someone is making money roaming the halls or simply mucking about at the coffee shop while children need assistance.. What if there was an emergency?

Maybe I'm making this a bigger deal than it really is but this isn't fair to you, and it is definitely not fair to the children.
posted by june made him a gemini at 7:54 PM on October 2, 2009


I don't know what the situation is where you work, but in my state, paraeducators are at-will employees and can be let go at any time, unlike teachers who are on contracts. There must be something behind the scenes keeping her from getting fired. It is the administrator's job to document the situation. Document anything that directly affects you but it is not your responsibility or place to document anything else.

I do know how frustrating this can be but because of confidentiality, your administrator really shouldn't be discussing this person with you. If anything, this would give her a grievance against the district.

By the way, most school districts don't have HR systems like the corporate world. Issues like these are usually dealt with by administration.
posted by tamitang at 10:01 PM on October 2, 2009



Is she related somehow to someone in the school district?


Probably. The Paras in this particular district have a seniority-based contract (and guess who's been at the school longer than the principal) in which they have a 30-day probationary period. After that it's pretty much a job for life.

I get what everyone's saying here: it is absolutely a situation where the rest of us are sad for the kids who truly need help.

Very briefly: the ball got rolling last year when I was asked to document performance concerns, which I did. Admins took my documentation of her not being where she was supposed to be and corroborated it with other staff. They had a meeting with her; she denied everything and then began documenting everything I said to her (while I don't make admin decisions, in this system the sped teacher is the para's direct supervisor), trying to make a case that when I said something like, "You were scheduled to be in English but I noticed you weren't there," she could claim I was creating a hostile work environment by "checking up on her every move."

She was written up and placed on a performance improvement plan. She was given another schedule that clearly noted where she had to be and when. It also scheduled her breaks. But this was silly because she already had one, but this was to document with the admins that she had been clearly told her job duties.

But once she had been called out, she became increasingly hostile to me: slamming my classroom door, getting right in my face, finding garbage cans overturned on the floor, purposely mispronouncing my name, saying things in front of kids like, "I wouldn't know how to do math, ask (mispronounced name), she's the expert...). So once she felt cornered she decided to attack. The admins knew all of this.

She absolutely refused to believe that there were genuine performance concerns and just kept at her theory that I didn't like her.

Months later she demanded a meeting with me and the admins to prove her case of a hostile work environment.

It began with the admins explaining there were many instances of her not following her schedule, and every interaction I had with her was just to remind her of her job duties (which they again explained to her was my job).

She began ranting and screaming that nobody trusted her professionalism, she had been there longer than anyone, didn't appreciate being treated like a child, etc. She was truly nonsensical. It was unnerving and the principal stood up and said the meeting was over.

She sat there and demanded a follow up to address her concerns (?), the principal said we all had a lot to think about, he would personally follow up with me and we would reconvene when it was appropriate.

She stood up and screamed, "Whose running this school? You or (pointed at me) her?" She then threw the door open and stormed out.

So that's what we're dealing with.

I do not know why she hasn't been fired. I do know that every admin in the district knows about this issue.

I just keep a wide berth.
posted by dzaz at 4:24 AM on October 3, 2009


*who's running the school...
posted by dzaz at 6:50 AM on October 3, 2009


Another thought, if you're teaching him reading perhaps you can redirect him to write some of these stories down? Even in a rudimentary form. That could go along with the face-saving statements above and it would be less disruptive for the entire class if he were to write them instead of tell them.
posted by kathrineg at 2:29 PM on October 3, 2009


Holy.. I don't even know where to start, Dzaz. If they've been witness to this crazy time and time again -- first-hand -- and still continue to nothing, I'd have my bags packed. Then again the obligation to your class outweighs that and would furthermore promote this woman's behavior by making her feel as if she's won.. so this is definitely a crap situation all around.

Have you written a letter to your state's education board or attorney general? One would hope that they'd hear you out and your nomination for Teacher of the Year should definitely give you even more merit. I have nothing else to add, but it's such a shame that kids are getting stuck in this woman's drama llama tornado free-for-all.

I'd be interested in hearing the outcome. Again, best of luck.
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:25 PM on October 3, 2009


« Older Apple Macs: Is it possible to boot my mac mini...   |   Since when are harddrives actually the size... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.