When should I talk to the school about a teacher harrassing my child?
May 5, 2014 5:46 PM   Subscribe

My 14 year old said his teacher placed (put?) (stuffed?) toilet paper in his mouth, to punish him for talking in class. This incident happened about two months ago; should I say something now, or wait until school is out (in 4 weeks?) details inside.

You are not my lawyer. The story is, my son and his friend finished taking the science test, and were talking to each other. The teacher gave them a warning, and they stopped, but started talking again. The teacher said something to the effect of "since you have diahrrea of the mouth, put this in your mouth", reached into his desk, and grabbed a roll of toilet paper. He proceeded to tear off a wad and tried to hand it to my son so that my son could put the wad into his own mouth. My son refused, and the teacher said something to the effect of "open wide." My son then said something to the effect of "ok, give it to me, I'll put it in", at which point the teacher again said something to the effect of "open wide." My son opened his mouth, and the teacher placed the wadded up toilet paper in his mouth, as well as the mouth of the other student that was talking. At this point, my son said that he chewed the wad down a bit (because he felt like gagging), then got up and walked to the trash can to spit it out. At this point, the teacher returned to his desk, and the class continued without incident. According to my son, at least 10 students turned around and witnessed this event.

I've consulted with a few people I trust, as well as an attorney I know, to get their thoughts. Most of my family and friends are outraged, and think that I should talk to the principal immediately; they all feel that is definitely misconduct on the part of the teacher, and that the teacher should be punished in some way (ranging from a reprimand to dismissal.) The one dissenting opinion on this matter comes from the attorney, who thinks I should wait out the 4 weeks, and then, once the grades are in, go talk to the principal about the incident. He thinks that since things are currently going well for my son in that class, I run the risk of creating a hostile environment for my son if I intervene now (my son has expressed a fear of retribution on the part of the teacher; that's why I didn't find out about this until last Friday.) the attorney also thinks that this is probably not assault (from a legal standpoint), but is almost definitely harrassment (according to the statues of my state.)

So, should I talk to the principal now? or wait until school is out? My son will be going to high school next year (6th-8th grade is middle school here), so he won't be back, but still think that this definitely needs to be addressed, to ensure that it doesn't happen to future students. And, if I'm being honest, I'm not going to let that teacher get away with doing things like that to students. Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions!
posted by KillaSeal to Human Relations (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
no, you shouldn't talk to the principal, you should talk to the police. that's two batteries that teacher committed. a good lawyer might be able to get enough money out of the teacher and the district to pay for a couple years of college.
posted by bruce at 5:52 PM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Absolutely now, that is disgusting and humiliating and extremely unprofessional. How much more hostile an environment are you thinking there could be? Write to the teacher, to the principal, to your child's guidance counselor. Hostile schmostel. Do you have your kid's back or not?
posted by headnsouth at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2014 [25 favorites]

The lawyer is advising you about winning a legal case, so he's advising wait-and-see. Your friends are advising you about standing up for your kid, so they're saying act now. It took your kid weeks to screw up the courage to tell you something humiliating. Your response will teach him whether speaking up is worth it or not.
posted by headnsouth at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2014 [43 favorites]

At this point, my son said that he chewed the wad down a bit (because he felt like gagging)

An adult - and an adult in a position of trust and responsibility - did that to your child.

Your child.

First stop, police. Second stop, lawyer. Now.
posted by Wordshore at 6:17 PM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Your first priority is the safety of your child, not your child's grade.

Speaking as a high school principal, I'd want to know about this immediately. Call tomorrow and make an appointment.

However, as a high school principal and as a parent, I'd also ask you to please bear in mind that teenagers are not the most reliable witnesses. I'm not in any way disparaging your kid, but I would ask you to be open to the possibility that your kid's version is not completely accurate.

Here's what I would do. Call the principal, make an appointment about a troubling incident that you've just learned about and say that you're concerned about the safety of the students. Ask for the school police/resource officer to attend.

Your son should go with you. He should explain what happened. If you go in to report it, the principal will still want to meet with your kid to hear it from him, as will the police. Spare your son.

I'm not clear why you felt you needed legal advice, but the advice you received is insane. This attorney said to wait because things are going well for your child in the class?

if your child was harassed by a teacher, things are not going well.

And as a principal if a parent told me this type of story after grades were in and told me that they held off on reporting because they were concerned their child would get a lower grade for reporting the assault, I would view the entire story with a fair amount of skepticism.

If your child was assaulted as you're reporting, do not pass Go, call the principal and report it now.

But don't lawyer up just yet, give the principal a chance to respond.
posted by kinetic at 6:19 PM on May 5, 2014 [31 favorites]

headnsouth, the concern is that the teacher won't be removed right away; they'll probably say that they need to investigate the matter. In the meantime, this teacher will still be there, and (in my child's opinion) will try to make life difficult for him. One of my friend's pulled her daughter out of school after the first sememster and decided to homeschool her daughter for the rest of the year, because she tried talking to the teacher (and the prinicipal) about her concerns (her daughter was also having a difficult time), but did get any satisfactory answers.
posted by KillaSeal at 6:20 PM on May 5, 2014

I would not send the child back into the classroom. It's not just the legal principle, but the fact that your son says he was victimized. Make an appointment to meet with the principal ASAP and keep the child home until then.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:24 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If this is a public school with a standard union contract, when a teacher is accused of assault, the teacher is taken out of the classroom immediately.

But tell the principal you want your kid away from this teacher and if needed, have your child pulled from the class.

*I've had a similar situation; seasoned teacher was accused of threatening to hit a student. The teacher was removed from classroom duties THAT DAY. It's standard procedure.

**In this type of case, don't waste time contacting the teacher. This is one of the few times where I advise parents to go to right to the top.
posted by kinetic at 6:25 PM on May 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

Check your MeFi mail.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:29 PM on May 5, 2014

the principal will approach this from the damage control perspective and try to elicit statements from your son in mitigation and extenuation of the situation, which is why you don't talk to him without your lawyer present, who should be a different lawyer than the one you already talked to.

the school resource officer might feel like he's part of a team, team school against team you, so i'd go down to the station and tell whomever's behind the desk.
posted by bruce at 6:33 PM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

You should all call the Department of Children and Family Services. They should be notified of cases of teachers laying hands on students, and actions that do not rise to the level of criminal are often still actionable by DCFS.

Kinetic's advice is good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:39 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would figure out what you'd like the outcome to be before proceeding.

I'm a teacher in a public school, and I'd expect that school personnel will circle the wagons unless you bring a lawyer with you to show that you mean business, in which case they will be more likely to punish the science teacher.

I would see if they're willing to have a look in the teacher's desk for the roll of toilet paper and interview the other students present.

The conduct you're describing is reprehensible and I hope they throw the book at this guy.
posted by alphanerd at 6:41 PM on May 5, 2014

Personally I would talk to your child. You have a few options. It is clear you should do something and this is serious. However giving your son a say helps him regain control and feel heard. You don't have to do it his way but at least talk bit through with him.
Is your son a school packrat? If you have copies of homework and grades it will help significantly if shit hits the fan. I would worry about the teacher staying in the classroom. I would consider (after talking to an attorney) if going to the police first is wise.
Each school district is different and the locals are going to know best how you should proceed. Don't like your current lawyers suggestion? Talk to another one before action.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:43 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ask your son. Respect his answer. He should feel like he has a say here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:01 PM on May 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

So if your son and a lawyer are both leaning toward waiting, I'd consider them the experts, and wait.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2014

You should go talk to the teacher immediately and let him/her know that your eyes are on the situation and you are on your way to talk to the principal. You should write a letter to both the teacher and the principal and keep it in your files in case you choose to pursue this. You should also cc the superintendent of schools (I grew up in a medium sized town and the superintendent sometimes took meetings with parents).

Also, let your son know that if the teacher does something like that again, he is to tell the teacher to call you, and not let anyone bully him by putting anything in his mouth or on his person.

I'm seriously appalled. I'm usually supportive of teachers against helicoptering/bullying parents, but this is definitely not that case! This teacher needs to be psychologically evaluated because I can't fathom how anybody would think that was appropriate!
posted by discopolo at 7:12 PM on May 5, 2014

When I was young, I had something pretty horrible happen to me. It took me months to work up the courage to say something to my mom. The family disengaged from this person, but there always never a sense of outrage (that I can remember). They kept it quiet.

Last week, it hit me. How my family not being outraged, not confirming with me that it was a big deal, was what really hurt. I saw how that defined how I valued myself ever since then.

I am 49. That was a long time to live with thinking that I didn't deserve being stood up for, making waves for. It really sucks.

Just my data point.
posted by Vaike at 7:14 PM on May 5, 2014 [31 favorites]

I am a teacher.

You are not taking this seriously enough. This teacher has no business working with children. They need to be taken out of the classroom *now.* The right thing to do is to talk to the principal, tomorrow. If there are witnesses who corroborate this story, my understanding is that the teacher would be placed on paid leave immediately and for the duration of the investigation.

I really don't understand the rationale for waiting. If this is found to have happened, the teacher won't be teaching your student anymore (and even on the off chance they were, a sudden drop in his grade would be beyond suspicious). And middle school grades almost never matter, anyway. This person needs to be removed from the company of children.

Do listen to kinetic - it's possible (I think unlikely, but possible) that this story was exaggerated by your son and that's the reason he doesn't want you to report it. You may want to have a very gentle conversation with him and/or corroborate with his friend before you take this to the principal. Also, not reporting it for months doesn't make you appear to be a reliable source after the fact. If this happened, it needs to be dealt with now.

Also: I think it's sad when people talk to lawyers before they even talk to someone's boss - the only person who is in the position to deal with this situation immediately and with the severity it warrants.
posted by leitmotif at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

Just a note: I feel assuming the boss will be on parents side is really optimistic. That's why I think lawyer now. I personally know a principal who would absolutely delight in this type of action. Should he be a principal? No. Can I do anything about it? No. (Long story not worth mentioning here) Would he make fun of a parent and do everything to discredit a kid? Hell yeah.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:40 PM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you decide to wait until school is out, you risk losing any leverage you have and undermining your case, and in the meantime, there is still a month during which your son is at risk for further victimization. This teacher could also continue to act out against other students.

If I were in your shoes, I would not stop until that teacher is pulled out of the classroom, even if your son says to let this go. Sure, in the short term he may be upset because he doesn't want to make a big deal out of this. I think that's how a lot of teenagers would respond

This is why you're the parent. Sometimes, you have to make the tough decisions, especially when it comes to protecting your kid. If your son were clearly in need of medical attention, would you decide not to go to the doctor just because he said he didn't want to?

It might be helpful if you consider how you want your son to look back on these events a couple years from now. Do you want him to remember this as the time when his teacher was a jerk and his parents swept it under the rug? Or do you want him to remember how his parents were willing to fight for him no matter what?

Personally, I had a number of shitty things happen to me while I was growing up, but one of the most painful parts, then and now, is how many adults in my life (parents, family members, doctors, therapists) shrugged their shoulders and looked the other way. There were so many opportunities for someone to intervene, but no one ever did. Even after a lot of time in therapy, that's still left me with a lot of scars, trust issues, and resentments.

I'm not saying this to add more stress to an already stressful situation. I can understand how in this moment the idea of taking the path of least resistance would seem preferable, especially if that's what your son is saying he wants. However, this is one of those situations where you may need to sacrifice short term discomfort for the long term well being of your son.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Upon re-reading your question, I want to add one other thing. I think it's extremely odd that the teacher had a whole roll of toilet paper just sitting in his desk, and it makes me wonder if he's done this specific thing to other students already. At the very least, there's a distinct possibility that this is something the teacher considered doing in advance, which makes it all the more egregious.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:28 PM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

The only good advice is to contract a lawyer worthy of dealing with this and let THEM direct you and accompany you in confronting the Principal, the school district, and this teacher. Here's why...

You need a good lawyer to keep credibility. You need to confront this now to show your son The Right Thing.

I, too, think the right lawyer will advise to report this to the police, first. Yes, from an objective stand point, this is criminal assault. Your jurisdiction may vary. Your lawyer friend may not know the law in this area.

Don't wait. Act precisely and appropriately.

Waiting hurts your case, at least from a documentation stand point.

You found out. You acted immediately.

This is what good parents do. Do it. Now.
posted by jbenben at 9:06 PM on May 5, 2014

MeFite bruce, comment above, is an attorney.

So far in this thread, that is the advice I agree with. Along with headnsouth's, because YES, you want to teach your child right from wrong by example.

Best of luck. I sincerely wish you strength and wisdom. It is not easy, but take the necessary steps.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

And middle school grades almost never matter, anyway.

In some places they really, really do. The application process for high schools in some areas is akin to that of college in other areas. In NYC at least, it's also very competitive. So I understand the advice to wait if the student chooses this, and only if. Absolutely, the child must have a voice in this.

OP, I'm so sorry. This is a terrible situation for your son and for you. I had a similar experience to that of Vaike, but never showing outrage or standing up for one's child is very different from working strategically with and for one's child, and a matter of weeks is different than a matter of years or a lifetime.

Is your son willing and able to discuss this with you more? The humiliation factor makes me ill. He needs assurance that you won't move faster than he feels able, but that you will not stand for this either. He needs to know that if he chooses to wait, he can change his mind. I'm not kidding when I suggest you even agree on a hand signal that lets you "ask" (once a week for the next four?) without words whether he still wants to wait it out. He must have an advocate, even (especially) if he doesn't want to talk about it.

Do you have the name of the other child who was assaulted? Do you have contact with that child's parents? Does your son happen to know what the other child's parents plan to do? If you choose to wait it out but they cause a stir, then what? Can you get on the same page with them?

One possible drawback of waiting is that the 10 or so witnesses may fade. Other than that, I think it's entirely reasonable that if/when you are asked why you waited, the fact that your son was humiliated is reason enough and paints a fuller picture of the horrible nature of this incident. (By "fuller picture" I do not mean exaggeration. This is outrageous.)

I believe the people upthread that who the teacher would be removed immediately in some cases, but I also believe you about the other student you mentioned being homeschooled because of inaction on the part of school administration. I (mostly) love my son's school, but a few years ago when we met with the Head of School about a specific teacher, it was frighteningly clear that Defend The Teacher was the priority, so I'd be concerned about that.

Please let your son know you'll be taking action, period. If he wants you to decide when that happens, that's the only area I'd place a little pressure on him to state a preference (again, he can change his mind!). Please get on the same page with the parents of the other child who was treated this way (do this behind your son's back if it makes him uncomfortable; you are the parent and the advocate, so you have that right). A lawyer would be good, but I agree that you should call the police when you're ready to report this. Again, the humiliation and intimidation (fear of retaliation) easily accounts for the delay. But do this AS SOON AS grades are in.

Again, I am so very sorry and wish the best for you and your son.
posted by whoiam at 9:12 PM on May 5, 2014

Apologies for my long-windedness. I just want to clarify this:

do this behind your son's back

I don't mean lie to him, just tell him you will handle that. I'm sure you know he needs to trust you.
posted by whoiam at 9:14 PM on May 5, 2014

You should go talk to the teacher immediately and let him/her know that your eyes are on the situation and you are on your way to talk to the principal.

I don't see why this is desirable - some aspect of the teacher's mental faculties are already shot, and a confrontation may elicit some bowing and scraping from the teacher, but that'd be about it.

I would go with a different lawyer to the police, as per bruce's comment.

I run the risk of creating a hostile environment for my son if I intervene now (my son has expressed a fear of retribution on the part of the teacher; that's why I didn't find out about this until last Friday.)

I'd pull your son from that course right now. From your son's perspective, it already is a hostile environment for him. Maybe his grades can be the up-to-now average of the course or his other courses or something. Argue that it's unreasonable to expect your son to do his best at this course while handling this kind of stuff.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

OP, I think it would help a lot to know whether this is a private or public school and especially whether your son has been accepted to a high school yet.

If I hadn't seen kids go through the process of HS applications, I'd be in the "do something NOW" camp as well.

Of course it's a shitty environment for him. In cities/states where kids are ushered along to the next school, that would mean something different than in areas where kids have no guarantee of getting into the public school of their choice, let alone specialized or private schools.

I am NOT saying, "Make the poor kid tough it out." I'm just saying people may not understand that waiting four weeks could be a different kind of life lesson, if he chooses to muscle through for the sake of a shot at the HS he wants. Meanwhile, you'd be getting your ducks in a row anyway, yes?
posted by whoiam at 9:35 PM on May 5, 2014

You stand up for your kid. Now.
That is more important than any grade.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I can't fathom letting this issue wait. An adult in a trusted position *assaulted* your child. You need to do something about it. There is nothing more important than your child's physical and emotional safety, and your job as a parent is to protect your child. So do your job and go out and do whatever it takes to ensure this doesn't happen again. His grades are far less important than his safety, though of course you should make sure this teacher doesn't penalize your son for reporting this behavior. But that is another issue, separate from whether and how you should act in response to the assault.

I'm usually a fan of talking directly to the person you have a problem with and allowing them the first chance to resolve it before escalating the issue up to superiors. But in this case, this teacher has proven so unreasonable that I don't think there's any point in talking to them.

I would start with the principal. I don't see that it is necessary to have a lawyer present, and not everybody has piles of money lying around to use for a lawyer. A good principal will be concerned for the child's welfare, but even a mediocre principal will be concerned with liability issues, and while you may get a "circling the wagon" feel from what they say, I would think they would want to do something to keep things like this from happening in the future, if only to limit liability.

I'd demand very specific actions be taken, and that I be notified of them. I wouldn't accept a "we'll handle it" type of response. If I got this response, or any sort of response that was unsatisfying, then I would report to the cops.

I find it very unlikely that the kid is lying about this. Perhaps under-reporting just how disruptive he and his friend were, but the actual act of stuffing toilet paper in his mouth seems pretty unlikely to be an outright lie. I would trust my child on this unless I had good reasons not to based on his past actions.

I disagree strongly with those who have said that you should involve your son in the decision of what to do about this. The teacher should not be allowed to get away with this sort of behavior. Even if your son prefers a big deal not be made about it, you have an obligation to protect other minors from this known assailant. Assault victims don't get to choose whether or not a case is prosecuted when it is in the public interest to punish behavior such as this and try to prevent it from recurring.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:07 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hm. I would sit down with your son again. Tell him you're taking this very seriously, and want to know the whole story so you can carefully consider what to do. Get him to tell it again, listen neutrally, and maybe take notes. The purpose of that is to give him room to backtrack if he exaggerated the first time around. He probably didn't (the story sounds plausible) but you want to be open to the possibility, in case he did exaggerate out of fear or whatever. If he says anything different, don't point out the inconsistency because if you do, you'll scare him into sticking with the original story.

Then, I'd call the other parents and see what they say. If they're on the same page with you, handle this together. Try to be as much on the same page as you can.

Then go speak with the principal. Make it clear that you are very concerned, about your own kid, and about other kids. Tell them if they don't handle this to your satisfaction you will consider going to the police or getting a lawyer. That will likely eliminate any possibility of retaliation against your son.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 12:10 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are not taking this seriously enough. This teacher has no business working with children. They need to be taken out of the classroom *now.

While I disagree that you're not taking it seriously enough, I do agree the teacher needs to get out and get out now, and I would approach this from the standpoint of 'I think this teacher is mentally ill' because I don't know how else, in 2014, there's a teacher out there sticking toilet paper in the mouths of teenagers.

I agree with those saying act now. I am sure that lawyer who will be glued to your side every time you speak to anyone at the school or to anyone in any official capacity anywhere will help you negotiate tutoring for your child through the last four weeks of school if necessary. I don't think it will be necessary, but I think the best thing for your son is that he knows he never has to sit in a classroom with that asshole again.

Also, on behalf of other parents -- thank you for doing something about it. Not everyone would. Your actions will prevent some other kid from having to put up with that shit and set a great example for your kid.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:47 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speak Up Now !! Yesterday !

What if something else happens today? How are you going to feel if this teacher humiliates your son for a second time because you were trying to find the courage to defend him?
How is he going to feel?

This teacher has crossed the line - an immediate response is required.
posted by Flood at 4:45 AM on May 6, 2014

Where I live, this would not get a teacher removed from the classroom. Think about what your goal is and what steps would best accomplish that goal. If your biggest priority is to get your kid out of that class, you should be able to do that; get him put in another class or independent study for the rest of the year. If your goal is to let the principal know this is happening, that's something you can do too. If your goal is to get the teacher removed from the profession or to sue or whatever, those require different paths... and honestly, while what happened was wrong, it's hard for me to imagine most people viewing it as assault. It would be a long frustrating road.

I personally would inform the principal, insist that my child be removed from the class, and drop it.
posted by metasarah at 5:43 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Absolutely go and make a police report, with your son. Then, take the report and head directly to the school. Raise holy hell. Then go to the district, again, raising holy hell.

I was a public school teacher and I had to corral rambunctous, disrespectful kids and in my darkest, most desperate place, it would NEVER occur to me to do anything like this. Because it's assualt.

Insist that your child be removed from the class immediately. They can put him in a different class, or he can do independent study the rest of the year in the library, even if it's in internal suspension, it's going to be better than returning to this classroom.

You sound timid and intimidated about approaching the school, and you really, really shouldn't. Yes, they'll stonewall, or they'll try to suggest that your kid is a troublemaker. Even so, it's still not okay.

See if you can go together with the parents of the other kid involved, they won't be able to brush off both families. Also, two police reports....not going to be able to sweep that under the rug.

Raise the biggest fuss in the history of fusses.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:43 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you actually forcce this issue with the principal and the school board, you needn't worry about retribution because your kid will be moved to another class or the teacher will be placed on administrative leave. The other parent who took their kid out of school gave up pretty easily.

Teachers have no power, don't be afraid of him.

Also, I am almost always an advocate for giving older children a say in as much as possible and respecting their agency. This is not one of this situations. Your kid is only seeing this in the context of getting through the school year. He can only think of this from a situation of powerlessness because he is powerless against a teacher. You are not. Your kid is not the tactical lead on this, you are.

You have so many options a kid doesn't. Firstly, people are a thousand times more likely to believe you. You can demand meetings with the principal. You can go to school board meetings. You can call/write the county and state superintendent. You can go to the media. You can go to the police.

Personally, I wouldn't choose between getting my kid move to a new class and removing the teacher from access to children. My goal would be to destroy the teacher; even falling short, no one in that school is going to mess with your kid again.
posted by spaltavian at 6:18 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I guess times have changed quite a bit since I was in school, but I don't see the big deal here.

The kids were acting up, the teacher used a creative technique to make a point, and now we're talking about lawyers and police and destroying a teacher?

I don't know, but it may be precisely because of this type of thinking that nobody wants to be a teacher anymore, and kids are growing up without respect for anyone.

I'd say talk to your kid and leave it at that.
posted by eas98 at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

The kids were acting up, the teacher used a creative technique

It was assault on a minor. If the story is true, he forced toliet paper into someone's mouth. This teacher should never be around children alone again, and should be removed from his career. The answer to a bad teacher is not to be a bad parent.
posted by spaltavian at 7:01 AM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

[This should absolutely not become a discussion. Please address the OP's question, as opposed to other members and their answers. Thank you.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:37 AM on May 6, 2014

So... what if, when the grades come in, if your son's grade is not what you expected it to be? If that were to happen, your son would have been victimized twice. Don't let that happen.

Kinetic's got good advice, but so does bruce (don't forget that bruce was a lawyer). Were I in your shoes, I would follow a combination of their advice.
posted by vignettist at 8:49 AM on May 6, 2014

Thanks for all the input! Here is an update:

A little more background info: This is public school. there are different teachers for each class, and my son has science 4 days a week. As for my attorney friend, I should clarify then when I first went to him, I wanted to know if he thought that this act legally constituted assault. he pulled up the state statues, and read it aloud. Based on a cursory reading, it did not look like it would meet the standard of assault; it does look like it meets the standard of harassment. then, his advice was more along the lines of "if it were me, I would...", rather than, "here's what you should do." A subtle difference there, right?

I went in yesterday, just as the administrative office was about to close, thinking I would set up a meeting. Turns out the principal was still there, so I decided to talk to him about the issue right then and there. After listening to my story, he called in the 8th grade vice principal, who also listened to my story. They agreed that if the facts are true, this is not proper behavior for a teacher to engage in. I talked about how my child's right to a safe learning environment had been compromised, and that I wanted my child moved to the other science teacher's class, or I wanted the teacher removed. I also told them that (assuming the allegations are found to be true), I expect the teacher to be disciplined, and that it be made clear to him that this type of conduct was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. The vice principal is going to get back with me by Wednesday on the issue of moving him to the other science class. As for the toilet paper incident, they said it could take months to complete their investigation, so I said that if I didn't hear back from them by 1 August, I'd be back to follow up on the matter. They also told me that if they punish the teacher, the type of punishment he receives is confidential. I told them that I would not consider the matter resolved until I hear back from the school on the status of the investigation, and I would be satisfied with knowing that the teacher had been disciplined.

Thanks again for all your comments!
posted by KillaSeal at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

And yes, I'm going to try to talk to the parent of the other child who had toilet paper placed in his mouth...I definitely want to know their thoughts on this.
posted by KillaSeal at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please take the advice of so many others and make a police report. It's the one way to hold the school accountable.
posted by peep at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Peep, I thought pretty hard about that part. After my wife and I discussed it, we both agree that we would like to resolve this problem at the lowest level. We have had people advise us to go the police, to file a lawsuit, to sue the school, and we feel that at this point in time, it's not what we think is the best course of action. We are definitely lining up our ducks in case we need to escalate the matter, but at this point, we are going to give the school a chance to resolve this problem, without police or attorney (or superintendent or gubernatorial or congressional) involvement.

I forgot to mention that my son will be interviewed after school today by the vice principal, so that she can get his statement (of course, we'll be there too.) If anyone would like to know the final outcome of the story, memail me...I'd be happy to fill you in!


posted by KillaSeal at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the administration is definitely trying to BS you. Police report now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:17 AM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is already another kid involved. How many other pupils in that class have to be molested before action is taken?

Sorry you and your kid are in this shitty situation, but this teacher must go, and you have the things required to make that happen.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:46 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm going to urge you to make a police report. Here's why. Teachers and educators have a legal obligation to report any suspected child abuse or neglect. It's non-negotiable. If you suspect, you report. To do otherwise could lead to trouble.

I believe that if parents and care takers are held to a standard that teachers must observe, that the converse goes double. Teachers have to be above reproach, and parents need to hold them accountable.

You can also report to Child Protective Services if you'd rather not go to the police.

But you really, really should. Because this person should be removed from the classroom, probably permanantly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

If your lawyer thinks that's not assault, you need a new lawyer.
posted by LonnieK at 2:11 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Upon re-reading your question, I want to add one other thing. I think it's extremely odd that the teacher had a whole roll of toilet paper just sitting in his desk, and it makes me wonder if he's done this specific thing to other students already. At the very least, there's a distinct possibility that this is something the teacher considered doing in advance, which makes it all the more egregious.

As litera scripta manet pointed out above, this was likely premeditated. It sounds like this teacher was provoking, or at least eagerly anticipating, a confrontation with a student. Someone like that is too immature and unstable to be a teacher. Please reconsider the police report, if not for your son, for anyone else this person may encounter in the future.
posted by peep at 3:32 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the update. The response you received seems cagey and weak.

I would ask you to ascertain your son's recollection is 100% accurate.

I'm not saying file a police report, but I would contact the department and bring in your son, explain the situation and ask the police what they think.

If they suggest filing a police report, I think you should.

I also think you now need to file with whatever Child Protective Services and file a report about the incident.

Lastly, I would drop a line to the principal, the VP and the superintendent explaining that you want your child pulled from the classroom immediately and if necessary, you will excuse your child daily for that part of the day.

Keeping the teacher in the class, keeping your kid in the room, this is not okay.
posted by kinetic at 5:05 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it's extremely odd that the teacher had a whole roll of toilet paper just sitting in his desk

Not to trivialize the incident, but this may not be a smoking gun. Back when I was in school, the budget for kleenex almost always ran out before summer, so many teachers kept a roll of toilet paper on their desk instead, particularly later in the year.
posted by yuwtze at 2:14 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

OK, I feel like updating again, since I'm here:

In this case, Kinetic and Leitmotif got it right. after the first meeting on Monday, my child was interviewed on Tuesday, after school (my wife and I were present) He gave his statement, including names of witnesses, which the VP documented. Since my child was scheduled to have science the following day, she said she could have him sent to the counselor for that period, while we decided on two options for our child at the time: move to the other science teacher's class, or go to Learning Lab (in the library, with a teacher, students get help on problem areas) for that period for the rest of the year. she told us there was a possibility that the teacher might get removed, but she had to turn in her paperwork and let the decision authority decide on that; it wasn't up to her. We told her we would let her know what we decide.

This morning, she called me and said that the teacher had been placed on leave for the rest of the school year, while the matter is being investigated. So, my child doesn't have to worry about moving; they will have a substitute come in for the rest of the year. They will also let me know what the final result of the investigation is, once they have finished everything up. My wife and I were very happy with the VP's response (to be honest, the principal seems like a very milquetoast individual; the VP has been the one who has been very responsive on this.)

Kinetic, I felt I wanted an attorney's opinion on the matter because I wanted to know if he thought the incident met the legal definition of assault. I thought I could go in with a much stronger case that way; I didn't want to say "HE ASSAULTED MY CHILD!!", when legally, he didn't. (to me, that was part of getting my "ducks in order.") I also checked with Child Welfare Services, as Eyebrows McGee suggested. They said that they usually only get involved if it a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver doing the abuse. Anyone else, and I should call the police. (She also said that if they were told that a parent was stuffing toilet paper in a child's mouth, they would respond because they would consider that abuse.)

Last thing, I did stop by the police station, to ask if I could file a report, and if the charge would be assault. They said I could file a report, but based on what I told them, it didn't sound like assault because there was no injury or pain being reported. They said it would most like fall under a charge of harrassment.

TL;DR: My son has a safe learning environment again. School will follow up on investigation.

Thanks everyone!
posted by KillaSeal at 5:37 PM on May 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

Your update made my day. So happy to hear the system worked for you and that you've been a critical part in creating a safe school environment for your kid and all the other kids.
posted by kinetic at 3:46 AM on May 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Congrats! A lesson in justice, among other things.
Re the issue of assault: I appreciate your lawyer's attempt at precision, and the cop's. However, I'll bet if I forced toilet paper down either of their throats, I'd be up on a charge of assault, or worse.
posted by LonnieK at 3:53 AM on May 9, 2014

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