Teacher’s Corner: Failure (or the limits of what school can do)

Today we expelled a student. Now, in other countries this might be a mundane occurrence, but here lots of things must have happened, and lots of things must have failed. As they did. Kid started at our school with “behavioural issues”. First thing I read about the boy was a paediatric review in which they recommend in patient treatment. But he didn’t want to, so his parents said “well, that’s it then”*. He was 10 years old, and he was already the boss. Over the years, that was the result of whatever measure was proposed. A rather desperate mother would agree that something must be done, an indifferent father wanted to be left alone, the boy said “no”, end of story. That’s how he grew from a difficult kid into a bully and a tyrant. Racist? Check! Sexist? Check. Basically no female teacher  stood any chance of teaching in  that class. Trans- and homophobic? You would believe it. Violent? Of course.

The two chaotic Covid years saved him from being expelled earlier, but with this school year being in person again, things quickly came to an end. Unfortunately this made him believe that he could do whatever he wanted without any consequences. And right until the end, the same drama played out. He was offered an internship as opposed to temporary expulsion, he thought it was too far away, he refused. He was offered to switch schools without the stigma of being expelled, the mum said “That’s a good idea!”, he said “I don’t want to”, so it didn’t happen, because obviously at 14 he’s the one to make the decision.

Now finally we expelled him. What is noticeable is that now his family, who never gave a fuck about rules and procedures, tried to play the system. they were invited for the school meeting today with two weeks in advance, as required by law. On Friday the mother wrote a letter saying that “due to the high number of infections she and her son were unable to attend the meeting, because that would be too many people in a room and her husband was not vaccinated”. Now, I personally don’t see any reason why we should care about anybody wilfully unvaccinated and also for the past 18 months one of the reasons that made teaching the kid unbearable was that he wouldn’t wear a mask properly and yell “Covid is fake!” whenever you reminded him to wear the mask properly, so for all we personally cared, they could kick rocks. But the tactic was clear: get the verdict dismissed on technical grounds. Claim that you had no opportunity to say your part, that the school refused to accommodate your health and safety concerns (and you can bet that the ministry that doesn’t give a fuck about health and safety when it comes to kids and teachers will totally side with the parents). Unfortunately we’re not quite that easily fooled, so we scheduled a video conference on the secure ministry approved school platform, informed them and gave them the opportunity to ask for tech support. Of course they didn’t show up, I could bet a muffin that they will complain, but I can’t see how we can be faulted for them not participating. And thus the lesson from all of this will not be learned. the kid will go on in the next school as he did in ours and he will cost all of us a lot of money, and all because his parents couldn’t tell a child’s wants from a child’s needs and let their 10 years old kid run the circus.

While I’m personally not sad that I won’t have to see him again (I don’t actually fancy being called names three times a week), I’m sad in a more general way. He was a small child once, and he needed help, and he didn’t get help, because his parents refused to see where the problem started. And they think they and their precious son are the victims here.

*There’s a point to be made about how in patient treatment isn’t the best idea if the patient is unwilling, but that’s a different discussion and also we’re not talking about an adult here.


  1. Bruce says

    If a student’s family is paying extra for PRIVATE tutoring and education, that would be a different story.
    But this story is about a student in classrooms and schools full of OTHER kids, so the health, safety, and educational needs of the majority must get first consideration.
    I am in favor of REASONABLE accommodations for students, in which the rest of the class doesn’t lose much learning time for the sake of one person.
    One wonders how much these parents would object if they were told their son was doing poorly because some OTHER family’s kid was acting up in class and disrupting things. I fear they would be filing complaints against such a hypothetical other student, yet they would never recognize themselves in such a situation.
    Putting this all together with my decades of teaching, I completely agree with Giliell’s views here.

  2. says

    Not that the kid actually has a condition that would entitle him to accommodations… Thy tried to go “The poor kid has ADHD”, but well, I talked to the psychiatrist (We gave up on the multiprofessional approach when we noticed that all the professionals would spend a lot of their precious time on this, but the family didn’Tt. Also, no ADHD makes you insult people.
    Accommodations are a difficult subject and fraught with many pitfalls. I follow a lot of neurodiverse people on social media exactly because I want to learn from them what they find helpful, and while this has helped me understand better why an autistic kid might do x, or a kid with adhd has troubles with y and how I can help them, sometimes the problem is that those things are in direct opposition to one another and then they are sometimes in opposition to what my students with learning disabilities need and then sometimes in conflict with what your run off the mill kid needs and sometimes in conflict with the whole idea of school.
    For example, I know one of autistic kid who does not cope with ANY change in the routine. Teacher is sick? No school possible. Different room? No way. One of those special days/lessons that make school worthwhile for 90% of the kids? Nope. Now, apart from the teacher being sick, I could structure school in a way that accommodates that kid, but that would violate the needs of all the other kids.

  3. says

    If the parents are not interested in actually raising their child properly, there is very little that a school can do.

    Parents who refuse to acknowledge that their precious little offspring can do something wrong at all are not as bad as those who abuse their kids with excessive punishments, but they are still very bad, albeit in a different way.

    From this, it looks like these parents are doing their best to raise yet another skinhead neonazi.

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