Then the Bubble Burst…

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I feel low today. Disappointed. Depressed.

Gilbert was suspended from school yesterday until Monday morning and it feels like I’ve been dealt a heavy body blow.

Things were going well. His first 4 weeks passed without incident or concern. He seemed happy, the school seemed happy, we were happy.

Everything was rosy until I returned to work on Monday.

Whether this unsettled the boy or whether it’s because we are selling our house or another reason entirely, I don’t know.

But Monday was when the rosy picture became decidedly less rosy.

The boy had a meltdown at Lunch 2 as he had money to spend at the canteen and the canteen was not open (apparently it closes early on a Monday but I did not know that).

There was kicking and screaming and swearing and shouting. But he calmed down and was able to return to class.

The school rang afterwards so I knew what had happened. At the time I was so relieved that they were able to work through it with him.

For the first time I felt I could let out that breath I had been holding for a month and trust that the transition was going to go okay.

I should not have let myself relax, I should have known it was all going to go wrong.

Wednesday dawned. It was the day the real estate agent was coming over to take photos of the house and I needed to have it ready before I left for work.

Of course I ended up running late so the kids could not get to school early enough for breakfast club. Gilbert was beside himself and went into meltdown pretty much the minute he arrived.

I hoped that he would settle with the routine of the school and headed off to work.

Just as I arrived I got a call to say Gilbert was refusing to go into class and that it would be best if I came back and kept him at home for the day. Otherwise, he could be suspended if his behaviour continued.

I was surprised, to say the least, to hear the word suspension thrown into the mix – surely he could not do anything that would lead to that action? Surely, they wouldn’t bring that up suddenly after 4 weeks of generally cooperative behaviour?

I readied myself to head back to the school, held hostage by the implied threat of suspension if I did not, when they rang back to say he had been coaxed into class and I did not have to pick him up after all. Although they could not guarantee that they wouldn’t ring back later if his previous behaviour returned.

I was relieved the crisis was averted but troubled by the fact suspension was being considered – wasn’t there a warning process before we got to that stage, or was this my warning?

I had a good talk to Gilbert on Wednesday afternoon and stuck to our normal routine on Thursday morning to ensure he was in a good mood for school.

As I was still troubled by the conversation from the day before I sent an email to the school requesting a meeting to go over his behaviour and talk through the school’s discipline policy.

So when I received a call from the Assistant Principal at 2pm I thought she was calling in relation to my email. Unfortunately that was not the case.

She informed me Gilbert had been suspended for 4 days as he had attempted to choke another child and then hit his aide when she attempted to intervene.

I felt sick to my stomach – he is not a violent child, why would he have done something like this? More to the point, what series of events had provoked to this kind of action?

I raced to the school needing to know what really happened. Turns out he was playing rough with his classmates in the playground and got another boy in a headlock. The aide tried to intervene and Gilbert reacted by hitting her in the face.

I explained he seeks out rough play for his sensory needs and would not have been aware that he may have been hurting anyone.

I further explained his low vision combined with his autism means he cannot read faces so he doesn’t always realise if he has gone too far.

Besides, he is nearly 8 and most boys of that age enjoy rough play. And, to be honest a part of me was pleased to know that he had been playing with anyone at all.

But I was mortified that he had hit anyone, especially his aide. She knew it wasn’t intentional but it was unacceptable, nonetheless. Although I didn’t agree with a suspension I can understand the school’s point of view.

The school agreed it was not a malicious act but as it was a clear case of physical aggression it attracted an automatic short suspension of 4 days.

We will meet with the school on Monday morning when he is due to return to address the suspension. We have also arranged another formal meeting for the following week to dicuss all aspects of his behaviour and transition.

I am disappointed that we have got to this point. I am worried that Gilbert will see acting up as a way of getting out of school. I am fearful that this transition will not work out after all.

And, to be honest, I am above all frustrated that the school has resorted to suspension so early on. It is obvious that suspension is not the ideal form of discipline for a child who doesn’t really want to go to school in the first place.

But still I am hopeful we can come to an understanding with the school so strategies can be put in place to avoid future suspensions and encourage Gilbert to make the right choices.

Because if we lose hope of that, what hope is there of achieving an ultimately successful outcome?

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10 Responses

  1. Thinking of you Kirsty. xx
    Gemma @ My Big Nutshell recently posted..Organic blogging in 2012

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Gemma. We’ll have to wait and see what Monday brings.

      Thankfully my husband, who is a teacher, is coming along to the meeting as well so he can bring a level of understanding to the conversation. I have to confess I’m all at sea when it comes to school discipline so I will appreciate his support.

  2. Denyse Whelan. Education Specialist says:

    Kirsty my heart sank when I read your introduction earlier on this. Now that I’ve read the post, I just had to write something in support. I can see why you’ve been quite shocked at the Suspension but I can understand why the school’s executive were required to do that. I won’t go into details here but it’s “duty of care” to others & to ensure safety. BUT that doesn’t help you … However, it seems from your analysis of the week, you know the reasons. A combo of a great 4 weeks ( honeymoon period in new school) mum at home ( whee!) and then the house being sold. All add up to stressors & stresses for you all but MrG has others built-in. These are tough times. Wishing you and your husband better weeks ahead as you attempt to re-settle G into this new setting.
    Denyse Whelan. Education Specialist recently posted..Ready. Set. School.

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks D. I have re-read the school discipline policy and the DET policy on suspension and expulsion and I know that physical aggression attracts automatic suspension.

      But I was unaware that there were any problems in the playground so I’m disappointed that the school never brought this up as we could have worked towards some strategies to help him thus avoiding this situation entirely.

      I’ll know more on Monday but still hoping we’ll be able to find a way to (hopefully) avoid any more suspensions in future. I’ll let you know how we go, I could do with some advice on how to better work with the school!

  3. Marita says:

    Oh Kirsty 🙁 That is so tough.

    Our school offers ‘in school suspensions’ – where the child can not go to class or play outside with their peers. They have to sit in the Principal or Assistant Principals office and do their school work. There are still traditional suspensions where the kid is not at school also.

    I hope your meeting on Monday goes well.
    Marita recently posted..Autism Hero Highlights

    • Kirsty says:

      Marita, funny you should mention that as my husband (who is a high school teacher) is going to ask the school about ‘in school suspensions’ on Monday. I would rather Gilbert keep going to school in cases of any future suspensions as he will more than likely start acting up on purpose if he knows he will score him some time at home. I just hope we can come up with a better and more effective way to let him know when he has done the wrong thing. I’ll let you know how we go.

  4. Laura says:

    🙁 How stressful.

    I obviously havent read back posts yet to find out more about the school. But I also feel the suspension was a little sudden and I am not sure it will stop the behaviour or teach the lesson – which is the point of suspensions arent they?

    Good luck and ((hugs)) – dealing with schools is never easy!

    • Kirsty says:

      I know the school had no choice but to suspend given it was an act of physical aggression but I also know that this will not be an effective form of punishment for Gilbert.

      I’m really hoping we can get to a level of understanding with the school on Monday so we can work together to help him make the right choices. I really really want this transition to work – it’s so hard to accept what has happened given that the first 4 weeks seemed to go so well, but all is not lost yet. We just have to keep positive…

  5. What a week you have had. I hope the school is cooperative in helping you both work this out. Be hopeful just as you say. Best of luck.

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Bree. We had a positive meeting with the school and things have been far better this week so I’m cautiously optimistic that things will work out…only time will tell, I guess!

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