Our due process suit was filed on February 24, 2000 and school agreed to begin mainstreaming Teddy prior to the hearing and the EC teacher would manage his case. On March 6 we returned him to school after an eight-day absence. The following event happened the next day, March 7.
Teddy got off the school bus growling and headed straight for the house.
He didn’t say hi. He didn’t acknowledge me. He was on a mission.
It wasn’t until we both got through the front door that he said his first words. They were in the form of a question.
“Where is the phone book?”
“The phone book,” I thought to myself. He has not once, ever, used the phone book.
“Ted, why do you need the phone book?” I asked.
He didn’t answer.
He was serious and extremely focused. I knew he had been planning these actions the entire bus ride home. He was so deliberate. It concerned me, but, deciding there was little harm in him having the phone book, I told him where it was as I kept a watchful eye on him and the brewing situation.
“Teddy, the phone book is in drawer right under the phone.”
He went straight to the kitchen drawer I had just directed him to, pulled out the book and immediately began flipping through the pages.
“Ted, what are you looking for?” I asked again.
This time he answered.
“Thompson,” he replied. Then added,
“I am going to call and hang up on him.”
As he was saying this he stopped at a page, looked closely at it and clearly frustrated, slammed the book shut.
“There are too many Thompsons,” he said.
Then he just deflated.
Before my eyes, I watched as if an invisible valve had been opened and released all the energy, all the anger, all the frustration from my child’s body. He stood motionless. Dejected. Defeated. His plan for retribution, justice, 8-year-old style, was thwarted.
That’s when I walked out of the kitchen and across the living room to the couch near the front door where Teddy dropped his backpack every afternoon. I knew inside there would be a note and it would tip me off to what was happening.
We had been down this road before.
And of course, my crystal ball of mothering was correct, for that all too familiar paper, with that all too familiar handwriting, spelled out that all too familiar story…
“Teddy hit Jason in P.E. today so coach made him sit out the rest of the period. I will call you this afternoon to discuss.”
And like a movie on DVD, selected from the menu of scenes was the one where Teddy and I sit down together and discuss what happened.
“Sounds like it was a tough day at school,” I began while looking at my limp boy, plopped in the corner of the couch.
“What happened Teddy?”
“Why did you hit Jason?”
“Because every time I ran by him during the one mile run he called me a loser,” Teddy answered.
“He called you a loser?” I clarified.
“Yes.” He answered.
“Did you tell coach he was doing this?” I asked.
“No.” Teddy replied.
“Because,” Teddy said, “it was the one mile run and we aren’t allowed to stop until we finish the mile.”
My literal boy.
And then, as if on cue, the phone rang.
Up I got and crossed back through the living room, into the kitchen to answer the phone that sits on the counter just above the drawer that houses the phone book Teddy had just devoured.
“Hello.” I said, fully anticipating the voice on the other end.
“Charlotte, hi. This is Mrs. Clemens and Coach. Did you see my note?”
“Hi, Mrs. Clemens. Yes. I read the note. Teddy and I were just discussing what happened.”
I then began to tell her what Teddy had just told me.
As I spoke, I instinctively looked up, not at the ceiling, but beyond. I looked up towards that unseen source of patience, hoping it was there and would get me through yet another one of these conversations.
“Well I didn’t know any of the specifics of what happened,” she said and then added, “They don’t even matter. Teddy keeps having these problems and it needs to stop.”
“Where is the aide who is supposed to be with him during these times?” I asked.
“The coaches don’t want to do that. They want to deal with him without the aide,” she replied.
I would have thought my blood would have been boiling at this point but instead I was weirdly, unexpected calm and replied with, “What is your purpose in sending him to PE without support, KNOWING he is having problems, letting those problems happen and then punishing him for them. That’s irresponsible.”
Then it happened. The words were said,
“He is going to have to learn and sitting out is the consequence until he does.”
She then put coach and when he said about Teddy being called a loser, “It really doesn’t matter because Ted shouldn’t have hit him.”
Once again I was in a showdown with the teachers.
I ended the conversation. That weird calmness I had, well, it was gone.
I then wrote the documentation I have just shared with you and added this note and emailed it to our attorney,
It is imperative for you to understand I do not condone my son hitting. In fact I am VERY upset about it. However, I am more upset that, once again, my son is put into situations that are extremely difficult for him, is receiving no support, the teachers take no proactive stance, and then Ted fails, and they punish him. NO conversation took place between coach, Teddy and Jason. No one determined the antecedent, no one taught Ted how to handle the situation appropriately nor did Jason have to take ANY responsibility for his inappropriate behavior. They just punish Ted because he “has to learn the consequences.” I believe one reason Ted hits is because he feels he has to be the law because the adults AREN’T. The teachers SO don’t get it. I called the Autism Specialist and told her Ted can’t return to PE. She said she will do an inservice with the entire faculty. She also said they have hired a full-time aide for Ted who will start on Monday. We need to meet with this aide prior to Monday.
And so the story continues. Rather than being called Educating Teddy, this story should be called Educating The Teachers.