Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sickness and Incident

Well, we have had an interesting couple of days...
Brogan has had a cold of sorts for a couple of days, and he looks pathetic but doesn't actually complain a lot. He just needs lots of cuddles, and some motrin before bed to bring his fever down a little so he can sleep.
I picked Avery up from school yesterday (which I do every day now since otherwise she would be sitting on the bus for an hour and a half!!!!) and her teacher informed me that Avery had been kicked in the face by one of the boys in her class during recess. I asked if he had done it on purpose and she said yes. She said the they had taken her to the nurse and they had put ice on her face and that by the time they went back to the classroom she was feeling pretty happy again. She was wearing a different t-shirt because the one she had been wearing had blood on it from her nose, and she had a swollen red cheekbone, dried blood in both nostrils, and scuffs on the other cheek and her neck.
Once Avery and I were in the van and on the way home she told me who had kicked her, and that he had kicked her lots of times. She says that he only kicked her in the face, and not anywhere else on her head, and I can't see any bruises around her shunt or anything, so hopefully that's fine. But of course, Gabe and I had all afternoon and night to think about it, and there are several things that I need to talk to Avery's teacher about. Such as, how was the boy able to kick her so many times before anyone stopped him? Why does Avery not have any memory of an apology from the boy? Were the boy's parents informed of his unacceptable behaviour? Why wasn't I called when it happened? We're also concerned that there may not be enough knowledge or awareness of Avery's shunt. I was hoping to go into school this morning with Avery to talk to her teacher about all these things, but Avery has been throwing up this morning so will be staying home. I think that it's probably just Brogan's cold - Avery's always had a sensitive stomach and it's not unusual for her to throw up when she has a cold - but of course I am a little nervous, even though she has assured me that she was only kicked in the face and not anywhere else on her head. So I will be keeping a close eye on her just in case. And I have written a letter to her teacher instead. I'll include that at the end of this post.
Avery this morning. She had a bath last night so the blood is gone from her nostrils, and the big bruise on her right cheekbone is hidden by the shadows. Also, most of the scrapes on her skin are pretty much invisible already, thankfully. I can't see the ones on her neck at all anymore. Plus, she was putting on a brave face for the camera! Sweet girl :)

Brogan didn't feel the need for a brave face...! He just plain feels sorry for himself.

Movies seem to help :)

Avery is just attempting to eat a little bit of toast, so we'll see if that stays down...

Here's the letter:

Dear Harmony,

I was hoping to come in today to talk to you a little more about the kicking incident, but unfortunately Avery has woken up throwing up this morning, so she will not be coming to school. But, while I appreciate you telling me about it when I picked Avery up from school yesterday, there are some things I would still like to discuss with you now that I’ve had time to digest the whole thing and hear some more about it from Avery.

Firstly, I wanted to know what sort of discipline Eli faced after kicking my child repeatedly in the face, and whether his parents have been informed. While I understand that this was not something he has done in the past, I’m still a little concerned about the fact that Avery has no memory of receiving any kind of apology from him and I want to make sure that he was made to understand that it is completely unacceptable behaviour.

Another concern I have is the number of times Avery was kicked before there was intervention. I asked her if he kicked her once, to which she replied “No, he kicked me lots of times”. I asked her if it was two, three, four or five times, and each time she shook her head and then said “No, he just kept on kicking me”. I am well aware that it is impossible to keep your eyes on every child at every moment, and it is understandable that a child could kick another child once or twice before it was noticed, but I don’t understand how Avery got kicked multiple times before anyone was able to put a stop to it. I know that even with three adults supervising, there are still more children than adults and you can’t watch every child all the time, but you only have one child who physically cannot run away. You also, as far as I know, have only one child for whom blows to the head could land her in the hospital for brain surgery. I consider it very lucky that Avery suffered all these kicks to her face and not to the side of her head, because if he had been kicking her in her shunt then it’s very possible that she would be in the hospital right now. Even now, with her assuring me that she was only kicked in the face, I am watching her very closely for signs of shunt problems, especially since she’s been throwing up all morning. As far as I can tell, the bruises are limited to both cheek bones, her nose and one side of her neck, but I am still nervous.

Please understand that I am not blaming you or any of the aides for what happened, but in the future I would like to think that it would be handled a little differently. I am not happy that Eli was able to kick her at least 4 or 5 times before anyone stopped him. I would like to know what steps have been taken with him. I would also have thought that it went without saying that I want to be called as soon as Avery receives any kind of injury to her head. While Avery is generally a very healthy little girl, her wellbeing and life itself depend on a very fragile medical device, and I need to know when there’s a chance that she’s been hit or hurt anywhere on her head. I think maybe it would also be a good idea for Avery and me to spend a few minutes with you (and anyone who works in the classroom with you) to help you get familiar with where her shunt is, what it feels like, what sorts of things should be avoided, and which symptoms could mean problems. I hope that maybe Avery will be well enough to come in tomorrow so that we can see you before the break, but if not I will come in after the break. I would appreciate a response to some of my questions if you wouldn’t mind calling or emailing me at the address above.

Thank you,

Josephine Andersen

I emailed it to Gabe to see if there was anything he wanted to add, and he said that he thought I should take out the part about not blaming the teachers since it's their job to keep our child safe, but I don't think I need to start throwing blame around at this point. Although I do blame them for the fact that he was able to kick her so many times before they stopped him...where were they?? And they really should have called me.

I just got off the phone with the teacher. She told me everything that happened from her perspective, emphasizing that it all happened so fast and that by the time they got back to the classroom from the nurse's office all the other children were already putting their coats on to go out to the bus. She says that she and one of the aides were out in the playground and that the aide saw the boy kick Avery, so she ran over there but before she got there he kicked her again. She says that she (the teacher) then checked Avery into the nurse's office at 2:20pm, and that her nose stopped bleeding pretty much as soon as she wiped it clean. They iced her cheek and checked over her arms and legs for any other bleeding, and then by the time they were finished it was time to go home. She confirmed what Avery told me about how the boy didn't seem to be mad or angry, but was just kicking for the sake of kicking. She says that the nurse told her that if he had damaged the shunt at all then they would have been able to tell immediately. Rubbish, I say. I told her that just wasn't true and that the nurse most likely hasn't had all that much experience with shunts. I didn't say that I would prefer for people to not pretend to be experts on a subject if they're not. I also told her that there were definitely more than two kicks. Unless of course the boy has a really big, really weird shaped foot. I also told her again that I absolutely should have been called, because I certainly wouldn't have wanted her to be put on the bus if I hadn't happened to show up to pick her up. She said that she would have probably called me if I hadn't come. Then she rephrased it without the "probably". She has agreed that it would be a good thing for them to know a little bit more about Avery's shunt since apparently they don't know much at all. She has promised that they will be watching the boy like hawks from now on, and that the parents were informed of his behaviour and were very upset. She also said that they have a few boys who are starting to behave a little more violently, although I don't know how that was supposed to make me feel better. Sigh....she said a few more things but Avery needs me (I need you to come look after me Mom) so I have to go.

Also, Gabe is not happy that I have written about this on my blog...he thinks it makes it sound like we live in a bad neighbourhood, because no other 4 year old has ever been hurt by another at school.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Gabe. It is the teacher's responsibility to watch your child. Do not make excuses for her. Often times the teachers will send the children outside w/ the aides only while they catch up on paperwork or attend IEP mtgs. A practice that I disagree with. Teachers and aides also commonly use recess time to socialize and do not adequately supervise the children. I hope both of your kids are feeling better soon and are able to get out and enjoy this beautiful spring weather.

Kelly A said...

Josephine, I can't believe what that boy did to Avery and how the school handled it. It's terrible. I hope that Avery is feeling better.

Annie D said...

Josephine. That is completely unacceptable. I can speak from experience that ANY child regardless of medical conditions should have their parent notified of ANY medical attention given to that child. The school cannot make medical decisions for you. It is your choice as to whether Avery needed any further attention. However, given her medical condition, it should have been an immediate response to call you.

Give Avery our love!! We will be thinking of you all and praying for speedy recoveries! HUGS !!!

Paulette said...

I am shocked. Poor Avery I hope she is feeling better soon. I definately think the fact that you were not notified amidiately was neglectfull. if it had happened at your house you prob would of gone to the hospital I think in your position I would of. Not without good reason. perhaps they were worried about you seeing the severity of the situation and hoped to calm down the symsoms before you saw her. the fact that they had changed her T shirt makes me wonder. maybe I am over reacting? I dont have the shunt worries but what about the emotional side of being hurt in the face repitedly for amy child let alone one less able to get away for help? Does her nose bleed easily normally?

Michelle said...

Wow, they had to change her shirt because of the blood and she had multiple bruises and they didn't call immediately? What were they thinking? Or, were they thinking? You are definitely more calm than I would be... and what would possess a four year old to do such a thing to another four year old? Goodness! Well, give Avery a hug from me! She's a brave girl!

Julie T said...

I totally agree with Annie on this one. I would be FURIOUS!!

Bridget M said...

Man, if school systems can ban peanut butter sandwiches because of dangerous allergies, you'd think a teacher could prevent a kid who's had brain surgery from being kicked in the head! I'm with Gabe. It's not their fault that the other child was acting up, but not contacting you immediately is completely unacceptable! Anything more serious than ... See morea scratch - like anything that requires more attention than a quick wash off - should lead to a parent notification no matter the medical status. I love the part at the end of your letter about spending time with them to get them more familiar with her shunt and the phrase "fragile medical device", bravo and well done momma! Hope everyone feels better soon!

Marie G said...

Oh dear this is most unfortunate, I do hope Avery is able to overcome this. How horrible for her. Your letter is excellent and I hope the school takes this matter very seriously.

Alex said...

oh nooooooo. poor avery. poor you. hope she feels better soon. and brogan too. aren't we all grateful for the TV? how did the pioneers ever take care of toddlers?

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! That is crazy! I am anxious enough already about Violet starting school next year!

That sure is unacceptable behaviour! I am so glad you wrote the letter!

Glad they are keen to learn more about Avery's shunt, sounds like they need the education!

Thinking of you xxx

Tara said...

In the end Avery was and still is the victim here. Not only should that student be suspended (regardless of mental understanding) but the teacher should be taking LEAPS AND BOUNDS to protect any and all children. If violence is beginning to occur in a classroom (regardless of who the violence is directed towards) it is the responsibility of the teacher and the PRINCIPAL to do what is needed.

Michelle was left with a child in her classroom that was knowingly violent and I had witnessed his viloence once before. The teacher and the principal and the district was aware. I got a call from the school nurse (not the "aide" the actual floating RN) to inform me that Michelle had been picked up and dropped on purpose by this child. He had admitted to trying to harm her because she was in "his" spot. Michelle had to be taken to the hospital and had a head concussion because of the incident.

I am glad that you did contact the teacher but I also believe that you need to contact the principal and the district in the matter. And maybe possibly look into talking to that childs parents to help them understand the seriousness of the matter. When I did that not only is that child watched EXTREMELY closely Michelle also is. Sometimes you can tell them all you want but it goes in one ear and out the other. That is why it is always good to get others involved.

Paul B said...

I'm outraged.

I admire your restraint when you wrote that letter - I should have used far more menace and venom - but don't you think that you are making too many allowances for this school's behaviour? A boy kicks a handicapped and defenceless girl in the face several times and he is not reprimanded, let alone suspended. This calls for stern words and even sterner action.

As for Gabe's reluctance to portray your neighbourhood in a violent light, whose side is he on? We're talking about a school here, which ought to be a place of refuge independent of local influence, following accepted societal norms of behaviour and supervision. Hushing up such betrayal and barbarism is the action only of a demoralized and defeated society: which impression would Gabe rather we have?

Give me a chance, just half a chance, and I'll write a letter to these idiots.

Josephine said...

What you have to understand Paul is that Avery is in a class full of children with developmental delays. She is the only one with a major physical delay, all the others have speech and/or cognitive delays. And the reason I pick her up from school in the afternoon is because she would be sitting on the bus for an hour and a half otherwise, so these are not children from our neighbourhood - they are children from all over the city who have developmental delays of 25% or more in at least 2 areas. Some people seem to think that maybe it wouldn't have happened if she went to a school with a higher percentage of white students, but the fact of the matter is that the boy who did this was "pink not brown", according to Avery.
The reason I restrained myself in the letter is because I did not want to start blaming people for things just because I was angry, which believe me I was, and still am. You cannot possibly be angrier than we are, but I am trying to be reasonable, and as soon as Avery is well enough I will be meeting with all the school employees involved in Avery's care. I appreciate the anger you feel, but your comment makes it sound like in your anger you are blaming me for not being more vocal in my anger and therefore not standing up for Avery as I should, and as if you blame Gabe for not wanting people to think that he isn't providing the best possible life for his family, when in reality I could not possibly ask for a better father for my children.
There will be more words about how this boy managed to kick Avery so many times, certainly more than the two times the aide saw before she got there. There will also be words about the nurse who seemed to consider herself expert enough to make false statements about how a shunt works. There will be more words about the fact that I wasn't called and Avery would have been put on the bus if I hadn't shown up to pick her up. There will be more words about the fact that Avery received no apology from the boy and, as far as I know, the only step taken has been to inform his parents and to promise to watch him more closely. There will be more words about the fact that she suffered what was probably a concussion which left her vomiting for more than 24hrs afterwards.

Valerie B said...

Well, this has been a shock indeed. Such an attack on any of our little ones would be awful but, because of Avery's tenuous hold on health and life, it is so very worrying. I tried to call you last night Josephine and will try again later today. I do hope you hear from the school before spring break, some sort of resolution and answers to your questions would be of comfort rather than having it all hanging on until the start of the next term. I was visiting Grandma on my way back from the Brogans last night and she read this out to me (since I'd left my glasses in the car) and it certainly helped us both to deal with it together. I'm sure Eli's parents will be equally shocked by this incident, how awful to realise that your child is capable of such actions, and they, I'm sure, will want to be informed in order that they can help him understand that such behaviour is not to be tolerated. I am hoping that Avery's sweet, trusting but slightly timorous nature will not be long affected by this; the world is not always a safe place but when you are only just 4 you should be allowed to believe that it is.

Anonymous said...

PS I love your neighbourhood and your neighbours, all so friendly and proud of their homes and gardens - I especially loved your story today about Jo babysitting Brogan!! Too delightful.

Talitha F said...

That is so upsetting! I hope that Avery is getting better, and that you manage to sort this out with the school, so that you can have a bit of peace of mind!

Paul B said...

Thanks, Jose. Believe me, I can understand that you and Gabe are probably more angry than any of us can imagine. I didn't mean to impugn Gabe, so tell him that he can forgive me now - it was just me venting my anger at a target, any target, and son-in-laws are easy ones.

More words are good. Keep it up.

Paul B said...

I had no idea, by the way, that there was any possible racial context to this incident, or indeed in your neighbourhood. I don't understand the demographics of your area.

Meriaten L said...

just reading all this and it makes me so mad and sad, too :(

Josephine said...

Don't worry Paul, I know you wouldn't have any idea about the racial make up of our neighbourhood, but those of our friends who do live in Roanoke have more of an idea, and a couple of people seemed to think that this was a result of that. But it's not - we have some of the nicest neighbours you could ask for. And I doubt Gabe has even seen any of this, so he would have no idea that there's even anything to forgive :)