This case is maddening and depressing and it reminds me of an hour-long conversation I had with one of my district’s administrators last week. But first things first:
Only in the rarest of the rare cases do you diagnose young children with bipolar disease. And rarer still do you put them on powerful meds. This child was on them from the age of 2 1/2. That is, in itself, insane. As you’ll read, there are a zillion other things that went wrong for this poor little girl in her short life and if you don’t want to get sad or mad, do not read it.
My point in this post, however, has to do with listening to your gut when it tells you, something doesn’t look right and I should tell someone. And I’ll be the first with an example of this:
Earlier this week, I’d gone in to talk about one of my kids but our conversation meandered through other situations in education – bullying and girls’ body image to name just two.
But before I left, I decided to tell the administrator about some observations I’d made in a classroom. For eight years now, I’ve been in my kids’ schools at least once a week, almost every week, for one reason or another – even when I was working fulltime and pregnant, even when I had newborns.
It’s not easy keeping that up. And not every parent has the luxury to be in their kids’ schools that much – there were times when I was in the school up to three or four times in a week, even while I worked outside the home.
But this isn’t about me being there for my kids – something my husband helps make possible.
This post is about speaking up when you notice something that just doesn’t seem right. That seems like someone should know.
I’ve always had that instinct, from the time I was a kid. I’m the person in the grocery store line who will say something if I see a parent backhand a child. I’ll risk that I’m wrong in doing it. Disagree with me if you want – I’m okay with it. I was once driving in Cleveland Heights, going up Mayfield near Taylor and I could see a woman hitting a child repeatedly while we were stopped at a light. I called 911 and gave them the license plate number. I don’t know what happened but I knew I had to call. Some of this impetus on my part comes from knowing that resources like 696-KIDS accept the calls and then decide whether something is substantiated or not. It’s not my job to say what’s going on. But as the caller, you never know how many other incidents there’ve been – your call may be the one that says, you know, something really suspicious is happening and it’s time we do x.
So I said something to the administrator about a couple of children whom I’ve observed for months now. Of course I knew she couldn’t say anything much to me – confidentiality and all. And I knew that from before I said a word. I told her that I felt that I needed to tell her, because I felt it was what needed to be done – that someone be sure they are saying something. As for follow-up, I continue to observe the children. Hopefully the supports available are in use and making a difference.
On the other end of the spectrum from the cases that no one attends to are the ones like this one in the article to which I’ve linked, one that had, reportedly, numerous professionals involved. What went on? How at fault are the professionals? How at fault are the parents? Only investigative facts will help us understand – maybe. But maybe not.
All I can tell you is that a four year old, seen regularly by the same people who see only a deterioration in a child’s condition, should not die.
And that’s why I tell people, when I see something, end of story. So that hopefully there won’t be an end of a life.