Sexual Harassment in First Grade??

Jessi - posted on 05/23/2011 ( 19 moms have responded )

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At the beginning of the school year, my son (he has Asperger's and is picked on often without realizing it) made me aware of a classmate's crude, disgusting remarks about another female student. It started when the boy in his class told the entire class that his cousin saw the girl naked on tv. The boy told my son this same thing directly. Since then, I have heard on more than a few occasions, about degrading/sexual comments being made about this girl. My son tells me that she is a second grader. I've been a little worried about her in light of the things I heard from my son through the year. I have made the teacher aware, but it doesn't seem to do any good. Today, my son told me that this same boy said something mean to him today. I asked him what it was (there are any number of things I typically hear when I ask), and at first he told me that he was told that he (referring to my son) had a crush on this girl. Then, the remark that made me slam on my brakes and put the hazards on the side of the road to have him repeat what I thought I heard: "He said that I had sex with "****." I immediately called the school, but the principal is gone until Wednesday. Aside from my obvious anger about the situation itself, his teacher did not say one word to me about it. She passed me in the hall three times after school, she acknowledged me each time she passed by, but not one word was mentioned to me about the fact that my child has just been dragged into this ongoing playground problem. She was told, and she did talk to both boys in the hallway. According to my son, she told the other boy that it wasn't nice to say, and that she didn't want to hear that at school anymore. Another teacher I spoke to who sometimes handles "situations" said that she did see the teacher speaking to both boys in the hallway and said that she would speak to the teacher about it and find out if that was what she was talking to them about.

I have been worried about this poor girl all year. This particular boy has directed these awful comments at her all year. I don't even know if this girl knows these things are being said about her. And now my child is being brought into it too.

I had to wonder the first time I heard comments made by this other child, and worry about this poor girl being talked about, but now I am really, really worried. What the heck is going on in this kid's house? At first I wondered if there might be an older sibling providing a greater than first grade education, but now? This is not child's play! The talk about this other boy "spying" on this girl on the playground, MAYBE play, though I expressed to my son how I felt about that kind of "play." (Having been a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, I think I take things a little too close to home and beyond what a first grader could conceive themselves.)

I don't know what teachers should or shouldn't share with parents about a student's day, or what sort of "incidents" warrant a heads up, but I feel angry that my son's teacher neglected to fill me in on the fact that my son's classmate is telling kids my son had sex with this girl. At this point, I just want to bypass the teacher and go straight to administration. Why is this still going on? And why is my son going from being an innocent bystander who is told these awful things about this girl to being a person they are now saying awful things about regarding this girl? Is this not bullying? Isn't this sexual harassment? Am I over reacting?

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Jane - posted on 05/23/2011

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It is indeed a form of bullying. I don't know if it is truly sexual harassment because we haven't heard from the girl or her parents. However, it is definitely a sign that something is wrong at home. It is possible that the school has had problems with this child and his parents before and so are walking softly. It is also possible that your anger has convinced them that you are just another "helicopter mom," raising problems where there aren't any. So the first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and figure out how to make your case so that the school staff don't think you are over-reacting.

If it continues, I suggest you interview your son every day after school and write down what he says. Then take the journal to the teacher first. If you get no help there I suggest you move up the line to the principal, and then to district administration. If possible, try to record your meetings with each person so you can prove their lack of response or prove what they say they will do about it.

Have you had a one-on-one meeting with the teacher about this? If you haven't, I would do so, possibly working from notes so you can keep your cool and not leave any of your concerns out. You should get the teacher to tell you what she plans to do about the situation, and then follow up to see if she has. This should be your first concrete step.

I also suggest that you leave the girl out of it because you don't know how or even if it is affecting her. Your concern is your son and how this child's words are affecting him.

Good luck with this. Do your best to work WITH the teacher, not against her.

Jane - posted on 05/27/2011

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Then present the photos to CPS and file charges of abuse against the school, or get a lawyer and sue the district for allowing unsafe conditions for your son.

We had to sue the district over what my son needed but wasn't getting. It is a last resort but it works. Look for an advocacy group for folks with disabilities. Here in Texas we have Advocacy Inc. but other states have other groups. These are staffed with lawyers that know just what to say to a school district to get what you need.

Barb - posted on 05/24/2011

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Jane gave excellent advice. What she said is truly exactly what you need to do, document it, record it (check with your state to see if it is illegal to record without both parties knowing) or just set a recorder up so they KNOW you are going to make them stick by their words.



Sorry to the teacher but what that boy said wasn't only "not nice" it was completely inappropriate and unacceptable and should have earned him a ticket to the principals office. If nothing else, THAT would have gotten the parents attention because if your child goes to the principals office, the parents know.



I'm concerned about what he said about seeing her naked on TV. Is someone recording this little girl naked and this boy saw a video? Or is he just making up things like he did with your son and this girl?



I always like to know the "why". But yes, do what Jane said with the recording and journalizing of your son's statements

Nikki - posted on 05/24/2011

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It depends, the child may have heard these words, knows they get a reaction but doesn't understand the actual meaning. Or something inappropriate maybe going on at home. If I were in your situation I would talk to the principle asap, or ring CPS and discuss the situation with them.

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Denise - posted on 03/03/2012

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All teachers and administrators wish/dream that school is a special, wonderful place to be. The world is changing, children are changing, parents are changing (you sound like a terrific, concerned parent!!!). I'm a teacher and we have the same concerns you do. Teachers even have things happen with their own children that can't get resolved. I would talk to the school counselor. She is able to contact family services (hopefully her hands aren't tied there) if she feels there is a problem in either the home of the girl or boy. The boy may be a victim and acting out because of it. It definitely doesn't sound right to me.

Loretta - posted on 02/29/2012

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Jessi



I'm so sorry to hear about the things your son has had to experience in his young life. I had the privilege of working in a special needs classroom in Utah (my home) I have to tell you it was a wonderful experience. There were many kids with different levels of disability. The students in our high school treated these kids with love and respect. I know that sounds idyllic but it's true. My dear friend has a son who is disabled and has attended schools in our area and has had such a positive experience. She has since moved to another state and I'm sad to say she hasn't had the same experience.



My daughter is looking forward to a career of working with disabled student's. We feel that they are wonderful, sincere and caring children and love love love working with them.



Best wishes to you and keep up the good work. It sounds like you are a great mom and he is lucky to have you.

Jane - posted on 05/27/2011

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If a school is allowing your child to be hurt, then yes, CPS will go after them. The one teacher that made headway with my son at one school made an enemy of the principal. "Someone" called CPS on her. In this case, it was found to be unsubstantiated.

However, CPS exists to protect children. Your son is being physically assaulted by other children while the teachers are in loco parentis. It needs to stop, and CPS can do it. Bear in mind, though, that principals and teachers use CPS as a weapon all the time.

Getting an attorney might be your best bet right now since you are having other problems with the school. A disability attorney skilled with school districts will know the buttons to push to get your son what he needs. In this case it may be a transfer with transportation to another school. Another possibility is that if the teacher doesn't have time for him, then he may need a para or an aide to assist.

Jessi - posted on 05/27/2011

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I'll keep that in mind. I didn't think you could pit CPS against a school. Michigan is less and less friendly to people with special needs/disabilities. His teacher told me at the beginning of the year that she just doesn't have the time to deal with him, so she puts him in the hall or at the back of the class. But it seems that no matter how hard I fight for him, I get no where. It took over a year to find the resources here that he needed. They refuse to discuss an IEP for him because so far, he's excelling academically. The more this crap happens, the more I wonder if I should give up looking for a job, give up my house, move in with my parents, and homeschool him. Light teasing I can accept, though I don't like it. Abuse I cannot.

Jessi - posted on 05/27/2011

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Jane, I did that with the first incident on the bus, and they told me there was no way they would file charges against a six year old for battery.

Jane - posted on 05/27/2011

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You can also take photos of the injuries, plus take your son to the doctor so you have a medical report. You can then either sue, or file assault charges.

Megan - posted on 05/27/2011

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i definilty would have anything that wasnt normal brought to the teacher, then principal perhaps school social worker

Jessi - posted on 05/27/2011

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Christy, that is exactly why I've been so worried every time my son talked about this happening on the playground. I have been worried about the girl's safety as well as the boy's. With the teacher knowing about it, and my making her aware that I had concerns about the kids upon hearing the first things about it, I didn't stay involved because I knew the teacher was aware. I talked with the principal when she got back and was told that the boy's parents are taking this very seriously, and that they are working with her, the teacher, and the family specialist to help the boy "understsand the impact of his words." He didn't get suspended for a day like the last three kids have this week per their "zero tolerance" bullying rules...My son was late two days in a row, because he didn't want to go to school, and I had to drag him out the door. When I asked the principal if he might be getting backlash on the playground about it, she said absolutely not. So she gave him an office job. She thought it might give him something to look forward to come to school for. So he hands out the envelopes for the lunch counts before school starts. The last time he didn't want to go to school (he gets really upset if he has to MISS school...) was after he told me about the abuse the "meanest kid in school" was dishing out in the boys' bathroom. He was too scared to tell the principal, so I got his permission to do it, and someone kids found out it was him. They started letting him play football with them on the playground, only to tackle him, and kick him all over at lunch. That wasn't why he didn't want to go, it was because when I complained about it, they weren't allowed to play football on the playground for a week or so, and they were mad at my son for it.

So the boy has been at school all week. And for whatever reason, my son played with him today. I have been asking him each day who he played with. "No one" has been the answer all week but today. We've talked about who he can ask to play with him every day. Why was he playing with this boy today? "He was nicer today. He told me he forgot all the words he used. And he said he won't make fun of me again." Yeah, I'm sure he forgot those words...

And I still cannot get an answer as to why I was not made aware of the situation before my son shared it with me. I have asked seven times. The principal has said that she will have to ask the teacher, and will relay that there needs to be more communication, but every time I ask, I get no answer. I do not understand how a teacher, especially a first grade teacher, can continually hear this type of language and behavior from her student and not think to mention it to the principal, or the family specialist, or CPS. How is sex not an issue you make the parents aware of? I don't have formal education in mental health, but I do know a good bit about signs of sexual abuse (I was attacked at college, and I've read a lot of books that also dealt with childhood abuse. My daughter has also been a victim, so I am aware of what general milestones of sexual exploration/knowledge are.) This is why I have been worried about this all year. Here, teachers are mandatory reporters. How could any of this not send up a red flag that something isn't right? I just hope everything is figured out, and hopefully it isn't the case (I will hope it is a case of older sibling education or something). Either way, it needs to stop. If I hear about it again, I'm going to the superintendant. I wonder if the "victim" of the bullying has anything to do with who gets punished for bullying and who doesn't. It definitely seems like when my child is severely bullied (he looked like he was in a knife fight from the kdg incident on the bus), coming home with bruises all over his body the size of softballs from the football incident, and now having a kid tell people he had sex with someone, no one cares enough to step up and punish the bully. That pisses me off. I wish kids could be nicer. I don't ever expect bullying to be abolished. I don't really even think all bullying is necessarily bad. The little things, "your hair looks funny today," or "you like _____," or something, allows them to build a sort of resiliance but not psychologically damage them for life. But I think kids really need to learn limits, learn tolerance, learn RESPECT, and be disciplined. The kids who steal in the lunch line? They get away with it. What does that teach them? That they can be caught and never be punished. It's like they are teaching them they are allowed to bully certain kids, because they don't get punished. They didn't even punish the sociopath in the other first grade class after he gave a girl a bloody nose. No wonder kids are getting worse and worse. It's not just poor parenting (it's not always parenting or school anyway...), it's schools not enforcing their own rules. Zero tolerance bullying. Hahaha.

Christy - posted on 05/25/2011

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Jessi, None of this is okay. Do not wait to see what else happens. Complain to the teacher AND the principal. If nothing is done about it, go to the superintendent. Why do I feel so strongly about that? Because that boy who is doing the harassing is probably being sexually abused. IF nothing is done about it, I would call child protective service to investigate the home life of that family. I would also want to know personally that that little girl's parents are aware of what is going on. She may need some counseling. It is not okay for your son's teacher to not tell you about a situation like that.

I have an education in Mental Health Counseling. Nothing about this situation is normal. No first grader should be talking about having sex. Even second graders. I'll be your cheerleader: Go, fight, win!

Jessi - posted on 05/25/2011

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I did meet with the family specialist yesterday afternoon, and we went over what I was told and my concerns. She hadn't been made aware of the first incident I was made of aware of at the beginning of the year either. At first, she didn't seem overly concerned about the statement made about my son, but when I told her what else had happened (that the teacher knew about...), that raised her red flags. She spoke with all the kids involved (at least those known to be involved), and the girl stated she didn't know things were being said about her. The boy said he never said anything, and my son told her about what he told me about. They are going to talk to the other boy's parents because according to her, this is not a normal developmental era of knowledge on the topic to know about that and to use the words correctly. It doesn't look like he'll be disciplined in any way for what he did to my son. So much for their "zero tolerance" bullying policy. One kid was suspended for a day for bullying in the classroom the same day I found out about this statement about my son. The kid has been in school since. The fs explained to my son that it was good that he shared this information with me, and that if there is anything that ever makes him uncomfortable (even if he doesn't know why it makes him feel uncomfortable), he can tell me, he can tell her, the principal, or any teacher at school. She also mentioned that he didn't seem very upset by it, because he didn't know what it meant and it wasn't made to be a big deal. She thought I handled it very well, as far as not freaking out when he said it (slamming on the brakes and pulling off the road aside) and explaining that it's not a bad word, but an adult matter we can talk about when he's a little older. It made me feel better that she told him he did a good job, especially if her telling him that made him feel a little better.

As for his teacher, the fs is going to talk to her also. She wants to find out how much she has shared with the other boy's parents (if anything at all), and try to find out why she neglected to inform me of the incident. She agreed with me that I should have at very least been sent a note in his bag to let me know what was said. On my end? The teacher is just ignoring me. No response to my voicemail, email, note sent to school, and now not even acknowledging me in the school. I am more than disappointed. I understand that she has a lot going on personally right now (she has missed 2-3 days/week all year due to her husband's cancer treatments). And while I respect that and understand it, I still think that if she isn't taking a leave of absence, she should be able to take the time to at least write a Post-It and send it home. I still can't understand how she has seen it unneccessary to inform the principal of so many sexually fueled incidents.

I haven't heard anything else since, though. I thought I would have heard something from the principal today, but I got nothing. She looked a little uncomfortable when we ran into her at the grocery store after school (this was unusual - not the running into her, the discomfort). I plan on stopping in tomorrow to check in with her. She is usually very forthcoming about information.

The other issues are my son and his Asperger's. Apparently, this boy was the only kid who will play with him, (and the fs is going to observe more closely to see just what the nature of the relationship between them is - he is likely using my son to feed something unfriendly...) so now my son is mad because he "has zero friends anymore." The fs also said that from talking to the kids, it doesn't sound like the boy set out to target my son the way he has been the girl, and that he made the statement and my son just happened to be there, so that's who he said it about. Ugh, I don't care! It was said, and said about my son. How many other kids heard this boy say that my son had sex with this girl??

They are getting ready to look at classroom placement for next year, so they are going to try and put my son in a class with a couple of nicer kids who might click with him. A problem I have with my son is that he thinks anyone who talks to him, or acknowledges him, and doesn't sound angry (yelling or mad at him) is his friend. There are some cruel and BOLD children, and there have been a few he thinks are his friend who have made fun of him in front of me. It makes me sick. He just wants to please people and have friends. Now I've asked him not to play with the one kid who lets him play at lunch. Sorry, but I don't want my kid exposed to that. I have a hard enough time trying to teach him about respecting people, especially woman, given all he's seen his father do before (during and AFTER) our divorce. It breaks my heart. And since none of my son's issues (ADHD, ODD, Asperger's, PTSD, etc) are causing him to fail in school, they will not even consider an IEP.

But I do keep notes on everything, about most everything. I worked for way too many attorneys to know better. It's a good thing I do, because I was having a hard time remembering exactly what it was that was said the first time I was made aware of these incidents. I was able to go back and find it, which was helpful, I guess. I understand kids tease and get teased. Some, unfortunately, more than others. While I don't like it, I don't think a little "harmless" teasing (you like ______, or something) really hurts kids very much. But when it is all the time, or of major issues (sex), where do schools draw the line? I know where my line is drawn. And I have made it pretty clear where my line is drawn. I just hope they remember that when I choose to get involved in a situation that happened at school, it's because I feel there is a real concern for someone's safety or well being. The last time I chose to go "tattle," was after my son informed me of being afraid to leave the bathroom stall because the "meanest kid in school" (Another first grader, who is quite possibly a sociopath given things I have witnessed and observed) broke open the stall where another boy was doing what he needed to do, forcefully turned the boy around and commented on his anatomy. This happened to be a classmate who is in my son's class specifically to keep these two boys separate after incidents in kdg. But I know they know that I get in that mama bear mode if something like this comes up. They are use to seeing me in helpful, PTO mom mode. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned.

Jane - posted on 05/24/2011

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Sometimes teachers don't tell principals about something because the teacher feels it is too small a matter to bother him/her with. Sometimes it is because the teacher is afraid that the principal will assume that she isn't doing a good job if she has to pass things on. Sometimes teachers have a lot of other concerns involving other kids so your one child gets lost in the shuffle. Sometimes the teacher simply doesn't agree with you that something serious is happening. And sometimes principals have been notified but say they haven't to cover up their lack of action.

There are a huge number of possible reasons why this hasn't been resolved. The only way to find out is to ask everyone involved as well as go with your gut. I would like to think that all teachers and all administrators do their best on the job, but some of them really aren't very good at it, while others get defensive, and still others consider parents to be a burden rather than partners.

I have dealt with two school principals who have lied to my face in ARD meetings and who have been vindictive. One even called CPS on us as a way to get my son out of her school. According to one school psychologist whom I know personally, there is a possibility that the woman has actually removed pages from student files to back up her accounts. She also told the staff of the high school he moved on to that I was a "persistent" mom, which is teacher-speak for pain-in-the-butt who sticks her nose into school business way too often. Fortunately, the high school staff realized that my son does indeed have big problems that can be influenced greatly by the school staff, who can be helped by good communication with me.

One of these two principals said on tape at an ARD meeting that she "doesn't believe in disabilities she can't see." The other said in front of witnesses in the main office that "children do not suffer from mental illness, but parents do." My son is ADHD, ODD, and Bipolar, with some other things going on as well. He has been hospitalized a number of times and even spent 5 months in residential treatment. He is not the average kid, just as your son isn't, and kids can and do suffer from mental illness or can have brains wired differently from the norm.

For the present, give the teacher and the principal the benefit of the doubt. They have done something at least now, although it may or may not be effective. Also, do not expect to be told much of what is done because, although this involves your son, it also involves two other children unrelated to you, and confidentiality may keep the school from saying much other than "it has been taken care of." You can continue to interview your son to see if his days at school are improving, however, and you can report to the school if their efforts have not improved the situation.

I did have to go on and sue the school district at one point, in order to get past the road block represented by that second principal. However, that is a big gun and you don't want to drag it out of the holster unless permanent damage is being done to your child by the school's inaction or refusal to comply with your child's IEP. That is another reason why it is important to document everything. Record it, write it down, take pictures of it, or whatever, but make a record of what happens as it happens. Just in case.

Since your son has Asperger's you will run into difficult situations again, I assure you.

Jessi - posted on 05/24/2011

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I did send a note to school with my son for his teacher asking that she call me immediately. She doesn't check her voicemail or email, and since I didn't get a call (they do make accomodations for requests for immediate attention), I wrote an email to the principal expressing my concerns. She is out of town with our fourth graders until tomorrow, but she responded quickly and has asked our school "family specialist" to investigate and assigned another teacher for disciplinary detail. It has bothered me all year about this girl and boy. I don't even know if the girl is aware things are being said about her, but I worry about things like this because I have survived abuse and have been an advocate for protecting children from sex offenders. It could be just teasing and inappropriate behavior learned from an older sibling/cousin/whomever, but there could be something inappropriate going on in the boy's home, or maybe even something bad happening to the girl outside of school. Who am I to know that someone didn't record her and put her online? What astonishes me is the fact that the principal claims this is the first she has heard about anything going on all year. The teacher has been made aware by my child when he has been told "mean things" by this other boy, or when he's heard these inappropriate things. (I've taught him that there are some things we don't keep to ourselves and sometimes you need to tattle.) So the teacher has known about it. I've made her aware on the occassions my son has shared with me, and expressed my concern. So why is something of this nature happening and the principal is being kept in the dark? That doesn't make sense to me. I'm anxiously keeping my phone on hand at all times, hoping to hear from the school today, but the principal isn't going to be back until tomorrow. It breaks my heart that kids are exposed to such things so early. I never heard the word "sex" until fourth grade, and at the time, I was shocked. I still think that was too early to know that word. I deflected my son's questions about sex by explaining that while it is not a bad word, it is an adult matter that we can talk about when he is a little bit older, but the more he hears it on the playground, and is teased about it, the more I'm going to be forced to explain. And, well, I'm still miffed that my son's teacher couldn't give me at least a note sent home letting me know what happened yesterday.

Danise - posted on 05/24/2011

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I agree what was said is totally inappropriate and there must be something going on at home that is not right. If the teacher did not take action it is your duty to report this to the principal. This issue must be addressed.

Jessi - posted on 05/23/2011

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I have a pretty good relationship with the principal, and I'm on the PTO board, so I'm in the school often. I think they know I'm not just trying to make trouble where there isn't any. Anytime I've been made aware of something that concerns me, I let them know. It's not often. But I figure there has got to be something more going on with this kid. I don't know anything about the girl, other than the teacher has mentioned that she's a little different (in similar ways to my son), and I have no idea if the girl is aware of the things said about her, so it's possible her parents have no idea either. I would be outraged if I were her parents, but my worry is that this will haunt her, or maybe there is something happening with her. But you're right, I need to make it about my child. As I just learned about this this afternoon, it'll be the second time I raise the issue with school. The first time I spoke with the teacher about it, she said that it was a statement made in the classroom, and she told the boy it wasn't nice to say about her, and she put an end to it. Obviously, it hasn't ended. Though, to her credit, it seems like it happens mostly on the playground, where she wouldn't be around to see it. I'm trying to compose a letter expressing my concerns without sounding like a crazed parent. Usually I'm quite good at this, but I'm feeling very scattered trying to do it now. I just have a hard time understanding why she would neglect to share this with me. It's not like he learned a swear word.

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