Be Careful How Much Power You Give Schools

Multiple choice time:

You have a 6-year old boy suffering from separation anxiety because his father, an Army commander, is leaving for Iraq.  The boy is found drawing zombies and writes underneath the drawings that he wants to die.

As a school administrator, do you:

a. Take the child aside and offer help, sympathy and a listening ear.

b. Call his mother to set up a plan for how to join forces and help the child during this tough period of his life.

c. Refer the situation to a counsellor or recommend that the mother take the child to a psychologist to get expert help.

d. Call an ambulance and get that child to a psychiatric ward, so he can be committed to a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

If you answered “d” you are probably from Los Angeles, the home of mystifying school decisions.

A mother has criticised school authorities for committing her six-year-old son to a psychiatric ward against her wishes because of a picture he drew in class.

Jack Dorman was pulled out of his elementary school classroom after he sketched a drawing of zombies and stick figures and wrote that he wanted to die.

But the boy’s furious mother, Syndi, said her son was simply upset that his soldier father was being deployed to Iraq.

She said the way Los Angeles school officials treated her son ’was right up there with my worst nightmare.’

Mrs Dorman added: ‘They said they were concerned about a picture he drew. I said he plays video games and it’s a picture from a video game.’

She claims Jack suffers from separation anxiety and was particularly upset on the day he drew the disturbing picture after learning his father, an Army commander, was leaving for Iraq on Thursday.

‘I explained to them what was happening, that my husband was being deployed to Iraq, that he was upset when he came to school today, that he wanted to be at home,’ she said.

‘I’m saying, “I will deal with it, that we have a therapist and that we’ll make sure he’s seen today”.’

‘They said it was out of my hands. They said they were in control and they could do this and had already called an ambulance.

‘I said, “Can you do this?” and they’re like, “Yeah”, Mrs Dorman said in an interview with NBC. ‘I’m just like, “What? Can I get a lawyer? How is this happening?”.’

Mrs Dorman said the ambulance ride was terrifying for her son, who was already seeing a therapist because he became anxious when he was separated from his family.

‘I was trying to reassure him that it would be okay and he asked if I’d come back for him and I said of course I am going to come back for you,’ added Mrs Dorman.

Jack was released after 48 hours, but his mother fears the ordeal has traumatised her son.

‘My son doesn’t want to go back to school. He’s afraid they are going to take him away again,’ she said.

In a statement, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines insisted his staff took the appropriate action.

‘We did the right thing here,’ he said. ‘I can unequivocally state that correct procedures and protocols were followed, including contacting the parents and accessing community resources such as the Los Angeles County Psychiatric Mobile Response Team.

‘When any student indicates a desire to take his or her own life, the LAUSD is required to follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of the student. The safety of LAUSD students is paramount,’ he added.

Where is the common sense in this story?  The boy is 6-years old!  A 6-year old boy with a father being sent off to war who threatens his life on the back of a drawing needs care and support from his school.  He needs the school to be sensitive and compassionate.  So what do they do to this poor kid?  They send him off to a psychiatric ward!  The person that was responsible for calling the ambulance is a more suitable candidate for the ward!  What were they thinking?

The unfortunate modern reality of living in a litigious world, in my opinion,  is that school’s care more about being sued than for the rights of the children.  It is for this reason, we need to be mindful that in all kinds of sensitive circumstances, school’s are likely to put their interests ahead of the child’s.  We must be careful how much power we give them.  This includes teacher’s being given authority to greatly influence the decision of a doctor in prescribing powerful medications to a child.

And it isn’t just the school that is to blame.  It’s the regulations which were instituted with one massive, gaping hole in it – the common sense clause. Even with the best of intentions, a law that ignores common sense, is a terrible law!

And notice the lack of apology.  No, they are still defending their decision!  Shame on you!

Time to change the law folks

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5 Responses to “Be Careful How Much Power You Give Schools”

  1. theteachingwhore Says:

    Uck–what a horrible situation. As a teacher, I have found similar types of drawings and talked with the student about them and/or explained them to our school counselor. But calling a psych ward! That’s off the charts. Kids need our help, not our overreaction. Our faculty policy on students statements about suicide or violence is to let a counselor know, which makes sense to me. Usually, the counselor calls a parent and then talks with the student and that’s where the “intervention” ends.

  2. Daisy Says:

    Protocol? Calling an ambulance, an involuntary admission to a psych ward, is standard protocol? I”m glad I don’t teach in LA. What an awful decision; this child, who is already suffering, was further traumatized.

  3. J Roycroft Says:

    The government school system absolutely disgusts me. My 2 year old will never set foot in a government school. My daughter will be attending a private school. I could go off on a major rant right now about the failures of gov’t schools and the dangers of the teachers unions, but not today.

  4. Katharine Trauger Says:

    Okay, you wanted my opinion. Anyone who plunks a tiny child in front of zombie games and then turns around and plunks them on the door of a State institution is going to have troubles. Too bad, but I still say, if you try to take responsibility for your own child you will face persecution somewhere down the line. This is a worldwide problem.
    Also, I still say, it is a pity the dad is leaving his family behind to fight at his country’s bidding, and then that country attacks his family. Ironic. Pitiful.
    The home schooling sector in this country has been iincreasing rapidly for about 25 years. At about 2,000,000, it is now the largest school district in the US. It is about power, for sure, as you noted. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Also, this story repeats itself daily, across the land. I know a six-year-old who has a police record for socking a kid on the playground. Pitiful.
    Sometimes I think it is just a matter of parents being lazy. We live in a push-button world, and although it is a huge inconvenience to get a child dressed at to the bus stop on time, still we prefer that to actually dealing with our own progeny ALL DAY LONG!
    Oh well, perhaps you can tell I’m blatantly pro-homeschool. Figures that I’d be a whack-o, doesn’t it?

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