One thing about teaching in a public school is that you get kids from all facets of society. You get kids who have two loving parents, and kids who have parents who would be hard pressed to give an accurate description of their child should he or she turn up missing. You have kids with clean clothing, and kids who are in desperate need of a bath and some clean laundry. Nice kids, mean kids, spoiled kids, ignored kids, abused kids, adored kids - you name it and we've probably seen a kid like that walk through our doors at one time or another.
I have never, in my life, seen so many kids with so many mental issues as I've seen this year.
We have a kid who proudly proclaims that he's on meds because he's bi-polar and that although he did threaten suicide last year and spent a week in a hospital, he's doing much better this year. He's not kidding, Mom has been very up front with us about his issues.
We have another kid, also bi-polar, who arrived with a supportive but overwhelmed mother and two inches of paperwork from the mental hospital she spent most of the summer with due to her suicide threats. This one has a problem with anger, authority, and generally dealing with life, and has already landed in alternative school. It's sad, because when she's doing well, she's a sweet kid who's actually quite smart, but when the demons take hold, watch out.
And then we got Scratchy Boy.
Scratchy Boy arrived two weeks ago and we support-teamed him that first day. We were his third school in six weeks. Mom moves a lot due to her job and now she and Scratchy are living with her current boyfriend. Scratchy hasn't been at any one school, here and in other states, for more than several months at a time. Consequently, he hasn't been anywhere long enough to get tested and identified as emotionally disturbed, and therefore isn't receiving any kind of help for his problems.
And he has problems. Oh, does he have problems.
The notes in his file were scary enough - "hears voices in his head", "damages property", "bangs head repeatedly on wall when frustrated", "violent outbursts" - quite honestly, it looked like we had the makings for schizophrenia on our hands.
He endeared himself to his classmates by rapidly running his hands back and forth across his head and screaming "It's snowing!" as the dandruff flew. He scratched and itched and scratched at flea bites so bad that we were sending him to the nurse twice a day to try to see if there was anything she could do to get him to stop scratching until he bled. He steals things from other children (and was a bit upset when I caught him in the act). He refuses to do any work whatsoever. None. Nada. He won't even put his name on a piece of paper. He will, however, hum, play with pens, draw his cartoons, tap his pencil, rock back and forth, mutter, kick at chairs and yell at tablemates for no reason whatsoever. (I have him sitting with the two most patient kids on earth, bless their hearts). Today he pulled his shirt up over his head, tucked his arms in to his side, and assumed a fetal position for most of class.
At least he was quiet.
This kid needs help. Badly. The other students pretty much leave him alone because, as one of them told me, "Scratchy is weird and he's scary." He's gaining nothing by being in our classrooms and he's certainly not getting any treatment for the demons that are attacking his mind. However, he has to be in our rooms, with our other students, until we go through the long and tedious process to get him tested and identified as emotionally disturbed so he can be placed in the ED unit and receive help.
I've seen this process take over six months.
I think it's criminal to put a kid like this in a regular ed classroom. He's receiving no benefit from being there - he needs drastic psychological help and he's not receiving it. He's disrupting the class and quite frankly, frightening some of the other kids in the room. Who's to say that one day his violent outbursts won't involve another student? What then? Do the other parents know that by law, until we get this kid identified, or until he ends up in jail or alternative school, he's there in the classroom with their kids?
And what is it about our society that we're seeing more and more of these kids walking through our doors?