Sunday, October 22, 2006

Assault and an Ambulance Ride

There’s no poetic or witty way to put it, so let me lay it straight: Thursday I was assaulted by a student, and shipped by ambulance to the Maimonides hospital.

It happened near the end of the day on Thursday; one of my students, Ron, was pulling out and showing off his Razor cell phone and I offered the following warning:

“Cell phones are not allowed on school property, if I see it again, I’ll let security know, and they will take it.”

And I figured that would be the end of the disturbance. Until Mark. I may have mentioned Mark before, the 17-year-old 9th grader whose technically supposed to be in 8th grade because he never passed the 8th grade reading tests. I never was able to assess his reading skills because the student refused to cooperate or do any work, it is my speculation that the student could barely read and lived in shame. Long story short, Mark was a very angry young man and I had written a dozen anecdotals on him because I found him to be a danger to other students, teachers, and myself. The Tuesday prior he pulled the hair of a visiting teacher, for no reason other than she asked him to complete an assignment.

Back to the story: Mark asked Ron to see his phone after I told Ron to put it away. My action was to walk over to the classroom phone and dial security. Mark hopped up out of his seat and vaulted to the phone, first hanging up, and then disconnecting the line. I struggled to hold on to the phone and the student shoved me down. Hard. I was knocked down head first, and my glasses flew across the room. Holy Mother of God, I saw stars.

My initial reaction, and the one that stuck with me the longest was shock. Even after my Paraprofessional, Ms. W, helped me to my feet and ushered me into the main office I was turning the situation over in my brain, and hoping that the other students wouldn’t get too out of hand while I was gone.

I received a lump on my head the size of a Cadbury egg, and I broke down in the principal’s office. Out of pain, out of anger, and out of failure. The principal was very sympathetic about the whole ordeal, which I appreciated greatly.

Here’s where the situation gets sticky, and I learned a big lesson about administration and who my friends are in the school. I arrived back to my classroom after school was dismissed, and the first and ONLY person to mention my post-assault options was my Para who said I should press charges. Especially since I had asked to have this student removed prior to the incident. I had spoken to two teachers, the principal, the assistant principal and the school nurse…and no one had mention either that I could press charges, or that I could take “line of duty” days off. And when I began to make a little noise about those options the sympathy on people’s faces began to drain away.

If I didn’t see a doctor that same night and tried to press charges it would instantly get downplayed from assault to harassment; so I made plans to see a doctor. Insult to injury (Haha! Witty!) I had only had health insurance for a few weeks, so I had yet to register for a doctor, and HIP told me I wouldn’t be able to see a physician until the next day. No good. This is where the ambulance came in, being the only way I’d get into the hospital is by way of the emergency room. Yes, I felt a little silly, riding in an ambulance for what ended up being a mild concussion. But the EMS folks were kind and the ride quick. The doctor visit went well, and swiftly, mild concussion, don’t drink or operate heavily machinery, come back if there is nausea or passing out…and I was discharged so I could wait for the police and make my statement.

Two hours later and no cops. My boyfriend had since shown up, frantic and worried, and we were waiting for the cops. Around 6:30PM a doctor came to the waiting room where we were…well…waiting, and told us we could be waiting for up to eight hours and recommended we called the cops from home and gave a report that way. Fine and good. We headed home by subway, and I was pretty shaky, my head was throbbing like a hangover.

From home I called the police and they arrived within minutes, my statement taken and the report filled out. I feel like I’ve told this story a hundred times, to my family, my friends, teachers, the police, doctors, EMS workers…and I doesn’t get any less fantastical.

Nothing got me ready for this, the Teaching Fellows program never brought it up. Some part of my arrogantly thought that it would never happen to me, that I’d be that caring teacher who reached all her students and somehow quelled their anger and anxiety. Now I know why the other teachers smiled at me and called me young. Ms. R, my teacher friend from the summer stood by me the whole time, and asked me why I didn’t hit him back. As it turns out, she was the union rep for the school, and missed her college class to wait for the ambulance with me. I am grateful for what allies I have.

Tomorrow I return, and I have no idea what to expect. How will my students see me now? How will they treat me? How should I act about the whole thing? They saw their teacher go down hard and eat dirt, ushered from the class in a fury and absent the next day. What ground might I have lost with them?


Blogger NYC Educator said...

I hope you filled out an incident report for the DoE, aside from the police report, and that the doctor checked you out thoroughtly enough to ensure you'e well enough to return. If you have any doubt, don't go back.

You've been assaulted by this kid and there is absolutely no justification for his return to your class. His actions are absolutely unacceptable, and apologies are insufficient. Don't fall for that nonsense.

If necessary, you could perhaps get an order of protection and have him sent to another school--and your principal ought to be working on just that anyway.

He is a criminal, deserves to be treated as such, and in the incredibly stupid event anyone returns him to your class, should be prosecuted (which is not to say he shouldn't otherwise). Be sure to consult closely with your CC, who ought to know more than I do. Again, DON'T go back if you have any doubts. Once you do, you're telling the DoE you're OK.

Also, your health insurance should not be an issue, as the DoE should be responsible for your care. Your absence should also be covered by the school, and should not come out of your bank.

I'm horrified at what happened to you and I wish you the very best.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 4:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Schoolgal said...

This was a horrible story, and NYC Ed's advice is good. Except that the CC said you should have hit the kid back. Absolutely not!!

You need to file an incident report with both the UFT and DoE. The principal should be happy because this might be cause to get this kid removed. However, Klein in all his wisdom is using incident reports as part of his report card rubric. So this puts pressure on admins not to report. Talk about a double-edge sword.

The CC should be with you for every and all meetings with the admins. And no way should that student be placed in her room. I hope he got suspended or arrested for assault.

I would call my CC at home to see what the status is. The CC should have discussed this with the principal on Friday and had gotten back to you by now. If the student is not removed, you should start to feel faint or dizzy and tell the principal you need to take another day--since it will be related to the incident, it will not come out of your bank. You should see your own doctor immediately. Hopefully it will give you time to check the status of this student before you return to class. Demand the student be removed and don't be afraid to grieve if it's grievable under the Safety Plan. A Safety Plan grievance, I believe, must be answered in 24 hours.

Are you a special ed teacher because the rules for special ed students used to be more tolerant of their behavior--even assault? I hope that has changed.

The CC should also call in a special speaker from the UFT who deals with safety. I had this speaker when I was CC and the presentation was excellent and I learned a lot.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Schoolgal is right. You need to file a DOE occurrance report and a UFT accident report. As for your CC, what a jerk! You would be charged with corporal punishment and fired.

Further, you will not accept this criminal back into your class under any circumstances. Even special education students are not allowed to assult the teacher.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 6:39:00 PM  
Blogger CrimsonKing said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about that. I read your boyfriends blog, that's how I got here. I wish you the best, and if I was your student I would give you a big hug when you got back.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 7:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Ellie said...

I am so sorry this happened to you, Ms. C. That so called "child" is a criminal and deserves to be treated as such. I would file any and all reports and I would press charges. If the school retaliates against you in any way, keep a log on their actions also. Your chapter chair is a moron and please go over her head unless she begins to make sense. This is not the street, we as educators cannot "hit back". That could lead to further legal entanglements. Of course, if you had just reacted without thinking, you would have been at that moment totally justified. Please next time take a TAXI NOT THE SUBWAY AFTER BEING ASSAULTED, you could have gotten sick while on the subway from the concussion. If that child is allowed to darken your classroom doorway, march yourself to a courtroom and get yourself an order of protection. The administration HAS to remove that kid from your class. A kid who assaulted my AP (special ed) last year was not only arrested but removed from the school permanently, which is what should happen here. Assault and violence are not acceptable from anyone, special education or otherwise. Honey, Teaching Fellows is being used as another one of KleinBloom's union busting get-rid-of-senior-teachers-any-way-anyhow schemes. They don't care about your well being as a fairly new teacher. Trust me, they never cared about our well being either. A teacher assaulted me years ago who was already a known wing nut and the principal's answer was "It's your union's fault". That teacher was rewarded with one room and a job the next year. I was a dean so I quit. What goes around comes around. That principal, who was so ambitious it blinded her, has been in two different Long Island school districts and I heard suffered a death in her immediate family recently. so all her deflecting of bad stats got her no where also. Don't let them bully you into not pressing charges, and welcome to reality. Sorry they didn't go over this awful situation in your professional development classes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 7:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

File all the DOE and UFT forms(you can get the UFT forms online should you need to), and make sure you contact UFT Victim's Services. If you go to court, you need them with you.

There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 9:37:00 PM  
Blogger happychyck said...

Your story gives me chills and makes me sick to my stomach. During my first year there was a group of wild young'uns who did everything short of assaulting me (like threatening to do so) but the most that ever happened to them was a counselor undermined my efforts by telling one of the boys that I was inexperienced and didn't know what I was doing. Still not sure what that had to do with a senior in a sophomore class trying to graduate acting like an ass all the time, but whatever. The highly professional teachers and bloggers from NYC have given you some great advice, so at least you know there are people out there who have your back and can give you more ideas on how to handle this. Bottom line--your life should not be at risk when you walk into your classroom. If that kid is still there, it will send a message that it's okay for teachers to be assaulted and that bullies rule the classroom. I sure hope that isn't the kind of school that you work in. It would be sad for you and all othe other students. :-(

Sunday, October 22, 2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

To address your other question, if somewhat belatedly, your remaining students will respect your having drawn a line: no matter how much of your time and energy you are willing to sacrifice for their benefit, you are not willing to sacrifice your personal safety or theirs.

Monday, October 23, 2006 7:28:00 AM  
Blogger graycie said...

The NYC teachers know the ropes there in terms of union and politics and like that, so do what they say, but whatever you decide -- press charges, press charges, press charges. If it weren't a kid in your classroom, you would, right? I am shocked that any admin wouldn't back you up totally on something like this.

Monday, October 23, 2006 7:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jules the Crazy said...

yes, please follow all those procedures and keep yourself protected! i hope you are feeling better.

i'm a 'survivor' of NYCTF. i was never assaulted, though i have been harassed by students and parents, actually. seriously, it's all trial by fire, but i hope that kid gets kicked out or arrested, and that you can keep on doing your best in the classroom.

Monday, October 23, 2006 2:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you are taking line of duty days off. Contact if you need further assistance.

Monday, October 23, 2006 4:11:00 PM  
Anonymous NYC Math Teacher said...

"I had only had health insurance for a few weeks, so I had yet to register for a doctor."

This is not an issue at all. The most basic plan, GHI, does not require that you sign up with a primary care physician.

Monday, October 23, 2006 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Malarkey said...

It makes me sick that you didn't get more support from some of your colleagues. You should have been told immediately what your rights were. I'll never understand why so much is done to protect the thugs when there are decent kids who aren't getting what they need.

Good luck to you.

Monday, October 23, 2006 4:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Schoolgal said...

Redhog also posted a response on NYC Ed's site. He was a CC and now works for the UFT newspaper. You may want to read his advice too.

Please let us know how it all turned out.

Hope you are feeling better, but most of all, hope you have the support of your school and administrators.

Monday, October 23, 2006 5:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. My prayers are with you. I'm glad your boyfriend and the few allies you have at school were with you. I am teaching ata high school and had a stduent who wasn't abusive, but difficult. I ahd many writeups about her. I followed the steps..called home, spoke to her privately, sent her to speak with the AP and even warned that she might be sent to the Dean. All to no evail. One day while in her usual funky mood, she refused to do work and was rude, disresapectful and challenged my authority in front of the class. I told her either she would do the work or I would have her removed. She threw a book at me. The class was in shock as was I. I wrote up the incident and because of the history figured she would definately get suspended. But the reality of the red tape and bs with the Administration hit me when I was told not only was she not getting suspended, but would receive detention. I was outraged!!! I filed a report with the school as with the UFT. I write up the incident and filed the SAVE report to have the student removed from my class. I left it in the Principals mailbox. Long story short, after his intervention, the stduent is getting suspended and will not be in my classroom. If i can have that done, then you can too especially since you were actually hit. I was in the middle of a fight two days ago with two female students, but i just got my hand bent and a few scratches. Then there's the incident with a boy and girl in my class that almost got into a fight. Luckily I got to them and had them both removed before things got out of hand. When I returned to class, it was out of control. I'm trying to transfer to another school. If you plan to stay, make sure you put your safety first. The person who told you to hit the kid was an idiot!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006 1:52:00 PM  
Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Of course they don't want you to know you can file a complaint for assault. You might actually do it then.

Just because you are a teacher doesn't mean you give up the right to be safe in your own person. That kid is a threat to the safety of everyone in the building.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 5:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Another Anon said...

To Anonymous who broke up a fight between girls: you really shouldn't do that. That's one of the main ways teachers get injured. It's not part of your job description. And, yes, you were lucky to get "minor" injuries. Next time you might not be so lucky. I've witnessed middle-school girl fights that resulted in girls being taken away by ambulance. Don't be in the middle of some maladjusted students' flights of adrenaline, leave it to site supervisors, administrators, and/or law enforcement. As for the incident described, it doesn't surprise me. There are a lot of undiagnosed severely emotionally disturbed kids in the student population. Many schools do not handle these students or situations properly, resulting in unsafe school environments. I'm a sub, and have no leg to stand on. Last year, I received two negative evaluations due to student behavior. One was a kindergartner in a special ed class who tipped a desk over on my foot and threw a pencil box at me. The day before, he ran into some hills behind the school and the cops had to be called to get him back. It was his first day at this school; he'd been kicked out of his previous one for bad behavior, and the mother sued the district. In another instance, two boys got in a fight over essentially nothing in the middle of a test. I did not break it up, and the students told me "Mr. So and So breaks up their fights all the time." One kid had the other on the floor, and was kicking him in the stomach. I called the office, and they blamed me. It's a common occurence for sub teachers in my district to get negative evaluations for bad student behavior. Regular teachers have more rights, but they are routinely discouraged from filing charges against students who assault them. This is the reason I've never gotten my teacher credential. I'd like to teach, but I feel it might be even more dangerous to get stuck with a student for an entire year that's like that, and not be able to do anything about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006 8:39:00 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy said...

Wow. I'm sorry. Good luck.

Saturday, November 11, 2006 7:38:00 PM  
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