When the school is the biggest bully...

All three of my sons were bullied and picked on...not just by neighborhood kids but by the school system as well. Teachers, administrators and other school employees were as bad...or worse...than the kids.

My middle son was a very gentle, shy child, incredibly sensitive to the world around him and to the attitudes and energies given off by others. His anxiety began in pre-school. I have no school pictures of him where he has a smile on his face. None. I believe him to be an empath, a person so sensitive to the feelings of others that he has trouble differentiating between those energies and his own. Imagine feeling not only your own stress in school, but that of everyone else around you as well. Crikey. My son's grades were good and naturally he wasn't a behavior problem, but his shyness was deemed "abnormal" and a later IEP labeled him "emotionally disturbed." Yes, that was the category he was placed in...emotionally disturbed.

In third grade my son had a teacher who was very loud, very brash and very opinionated. Her temper was short and her patience was nil. My son was scared to death of her and begged me to accompany him to class. He never could tolerate raised voices or anger. He shut down. I was going through chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer at that time, so my son was already dealing with quite a bit on his emotional plate. This teacher was the cherry on top of his anxiety sundae. When I tried to explain my son's sensitivity to this teacher...that he was just a quiet kid who needed her support and not her impatience, she promptly informed me that my cancer diagnosis was a moot factor for my son, as her own sister had had cancer when she was a child, and it had never bothered her at all. All I could do was stare at her in disbelief and scratch my bald head. She also told me that my son was just lazy and that she wasn't responsible for his lack of participation in class, blah, blah, blah. She was probably the worst example of teacher bullying, but there were others who were not as obvious but just as damaging....

The math teacher who refused to see my son's anxiety as anything but stubbornness and an inability to focus. He called him out in class much to my son's intense embarrassment and shame....

The school psychiatrist who refused to see my son's depression as real when the therapist we'd been taking him to said he suffered from "dystopia." The psychiatrist said it was just a fancy name for depression...that's all...nothing to be concerned about, and no, we can't make any accommodations for that despite the therapist's recommendations.....

The vice principal who never sat in on any of the numerous meetings I had though he was supposed to be there. The only time I heard from him was when state testing time came around, and he called me to say my son better be in school for that.....

The school system that had no place or allowance for a sensitive kid and placed him in two lock-down schools for those with behavior problems and substance abuse. I'll bet you a million bucks a lot of those kids were as sensitive as my son, and nobody understood them either.

I finally (finally!) realized that No Child Left Behind was a load of baloney, and yanked my son out of the schools when he was a few months shy of 16. My husband and I were threatened with legal action as no child is allowed to leave until age16. We told them we'd get our own attorney thankyouverymuch and while we're at it, your system sucks. Nothing happened except my son took the GED and passed with high scores the very first time. This was after his last principal told me he'd never pass it.

It's taken some time for my son to heal from the trauma of being a sensitive kid in a system that is so buttoned up in rules and conformity that he fell through the cracks in a big way. If we hadn't stretched out a net and caught him by pulling him out of this broken system, who knows where he'd be right now. Brilliantly intelligent and incredibly sensitive, he's pursuing a career as an EMT...a life of service to others. I'm very proud of him.

My wish...my hope...is that schools open their hearts and their minds to the unique qualities of each student, indigo or not. They are not all the same and trying to make them so by adhering to an archaic and soul-damaging system has left many wounded kids struggling in life. We need to focus on the individual and learn not only to accept the differences in others, but to nourish them. Acceptance and accommodation....let's begin there.

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