Note: the author of this guest post has requested anonymity due to an ongoing legal matter.
Children should never be afraid to go to school, and parents should never have to worry that their children will be harmed by the people taking care of them while they are at school.
Forgiveness isn’t possible when negative emotions stick around and cloud my thoughts about restraint and seclusion. I am trying to forgive, but I will never forget.
Forgiveness can’t be doled out quickly when constant reminders of an offense that happened to my child while in the public school system surrounds me.
As many times as I’ve thought about how to come to terms with the violence my son was subjected to, finding forgiveness hasn’t been one of those things on my list of things to do.
To forgive and let all the pain of what my child and our family went through wash away—the guilt, the pain, the anxiety, the despair seems so difficult to do.
Can I really do that?
Can I truly forget how my son’s downward spiral of regression, depression, anxiety attacks began? He was so little, so innocent and just didn’t know how to cope with everything around him.
Can I honestly forgive the people who abused my child by restraining him over and over and by putting him in seclusion because they didn’t try to understand him, because they didn’t try to understand his disability?
Can I totally forgive the people who turned me away when I asked them to get my son some help?
Can I totally look past their denial of what they did to my son and the retaliation and pain we are still going through today?
Can I forgive myself for overlooking the signs that my son was showing me that “something was wrong”, but I wasn’t seeing because I thought he was in good hands? If I can’t forgive myself then how can I ever forgive you?
Can I fully embrace the struggles we have gone through to find justice for the violence my son was subjected to at the hands of others?
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I ask myself why I didn’t listen to my son when he told me, “No school Mommy, no like.” He used to love going to school. What happened to make him so fearful of school?
Here’s what I can accept. I can accept that all of that did happen to my child, but I will not accept that it had to happen because I know for a fact it did not have to happen.
Here’s something else I haven’t been able to accept. Not because I turned it down but because this too hasn’t happened yet—no one has yet to apologize to my son for what they did to him. Instead I have heard nothing but excuses of why he was treated with such violence and that they felt they did what had to be done. Do you even remember my son? I’m sure you have moved on with your life and long forgotten my little boy.
What I can’t accept is how these same people continue to destroy him by using unprofessional evaluations that make him look bad so that they can justify what they did to him as being the right thing to do.
Come to think of it, I think my whole family could use an apology. Shouldn’t someone have said sorry to me and my husband for the extra stress they have caused us, the time lost with our son and the things we’ve been denied as our child’s parents?
When are those apologies coming? I’m not saying I’m holding out for those before I can forgive and forget, but it sure would be nice for someone to admit that they played a role in my son’s regression, depression, and anxiety attacks that developed from all the restraint and seclusion abuse he went through at the hands of people who were supposed to be helping him?
Forgive and forget. As much as I’d love to, oh how I’d really love to be able to say to several of my son’s past school staff, “I forgive you,” but right now, today, this week with what he went through and what we’ve gone through as a family, I’m just not ready to say, “I forgive you.” In fact, it might be a long time before I am ready to forgive and move on.
To offer forgiveness, if I really, really had to do that today would be a bit jaded. It would go something like this:
Dear Teacher, Teachers Aide, Principal and Behavior Specialist (and whoever else had a hand in destroying my child’s life),
I know you are all just human, and you thought the violence you subjected my son and other children to was the right thing to do. I understand that some of you have more professional training under your belt and loads more formal education than I do. I understand that you have a hard job. I have a feeling though that your lack of training of my son’s disability, your refusal to help and understand him when I pleaded with you, your power struggle with my son over his behaviors that were not in his control, and your pride muddled your thoughts. How else did you let what happen to my son happen? How could you keep restraining him and putting him into seclusion when it was obvious that it was making him worse? And how did you not see that these violent acts were starting to affect him mentally and were causing him to regress in his academics and social skills? You had to see he was in mental pain, and yet you continued to restrain him and put him in seclusion. Why? Please tell me why so I can try and understand, and if I can understand maybe I can find it in my heart to forgive you and move on.
I totally get that you’re super busy and that you have a lot of children with behavior issues, but that does not make what you did to my son or other children right. That does not make what you are still doing to children with disabilities right. Don’t you understand that behaviors are a form of communication for our children who are nonverbal or who can’t express themselves? Don’t you understand even now that restraint and seclusion doesn’t help children with disabilities and that it can cause long lasting trauma and escalate behaviors. Clearly you must have been overwhelmed and understaffed. What other excuse could you give for watching my son go through such mental torment and regression?
I’ve waited a long time to figure out if I need to forgive you, but I’m honestly at a standstill even thinking about it. I really don’t know how to say this, but I do think it’s time for me to say something. So, here goes.
I’m sorry you didn’t open your eyes to see the red flags being waved right in front of your face that my son was suffering mentally from your actions and was regressing at a fast pace. I’m sorry you were clueless and that your ignorance failed my child. I’m sorry your educational knowledge of children with disabilities failed my son. I’m sorry you never knew that behaviors are a form of communication. I’m sorry you refused to update his functional behavior plan. I’m sorry you were ignorant of my requests to get him help. I’m sorry you bullied me at several IEP meetings and made me cry. I’m sorry you wasted my time telling me, ‘He did this and he did that but you never told me what you were doing to him.’ I’m sorry I waited until my son had a breakdown before I pulled him out of school. I’m sorry you’re still doing the same thing to other children as you did to my son and that you are still bullying parents. I’m sorry you haven’t learned a thing from your past violent actions.
No parent should feel as alone, scared, worried, angry and as destroyed as I felt the day I picked up my son from school as he cried hysterically begging me to take him home. No parent should witness what happened to their child like I did. No one should witness that and later be told, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”
No parent should walk through life not knowing what to do next or not knowing where to turn for help. No parent should have to face the agonizing decisions I’ve had to. No parent should have to fight as hard as scores of parents now have to do to keep their children safe when they go to school. No parent should be left high and dry with nowhere to turn for help like so many other parents have. No parent should expect or demand an apology from someone who promised to do no harm in the first place. None.
One more thing. When one forgives his offender the last part of the apology usually includes not only a renewal for the relationship to be whole again, but also a promise, a promise to never commit the offense again. See, that’s a problem. Not on my end but for your apology, when you make it….it won’t be a true apology if you are still doing to children what you did to my son. You still don’t see the big picture and that what you’re doing to children with disabilities is physically and mentally harmful.
You can’t help make this all go away until you take a step back. Take a step back and look at the children with disabilities as children who need help with the behaviors that are not in their control because right now you are only looking at them as unruly children. They are not unruly; they are children with disabilities that have a tough road ahead of them! When you stop and realize how you played a role in damaging my son’s future, and after you rectify what you are doing is wrong, then we can talk about forgiveness.
It’s with a heavy heart that I apologize that I cannot truly offer any forgiveness to you. I pray to God that I can because it’s nearly impossible for me to stop thinking about how my son and countless other children ended up where they are today. Someday I hope to have the strength to completely move past the pain and sadness you brought to my child and my family. One day I’ll be able to find forgiveness. Until then I’ll be here waiting for you to offer yours.