A teacher's role is to mold and mentor the next generation of youth. But sometimes as a teacher they themselves learn something dark about their own students. Though we hate to see it, these teachers have seen the stark reality of abuse, heartbreak, and sadness in their young pupils, from violent parents to tattered clothes. While reading through these stories remember how fortunate it is to come from a good home and have good teachers.
"I taught a child, who at 3 years old already showed signs of abuse. For example, he had a panic attack once when we sat him at a red chair because to him it looked pink to him and as a boy was not allowed to have anything pink.
One day I saw a massive red and purple welt on his buttocks when we took him to the bathroom. We asked him about it, and he said, 'Daddy did it' then got this look like he realized he messed up. Throughout the day he found excuses to explain to every adult he saw that he had fallen over, every time looking terribly anxious.
The injury was bad, but worse was watching him try to mitigate the damage he had done by accidentally telling the truth.
When his dad came to pick him up from daycare he would cry hysterically and refuse to go to his dad until someone physically took his hand and led him. It broke my heart one day when his name was called, he looked happy as a clam and walked to the classroom door, then as soon as he saw his dad he stopped, his face fell, he started whimpering and his bottom lip went, he backed away from the door trying as hard as possible not to cry so his dad didn't beat him for being 'soft'.
Again... this child is 3 years old."
"This one still haunts me to this day. I had a little boy who one day was crying in the bathroom. I went to assist him only to discover his rectum was bleeding profusely. He said he didn't want to play the game with mommy anymore and mommy made him and he got hurt. Not only did he have autism but he had a small younger sibling who had no idea that this wasn't normal. We had to call CPS but the mother still came to pick them up that day from school. There was nothing we could do to stop her. We later found out that the mother had been assaulting both kids and the father had no idea.
The mother later confessed after the father became watchful of the mother and questioned her. They are divorced now and he has sole custody of both children."
"I worked at an English course school for very wealthy kids.
There was this really tiny girl who was enrolled in our 3-year-olds group. She was tiny even for a 3-year-old. Wealthy mom was always late to bring her, girl always looked sleepy as heck and was always wearing weird clothes, like party dresses (as if the mom would just grab the first thing out of the girl's closet and make her wear it), her hair was always a mess. Mom wouldn't pack her any snacks for break time, except for a freakin' tube of Mentos mint. That's what the girl would eat.
The following year we found out that the girl was not really 3, but 5 years old. She was so small she could pass as a younger child. Very thin limbs, poor balance. Mom had deliberately lied about girl's age for God knows what reason (we suspect it was to hide the fact that the girl wasn't developing/growing properly, probably because Mom was too busy to feed her real food).
We had a positive reinforcement system for homework: every time a student brought back homework that was done properly, they'd get a golden sticker. Once they got 10 of those, they could get a small toy (school merchandising, though they were actually really cute). Kids were always psyched about getting their prizes. Homework for kids that age were ridiculously simple: usually just a sheet of paper with a picture to color, or a connect-the-dots thing, a color-by-number etc.
Little girl would never bring her homework. We called Mom, she said it was "too much homework" and she didn't have time to help girl do it.
Tried calling our equivalent of a CPS but, much to my shock and dismay, they said they could only do something about it if the girl had bruises or marks of physical abuse. I kid you not.
Then I stopped working there. I really wish I knew what happened to her and how she is now."
"Had a little girl who was displaying extreme signs of abuse and neglect. She was already removed from care from her parents, and she lived with her grandmother and step grandfather. We called CPS on them and weeks later we get a very angry call from the grandmother.
The CPS worker came to her house and told them my name and pretty much word for word what I reported. The grandmother was demanding that I was to be fired. The principal set up a meeting with the grandparents, the board social worker, the school therapists, our classroom team, and the CPS worker.
About 99.9 percent of the time I am fully on board with CPS and have a lot of respect for what they do, but this worker was a complete moron. We worked things out with the grandparents and thankfully my principal stood by me. The grandparents left and the CPS worker said she didn't see anything that was worth investigating. All the people from the board were like, what is wrong with you? Do you not see all the red flags? This little girl needs help! The CPS worker said she would keep the case open but insisted that her report would say it was resolved at a school level.
A few weeks later, the step grandfather died suddenly and the little girl was struggling. She came to school with no food, was dirty, reeked like pee, and was constantly playing with her private parts. We called CPS again, and they said they closed their file and were done with the family.
We had an emergency meeting again, and we started to put a bunch of things in place to support her at school. Giving her meals, clothes, washing her face and hair, and giving her a lot of love. The social worker for the board went to CPS and fought to get the case open again.
As soon as it was opened again, the grandma moved six hours away with the little girl to move in with her new boyfriend. This was less than two months after the death of her husband.
We sent all the info to the new school board and called CPS in that area but because we are out of bounds they won't tell us anything.
I pray every day for that little girl."
"My student teaching year, a boy would go into the bathroom and roll his poop into little balls and line it all up in the bathroom. We later discovered (after reporting this, kids do this kind of stuff with their bowel movements as a way of control) that his uncle had been coming into his room at night and feeling him to 'see if he'd wet the bed.'
I have scars down my ankle from one student. She was taken off her anti psychotic meds by her mother and we weren't told. Student would tell me she'd kill me, scoop out my eyes, watch me bleed to death in front of her and laugh, peel my skin off, etc...One day, she snapped and flipped her desk onto the back of my leg while I was writing something on the board. Blood pooled around my foot, my students started freaking out, so I calmly sent them to the reading area while not taking my eyes off the girl and called the principal. Later discovered that not only was she off her meds, but the idiot mom was letting the 18 year-old cousin sleep with the little girl at night."
"A girl whose parents and siblings used her as a scapegoat and their punishment for her was to whip her feet. They routinely whipped the skin from her feet to the point she was crippled (muscle, nerve and bone damage). In care she underwent several surgeries to be able to walk again and now has severely scarred but usable feet
Lots and lots of dead children from physical abuse and neglect. Ages 2 months to 18.
Had a summer were parents kept dipping their babies into boiling oil for 'punishment.' Two died. One boiled to the point he didn't die but had his arm amputated after being taken to the hospital by a family member. Others will be physically scarred for life
One time, parents passed out while using, toddler got out of the house and into the street. The child was killed as several cars hit him. Another time a newborn baby was attacked by the family's pet raccoon. Parents were passed out in same room but so high they didn't respond to the screaming
This in just one city in the south of the US."
"I have seen a lot of these cases, but only one still makes me well up a bit. This girl was in and out of school for a couple of years. It was early in my career; I was subbing and doing short term replacements at the same school for those first couple of years. I didn't teach her regularly until her third year of high school when she was in a grade ten class. She was angry to be there. She showed up but hated it, made allusions to the fact that she was being forced to attend. I knew that her home situation was bad. In the years before a few of us would bring in food for her. I was told that the cupboards at home were bare. She seemed uncomfortable around men, so I brought in food and had someone else give it to her during that time. When I actually had her in my class I asked around and got the full story from a friend.
Her dad was a monster. Our guidance counselor had been in contact with Child Services during the years when the cupboards were bare. At some point the full story came out. Her dad had been selling her to men. He would sell her to his friends, and may have been violating her himself. She eventually became pregnant. Horrified about this, and both poor and pretty uneducated about what her options were, she drank and did all manner of substances while pregnant. When the baby was born it was taken from her immediately and presumed to be severely FASD'd. Thing was, when she saw the baby she fell in love with it. She was in my class as a condition of her seeing the baby was that she attend school. Her attendance became sporadic after the first month, and she understandably was resistant to having any sort of conversation with me beyond class work. I never saw her again after the second month, and have no idea what happened to her. Tried to look her up on Facebook a couple of times, nothing.
The colleague who told me all this looked me dead in the eyes after telling me all this and told me point-blank that if her father ever came into the school he would have to be pulled off of him."
"I had an eighth grade male student whose dad was also a teacher at another nearby school (remember this for later). This student misbehaved badly at school (fights, being a total disruption the entire class, never did any work, etc...), but I could tell had a LOT of issues at home. Whenever he would misbehave in class I'd walk him outside to talk to him, he would blame it on his parents being divorced and his dad being mean to him.
In any case, fast-forward to the parent teacher conferences, I was in my room, and he and his father came in. You could tell his dad was angry at the point (I'm sure a lot of negative reports from other teachers). It was actually making me kind of uncomfortable, so I was completely minimal about his behaviors, 'Oh yes he is chatty...' instead of the full truth. Dad finally asked me if his son sagged his pants at school, I didn't want to lie, so I said yes.
At that point the dad completely lost his mind on the boy and started punching him, so hard he went into the wall behind him. He kept beating his head into the wall. Mind you I'm a 5'7, 145-pound female, so I tried to yell. Finally, it stopped, and they walked out immediately and the dad said he had more at home for him from his belt.
I was in absolute shock. It was by far the most violent/sad incident I had ever witnessed. I was even angrier when I realized two male cohorts in other classrooms nearby heard and didn't come running in.
Obviously I had to report it to the state hotline. I didn't want to since the dad absolutely terrified me, but as someone pointed out, he's a teacher and knows those are the rules.
I couldn't come into work the next morning it shook me so much. The boy ended up getting arrested at home for narcotics by his dad. I had a weird understanding that the son was doing those things to him on purpose.
All in all, it was a totally messed up situation. And lesson learned, I will never hold conferences in my room alone again."
"When I was training, we had a student that had been dipped in boiling water by his mom when he was a baby. Only part of him uninjured was his foot where she held him. Don't know how he survived.
I also had a child, who was now in a safe home, who's first memory was watching the sun rise and set on a box of crackers that he couldn't reach. In some ways, his story was worst than the first. He was not removed from that home until he was 4 or 5. The dad would force him to watch his mom 'being punished' by brutally violating her - while this child was forced to watch. This kid was adopted from a family, but still talked fondly about fishing with his 'real' dad. Thank goodness for the patience of adopted families who refused to give up on him no matter how often he tried to make them hate him.
Saddest cases? To me is the unintentional abuse. Had a 1st grader who couldn't see. Finally, the school was able to get this kid glasses. The glasses were easily an inch thick, he was so blind. I was looking forward to giving them to this boy the day they came in. He never came back to school. Moved yet again. 3rd school in the first semester. No forwarding address, no school to send records and glasses to. Just sad. (Obviously not the most serious case of neglect, but had a huge negative impact on this kid. Parents really didn't care about schooling enough to even get his records from his previous schools.)"
"The ones that stick out the most include the 5-year-old girl who was so clearly being taken advantage of by her 9-year-old brother. It was awful. He was a terror at school, defiant, rude, narcissistic, and just mean. She was sweet, clever, attentive, but damaged. She would frequently and regularly (up to five times a day) defecate and urinate on herself and not tell anyone. I cleaned her up every time. She always had spare clothes but sometimes she'd have to borrow things from lost and found when she ran out of clean clothes. Her parents would scold her when they came to pick her up; asking her when she was going to grow out of that baby habit, tell her she had caused a hassle by creating more laundry. Her brother would mock her when he thought no one was watching and then be overly touchy and caring when we were. She was petrified of cameras and would not have her photos taken. Her parents just seemed at the end of their tether with the pair of them, but you had to wonder what went on at home. They moved away at the end of that school year; always wonder about them. There was just never enough 'proof' anything was happening. They were monitored and frequently reported, but nothing came of it.
Another one was the tiniest 5-year-old boy you can imagine. Weighed the same as a toddler. And a 10-year-old sister who knew way too much about preparing meals. Turns out mum was an addict and would pass out for most of the day and the 10-year-old had to cook meals for herself, the 5-year-old, and the baby every day. Mum had the children taken off her, got sober, then got them back. A year later came into school smashed and pushed the baby buggy straight into a concrete wall. We called the police, and she hasn't seen them since. The children were moved away and adopted separately if I remember correctly.
There was also the girl who had been violated by her foster brother. Her mum was a foster child and the two of them still lived with foster mum who also had others. During her time in the first two years of the school, it was monitored that she went from a normal, bubbly child to a withdrawn, upset slightly mean child who was overly deviant. She would stimulate herself in the middle of the classroom and loudly yell about how much she liked it (she was 4). The final straw was when she came in, sat down for a bit, stood up and was covered in blood. The foster brother had attacked her that morning. It was heart breaking. The next year when she was with me, you almost forgot that she was only 5; she was so mature for her age.
Some kids will always break your heart. Some parents don't deserve to have children."
"This one keeps me up at night. We have a family at my school that we have called CPS on numerous times. Kids are still with parents, but we keep calling. The kids have told us, 'We're not allowed to talk about home to you' when we ask about things. If that's not sketchy, I don't know what is.
The kids all look malnourished. Pasty white skin, dark circles under their eyes, just... hollow looking. I don't know how else to describe it. One of them never stops talking and we know it's because no one will listen to them at home. They all have behavior issues or anger problems, and we know it's because of the examples they see at home. Parents won't sign consent forms to talk to our school therapist because he's a "mandatory reporter."
At summer school last year, one of them asked me if they could go get a drink of water. It was the end of the day and I said, 'no' because parents could be there any minute and drinking fountains weren't close by. I told her she could get a drink when she got home. (They'd also just finished lunch, with juice/milk, etc.) She looked at me and said, 'they won't let me get a drink when I get home.' I knew she wasn't lying, so I sent her.
None of them are allowed to read books at home because a year or two ago one of them colored in a book and none of the kids would admit to it. So, no reading for them. This has been confirmed by parents, even. The kids are DYING to read, so we 'assign' them reading for homework so they can. One of them asked my colleague if she would increase their reading minutes so they could read more at home. She happily obliged.
We've heard their parents pick them up by their heads and scream and swear in their faces. As soon as they get home from school they all get locked in their rooms. On the weekends they're locked in their rooms the majority of the time. Because they usually get fed something, nothing has been done about that by CPS. They're not allowed to use the furniture in their living room. They have to sit on the floor. Last year, we fed them all before we sent them home for the day because we were never sure if they'd get dinner. (And it wasn't because food wasn't available.)
It's seriously heartbreaking. And it's really sad to know we've done as much as we can, but our hands are tied. So, to try and make things better for the kids, we offer them every single after school activity and program we can. We try to give them as much of a break from home as we possibly can. I still worry it's not enough."
"I took a preschool experience lab all four years of high school, teaching and assistant-teaching three to 5-year-olds from the area. By my senior year, I was essentially the head teacher. That year, we had a sweet little boy with oppositional defiant disorder. He only did what he wanted to, and would pitch huge fits when he didn't get his way. The only way he would listen was if we had a certified interpreter from the Special Education Department to show him picture of the actions he should be following, i.e., sitting down, listening, washing hands, etc.
The actual teacher of the lab only had the interpreter come in once, which kind of make me mad. Needless to say, this little boy had a lot of incident reports sent home with him. One day, this little boy had such a huge outburst, his mother was called to pick him up early. One of my co-teachers overheard his mother tell him 'You're the man of the house, you need to act like a man,' and 'if you don't get your act straight, I'm sending you back to [shoddy daycare across town]' to the kid. My heart absolutely broke for that little boy that day. If his mom had the guts to tell him that in his preschool, I can't even image how she spoke to him to him at home."