By BRITNI DANIELLE
Last week I filed my first child abuse report.
After becoming utterly annoyed by a student’s immature and disruptive behavior, I called his mother. I explained the situation and asked if she wanted to speak to him. Instead she told me she was on her way with her belt "to whoop him in front of the class.”
My mind went blank.
I tried to convince her not to come. After all, it was a shortened day and we were going to be out of school in less than 20 minutes, but she would not be moved. About 10 minutes later, both parents showed up and my students and I had a front row seat to abuse.
A hush fell over the classroom, all of the students waited to see what would go on. I thought that this kid’s parents would pull him aside, talk to him, and at worse make him cry, but I was not ready for the sound of the slap that echoed off of his face. I’ve never seen anyone—in person—slapped so hard in my life. I hurt for him. The other students sat in awe and I was thrown, completely thrown at how to handle it. Do I call the police? Do I call school security and tell them what just went on? I was at a loss.
After he got slapped, my student tried to play it off like nothing happened. You could see the tears welling in his eyes, but he wanted to show strong for his friends. One student voiced what we all thought, “Ms. I know he acts bad, but he didn’t have to slap him like that.”
At first, I wasn’t sure it was my place to file an abuse report and perhaps throw this family into the system and under the watchful eye of child services, but I couldn’t ignore what I saw.
After work I discussed the incident with a few co-workers and asked them if they thought the slap constituted abuse. Most agreed that I was right to file a report, but one said, “Well, that was daddy being daddy. I wouldn’t file a thing.” This threw me. When did slapping a child in the face become an acceptable form of discipline?
Growing up, my parents subscribed to the belief, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” My mother wasn’t afraid to break out “Mr. Leather” if she felt we were doing wrong. However, she didn’t abuse us, never left a mark, and never spanked out of anger. But we quickly learned to abide by the rules or get ready to feel the sting of leather on legs. But slapping? My mother never hit us in our faces, cursed us out, or did any of the other things that many of my students seem to encounter at home.
Many may shrug at my student being slapped by his father, but does this type of discipline work? No, it doesn't. After being slapped, my student not only continued to be the same immature, fidgety 7th grader that he was before, but now he has the added shame of being pimp slapped by his daddy in front of his peers.
I look at my students, at their behavior, and I often wonder: What systems of discipline are in place in their homes? Why is it that they only seem to respond to being yelled or cursed at? How can they be disciplined without abuse?
Most parents abuse their children because they don’t know any better. They are merely repeating what was done to them. It doesn’t make it right, but it gives us a jumping off point to teach parents that disciplining children does not begin and end with a slap—that slapping a child doesn’t teach them a lesson, but often causes them to act out even more.
About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Britni Danielle blogs about her experiences raising a son while his father is incarcerated. She is a teacher, writer, and avid music junkie, and mothers over 100 brown babies a day in her classroom before coming home to her own. Check out more of her incredible writing and poetry at ThisSideoftheWall.