In Defense of a Family

*I apologize for the length of this post; however, every word in this piece needs to be said.  Thank you for reading.  

On November 12, 2018, a P.E. teacher lost his temper and sent a 10 year old boy outside of the gym, literally outside of the building.  It was 41 degrees.  In case you are wondering, yes, there is an awning over the door.  The 10 year old boy was dressed in Adidas pants and a t-shirt.  The P.E. teacher, who many call “Coach”, claimed that he could see the boy at all times if the boy had been standing right where the teacher had instructed him to stand. Therein lies the main problem…the P.E. teacher never told the 10 year old boy exactly where to stand.  He told him to go outside.

School gymnasiums, when filled with children, are notoriously loud.  This is where children go to play games and get exercise.  There is a lot of running around.  The P.E. teacher is also running around (or should be).  I cannot think of a single elementary-age P.E. game or exercise that would allow a P.E. teacher to have control over their class and simultaneously watch a child that he put out of the building and into the 41 degree pouring down rain. It is simply impossible.

The 10 year old child happens to be very athletic.  He is an accomplished gymnast, who just finished 1st on Floor and 3rd All Around in the Georgia State Gymnastics Tournament.  He is a valued member of his swim team.  He currently plays baseball, but has played soccer and basketball, and is a swift runner.  He is small in stature, but he has more athleticism in his body than any other child I have ever seen.  I have witnessed coaches approach him after games to poach him for their teams. The reason he was put out of the class is that while the children were sitting on the gym floor, waiting to be told what to do, he spun around on his butt a single time.  School gymnasium floors are very slick, so his nylon athletic pants made for a fast spin.  Since he was not being still, this angered the P.E. teacher, who then sent him outside. There are accounts from other children that another child was doing the same thing and that child was not reprimanded at all. 

The 10 year old boy went outside the building, just as he was told to do.  He stood there and he stood there some more.  The P.E. teacher was not watching him.  How could he? He had a gym full of other 10 year olds! I have been told that it is not unusual for the P.E. teacher to have the entire 5th grade in the gym at one time! It is my personal opinion that the P.E. teacher forgot that he had sent this child outside.  The child did what any other 10 year old boy in his situation would have done: he got bored and likely stopped just standing there!  DO NOT, for a single second, say that your child would not have done that because you would be lying to yourself and everyone else.  I have two boys.  One is almost 21 and the other is 11. I can admit that both of them would have done the same thing.  Not only that, but BOTH of them would have been dressed exactly the same way that this child was dressed that day:  in athletic pants and a t-shirt. Hell, MY children have gone to school in shorts in that weather! My children have dressed themselves for years, and the weather does not have anything to do with what they choose to wear.  The child and his family were brutally attacked on social media for what he was wearing to school that day! AND because he did not have a rain coat! My children have rain coats, but I am not sure that they have ever been on their bodies! The child had a jacket, but he left it in his regular classroom and did not take it with him to the gym because the child knew that since it was cold and pouring down rain that day, he would not be going outside!

When the child got home that day, he was completely soaking wet, as if he had jumped in a pool with his clothes on.  His mother was very upset. She tried to contact the teacher, who did not respond.  She tried to contact the principal, who did not respond.  Her sister contacted the news media.  They responded.  The teacher was put on administrative leave pending an investigation.  Parents of other children at the school went completely nuts. They did not believe that this even happened. They told their children that this child was lying, or that what the P.E. teacher did was not wrong!  The child no longer had anyone on his “side”-even the children that actually witnessed what happened to him in class that day.   The 10 year old boy then had to go to school under duress, with teachers talking about him in front of his face, and other children talking about him.  His two sisters, who are younger, were bullied by their classmates also.  Children told his sisters that the school had lost their beloved P.E. teacher and it was all their fault and the fault of their brother!   One day, the sisters witnessed two teachers crying.  When they asked what the matter was, the teachers said that they were just so upset about the P.E. teacher.  One child told one of the sisters that ‘she should just go kill herself’.  All of this behavior is extremely inappropriate from both children and adults and should not have been tolerated at a public school-or any school.  Any adult or child who had anything to do with any of this bullying should be deeply ashamed of themselves.  That goes for the adults who have behaved so horribly on television and social media.

A Go Fund Me was set up for the P.E. teacher by his supporters. It raised over $20K.  Attorneys got involved.  The attorney for the school district contacted the family and told them that the case was possibly and most likely going to be heard by a “Tribunal”.  Apparently this is 3 retired teachers who listen to the case and give their recommendation.  The attorney then presents the family’s side and then the superintendent makes the decision.  The family expected to hear the result of the Tribunal, or at least hear from the attorney again, but they heard nothing at all. Eventually, they heard through the grapevine that the P.E. teacher would be back at school on Monday two weeks ago.   All of this happened from November to February.  Every news story and article that was written and published in an Atlanta newspaper was biased against the 10 year old child and his family.  There are several private social media groups that were formed in support of the P.E. teacher.  One of those groups published a post that went so far as to ask people to start gathering evidence against the family, specifically against the mother. This request seemed outlandish and highly inappropriate to me.  If the P.E. teacher was trying to take the high road, that was certainly not the way to do it.  It turned the whole thing into a witch hunt.

I have known the family for about 12 years.  The mother and I were pregnant at the same time and our 10 year old boys have been very close since they were born.  I’d like to tell you some things about their family.  We met when our daughters (now 17) started kindergarten, which was only a few months after the family lost their 2 month old baby girl to SIDS.  One of the ways they coped with that terrible tragedy was to give back.  For the first few years following Claire’s death, there was an organized Red Cross Blood Drive in Claire’s memory.  Even now, there is a group of people who donate blood on their own on Claire’s birthday every year.  Our daughters were best friends throughout elementary school, and with our boys born 3 weeks apart, we have spent a lot of time together over the years.  I have watched this family help other people in many ways. The mother always stops to help people who are broken down on the side of the road. She helps people change tires in the pouring down rain. She gives people rides. She brings people soup when they are sick. She has been an active volunteer at every school her 6 children have attended.  She has donated, literally, van loads of office supplies to local schools, provided food for countless teacher appreciation luncheons, packed food and supplies for the homeless as well as victims of natural disaster such as the Puerto Rico Recovery.  She delivers flowers to local nursing homes.  When there are pot holes or water leaks or anything wrong with our roads in our neighborhood, she will call the county until they come out and fix whatever it is. I don’t know anyone else who actually cares that much.  We have had some pot holes large enough for cars to get stuck in over here, though, and thanks to her, they are fixed.  If she sees a traffic issue or problem in the area, she will post about it on Facebook, using #NNN, which stands for Noticer News Network.  She notices things and that earned her the nickname “The Noticer”. Not too long ago, someone suggested that she start posting her “notices” with the #NNN .  Her good friends know and understand what it means.  She is the friend that I can call when I need anything-from picking up one of my kids to helping me remove a mother duck and 12 ducklings from my swimming pool.  I hope that she knows that I would do the same for her.

This family was not out “to get” the P.E. teacher; however, the P.E. teacher was the one in the wrong, and the P.E. teacher did something to their child. The P.E. teacher violated his contract by placing a child outside the building alone.  Whether you or any other parent or random person thinks that is ok or not is impertinent.  Teachers cannot put a child outside a building. PERIOD. That, alone, should have been the end of it.  Of course, it wasn’t.  There was an uproar of students from 30 years ago and parents who stood on the sidewalk with signs, contributed money to the GoFundMe, who painted their cars, who showed up at BOE meetings, who wrote letters to the BOE-all in support of the P.E. teacher for reasons like “he pushed us to do our best”….”he is a great P.E. teacher and we don’t have much P.E. in schools anymore”…”he has been at that school for 39 years”…. NONE of the people who stood on the sidewalk, painted their cars, showed up at the meetings, or wrote letters know the family like I do.

I have read, several times, that this P.E. teacher was “falsely accused”. He was not falsely accused.  The P.E. teacher in question did exactly what his was accused of. He sent a child outside of the building alone. It happened to be 41 degrees and pouring down rain. The P.E. teacher should not have expected a 10 year old child to stay in one spot for longer than 10 minutes (1 minute for each year of age, according to most child psychologists),  ON AN AVERAGE DAY WITH NO RAIN AND WARMER TEMPERATURES.  The rain and cold temperature were extenuating circumstances.  The P.E. teacher forgot that the child was outside and left him out there the entire class period.  Who is to say that the child did not start running around to stay warm?

When the news came out that the P.E. teacher was going to be going back to his job, the family also found out that there had been no Tribunal and that the Superintendent had just made the decision-supposedly based on the amount of support that the P.E. teacher had from the community.   At that point, the family started to worry about the repercussions the return would have on their three kids that remained at the school.  Obviously, people would be thrilled to have their beloved P.E. teacher back.  The parents worried about their 10 year old son. Would it would be similar to someone who has been abused having to face their abuser every day?  The parents brought this up with the principal, who assured them that the P.E. teacher had been instructed not to have any contact at all with the 10 year old child.  Still, the parents worried.  Their twin daughters would have to have contact with him.  The first day the P.E. teacher was back, the daughters came home and shared how their day went.  They reported that the P.E. teacher said that he was not going to say anything at all about what he did while he was away from the school; however, if any of the students wanted to share with him how they felt while he was gone, he would be more than happy to listen to them… The children started sharing that they had felt lonely while he was away….they missed him…..Those were just the words this man wanted to hear.

Narcissists have a need for excessive praise and attention. I think this P.E. teacher got a lot of that during his break, and continues to get it now that he is back. I am not sure how he has convinced anyone that he was wronged, because he was not.  This was not a situation where anyone should have believed the teacher. The evidence was there to back up the child. The evidence was there for the teacher to lose his job, and he should have.  Shame on the school system for backing down.  Shame on the “adults” who stood up for this teacher and not for this child.  I am ashamed to know some of the parents who supported this teacher.  It does not matter how many years a teacher has put in. Everyone can make a mistake.  Normal people who make a mistake usually apologize.  To my knowledge, this P.E. teacher has yet to apologize to this family.   Narcissists generally don’t apologize since they don’t think they’ve done anything worthy of an apology.

Thankfully, last Monday was a new day for the family.  The three children who attended that school moved to a new school.  The 10 year old boy will not have to worry about having P.E. with that teacher or running into that teacher in the hallway.  His sisters won’t have to worry about it either.  The three of them no longer have to worry about being bullied by their classmates and teachers.  Or do they? Unfortunately, this story spread far and wide.  There are too many people who were raised without manners.  All of the adults who made a scene publicly-you essentially bullied this family and these three small children.  Each and every one of you owe this family an apology, and each and every one of you are responsible for what happens to them now.

7 thoughts on “In Defense of a Family

  1. Beverly

    Please tell your friend that I am 100 percent on her side. Yes, my kids had raincoats. They kept their closets nice and dry, because they never were put on their bodies as far as I know. In Kentucky, in the snow, more boys would wear shorts. They would change out of their warm pants into shorts they hid in their backpacks and the thought of either of my boys going out and standing still is LAUGHABLE. That teacher was WRONG. We are all worked up about who enters a school building but it’s ok to send a child outside? A 10 year old child? Nope. The “coach” was wrong, the parents of the other children, principal, school board, community, ALL WRONG.
    Tell your friend if she ever needs anything to give me a call. I’ll skip taking my happy pill and drive up there and unleash the full force of my wrath.

  2. Lacy Satchels

    What a horrible experience for the boy and his family. Good for you for telling this side of the story. #peoplesuck

  3. Lisa Alexander

    Technically, especially in a public school, the PE teacher broke one of the cardinal rules by putting a student outside of a classroom, regardless of whether he could be seen. I have never heard of a tribunal being held for an employee but I have heard, numerous times, of superintendents being inconsistent in their application of consequences for adults and children. And yes, the children and family SHOULD be fearful of retaliation.

  4. sj klingaman

    WOW – I am shocked this incident snowballed like this. It seems extremely clear – the teacher was wrong – period, end of story. I also know this family – a long time ago, we lived in the same neighbourhood and were part of a playgroup when our oldest girls were little. Then my family moved far away. I heard about the incident when it happened but had no idea of the rest of the story. They are wonderful, kind, compassionate, talented, funny family – and she’s a ridiculously great chef (which has no bearing on this but I have to mention it)!! That this family had to endure this is obscene and extremely sad. So sorry! What a loss for their old school.

  5. Lisbet

    I feel terrible about the abuse heaped upon this family both in person and online. Parents supporting OD went so far out of bounds and their children followed their example and bullied all these kids at school. I am 100% with this family. What happened here has divided our community and I’m ashamed. Ashamed of how the OD supporters behaved. Terrible example being set for your children. You all owe this family an apology, starting with OD.

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