William. We've worried about him so much over the years. We've watched him struggle and we've watched him succeed. Sometimes, we've been so amazed at his character and sometimes we've wondered if he would ever stop lying to us.
He's had his share of struggles. This year, he's struggled the most. Stories of bullies which could not be verified. Rapidly deteriorating grades. Internalized anger turning external. And, an increasing tendency to fight back, instead of taking it.
Today, an awful thing happened. Today, William got caught with a weapon at school. A box cutter that he found in our kitchen. I had forgotten that we even had one. But, when I was trying to open a package, Kaleb brought it out for me. It made my task easier and, apparently, gave William an idea. Because, a couple of days later, he pocketed it before heading to school. He wanted to intimidate the kids who mess with him. Since they don't back off when he tells them to, he wanted to give them a reason to take him seriously.
Well, there's a lot of people taking it seriously now.
Even though, I love to cling to the idea that he impulsively grabbed it that morning and, therefore, use his ADHD as a rationalization; the fact is that he wasn't feeling so impulsive when he took the time to switch it to his PE shorts' pocket when he dressed out that day. Then, he participated in a game in P.E. Then, it fell out of his pocket. Then, all hell broke loose. This is, of course, very lucky. Because as much as we hate what is happening now, we are so relieved that William didn't pull the knife on somebody and that nobody got hurt. Besides our hearts, of course.
So, that morning, I got the call. I actually got two calls from his school, that day. The first was to tell me that he had skipped a "Learning Lunch" that he received because he didn't turn in a homework assignment and that he would, therefore, have lunch detention. I thought that was pretty bad, but I had no idea how bad it was going to get. Not long after, I got ready to head to Target, armed with a birthday gift card. (Shopping Therapy is the best!) But, then I got the second call.
I listened to the Dean telling me that William had brought the box cutter to school, that it was a level 4 offense, was an automatic 10 day suspension, and that a committee would decide if he could come back to school or whether he would have to go to an alternative school. I didn't know what to say; I think I just made a lot of gasping sounds. How could William, my sweet, gentle William have gotten to this point? Who the hell was this kid that she was talking about? The only thing that didn't surprise me was that he told a couple different stories about why he had it before he finally admitted the truth. (Come on, Will. No one buys that you brought it so you could cut your nails. The nails that you don't have because you bite them constantly...)
I remember sitting there for a minute, listening, and then hopping in my van. Somewhere in my denial-filled mind, I was under the impression that I was still going to Target. Until, of course, she clarified that he needed to be picked up and asked if I was nearby.
"Yes, I'm in my van. I was going to go to Target, but I guess I'll come there instead." Then, I laughed as if it was funny. She didn't laugh back because it wasn't funny or well-timed. Usually, my jokes are way funnier, but usually, my son isn't getting suspended.
I picked him up. I listened to them tell him the same stuff that we've always told him. How it's important to tell the truth, make good choices, etc. And, when I asked them if the committee would take into account that he's been bullied, she pointed out that he had been involved 50% in the cases that I reported. I could explain that this was because he was trying to defend himself, but since he wasn't telling anyone the full story, he had no credibility.
I went to a meeting, the next morning, with the vice principal, the guidance counselor, and his English teacher so it could be determined whether or not his ADHD was relevant. But, everyone agreed that it wasn't. Again, I pointed out that I understood why they were now officially recommending the alternative school (for the remainder of the school year), but I wanted it on record that we truly believed that this was a textbook case of being bullied until he just didn't know how else to cope. That he tried to defend himself, in horribly unproductive ways.
Basically, no one bought it. Again, it was pointed that he had been involved. He had cursed, he had yelled, he had allegedly kicked, and, he, of course, had brought a weapon to school. They mentioned the story of the boy who cried wolf. I assured them that we had said the same thing to William many, many times. I went home, depressed, and, unsure of what to say to William so I continued to avoid him.
It could've been so much worse. Nobody got hurt and we are so grateful for that. But, still it is pretty bad. And, after the initial anger subsided, we were so painfully aware of how lost our son is. He's lost because he's being picked on, he's lost because he's making some awful choices, and he's lost because he's lost virtually any chance of anyone believing anything that he says at the school (and, sadly, at home, too).
Lucky for us, this happened a few days before spring break so we've had lots of time to dwell and talk to each other and lecture him and talk to other people and I've had plenty of time to cry.
We were initially fine (so to speak) with him going to the alternative school, but then we heard the reactions of people who were familiar with it and their horrified reactions. Then, we weren't so sure. We talked about home schooling (still are); William then told us that he wants to go back to his school. Why?? The counselor thinks his best shot is to just go back to his school. Personally, I think that would be difficult since most of the kids have probably heard what he did.
Anyway, I was notified today by the vice principal that the official meeting to decide his fate will be on Tuesday. I told her that we no longer think that he should go to an alternative school, still stand by our belief that he was reacting to years of being bullied, and that we were considering home schooling if he was assigned to an alternative school. She told me that if we home schooled, he would never be able to come back to public school without first doing his alternative school time. And, that if we moved to another school district, they would probably make him attend their alternative school, first. She said all of this in a nice way, for the record, just making sure that I had all the information.
We feel so trapped in this situation of William's making. He is both the victim and the perpetrator. I'm so worried and angry. And, I can't seem to talk to any of these school administrator people without nearly bursting into tears.
Friday, we go back to counseling. Saturday and Sunday, we distract ourselves. Monday, three of them head back to school. And, Tuesday, we find out William's fate.
I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if they'll decide that he's a danger and that he needs to be in an alternative school or if they'll decide that he just made a bad choice (really bad choice) and can head back to school. I do know that I'll give up all my beloved recliner time to home school him, though. Because I don't want him being picked up from our front door, walking through metal detectors, and being treated like a juvenile delinquent because he was scared and desperate and no one was helping him.
I'm not naive. He's done and said things that he shouldn't have. He has been dishonest and impulsive. And, of course, he has brought a box cutter to school.
But, this is a kid who leaves "you're a great teacher" notes on his English teacher's chair, made all of his teachers cards on Valentine's Day, and walks the kids with special needs to class so they don't get lost.
This is a kid who has been bullied and didn't know how to cope. This is a kid who made a desperate move which backfired. It could've been so much worse. Someone could've gotten hurt. It could've been William, it could've been someone else's kid.
I'm hurt, mad, scared, angry, and worried. I'm mad at him for putting us in this situation. I'm mad at the other kids for putting him in this situation. I'm mad at the schools for not having teachers in the locker rooms or more teachers in the hallways and not seeing what's really happening.
But, I'm grateful for this wake-up call. I'm grateful that it made me aware of how important it was to get him into counseling. And, I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to make his "It gets better" moment happen now. He could've become a statistic. He could've become a horror story.
He's going to become something amazing.