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Dear Care and Feeding,
My 14-year-old daughter is a high-level fencer. She is very talented and highly competitive. She is also very hard on herself. Over the years she has developed an unfortunate habit of hitting herself with her foil whenever she makes a mistake. We have been working with her to break this habit, not least because it leaves her covered with bruises. Last week, my husband and I were absolutely stunned and beyond mortified when child protective services arrived at our house. After many incredibly scary hours of questioning and investigating, the officials determined there was nothing to be worried about and left. I was shaking like a leaf when it was all over, as I’ve heard the horror stories of children taken away from their parents who have been falsely accused of abuse.
After they left, my daughter told us that a couple of days before, her teacher had questioned her about her bruises. My husband and I spoke to the teacher, who admitted that it was indeed her who had called CPS. She said she had adequate suspicion after speaking to my daughter, even though my daughter told her the complete truth. I am so angry at this teacher. I think she really, really crossed a line here by calling CPS on us without talking to us first or speaking to administration. I can’t believe she would make such a major, life-impacting decision without gathering sufficient information first. Especially since this teacher knows us already—our older son was in her class two years ago, and we have spoken with her on numerous occasions. I want my daughter to be moved into a different class. I can’t imagine any of us dealing with this teacher again after what she did to us. My husband is also angry, but is more sympathetic towards my daughter’s teacher. He thinks we should forgive her for a mistake made with good intentions and move on. I’m sure her intentions were good, but I am still so angry, and I can’t get over her huge error in judgement. Please help us handle this.
—Shaken Up Mom
Dear Shaken Up Mom,
Update, Nov. 16, 2021: Readers have reminded me that in most states, teachers are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and are obligated to follow proper legal protocols that—in the event of actual abuse—would best protect the child. This teacher appears to have acted appropriately based on the information given in the letter. I apologize for the oversight, and to teachers out there—I know that their number one priority is to keep kids safe.
My blood is boiling after reading this. I don’t give a damn about what this teacher’s intent was, because the impact of her actions could’ve led to your daughter being taken away from you. If I were you, I’d file a formal complaint with the principal and superintendent to ensure they know how terribly this situation was handled. Additionally, I would demand that your daughter is switched into a different class. If you mess with my kids or my ability to take care of my kids, there’s no apology I would listen to. Your husband calls it a “mistake”? A mistake is spilling fruit punch on a white shirt—not ignoring an existing parent-teacher relationship and calling CPS when the situation could’ve been cleared up by a simple phone conversation.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Scorpio and we tend to hold grudges, so I may not be the best person to ask when it comes to this. However, I still can’t imagine how you could possibly move forward in good faith with this teacher. I mean, how awkward would it be during parent-teacher conferences? There’s no possible way I could contain my anger around her, and I’m assuming you feel the same way, so I think a separation would be best for both parties.
All of this is being said assuming your daughter wants to move out of her teacher’s class (it would be difficult to picture her feeling otherwise). If for some reason she wants to stay in that class, then I would respect her wishes, but I would still move forward with filing formal complaints.
Tangentially, I think you need to discuss the self-harm thing your daughter is taking part in, because that’s a big red flag. I’m not sure what steps you’re taking to help her with this, but I highly recommend getting her to a therapist as soon as possible. You mentioned that she’s a high-level fencer, and with any high-level activity, the pressure is only going to increase as she gets older. I believe strongly in professional mental health, so if your conversations at home aren’t helping her to stop this behavior, please take the next steps.
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