Normally, we would opt to start an article with a witty bit of humor. We try to keep it light around here. This isn't going to be that article, though.
Children who are mentally or emotionally atypical can struggle when it comes to school. Finding the right environment for them to thrive can be a challenge. Unless and until the right fit is found, there are bound to be incidents.
Reddit user Ranakisnthere asked about those incidents when they posted this question:
The responses could sometimes be intense and are not for the easily unsettled.
I have a million stories of students who say borderline sociopathic stuff, but the worst thing I've ever heard to date was:
"I can't be trusted with knives. My mommy hides all knives in the house from me because I've tried to stab everything and everyone. I know if I stab an animal or a person too much they might die. This would mean I'd go to jail and I don't think I could make it in jail. So I want to find a dead body and stab it over and over again. This way I know I won't get in too much trouble cause the person was already dead."
She was only nine.
All For Attention
This one happened just the other day and, obviously, I'm going to be anonymous about it to protect the child's identity. Let's call her Abby.
So, I'm driving a minibus of students home from a basketball practice when suddenly Abby starts screaming, "did that have peanuts in it!? I'm allergic to peanuts!" She begins hyperventilating and crying and actually makes me pull over so she can get off the bus and throw up. We're about 15 minutes from the school and I'm literally having a panic attack.
So, I call the principal and ask what should I do? Do we have an Epi-pen on hand at the school, ect. She seems confused and puts Abby's grandmother on, who tells me she wasn't aware her granddaughter, who is claiming she can barely breath, HAD any allergies.
When we got back to the school I was about ready to faint and the principal brings out her registration paperwork to show me: no listed allergies. She isn't allergic to anything, it was all an act. The hyperventilating, the crying, even the throwing up, was all for attention.
The First Seven MonthsGiphy
So I am not entirely sure if this is sociopath or psychopath but I had a child that was creepily into my pregnancy for the first 7 months.The child was a Male. 10 years old. He wanted to name her, talked to my belly, etc.
Then one day it clicked that I would leave to take care of the baby once the child was born. He got really close to me and whispered, "When you come out, I'm going to kill you with a hammer. I hate you."
I was shocked, so I took him with me to the office. The LSSP asked why he said that. He replied that, "It will take her away. I want it to die so she stays here."
He was on a lot of medication for his incredibly violent tendencies. He had tried to kill his sister before by pushing her in front of a bus. His mother kept him locked in his room at night because she had found him standing over her with a knife.
The last I saw of that child, he was being carried down the hall by two grown men and giving them a run for their money. He had attempted to kill the school's police dog with a pair of scissors. He was screaming and ranting that he would "kill all of you MFers!"
He ended up being committed after a long series of events that involved MHMR and CPS. I will never forget his poor mother crying in our final meeting and asking what she had done wrong. Her other two children were neurotypical and absolute delights. I had taught both of them previously. It still makes me tear up sometimes.
Waiting For The Opportunity
I had a student while I was doing my student teaching (8th grade). He was constantly in trouble, but during the times he WAS in class, he just stared off with the most vacant look in his eyes, it truly scared me. It was downright creepy.
One day he was up at the whiteboard writing some stuff (I think it was correcting sentences) with a bunch of other kids who were doing the same thing. I wasn't watching the kids at the board, and all of a sudden I hear this blood curdling scream and look over - he had brought a hypodermic needle and had stabbed the girl next to him in the leg.
He had been holding it in his hand the entire time, just waiting for the opportunity to stick someone. It was, of course, terrible, but the girl turned out okay. The worst part, besides that, was how he laughed when security came to get him ... Ugh, I'm shuddering now just thinking about it.
Fear For His Future
I taught a 4 year old boy who actually scared me because I fear what his future will be. I can see him ended up doing some awful things to people.
He would try and kiss and hug girls and when they didn't want to, he'd hold them tightly and try to anyway, even if they loudly protested. I explained that there is no kissing in school and if someone doesn't want to hug, they absolutely do not have to. I also said that some people don't like hugging. He said "Well I want her to! So she will!"
He just couldn't understand boundaries of any kind. This is just one tiny example of the things he did. His behavior with other students boundaries was so bad that molestation at home was one of the things that crossed our minds at the school.
I logged all of his behaviours (this took hours and I had to do the logs multiple times a day). This school has a specific safeguarding leader who works with the police to investigate concerns. They follow a specific referral policy and referred this on. Investigations showed no concerns about his home life.
I did refer him for evaluation as I believe he has autism and he's undergoing assessment now and awaiting a diagnosis but I worry there's something else there with him.
He would also watch other children to see how he 'should' act. For example, a child might be sad and another child comforts them. He would copy this behaviour but totally exaggerate it. Like completely over the top and use it as an excuse to touch others - mainly girls. He never showed any genuine emotion other than anger and jealousy.
He had a very scary look in his eyes and I've never met another child like him.
I was often substituting a special needs class, 6-7 boys about 8-10 years old. The days were normally lively but I always had everything under control and the boys had learned to trust me and at least tried to do what I told them to. Never had any real problems, just normal stuff.
Then one time there was a new boy in the class. Their teacher had written me a note that said to keep a close eye on him at all times. He had the telltale features of a FAS child and small, black eyes like a shark. He never showed any emotion whatsoever excluding immense excitement if someone else got hurt in any way.
Few days passed without any incidents and then, out of the blue he stands up in the middle of class, yanks the much smaller guy sitting in front of him down with his chair from behind and starts to pummel him in the face with his fists. I ran to intervene and grabbed him off and set him in a corner ordering one of the trustworthy boys to run and get the principal here, NOW! The attacker stood in the corner, emotionless as ever and completely calm. I turned to check out the crying kid on the floor and miraculously he seemed unharmed but was just shaken uo by the surprise attack. I sat down on the floor to calm him down and to help him up. Next thing I know is the shark-eye kid standing beside me and stabbing me on the leg with my teacher scissors (the only pointy ones in the classroom).
It was then when I realized why the attacked kid wasn't badly hurt. Shark-eye was big for his age but he had no physical strength at all. I didn't even get a bruise from his stab, my trusty Lee's jeans stopped the blade which I instantly took from him.
I threw the scissors on top of a high shelf and ordered everyone else out of the classroom to wait for the principal's arrival while I watched over Shark-eye. Boys ran out, Shark-eye looked at me curiously for a few seconds and sat down at his desk and continued his math assignments like nothing had happened.
I asked him quite sternly what had made him attack a fellow student. Shark-eye lifted his empty gaze and said "I heard him laughing at the school cafeteria. I thought he could have been laughing at me. Can we play football today in PE class?"
The boy had no empathy nor remorse. The episode meant absolutely nothing to him. When the principal arrived we went through the situation and the class affirmed my description or events as they had happened. Shark-eyes' mom picked him up early and he stayed at home for a few days. The principal told me that this was not the first such incident and that the boy was on queue for a hospital school class. The principal commended me for my actions (I was very young at the time) and was surprised that I had been able to keep my cool even after getting stabbed, even if the attempt had been pitiful.
Turned out that's my teacher superpower. I never lose it. Even when I've been spit at, got chairs thrown at me, someone trying to gouge my eyes out while holding them (more than once) etc. Luckily the years in the same school have accumulated my reputation and nowadays it's very rare that someone even dares to try to mess with me.
This incident was nearly 20 years ago but I'll never forget it.
Through The Years
Met this kid when he was two and a half, and he was already messed up. Super manipulative. He would chase the other kids, trying to hit or kick them. He crafted pretty convincing lies to get other kids in trouble, or blame them for things he did. He did it so well that it often was impossible to KNOW it was a lie, other than that you knew it was him because it was always him. At nap time he would get off the cots and try to body slam all the kids trying to sleep, if you sat with him he would try to kick you in the face, if you tried to control him (by restraining him or something like that) he'd scream that you were hurting him and my director would come in and threaten to write us up if we touched him again. Nap time was terrible.
At three he continued the above behaviors but started adding in creepy threats. He told my co-teacher he was going to get a gun online, and the post man was going to bring it to his house, and he would hide it in his backpack and bring it to school and shoot her in the head when she wasn't looking. He told another teacher he was going to bring a hammer and hit her until her head looked like applesauce.
At four he was STILL doing all the above creepy sh!t but also was now big enough to throw chairs across the room, and had discovered gouging people's skin off with his fingernails and biting. He was not allowed to have anything even remotely sharp, ever. We pretty much had to be constantly watching him, despite having 19 other kids with two teachers (the ratio at 4 and up was 10 kids per teacher).
During all of the above behaviors he would intersperse periods of being very sweet. As a teacher, who wants the best for kids and believes they all deserve love and a place to feel safe, you'd think "finally! He's opening up to me! We can work with this! We can help him!!" Even, selfishly, "I'm the teacher who finally got to him!" but that was only new teachers, and we all fell for it at least once. Inevitably it turned out he was using it to get away with things, and when you'd take another kids side on something where he was clearly in the wrong he'd say "but I thought you liked me now? I thought you liked me... You hate me don't you. Nobody loves me" while crying. If you made it clear you didn't buy that, he'd pretty much just scream at you and then turn back into the terror he was. It was just an emotional f-ing rollercoaster with this kid, honestly. Always holding out hope eventually that little phase of being nice would be the real deal, the time you'd really actually really reached him...
By five he still wasn't potty trained (he refused, mostly, but when we pushed the matter his grandma got mad and told us never to put him in underwear). One day he showed up with stitches on his face, his grandma said he'd been bitten in the face by their dog and she was going to have it put down. We all immediately wondered what he'd done to the dog. (For what it's worth I convinced her to rehome the dog and unless she was a manipulative lying little person like her grandson, I like to believe she was telling the truth.) We had real scissors in the pre-k room and licensing says that all art materials had to be available at all times (this includes paint and chalk, which was a headache to manage all by itself). We had to watch him because he often tried to stab people. The director wouldn't listen to reason in regards to putting them up because of him, we were just supposed to do a better job "controlling the classroom." He started talking about genitals and asking sexual questions. His grandma insisted we were teaching him this behavior and refused to answer any questions that intimated
We had all called CPS multiple times about this kid, and had never seen any follow through. I had been refusing to work in the room with him anymore because I often had bruises and scratch marks and nothing was being done to support us, we were just supposed to redirect him. If we couldn't control him without saying "no" or using time out or restraining him in ANY way we got in trouble, we were only supposed to "redirect." IE give him special treats, thereby further encouraging the behavior AND making the other kids feel they had to replicate such behavior if they also wanted special toys, activities, food, whatever.
However, when he was about 5 and a half we had gotten a new director who immediately decided he was a danger to the other kids and we couldn't control him with any tools we were authorized to use. She suggested he get some outside help and perhaps reduce his time with us until his behavior improved. His grandma withdrew him instead, screaming the whole time about how we always hated her and her baby and now he wasn't going to have anyone to watch him and he was gonna get worse because we abandoned him etc etc.
I really hope that little boy got help. He was a danger from before most kids were forming full sentences, and continued getting worse. I hope he got removed from the toxic environment he was in and got all the help he could get. However, I will not be surprised to see his name in the newspaper someday soon connected to a violent crime or two. He would be 11 or 12 by now.
Carrying Out An Experiment
I have seen students display all sorts of extreme behaviour over the past 20 years, teaching teenagers in challenging schools.
The one kid that I was convinced was a psychopath, just quietly refused to do anything he didn't want to do. I never saw him angry, and yet I did see him hit people and say awful things to them. He was always eerily calm.
He was tiny and very cute but he used to manipulate people and then watch chaos unfold with these huge unblinking puppy-dog eyes, just studying it all. It was like he was carrying out an experiment.
ANYWAY that was when he was about 14. He's 19 now and serving a life sentence for a horrific gang murder.
Cameras And Microphones
Story from a friend. As the new teacher he got stuck doing after school detention a lot his first year as a high school teacher. He didn't mind because he always stays late anyway with paperwork. Now at some point he had only one student for detention and he says she is the worst human being he's ever met.
She tried to blackmail him. Told him that either he would mark her as having attended the detention and all future detentions - or she was going to say that he assaulted her. Luckily for him there's both cameras and microphones in the classrooms. So that never happened and he did report it to the principal.
She was later expelled for bringing a knife to school and cutting another girls ponytail off in the bathroom.
Fast forward 5 years, when I was away at college, my mom's friend's daughter also went there (senior when I was a freshman), and I guess he had been stalking her for years. He moved from our hometown to the town she went to college in, where I had just moved. She had filed restraining orders and orders of protection against him ,but he would just violate them and serve the time - it didn't bother him. I was terrified that he would find out I lived there, and make me his next victim since she was graduating soon. Luckily he never did, and I hadn't heard anything about him until recently.
A friend of mine is now the guidance counselor at my old high school. He was reading up on some old files regarding students that are flagged if they ever come back to the school. He was one of them, and the reasons give me chills. He had apparently told one of the teachers/coaches that he loved him, so that he would let him know before he bombed the school, so that he could make sure he wasn't there when it happened. He also was found with a "hit list" of all of the people, teachers and students both, that he wanted to kill, with detail of how he would kill them. I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this - yep, I was on his list. It makes me sick that I was never told about this, and that they let him continue going to the school, instead of expelling him. I have no idea why he wasn't expelled.
So I have this kid, moved from another country two years ago and I got him this year. Was warned that he was difficult. We hit it off quite well, he is difficult and loud, but manageable. Out of a sudden he wants to talk to me alone, and starts crying the moment we are alone. He starts to tell me his life story - from being neglected by his stepfather, who is abusive towards him, and that social services were already involved, so they moved and so on.
But he didn't want me to do anything in case it got worse. I got in touch with the psych team and my boss, and we were discussing how to move forward. We decided to talk to the parents first to get a feel for the situation, so I invited them for a talk and WOW. The mother was nearly burned out, the step dad started crying because apparently their son was tyrannical and making their lives a living hell.
I was not expecting this.
Child Protective Services and psych professionals were already involved. His whole story is made up. It is a messy situation. The baggage the boy carries is immense, and yet, I have seen how aggressive he gets when things don't go his way.
I also learned that what he told me "in private" is something he basically tells everyone he meets, and people believe him so his parents are quite shunned in this small town they moved to. Never seen anything like it. He has a psych eval scheduled and his parents are eligible to get a home assistant, so we'll hope it helps.
That Calm LookGiphy
I worked in our "Exceptional Children's" department for 8 years. During that time, I was the only male in our department and we had some kids with issues that needed constant supervision. One of these kids, I'll call him John, was a really special case. He was a fifth grader at the time. He lived at home with his mom and dad who was one of these work from home auto mechanics. They seemed like decent enough people, but they had no ability to deal with John's behaviors.
Anyway, John was not good in class, so my job was to sit with him and make sure he did his best. We kind of got to be friends. He liked having an adult around. But he was also way behind in school because of how much time he'd missed, both from his parents not sending him and for the times when he'd been suspended. So trying to get him to pay attention in class was a challenge. I kept up with his work, and spent extra time trying to help him figure stuff out. Once he got a concept, he would be very happy and I worked it with my superiors that good work and good behavior got him 10 extra minutes outside, which he loved. It was the only non-food incentive I could work up for him. When he was happy, he did his work as best as possible. But he also got frustrated, especially when his teacher would assign a lot of pages of practice work. He had to do it too, and he hated it and I could just see him quivering for some way to get out of the work. Secretly, at that point, since I knew that forcing him to do work was going to cause an issue (it always did) I wondered why they didn't just let him sit in class and doodle so he would stay calm.)
One day, we were sitting in a small group, and a few of his classmates were hanging with him, trying to help him. It was really nice, because the kids really wanted him to do well. I remember thinking to myself this is usually when the bottom falls out. I was right. John got up and went to sharpen his pencil. He was over there for a while trying to get a good point on it. That's what happens, you know. It was 2 p.m. and it was a Friday, so I was really hoping that he'd keep up the behavior until the buses came. Make a good close to the week.
He came back to his seat, wrote something on his paper, and then in one move, he grabbed the little girl beside him on his right by the back of her head, hair and all and yanked it back. The rest happened in the slowest possible motion.
John took the pencil in his left hand like a dagger... He was going to put the pencil into this girl's eye. It was the most reasonable target, he later said. I reached over and grabbed the hand with the pencil and bent it back and away, forcing him to drop it. I applied pressure to the nerve above his elbow of the right hand he was holding the girl by the hair with and he let go. I got him to the floor in what we had been trained to do as a "therapeutic" hold. The teacher meanwhile ran to get help. Students ran to one side of the room, well away from us. One boy took the pencil and dashed the point against the wall. I'll never forget that part as long as I live.
So, there I am and John is as limp as a boned fish (pardon the cliche') and he's as calm as can be. He looks up at me from this position and says, "I was bored and wanted to see what would happen if I stabbed her in the eye. I was just wondering. That's all. That's all!"
He really didn't seem to get what the big deal was.
So, the police came. The girl's parents were notified, John's parents were notified, the principal gathers us and we all go to the conference room and the whole thing is rehashed. The teacher of the class explained everything. I explained my part. When they asked John, in front of his parents, he told us all the same thing he told me. He didn't get what the problem was. I saw abject horror on his mother's face, then. His father's face was something else. At that point I thought it was recognition or familiarity, as though this wasn't something new for John (or the father), but now I think I saw something like dark pride, there. But memories don't hold their detail and I may have added that later.
John was suspended and the parents of the girl pressed charges. After the suspension, he was allowed back, but he had to be in a room away from all students. The judge (when the event finally came before the courts) ruled John was just a misbehaved kid and gave him a stern lecture and some community service and probation. A few months later, school was out for the summer and I think that he wound up being "home schooled" which in his parent's speak meant left to his own devices.
Several years later, and well away from that foray into childhood violence, John showed up on the front page of our local paper. He was 21, now and had gotten into trouble a bunch in the intervening years, but the worst was indecent liberties with a minor, aggravated assault, assault and battery, and a few other things, all one situation, apparently. The photo in the paper, his mugshot, was the same face he had as he calmly explained to me that he had just been bored and wanted to see what would happen. The same calm, even face of a person who was definitely not in touch with the fact that other people have feelings. Worst part was that aside from his behavior was likable.
This is awful, but I knew then, and I know better now, that this was a sociopath/psychopath in the making and I was there for his first adventure into human harm. He's a human, of course, and was a 12 year old, then, but it seemed pretty obvious that he would wind up hurting someone else.
That's the worse part for me, even now. I knew (and so did my coworkers) all too well that he would soon enough get bored again and try to hurt another child. I was there when it counted, once, but I wouldn't be the next time. And I knew very well that would always be a next time with John.
He wound up getting 8 years in the local prison. I later heard from an old colleague more of his back story.
His mom killed herself, left a long note about how she didn't have the will to live having brought such a nightmare child into the world. His father wound up having a bunch of floozies over all the time and got into selling meth (not a big surprise) they felt pretty sure that John got to see all kinds of fun stuff. The house burned down and he went to live with an uncle. Anyway, in the long run, he'd gotten into trouble, a few pets killed, a few fights with neighbors, one assault and wound up in juvie.
I'm no longer a teacher, though I do visit schools in a professional capacity for my current career. I will say this, however, I was attacked personally four times, had to stop violence countless times and dealt with all kinds of angry and frustrated behavior from kids in elementary schools. These were rarely kids from adjusted and caring homes. Even poor kids from broken homes had issues with behavior occasionally. But the kind of systemic, brutal behavior from some of the children I knew or worked with was a direct result of homes that were likely to cause toxic stress. It's difficult to characterize just how serious this problem is for some students. It's not a happy thought, but it is happening.
I had PTSD for several years after all this (and other things I dealt with-including teacher abuse) and I admire and respect teachers that have to leave because they cannot take it anymore. I couldn't and I got out when I could.
I have even more respect for teachers who can stay in and make a difference day in and out.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/