When the father of a fourth grader learned that a teacher had been bullying the boy and his classmates, he was determined to prove it. His solution? Sending the 9-year-old to school with a hidden tape recorder to catch her in the act.
In mid-September, when Isaac Robinson, 43, of Villa Rica, Georgia, asked his son (whose name he declined to provide) how school was that day, he sensed something was wrong. “He kept saying, ‘Fine’ but I probed and he finally said that he didn’t want to go to school because he doesn’t like the way his teacher talks to the class,” Robinson tells Yahoo Shine. “When I pressed him, he said she tells them, ‘Shut up’ and even threatened to take the kids to jail because they were misbehaving.”
Robinson wanted to report the incident to Villa Rica Elementary School, but he had a feeling the accusations would require proof. “I knew it would be my son’s word against his teacher’s, so I asked him if he felt comfortable secretly recording his class,” says Robinson. “Under Georgia law, you can tape-record a conversation as long as one party knows about it.”
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The following week, Robinson gave his son a tape recorder and instructed him to hide it in his backpack while at school. Though Robinson was prepared to hear some inappropriate comments on the tape upon the boy's return from school, he was shocked by the extent of the teacher's cruelty. “The teacher said to the children, ‘Get your ugly butt over here,’ ‘I like you, but you make me want to slap you,’ ‘Get out of my face before I machete chop you, and ‘Shut up. I mean that in the nicest way, but shut up.’”
Robinson immediately called the school and arranged a meeting with the teacher (he declined to provide her name) and the assistant principal. “I asked the teacher if she said these things and she denied it,” says Robinson. “I could have revealed the tape at that point, but the school wanted to investigate the matter on their own, so I let them do their thing.”
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A week later, Robinson received a letter from the school stating that there was not sufficient evidence of verbal abuse. So Robinson scheduled a second meeting with the teacher, the assistant principal, and the assistant superintendent of human resources for Carroll County Schools. “This time, I took the recorder out of my pocket and hit play.” He asked the teacher if the voice on the recorder was hers and says that she replied that she "didn’t know."
After playing the recording Robinson says the teacher was asked to leave the room and he was told the investigation would indeed resume in light of the new evidence. Villa Rica Elementary School did not respond to Yahoo Shine's calls for comment, however, Robinson says that after taking a weeklong leave of absence, the teacher is currently working at the school.
“It’s important to get involved and ask kids questions,” says Robinson. “My son initially told me everything was fine at school. If I hadn’t kept asking, I never would have known what was happening. I’ll continue to fight this until the teacher gets terminated.”
According to Jerry Weichman, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in adolescence at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Newport Beach, California, Robinson did the right thing. “Kids often spend more time at school than they do at home, so it’s important that parents stay vigilant about what’s going on in their lives,” he tells Yahoo Shine. If you think your kid is being bullied at school, here are some red flags to watch for. Even one is enough to be concerned, according to Weichman.
Lashing out at home: Children understand when something feels wrong, but they may not know how to cope, says Weichman. “If your kid suddenly develops a short fuse and begins bullying siblings or a helpless family pet, it may be a learned behavior.”
Disruptive sleep or eating patterns: Anxiety disrupts the body's daily rhythms and can cause insomnia. Anxiety can also cause either an increase or a decrease in appetite, depending on the individual.
Changes in schedule: Does your kid suddenly not want to go to basketball practice anymore? Does he take a different route to school? “He may be trying to avoid someone who is harassing him,” says Weichman.
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