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Rafael M.T.Therapist
Rafael M.T.Therapist, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3189
Experience:  MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach
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My 8 yr. old was given directions to draw squares in math class

Customer Question

My 8 yr. old was given directions to draw squares in math class and at one stage of his drawing he had produced what looked almost like a swastika. His neighbor happened to be Jewish, but he's also autistic (which I'm mentioning because I think it's pertinent to both his reaction and that of the school). When he saw the symbol he had a severe reaction to it screaming, "Get it away!" My son had no idea what was happening, but the teacher didn't listen to him when he said he didn't know what that symbol is, started yelling at him in front of the whole class that he's in really big trouble and then got the school administration involved. Neither the teacher nor the principal will accept that he simply did not know what a swastika is or what it signifies. As you can imagine, my 8 yr. old doesn't know anything about the atrocities of the holocaust yet and still can't grasp why everyone is so upset. There seems to be a hyper level of concern for one child and none for the feelings of my child. I'm also concerned for the stigma this can attach to him for the future as this definitely has not been handled privately. Any advice will be welcome.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 1 year ago.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I am very sorry to know about this incident, and without doubt I relate to your concern and support you.

Customer:

This just happened, so I'm just trying to be proactive and make sure my son doesn't suffer any negative impacts of the way he's being treated.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

What you describe is truly concerning, since it shows very abusive and irrational behavior from teacher and principal, and no form of abuse should be tolerated. I can tell you that even in cases when a child does know the meaning of a symbol, such a reaction from adults with authority power is unacceptable and shows a lot about personal and institutional issues, stereotypes and ignorance.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Any abusive behavior must be confronted, and according to your report your son did not make anything wrong, but the classmate, who happens to have special needs reacted in a very intense and negative way, which required special support by teacher and school counselor or psychologist, but never any form of mistreatment or abuse against your child.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

What is clear here is that your son was not aware of the association of his drawing with the symbol it seemed to resemble, one we are all exposed through via TV, books and media, not just in historic topics about war, but around religious and philosophical material, since this symbol was not created but borrowed by Hitler from Hinduism mysticism.

Customer:

Yes, it should have been handled much differently, I agree. We are meeting with the principal in the morning. Yesterday she asked my son questions about the whole thing again because she was off site the day before. Even after hearing directly from him that he didn't know what the symbol means ( again he's 8 years old) she said to him that she has trouble believing him because he's very smart!

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I believe you and your son deserve an apology by the people involved in this episode of abuse, which should be public in case the verbal -emotional abuse happened in front of other students, and lead school staff to repair their wrong doing and use this incident as a very useful opportunity to educate themselves and students about the topic, from the meanings of the symbol, and the beliefs, stereotypes and discrimination involved. This would show accountability, respect and assertiveness, essential for any adult playing and educational role.

Customer:

What kinds of things should I be saying to my son at this point?

Customer:

Or would it be better not to talk too much about it? Let him just get back to normalcy?

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

You know your son and the way he thinks, feels, reacts and copes, what he knows and what tendencies he has, if all this understanding confirms there was no negative intention in his drawing, then you should explain to him why school authorities reacted the way they did, that it was wrong for them do do what they did, but that it's necessary to understand that their own fears and beliefs led them to react that way, since though he was trying to harm the other child..

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I do not recommend avoiding the incident, since that would leave this issue intact and become a bugger one. Whenever issues arise, they must be immediately addressed with respect, assertiveness, insight and showing empathy and support. This way you would educate your child about what happened, allowing him to express and vent what happened and what he felt, and reassuring him that everything is fine now, since you have and will discuss about this incident with school authorities, who need to take responsibility for the dysfunctional way they reacted instead of addressing it as educators and healthy adults.

Customer:

Thank you. You've been very helpful.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Once the issue is assertively addressed, there is no need to get trapped by it, once a healthy and proactive lesson has been got from it.

Rafael M.T.Therapist, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3189
Experience: MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach
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Rafael M.T.Therapist
Rafael M.T.Therapist
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MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach