My Daughter’s Principal Doesn’t Understand My Daughter’s Anxiety

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Dear Matzav.com,

 

My fourth grader, Leah, in addition to being a precious little delicious kid, suffers from severe anxiety and heightened sensitivity, conditions of which the experts had assigned a slew of acronyms to her.

Her therapist recently notified me that Leah confessed to her that she tries avoiding the main entrance of the school in the morning, and the principal at all times. She takes extreme measures in doing so, her mind being preoccupied the entire day in meticulously planning her steps. The reason being, her therapist related, is because she’s been commented on twice by the Tznius Lady as she entered the school, and once by the principal.

It was then that I was able to make sense as to why my daughter has recently taken to obsessively pulling her collar upwards, given that one of the comments were about showing too much of her neck, and why she recently became all fussy about her ponytail, given that another comment was on that.

Myself, having a younger sister who suffered from similar anxiety and sensitivity issues, who ended up going OTD following years of being mistreated by her teachers and principals, I take to extra measures to abide by the rules and making sure my Leah “fits in” and feels accepted.

Having spent the night crying through it a few nights ago after being told all this by the therapist, I took the logical step of calling up the principal and politely asking her to be sensitive to my daughter, and please call me with any complaints, rather than commenting to my daughter directly.

“What’s your daughter’s name?” she asked. “Leah…, fourth grade,” I said. “Just wait a minute while I look it up in the book,” she demanded.

“Oh, her,” she came back in a heightened tone. “You gonna dress her like a shiksa and then call me to treat her with sensitivity? Is this the way to dress a Yiddish טאכטער? And what chutzpah you have to call and tell me what I should or shouldn’t tell your daughter!”

Holding back tears, I tried explaining that before discussing tznius issues, I called to discuss my daughter’s issues, and while I’m sure the principal is 100% right, I wanna make sure, first and foremost, that it’s being treated the proper way, for the sanity of my daughter.

She would have none of it. A mother that doesn’t care for Yiddishkeit, dresses the kid like a shiksa, does not get to tell the principal how to deal with it, she pointed out, then finishing off her diatribe with a Gmar Chasima Tova.

I hung up, spending the rest of the day crying. Again.

—-

I reached out to friends and family for advice, and heard lots of well intentioned, meaningless and senseless advice.

“Move away.”

“Why are you sending to [this Bais Yaakov]?”

“Dress her normally and you’ll have no issues.”

“I cannot believe the principal said that!”

And so on.

Thank you. But you just don’t get it. I’m happy in my community and want my kids and grandkids to stay in the community as well. A run-in with a principal and an insensitive Tznius Lady is no reason for me to start changing schools or go town hopping.

Maybe the principal was under a lot of Yomim Tovim stress and I just happened to call in the wrong time?

Maybe there’s a personal issue she’s dealing with and mistakenly took it all out on me?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that we have teens committing suicide. That the postmortem stories usually say how they were mistreated or not understood while growing up.

What I do know is that my kid has issues and, in addition to her being mistreated, I have no one to talk to about it.

What I do know is that there’s way more emphasis going into the tznius rules than on how to properly deal with kids. Sure, all’s good when your kid doesn’t have severe disorders and cruises through childhood with the minor, expected hiccups. But what’s a principal to do when, in her mind, she’s doing holy work, giving it all to enforcing g-d’s commands and in return dismissing the well being of a child?

And what am I to do when that’s MY child?

 

A Sad and Confused Mother

 

29 COMMENTS

  1. First, daven. Second, speak to a respected talmid chocham and pikeach. Many turn to Rav Elya Brudny for these kinds of things.

    Best of luck.

  2. While I don’t negate you pain, this is an issue that should be addressed by your Rov, therapist and other professionals/rabbinic guide. Expressing your frustration and pain online will only result in additional well intentioned, meaningless and senseless advice.

  3. Many schools just don’t know how to deal with kids. They are burdened with heavy costs and really don’t have time to deal with kids if they are not completely perfect. They also are too busy to really be nice to the parents of those children. And they’re human, too; so they’re prone to making mistakes.

    We had a similar issue with a beis Yaakov. Our ten year old kid was “destroying yiddishkeit” because of her shoes. That’s a direct quote. Of course, the menaheles completely forgot that our child was dealing with heavy bullying from several children and that we called her many times about it throughout the year. Some people are simply too immature to run something as serious as chinuch, but they don’t have the credentials or capabilities to be accountants or lawyers. And we have no choice; we’re stuck with this school.

  4. Hello

    I strongly urge you to find a da’as Torah, someone who can guide you on how to help your daughter. There are rabbonim who understand the matzav. I had a child many years ago in a system (THE system) which did not work for him. Every decision we had made for him had been with da’as Torah. When he left the system, it was this knowledge, the recognition that every decision we had made for him had been the best one at that time, that allowed me some peace so that I could focus on my tefilla and bitachon. BH, he made it through, and is today an erlicher Yid. It is an uphill battle, visibility is reduced, and BH all we have is Hashem on whom to rely. It also helped him, that he knew how seriously we took his situation and decisions. It kept him close, even when he rejected the system, he never rebelled against Hashem or his parents.

  5. A Principal calling a 4th grader a Shiksa??? Crazy. Get out that school ASAP. She is already causing major mind games with your child per your post.

    A Gadol should come in and fire this Principal .

  6. There are smaller schools where kids going to very large schools with anxiety can switch. I have seen some advertised in flatbush papers.

  7. what does she mean ‘dressing like a shiksa’ ? i cant believe that she comes to school in pants and a sleeveless top.

    since your daughter is in the 4th grade, she is not buying her own clothes; therefore the principal should be speaking to her mother in the first place. the aveirah of ‘malbin es p’nai chaveiro’ is incumbent upon mechanchim as well as on the students who should be taught by example, it may be neccessary to ask the vaad hachinuch to deal with this issue

  8. Terribly sad story.

    And I strongly disagree with the commentators saying that posting this online will not help.

    It will help bring awareness to the masses.

    Most people simply do not know such issues exist – I am referring to the issue of having principals like the one in this story.

    Mitzvah lefarseim!

    The world should be made aware of issues like this.

    The principal and the school should be named as well.

    Aderaba, if the story is not as said over in this piece, let the school and the principal come forward and defend themselves while laying out their set of facts.

    But as it sounds, this is a case of attempted murder by negligence.

    This girl is a Yiddishe neshama and she should be treated with love and care.

    Additionally, this mother deserves respect and the courtesy of having her issues heard and responded to with care and compassion.

    Our chinuch system and our mosdos are full of incompetent mechanchim. That is not to say that they all are, it is certainly a minority, but just one bad mechanech can spell disaster for a child.

    The woman who wrote in this episode should be commended for her bravery. Hopefully it will have a positive effect on our chinuch system.

  9. I used to believe that, during these times of Chevlai Moshiach, all of our tzures would come from the outside (after all, Esav sonei l’Yaakov, right?) Tragically however, it appears that in TOO MANY instances we are often our own worst enemy. How sad for our precious children who have to endure this.

  10. Today there are numerous smaller cozy schools. Not every kid can handle a large school with 30 kids in a class. Look around for a smaller school that has a personal relationship with its students. They exist. My daughter goes to one. More important than stuffing a kid with knowledge and tests with massive homework is to make them happy to be going to school and having positive feelings towards Torah. I have seen quite a few massive talmedei chachomim who in adult life fried out. It’s not how much knowledge you have. It’s your internal attitude towards Torah. Kids enjoying school and even if they learn only basics will have a strong foundation in life. I see poshiter Yidden who are not experts on all of shas but are ehrlich and frum. If a school is not having your daughter come home happy with her experiences it’s time to switch schools. I did it with my daughter who refused to return to her old school and today she is very happy with the new school.

  11. sadly the schools today really dont care about the wellfare of the kids as their first priority. of course every principal will give token lip service to how important the children are, but when push comes to shove, creating cookie cutter images of ‘aleph’ students is their main agenda. every school is in competition to have ‘top’ curriculum with overloaded classes. it doesnt matter to the principal that the teacher is way past his/her prime and cant keep up with the pressure of dealing with kids. unfortunately, the kids who dont follow like sheep, end up being sacrificed.

  12. I wish there was a brilliant suggestion to make, but all I can offer is a wish for hatzlocha for both you and your daughter and empathy based on personal experience.

    One of our kids had a menahel years ago who, as far as we’re concerned, was a lamid-vov’nik. His consideration and genuine concern was for the well-being of each and every individual student in his school.
    We also have had experiences with others in the position of power, whose primary concerns seemed to be for the school’s reputation (verbatim quote: “We want to be an elite school!”) and personal kavod. I can’t even imagine what their din vecheshbon is going to be like when they get summoned to “The Boss’s” office.

  13. Which gadol was it that fired a Rebbe/Mashgiach? The Rebbe had thrown a boy out of Yeshiva and the gadol came and instead fired the Rebbe and took the boy back in. Anon5577 is spot on.

  14. I wish I had good advice for you. The one thing I found with dealing with the yeshiva’s hanhallah…was not with phone calls but by going to the yeshiva and talking directly to the hanhallah.

  15. Sadly, I believe every word you say. I have a child that was diagnosed by the hanhalla of their school as psychotic and was kicked out for what I thought was a minor behavioral issue. With my Rov’s input, I went to the Rebbi of the hanhalla hoping for some help and support but was yelled at and chastised by the Rebbi. Unfortunately there is no where to turn other than to Avinu Shebashamayim and daven that our children will survive some of the monsters that run our chinuch system. Looking forward to the day my children graduate Yeshiva. I will B”N daven for your child as well.

  16. this is a terrible story. although i stand by my first comment, i do believe that ‘roobah d’roobah’ our system works. most of our mechanchim and mechanchos have the welfare of all their students in mind, educationally as well as emotionally. but we are only people and people make mistakes

  17. As always, there are 3 sides to every story, his side her side, and the truth somewhere in the middle. We are only hearing one side of the story. We don’t know all the details.

  18. Where is this mothers husband?
    Why does she not conform to the schools rules of dress?
    This is just some of the questions I have for her.
    And out there to the Tuna bagels who are Otd are destroying their kids. Stop your angry outburst on society.

  19. If your child needs TLC from the school, then the least you can do is follow the school rules, help your kid with homework each day, and call the teacher every month.

  20. I know this may offend some people, so I apologize in advance… but MOVE OUT OF TOWN where there are great schools and communities and you can more easily tailor your child’s upbringing to what their needs are. Much, much less peer-pressure and no one judges you…

  21. If the trouble with this girl began with the way she dresses it’s the mothers failt. Too many of these modern Chassidish parents are in a real pickle. On one hand they can’t send their kids to the mainstream chassidisha Yeshiva’s and schools that they themselves were raised. Because the schools don’t want kids who come from modernized parents.So with no option they send them to either the regular Bais Yaakov’s,Yeshiva’s schools or something along those lines. But these schools have rules too. Dress codes are in every orthodox school. But the modern Chassidish parents think that if the parents are not Chassidish and don’t wear the Chassidisha levush,their kids can wear shorter skirts. This is where they are confused. Maybe in litvish circles the women drive and the men wear suits but they follow Halacha. They wear skirts four inches below the knees and expect students to do the same. The modernized chassidim are very confused. So they are carrying a chip on their shoulders when schools warn them about their children’s dress code. They confuse minhagim with Halacha. They don’t realize that a mothers shaving her head is not in league with their kids wearing short dresses. Shaving heads is a Chassidisha Hungarian thing and wearing long skirts is a halachick thing. Stop being confused.

    • Thank you. Thank you. You stated the facts exactly as it is. This is the mitzius.
      Lemaaseh, it’s very difficult for someone who grew up in a Chassidishe enclave with all their minhagim and restrictions, and then later on find it difficult to keep up with such high standards. There needs to be some sort of guidance to help these people be matzliach going forward. Why should they be ostracized by their former community and be labeled bums and tuna bagels, etc…? Not everything in life is black & white. They are good people and, just like everyone else, need acceptance and acknowledgment.
      But to break basic gidrei tznius, is unacceptable regardless of whether you live in Toms River, Staten Island, Flatbush, Fairlawn, Oak Park, Santa Ana, etc…

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