“We’ll be meeting with Steven’s parents this afternoon after school. If you’re available, his parents would like to meet with all the teachers.”
I opened up Steven’s composition notebook to check the composition he’d written this afternoon. In 50 minutes, he’d managed to write 23 words. I responded “will attend”.
The other teachers were already there: both his math teachers, his band teacher, and the science teacher. The math teacher told us that she’d called Steven’s parents after she’d seen a recent test. Scrawled across the page were the letters IDK, I don’t know. The science teacher opened Steven’s science notebook and was relieved to point out that Steven was doing all his science work. The band teacher didn’t have a notebook but was happy to report that Steven was doing well with the flute.
Steven’s parents arrived with Steven in tow. His mother was in charge. She began by apologizing for not attending Meet the Teacher night but was grateful we’d all taken the time to meet with them on a Friday afternoon.
She then let us know that she’d been having problems with Steven’s aggression recently. “He’s so angry” was repeated throughout the meeting. She continued by letting us know that Steven has had aggression problems ever since his last concussion.
His last concussion?
“He’s had four,” his mother informed us. “Two of them were severe enough that he had seizures. One was bad enough that he ended up in a temporary coma.”
I think we were all wondering how they happened. Steven is only 12!
“The last one happened in February 2012.”
Steven’s father nodded in agreement.
“It happened while he was playing a pick-up game of football. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and hit his head on the sidewalk. He had seizures for a while but the MRI says he’s okay now. But he’s been angry ever since.
“The one before that happened when he slipped in a swimming pool. It was just temporary. He had a headache for a couple of days, that’s all. He was nine.
“The one before that happened when he was….” She counted back on her fingers before continuing, “Seven. He slipped in the bathtub but was fine.”
I looked back at Steven’s notebook as I reflected. Steven is a very energetic child, hyperactive even. Surely all these concussions were enough to warrant a 504.
“The first concussion,” she took a deep breath before continuing, “happened when he was five. Steven was raped when he was five. During the attack, he hit his head. He was unconscious so he doesn’t remember much.”
Steven nodded silently as tears slid down his cheeks.
“It was his sister,” his mother continued. “She was eight. Steven was five.”
She stopped to stroke Steven’s head and wipe away a tear.
Steven wiped his face on his sleeve.
“His sister was taken away. She’s been living in a halfway house and receiving therapy for the last six years.”
She took another breath. Steven’s father wrapped his arm around his wife.
“She came home this week. She came home yesterday. Last night, she tried to kill Steven. She was choking him. We called the people and they took her away.”
Steven was crying silently. His mom continued to stroke his hair.
“They’re bringing her back next week. She needs to be with her family, they say. She needs to be socialized before she’s an adult. She’s 15 now.”
Steven turned his back on us.
I looked at the table as I realized we were way over our heads. Steven needs a counselor. ‘Of course, he wrote IDK on his math test. He has more important problems going on right now,’ I thought.
His mother looked at us.
“But it’s no excuse. He needs to focus on his schoolwork. It’s his future.”
We talked with the parents and Steven for another 30 minutes. We made plans. We tried to figure out ways we could work to help Steven.
And my heart breaks every time I think of what Steven has gone through and what he will continue to undergo. No one deserves the kind of life he’s had. What can I do to help him?