Teachers...would it be wrong of me to do this?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by GCKAY, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. GCKAY

    GCKAY Rookie

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    Hey everyone. I'm a high school guidance counselor (hope it's okay for me to be on these forums as I'm not a teacher). I have a student who is a Sophomore going to be a Junior next fall (school for us ends June 24). This boy has a GPA of 4.4/4.6. About two weeks ago I was notified by our head of the guidance department that his father passed (suddenly- it was from a car accident). He only missed two days of school (apparently his mom wanted a very quick wake and funeral) because it was two days + the weekend which was 4 days. Anyway, I've called him down numerous times. He doesn't show outward signs of grief. He is a very private person. However since his father's passing his normal A grades have dropped to Cs & Ds. Since he missed so little of school his teachers don't realize anything happened. Our high school is an large one so word doesn't spread quickly here. None of his teachers have approached me about his dropping grades and at our HS teachers don't usually call the parents. I, as school policy, am not allowed to tell teachers things the students tell me they do not want their teachers to know (as long as it's not anything dangerous, etc.). Although, in this case I feel like I should say something. Head of guidance has told me if the boy told me not to tell his teachers I can not tell them. I just hate to see his final averages so low when there's a reason for the dropping grades especially when he has such a high GPA. I suppose it's only about 1/3-1/4 of one of the four marking periods of just this year with low grades but still they will have an impact. I know I was told not to tell the teachers but would it be totally wrong of me to slip? Thanks.
     
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  3. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Speak to his mom about the grades and let her know that you think the teachers would benefit from knowing about the student's father passing away. I'm actually very shocked that your school would have such a policy as to not let that kind of information go to the people who work with him every day :(
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Don't slip. It's not professional.

    Can you say that "there are issues at home" without directly disobeying what your boss told you to do? Or is it possible that the reason the teachers haven't asked is because they already know-- the boy's friends filled them in?? It happens in my school all the time; I learn from the kids before any official notifications.

    Oh, and welcome!
     
  5. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I agree with Alice. It's a very tough situation. We feel like it's important for them to know, but the last thing you want to do as a guidance counselor is lose the trust of these students.

    BioAngel's idea of calling his mother may be a good idea as well.
     
  6. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    I dont get it. A boy's dad dies in a car accident and its supposed to be a huge secret? I dont care how big and impersonal the school is I would talk to the teachers. Teachers and staff exchange kid info all day long to help kids. Yeah, some do it just to talk about the bad kids and the things they do but I am always talking to the classroom teachers about their kids and what I observe in my class. The kid needs help right now. This snapshot of his falling grades is not the real kid but his struggle to carry on after losing his dad. Help the kid out.
     
  7. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    I teach high school, and we get emails from the principal whenever anything weird happens in a kid's life, from their mom dying to something somewhat inane.
     
  8. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Honestly, something like this is public knowledge. There was probably an obit in the paper. I would tell the teachers. You could even just find the obit online and draw their attention to it. I don't see how the boy telling you that his father died makes it a secret when it was probably published in the paper.

    Now I guess according to your school's rules, what you could keep secret are anything else he tells you about how his family is coping or how he feels. The actual death though should not be a secret.
     
  9. CanukTeacher

    CanukTeacher Comrade

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    If your school doesn't normally share, you can't share without putting yourself at risk. Don't share. Do talk to the mom. You could also talk to the student about his grades.
     
  10. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    You can check with your school, but I don't think that telling teachers that his father died would be breaking that trust. Like a previous poster said, that would be public knowledge and was probably published in a newspaper. And he didn't even tell you that his father died, the head of guidance did, so you can't be breaking his trust. I wouldn't go into detail, but might tell the teachers something like "Did you know Joe's dad died recently? I noticed his grades were going down. I know he's a really private person but I thougt it might be helpful for you to know that information." Or you can call and get the moms permission to share that information with his teachers.
     
  11. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Welcome.:)
    I agree with Alice.
    Dad's passing obviously took a toll on the poor guy. Talk with him MORE than usual, to help him ease the pain of losing his Dad. Can you meet with both him and Mom at the same time? I hope that would be possible so they can both help each other out with this, and working out a plan for improving his work.
    You can make a positive difference without stepping on anyone's toes so go by the book, and place it in God's hands.
    Rebel1
     
  12. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I am bothered by the fact that a kid with a very high GPA could suddenly drastically alter his study habits and not one teacher has tried to help?!
     
  13. brigidy

    brigidy Comrade

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    I am still confused why the death of a parent is a secret kept from the teacher. Doesn't the teacher have access to information of the students they are teaching? That's basic information they should have on the student.
     
  14. Teacher Chele

    Teacher Chele Habitué

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    The teacher's deserve to know. They are with him all day. The Mom should have told them herself, but in a case like this, I say forget the rules and let's help this poor kid.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    We don't know that. All we know is that no teachers have spoken to the kid's guidance counselor. For all we know, they are already aware and have cut him some slack on their own.
     
  16. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Have you talked to the boy about his grades and that maybe he should consider letting you talk to the teachers?

    Also, I would be sort of surprised if none of the teachers knew. How are missed days handled in the highschool? Are notes needed to return to school or do parents need to call in. Why would a head guidance person tell the guidance counselor a child had a death in the family but not tell the teachers?
     
  17. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I'm on the side of caution. Alice and others have already echoed my thinking. I wanted to chime in though and tell you...welcome to atoz and everyone affilliated with education in any form including parents and students have come to these boards so you are definitely welcomed and you would add a wonderful perspective to these boards. I hope you find peace with whatever decision you make in this situation.
     
  18. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Okay, I am still thinking about this. Now, in my case the teachers would know because I would see to that. However, if I was shy or not involved or whatever reason, and my son was showing dropping grades, which appear to be because of his father passing, I, as the mom, would want to know. I would want to help my son heal and call his teachers or whatever seemed appropriate. I am not saying fix the grades or give in, I'm saying let me know as his mom. Goodness, the boy is only 16ish and his father passed. I agree not to go over his head and break school policy but I think a talk with the mother is needed.

    just my other 2 cents.
     
  19. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Can you download the ob and put it in mailboxes?? No one would know it was you.
     
  20. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    ummm.....Pardon me for being blunt but...screw the grades!!!!


    Above ALL ELSE.........This young man is trying to cope with some serious grief and loss issues. He needs some quality time with a therapist to help him work through the emotions that come with loosing a father. If his mother is doing the speed through the funeral thing, it's likely that she's not dealing with it either and she's making it even more difficult on him.

    Find a way to get this kid into regular counseling. When he starts coping with the loss, the grades will start to come back. If you only push the grades issue and don't deal with the underlying struggles, it will not work.


    As for teachers, they need to know. The first instinct will be to think that he is slacking off and to lean on him to perform if they don't understand why the performance is dropping. It's total crap that you're being directed to avoid sharing this information, but I still say the grades aren't the most important issue here. He needs help coping with this time and I suspect the mother does as well.
     
  21. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I have to say I would be ANGRY if someone kept this information from me about a student.

    Of course, if I had a kid slip that drastically, I would have called home or tried to figure out what was going on already.
     
  22. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    That's what I am saying, the grades are a sign that he is not coping. Mom needs to know and be involved if she can be. The P should know and the teachers should know. People need to help him.
     
  23. GCKAY

    GCKAY Rookie

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    Thanks for all of the advice. A few people had some questions so let's see...
    1.) A few people suggested to call his mom: This is what I am debating doing now...I didn't want to do this at first because as Muttling stated as the mom did the very fast wake/funeral thing it shows her difficulty in dealing with it as well, and I do not want to cause any more pain.
    2.) stephenpe- I agree with you, it shouldn't be a huge secret. The boy told me HE doesn't want his teachers to know which is the whole problem now.
    3.) mollydoll- I'm very bothered that no one has come to me as well. However for all I know one or more of his teachers could have asked HIM about his dropping grades and he said it was nothing or something to that affect. (I have asked him about this several times but he does not give a straight answer).
    4.) brigidy- The teachers generally do not have that information unless they ask, and even then if a student says "don't tell them" we're not supposed to tell them. I agree that they should but that's not the way it's run in our school--probably because we're so large it can sometimes get impersonal.

    As I said before it's very uncommon in our school for teachers to call home for bad grades so I'm quite sure none of his teachers have done that. Also, even if one teacher found out in some way the school is really so large that not all the teachers know each other/know who has what students and I don't think it would make it back to all of his teachers.

    I talked to my boss again today but again I was told not to say anything. I called the kid down to my office and what I got from him was this: 1. His mom offered him professional counseling (he told me) if he wants it. He doesn't. Right now I am trying to encourage this as I agree (some of you brought this up towards the end) that the bigger picture is how the kid is suffering. 2. He absolutely does not want his teachers to know, he doesn't want to be treated differently/with sympathy, etc. and 3. I told him how his teachers would be understanding about his grades if they knew and he said he would be able to get them back up on his own. and 4. He doesn't want me to talk to his mom because he feels his mom is having a hard enough time as it is. (However I AM allowed to call a parent even if a kid asks me not to, obviously.)

    I'm still at a loss for what to do and I don't have much time left before the last day.
     
  24. GCKAY

    GCKAY Rookie

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    Oh and I realized I missed a question...absences are handled through the office. All a parent has to do is call in and say their child is not coming in. Technically they are supposed to say why, sometimes they just don't and the kid doesn't get in trouble as long as a parent calls in and acknowledges their child isn't coming in. Kids are allowed 20 absences for the school year. Over 20 and they need a doctor's note, etc. something to "excuse" them. But either way, absences are handled with the office not the teachers. When the office is notified they take the student off of the day's attendance list and this is how a teacher knows they had a legitimate absence and the reason is not given to them and I think most teachers just assume (I probably would) it's a sick day if it's only 1, 2 or 3 days...
     
  25. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Hmmm, can you call the mom and give her your your condolences and then approach it in a way where you ask her what you might be able to do for Johnny to help him further? Tell her you have been meeting with him and that he is being strong and wants to keep this all in. You noticed his grades are lower and that it is not uncommon when someone suffers such a loss. You can ask her if Johnny has expressed concerns about people at school knowing or whatever...I don't know, but maybe approaching it as an informing-helping type call it will be easier.

    It has to be a horrible time for the mom of course but you know, if it was me, I would want to know. I don't know what I could do at the moment but I might know another father figure person, clergy, or someone who could help out.

    On another note, and I mean no disrespect, I think your school should rethink their procedures when a parent or family member of a student dies. From an outsiders standpoint, it sounds cold. I don't mean you GCKAY, you are the one trying, I'm talking the policy in general, it's not a good one.
     
  26. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Yes, I agree at the high school level.
     
  27. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    First off....You're on a GREAT track and you are doing right by this kid. You're not getting a lot of support in it, but you are finding ways to do what is right without disobeying a very direct order.

    Keep it up.

    Again, you're doing very well by thinking this out. Now consider this.....

    The mom is hurting, but other things you have said make it clear that she is willing to help her son. Work from that perspective.

    Call her when you have plenty of time to listen. She might hold that stiff upper lip and stay to the business of helping the boy which you can work with. She might also open up if you just listen and that will help her as well as the boy, but it will be time consuming.

    Be VERY careful in your choice of words and comments. Listen and ask questions more than anything else.

    Then do NOT tell them. Don't break that trust with him unless you feel you can really help him by doing so. If you need to break that trust to keep him from injuring himself it's one thing, if you're doing it because you think it's right for his grades then don't.

    He needs to come to terms with the fact that they need to know. He needs professional counseling. Breaking your trust with him will only hinder the situation.


    This is not an optional thing, you do need to talk to his mom for his well being. I would, however, note to his mom that he really wants to hide it in hopes that it will just go away and that telling him you called her is likely to make things worse at this point.

    I would call her with the attitude of "how do we get him into therapy"?

    After listening to her ideas, I would ask if she thought it would help if she told her son "I'd like to go, but I'm scared to go alone......will you come with me." This approach lets both of them feel they are going to support then other which is empowering. Niether of them want to seek help for themselves.


    Ultimately, the biggest key to success will be getting them to a good therapist. A good therapist can work wonders.

    On that note, do you know any PhD psychologists who are therapists? Especially one who specializes in teens. I would talk to them for help in dealing with this situation. If you don't know one, call one out of the phone book and ask for 30 minutes of their time. I'm betting that you can find one who would be happy to give you some suggestions.
     
  28. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Let me start of by saying...

    I'm HORRIFIED, that the school has a policy, with no "way out", that would put a 16 year old child who's going through possibly the worst emotional crisis a kid can go through, to make decisions that could possibly affect the trajectory of the rest of his life. There has to be SOME safety net, and this school is clearly not providing it by implementing this black and white policy. There are shades of gray, and this situation clearly falls into it. There should be some way for you to stage some sort of intervention. *sigh*.

    Now, that said, you can't, so where do you go from here? I agree with lemon. No matter what else is going on with me, my priority is always my children. No matter how much grief I was feeling, or how badly I was handling the situation, I would want to know if something was amiss with my children. I would be livid if I found out months or years later that somebody in the school knew what was going on and didn't call me. My children are my utmost priority, no matter what. I can always put aside my needs to attend to theirs. This mother is probably in the same boat.

    Given that, I would definitely call her. Before you call her, gather a list of resources for not just her son, but for her as well. You might not get a chance to offer them to her, but know what's out there just in case she wants to talk or reaches out for help herself. I think, given the school policy, that this is your only option, and your only chance of helping this young man.

    I wish you the best. You're obviously a great and caring guidance counselor.
     
  29. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I agree wholeheartedly with you Mutt. I disagree with those who say that the school policy should be changed. To me, this is an overarching guidance policy. The student has asked that the information not be disclosed, then the information should not be disclosed. (Obviously, there are legal exceptions to this rule.) The last thing you want to do is break this student's trust in you as the guidance counselor (that and go against what the head of your department has said twice).
     
  30. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    dflemming, I agree with the rule to a point. In the vast majority of cases, the rule is good, but there are times that should be excepted, and this is one of them. I disagree with ANY black and white rule when the lives of children are at stake. I wouldn't have an problem with a bunch of red tape to get around such a rule. Procedures designed to ensure that the rule doesn't get treated lightly are a good thing, but NO child, and a 16 year old is still a child, should be allowed to make decisions that could seriously, and negatively affect his future because he's not dealing with a horrible situation.

    I'm not saying that the GC should be able to go blabbing around what he said, but, particularly in a large school, children fall through the cracks. This rule, with no exceptions in place, makes it that much easier to lose yet another young person. She should, at the very least, be able to alert the teachers that "something" is going on, and that the student has requested that it stay private and doesn't want to be coddled or given special favors. Teachers should be professional enough to receive such information without prying further, either of the GC or of the student. If I was a teacher getting that type if information, I would simply make sure that I kept that student on my radar, and make sure that I was available if he reached out to me. I think the vast majority of other teachers would do the same thing.
     
  31. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    apparantly, YOU are the only one who is able to talk with the boy and his mom. I would definitely continue confering with the two of them...give him opportunity and time while you still have it.

    :hugs: and prayers for this poor kid and his mom.
     
  32. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    The policy I was referring to that needs to be changed is that if a family member dies, this school does not notify teachers. The head guidance counselor got this info and did not tell the teachers.

    This is a 16 year old boy who lost his father. He sees his teachers more than anyone else. I just think it is wrong. They should have been told the minute the head guidance person found out. This is just wrong.
     
  33. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    I'm trying to understand where this boy is coming from as it was his request that the truth be not told. Is he the type of kid who keeps to himself?

    If he's a shy kid, I think it would tear him up if he teachers and fellow students were hovering over him giving their condolences throughout the school day. That would be very, very difficult for anyone; especially if he and his dad were very close. Apparantly, he just wants to be left alone without any commotion and attention, which I can totally understand; I can relate to that.

    And yet, on the other hand, I can't believe this has to be hush-hush!! That is a stupid school policy!

    I feel so bad for this kid! He needs love, compassion, space and yet the opportunity to talk with someone when he is ready.
     
  34. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Oh I just read what MMswm wrote. That is what I am saying. When my husband had his trauma in October, my middle schoolers P kept in contact with his teachers and checked on his well being. My little son went for a counselor check up a few times during the early days. Both the P and the counselor gave me periodic thumbs up. This was done discretely. Maybe it is different by me but I just feel like all these pieces and people are in place at schools to help families through things and I would assume a child is getting at least a little bit of support and that his or her teachers know.

    Heck, our counselors meet with kids who have sick brothers and sisters, parents who are going through divorce, kids who are having a hard time adjusting to a move etc.
     
  35. deazy86

    deazy86 Rookie

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    Hi GCKAY, I agree with Aliceacc - you should try something like that. All the best.
     
  36. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    Do you have a spare room in your basement? Is your school system hiring math nerds?
     
  37. GCKAY

    GCKAY Rookie

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    Hey everyone! I really wanted to update and let you all know what happened but I got SWAMPED with work and I had family staying over from out-of-state for a family party. But now, since everyone here was so helpful, I feel you all deserve to know what happened :).

    I called the mom- she was very nice and very helpful...she cried a little over the phone and it was a long conversation, my heart really goes out to her. She agreed to try to encourage counseling for her son more and she gave me permission to tell his teachers but asked that I wait for her to call me back first because she didn't want to (and I agreed) go behind her son's back--she said she would have a talk with him but would make him understand that his teachers needed to know. She called me back and told me he finally agreed on the condition that his teachers not mention to him they know or try to talk to him about it, etc. I passed this on to the teachers and they all agreed. Two of them said they thought something was up and asked him about it but he told them nothing was wrong. Anyway they cut him some slack and it did not have a huge impact on his final grades. He also agreed to go to a first counseling session with his mom but told her he'd see how it went if he'd continue going. I called him down but he was pretty tight lipped with me but I expected that. I just hope, now that he's on summer break, he has more time/opportunity to heal.

    Thanks for all your help:)
     
  38. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Thanks for the update!

    Muttling, my school does that as well. (But your commute would be tough.)

    We have counseling sessions for kids whose families are divorced/ divorcing, those who have lost a parent (we're close enough to Ground Zero that there are a LOT!!), kids whose siblings are disabled, kids whose family members (or the kids themselves) are facing addiction issues, and a bunch of other things.

    The meetings are discreet-- the kids get a guidance pass, just like kids do every day for a huge host of reasons.

    But, big picture: school isn't always the only thing going on in these kids' lives, and we need to acknowledge that.
     
  39. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    Glad to hear it GCKay!!! You done good.




    Not if you take in strays. I'm a good Mutt....I don't shed, I walk myself, and I don't pee on the carpet (most of the time.)


    And water is easy....

    [​IMG]

    Roger that
     
  40. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Thanks so much for the update. Dealing with a parent's death is a life changing event for anyone, especially a child.
     
  41. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    No to the basement but we do have a spare closet. Yes to the hiring of math nerds.
     

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