The loving mom of a boy with a hearing disability was worried about her son’s sadness, and even though he constantly told her nothing was wrong, she didn’t quite believe him.
Thinking some of the other children might be bullying her boy, the mother hid a voice recorder in his school bag, and what she discovered surprised and disgusted her.
June Lessing’s son David had been born hale and healthy, but as he grew, his mother noticed that something didn’t seem quite right with her baby boy. On one of their routine visits to the pediatrician, June and her husband were told David was partly deaf.
He would have to wear a hearing aid, and perhaps later he would need an implant. Other than that, the doctor told them, David was a bright, active little boy, who would lead a normal life.
But it was all too much for Mr. Lessing, and two weeks later he walked out on his family, leaving June to cope on her own. In order to give her special needs child everything he needed, June worked two jobs.
She saved up to get David the hearing aid he needed, and for speech therapy, and when David was five she enrolled him in a school that specialized in children with special needs.
The school was quite diverse, and June hoped her boy would find his niche, make friends, and be happy. Sadly, her hope was in vain. Within weeks, her normally cheerful little boy became despondent.
Something was wrong with her son, her mother’s instinct told her so.
What could be wrong? When June asked David what was wrong he replied that everything was fine. When she questioned him about the school he said he “liked it” then changed the subject.
Could David be the victim of bullying? The very worried June made an appointment to see Mrs. Harris, Davids’s teacher. Mrs. Harris reassured June that none of the children were mistreating or teasing David.
The teacher suggested to June that David might simply be going through an adjustment period. After all, it was his first experience with school. Mrs. Harris told June David was a bright boy, and would soon be back to normal.
June went home, but she wasn’t reassured. Something was wrong with her son, her mother’s instinct told her so. That evening, when David was asleep, June placed a small voice-activated recorder in his backpack.
Since David couldn’t or wouldn’t tell her what was wrong, she’d find out by herself. June waited anxiously for David to come home. He arrived, looking sad and tired, and took off his backpack.
“Baby,” said June, ” Mom’s fixed you your favorite snack. It’s in the kitchen!” David’s little face lit up and he ran off. leaving June alone with his backpack. With trembling hands, June found and activated the recorder.
At first, all she heard were the noises of running excited children, and occasionally someone greeting David, and him answering back. Then the tape went silent as the children entered the classroom.
June listened as Mrs. Harris greeted the children, and then she began the day’s lesson, which happened to be basic maths. Then June heard her son’s voice: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Harris, could you say that again?”
“Again?” Mrs. Harris snapped viciously, “No, I won’t! It’s not my problem that you’re hard of hearing! Pay attention!”
June had to sit down, she was so shocked. On the tape, she heard her son start to cry. “Stop your sniveling you little moron! And you’d better not go crying to your mother!”
Another child interrupted shyly: “I’m sorry Mrs. Harris, I didn’t hear it either and I’m not deaf.”
June couldn’t believe Mrs. Harris’ answer: “No, you’re not deaf Kenny, you’re just a freak! I’m so sick of you all! I’m leaving this freak show as soon as I can, believe me, so I can work with NORMAL children!”
Sickened, June was at the headmaster’s office first thing in the morning and played him the recording she’d made. The mas was stunned. “I can’t believe it! This is monstrous! Mrs. Harris has been here for six years and she was highly recommended.”
“But she was mistreating the children for those six years,” June commented, “And they were too afraid to say anything.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Lessing, this ends today.” And it did. The headmaster called in Mrs. Harris and played her the recording. She was so horrified at being found out that she nearly fainted.
By the end of the day she had resigned and left the school for parts unknown. The headmaster wrote a letter and sent a copy of the recording to the Department of Education to make sure she wouldn’t work with children again.
A week later, the children welcomed a new teacher, Mrs. Palmer. who proved to be a loving and kind woman. Under her care, David blossomed into the cheerful boy he’d always been.
He made amazing progress, and he was anxious to go to school every day. June was overjoyed at the change in her son and thanked God for her decision to place the recorder in his backpack.
What can we learn from June’s story?
1. Be aware of your children’s moods. When they are bullied or abused, children seldom if ever ‘tell,’ but a clue that something is wrong is a change in their behavior.
2. The abuser may be someone unexpected. Mrs. Harris had a sweet loving demeanor in front of the parents and her colleagues but changed into a monster with the children. People may not be who you think they are.
3. Every child deserves a safe and loving environment in which to grow and learn.
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