This past week was full of new experiences. One of my students, David (pseudonym used) got in to some trouble over the weekend with the local police and fire department. Long story short, he was unmedicated that day, angry over something that happened at school with a classmate, and decided to release his anger at home.
When he was absent on Monday, I called home to make sure he was OK. When his mom reported that he would be back the next day, all was well. A few hours later, she sent me an e-mail saying he will be out for the week, with no explanation. I assumed he was sick and went to the doctor. The next day I get a note from our lead counselor telling me to pack his things and post his grades as he has been withdrawn on behalf of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. That day after work, I got a call from his mother letting me know that he may be out longer than a week, but was not sure how long. During our conversation I discovered that she was unaware that he had been withdrawn from school and the emotional saga that ensued was heartbreaking. I have talked to her every day this week to provide a shoulder to lean on. I feel as though even though he is not technically my student, he is still my student.
I went to visit him on Saturday and was met with walls and walls of fencing, razor wire, guards, and an eerie vibe of fear and submissiveness. It took three trips to my car before I was allowed into the first gate to gain access to the front door of the lobby. Everything from my cell phone to my chap stick had to be left in my car. I was only allowed to bring in my wallet (no cash) and my car keys. I was immediately nervous and felt as though I was the one that was in trouble. As I nervously approached the front window to consent for a search, I was watched by every other adult in the waiting room. I was quickly told that only immediate family is allowed to visit inmates and that I could write a letter or call him on Monday.
I left feeling more worried about my student than before I came. I left wondering if he knew I was concerned about him, if he felt alone, and did he think I turned my back on him? David has a disorder which causes him to not trust others and I am one of the chosen few that he trusts. I worry this experience will cost our trust. On a brighter note, he is expected to be released in about a month and I am already developing a support plan for him upon his return.
Have you ever had a student that has served time in a youth detention facility? How would you have reacted in this situation?