When Karen Eubank’s son first complained about his “mean” teacher, she took it with a grain of salt. “Usually ‘mean’ just means a teacher makes you study, is demanding, or wants you to answer questions,” says the Dallas, TX mom. “Not that [the teacher’s] being verbally abusive.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it meant. Eubank had transferred her son from a private school to a new charter that a friend recommended. During the tour, Eubank fell in love with the school — there was a garden, they played music at lunch, the school was “just beautiful,” she says.
But after the school year began, her fourth grader began saying that he didn’t want to go to school. Every day before school, he claimed he felt nauseated. Every afternoon at pickup, he was angry. Eubank assumed the boy was just adjusting to his new school. It wasn’t until Halloween that Eubanks discovered the chilling truth. She asked a child in the class next door to her son’s how he liked school. He replied it that he was fine, but that her son “wasn’t having such a good time.” The teacher, the boy told her, “yells at him all the time and we can hear it in the next room.”
Eubank set up meetings — first with the teacher — who insisted the problem was her son’s inattentiveness — and then the principal — who refused to do anything. “They both pulled me in to say they were worried about my kid,” she says, “that he couldn’t pay attention, couldn’t focus. They were both basically hinting that my son needed medication.” Taking respected education professionals at their word, Eubank took her son for a psychological evaluation at Baylor University and learned there was nothing wrong with him.
An active school volunteer, Eubank chatted up other parents who all noted that her son’s teacher never smiled. Meanwhile, her son shared more detail about his teacher. “‘She picks on me and is mean,’ he told me,” says Eubank. “‘I pay attention,’ he insisted, ‘but I look out the window because I’d rather look at trees and listen than look at her angry face.’” But when her son looked out the window, the teacher would regularly humiliate him in front of the other students, yelling at him and slamming her hand on his desk.