A week or so ago, I wrote a long post about what it is, exactly, that I do. I teach, of course, but it's so much more than that.
Last night, one of the duties required of me by law came rushing out like a freight train. I had to fulfill my duties as a mandated reporter.
Every time I've started a new teaching position, there have been endless stacks of forms to sign. The most important one is always the Mandated Reporter form--it is my acknowledgement of the laws regarding the reporting of known or suspected child abuse. To put it in simple terms, if I even suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, I have to report it. I could lose my job if I don't.
Last night, I was at Target and I saw a father grab his little girl. She cried and said, "Ow!" He replied, "If you fucking do that again, I will fucking rip your head off."
Needless to say, I was shocked. What do you do? We were in a public place, and I didn't know any of these people. I couldn't just call the police without having some kind of way to identify the people involved. So I froze. I stood there as the family walked away to another part of the store.
A few minutes later, I turned down another aisle, and there they were. I went about my shopping, walking past the little girl. She didn't seem any worse for the wear. She looked at me. Then she smiled and said, "Hi!"
That was when I realized that she was one of my first grade music students last year. I don't teach her anymore, but I do work at her school.
I emailed my boss last night, telling her, word for word and action for action, what I had seen. Mrs. Principal was out sick today, so she had Mrs. Assistant Principal (Mrs. AP) email me and we arranged that I would come to that school during my prep period (I'm at my other school site today) and try to identify the little girl. Mrs. Principal's words were, "This is scary!" Mrs. AP's response was, "OH MY! Come by today so we can figure out who she is!"
As soon as my first period class was over, I ran to my car and drove the five minutes to my other school site. Mrs. AP was covering a 2nd grade class for a little while, so I went out and got her key so I could visit each and every 2nd grade class. There are five, and of course, I didn't find the little girl until I went into the 5th classroom.
At least I found her. She grinned and said, "I saw you last night!"
"Yes, you did!" I pulled the teacher aside and whispered why I was there. I got the little girl's name and went back to the office to fill out the official form. It's a first in my teaching career, and probably not the last time, either.
I feel awful. NOT that I reported it. I will never feel regret at reporting a possible abuse towards a child. But I can't escape that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, having witnessed that scene at Target last night.