This is a writing in progress subject to additions, edits, and updates. I welcome comments.
School refusal is a term used to describe the signs of anxiety a school-aged child has and their refusal to attend school. Let’s cut to the chase. Children who refuse to go to school are unable to attend. They are protecting themselves from a hostile environment. The term school refusal is designed to direct the blame and the shame at the children and on the parents. It assumes ability. It is an ableist term, in Cole’s opinion and in my own. It is also called school avoidance or school phobia. School refusal can be seen in different types of situations, including a complete drop out of the traditional school system (i.e. homeschool, unschool, no school). To put it bluntly, kids are scared of school because it is not safe or good for their overall well-being. It’s the opposite. In the workforce world it would be akin to a hostile work environment and we would be able to file civil rights claims and sue our employer in court for this adverse action. But children don’t have the same rights as adults. That’s a problem.
This hostile school environment issue should be obvious to anyone who has school age children. If it’s not, please wake up now. And spend your lifetime fighting for children to be safe out in your world. And in my world.
The truth is that most children are highly mentally aware of the world that is all around them. Many are sick or in the process of becoming sick. Others may not be sick, but they are not well because their fundamental rights are being violated across the board. And then they are blamed for not being able to hang in there OR hanging in there and fighting with their oppressors. Then they go to jail, and on and on. It’s called a school to prison pipeline and it isn’t just THOSE people’s children. They’re your children. They’re mine. They’re all of our children. That’s the truth. That’s reality.
In my school expert opinion, it has reached epidemic levels. We can all see the crisis, but few are calling it what it really is. I think of it as an informal, unorganized, unrecognized, children’s school strike and it is high time that the adults in our world take responsibility for our school system failing to work for our children so that they can keep their executives and lawyers employed. It is high time that we stand up for our children. In Colorado where I live and have been a policy expert at our State Education Agency I know that the actual impact of school trauma is not only leaving our children inadequately educated, we are experiencing an alarming volume of children who SHOULD BE identified in the special education process with serious emotional disability (SED), but instead we are a beautiful, sunny and visibly family friendly state filled with fires and uncontrollable violence (including gun violence), homelessness, substance use, and ultimately premature death. To me it looks and feels like a genocide.
At the heart of the matter is the fact that our children are being shamed and blamed (pushed) into dropping out of school. The children themselves are being wronged for their perceived failure to fit into or be able to tolerate a system that is not serving their needs. And their parents are also being blamed and shamed. We all need to wake up. The failure is not the children. The failure is the adults. Specifically, the failure is the adults running the schools. In Cole’s case, it’s a team of administrators led by a lawyer who oppressed him while a bunch of well meaning teacher stood by and let it happen to him.
Shame on us all.
For myself and for my own children, we understand that it isn’t just us (even though it feels like it is). This is a straightforward systemic children’s rights issue. Something must be done to turn this train all the way around. Our own individual advocacy for our children is inadequate. Children’s advocacy is being completely disregarded. Kids are being beat down. We are all getting a beat down. And the truth of the matter is that in our state it is common practice for our school district lawyers to settle special education violation cases for lump sums of money (if your family is privileged enough to be able to retain counsel). This is perpetuating a system of human rights violations.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Back to mourning my beautiful, brilliant, and wise child’s tragic death.
If you’d like to see more about my own children’s perspective on school trauma, please click this link to their Rocky Mountain PBS suicide stories from November 2020. https://www.rmpbs.org/blogs/lifelines/cole-and-mackenzies-story/
Here is an article about the school refusal epidemic/Children’s uprising from New York https://ny.chalkbeat.org/2022/5/17/23099461/school-refusal-nyc-schools-students-anxiety-depression-chronic-absenteeism
Be carefull. Be ruthfull. And be peacefull.