Educator-Parent Supports Options

Several weeks ago, we were contacted by a woman who sought educational options for her daughter who is experiencing relentless bullying at her local school. Even though she is an educator herself, the staff is unresponsive to the mom’s concerns and continues to place her daughter in stressful conditions.

Children deserve to have their educational needs met in a safe environment. They should not have to endure chronic harassment. Wealthy families can access options whenever needed, whereas low-income families can be effectively trapped. Educational opportunities keep children safe.

We encouraged this teacher-mom to write to Governor Sununu, and we are sharing her letter with permission.

Dear Governor Chris Sununu,

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter regarding bullying and school choice.

I have recently contacted Michelle Levell from School Choice for NH in hope to get some assistance in navigating the school choice system. After she heard my daughter’s experience in public schools she asked me to please write you a letter.

As an educator and a parent, I see our current school siltation from both angles. As you know, bullying is a big issue all over the United States. As an educator, I have noticed districts’ failures to call bullying bullying. An example is a boy being punched in the stomach repeatedly in 3rd grade.  Some school officials like to “sugar coat” this and say “well, it’s just them not knowing better.” Another way we are ignoring bullying is by “allowing” a behavior child to hit his or her classmates.  I’ve seen this far too often in my own job placements and in my daughter’s school. Many inclusions students are not ready to be included in the mainstream class rooms either because of lack of paraprofessionals or the fact that they simply cannot interact peacefully with others.

I’m a big advocate for inclusion, but we must interpret the IDEA laws properly. Many administrators feel that if a student is on an IEP, they cannot be disciplined in the same manner as others. This is false and very detrimental to our schools.

These above points bring me to my daughter’s story.  Lydia is a bright caring 7 year old. She learned to read when she was 4 and has continued her quest for knowledge, but our schools have let her down.  I started seeing some signs of the anxiety in kindergarten. I monitored it, but brushed it aside as “growing pains.” Then came 1st grade. I saw a huge change in my daughter. She started displaying signs of anxiety, both physically and mentally.  A while later I learned that Lydia was in a class with a disruptive student. I assume this child was on an IEP, but they could not inform me. This student hit my daughter on numerous occasions, and she was also spit on. Lydia wasn’t the only one who suffered these attacks, as this student hit others as well. The school did nothing and said they couldn’t discuss it. Also the class next to her has another disruptive student. On at least a weekly basis, that class had to evacuate their room into Lydia’s classroom. This usually interrupted an important lesson. It is not fair that one student’s behavior will affect the education of an entire class. This is where inclusion has failed!

Now fast forward to where we are now, second grade. Lydia started the school with things in place to help anxiety and she carried over a 504 plan which we started in first grade.

Lately my daughter has again displayed signs of anxiety and physical illness. She hyperventilates and cries before school daily and she is barely eating her breakfast. I knew something was going on at school.

It turns out my daughter was held in a choke-hold by a disruptive kid in her class. Her 504 clearly states that she is not to be placed with these kids who can’t control their behavior. The school knew about this student from first grade as he was the one who created chaos and had to get his room evacuated.

Mr. Governor, I’m a tax paying citizen and a dedicated educator. I want all kids to feel at ease at school.

I therefore support school choice and can be an active advocate for such a system.

I’m asking you to help me navigate this problem we are facing with my daughter’s schooling. I have another child who is medically complexed with an immune disorder and a birth defect.  I know there is only so much doctors can do to make my son 100% healthy. Unlike medical diagnoses like my son’s, bullying is something our schools can fix! Our schools can and should do whatever is needed to get my daughter healthy and happy again.

I am happy to talk to you via e-mail, phone, or in person, and look forward to not only getting my daughter into a school that can help her, but to help the thousands of others who are suffering from similar circumstances.



Virginia Hennighausen

Mom and educator