Writing by

Tania Melnyczuk

When parents fail to report the school’s abuse

When parents fail to report the school’s abuse

Photo by Adalia Botha (edited by me)

Either the classroom is wrong for the child, or the child is too ill to be in the classroom. If we’re medicating children, it should be to treat the illness for which they’re being kept home or in hospital. We shouldn’t be medicating children for the convenience of the school.

Tania Melnyczuk

“I disagree,” said one mother when I introduced this idea. “My son, who takes meds, enjoys being in the classroom, but concurrently has challenges being in the school/class. Granted, he’s done somewhat better with online learning, but school work isn’t getting done. Monotony. If school, assuming it is decent and caring, is the best place for the child, meds can produce really positive long term outcomes. We work with a pediatric hospital’s pediatric psychiatry. They’ve been extremely careful with diagnistics and prescribing.” She later went on to explain that everything was done in consultation with her son, and he made the choices.

Here’s a difference: In order to cope in a more noisy setting, I need to take magnesium and potassium and other things, because my body needs magnesium and potassium anyway, and the sound sensitivity is just one of the symptoms of my tendency to become deficient. But if psychiatrists are prescribing risperidone to keep me calm in the noisy environment, and this contributes to my potassium and magnesium depletion, then in their ignorance they are doing harm. And this happens to children all the time.

So let’s go back to the original problem. There are SEN schools in my country where parents are forced to put children on risperidone and methylphenidate, otherwise the children aren’t allowed at school. They drug them for the convenience of the school. Once a child became so hypokalaemic and hypomagnesaemic that she collapsed in class with hypokalaemic periodic paralysis. Another child developed seizures after he started taking the methylphenidate. The school worked with a psychiatrist to prescribe this standard cocktail to all the autistic children.

Chemical restraint is illegal, but parents are afraid to report. There is a lot of child abuse happening in autism schools in my country, and people would rather just take the kid out of the school and not testify even anonymously, because they are so afraid of the perpetrators.

And when I say a lot of child abuse, I don’t mean just chemical restraint, I also mean tying children up, withholding food, beatings for incontinence, and the list goes on. And because frightened parents who take their children out of school so often clam up and move on, the next intake of children are harmed because their parents don’t know yet what happens in that school, and the same abusers continue abusing new children.

There are times I really despise it when people only love their own children but who won’t do anything to save other children from the same trauma. There are a lot of people in South Africa who are keeping quiet about child abuse in schools.

My son was irreparably harmed because three other mothers did not report the harm done to their children in school. They called me when they heard what happened to my son. I will never forgive them.

Kerima Cevik