There are sad stories then there are ones that absolutely break your heart. While some children enjoy a happy and healthy family, good schools, and three square meals, others are not so lucky. These teachers share their surprising and tragic stories of otherwise good kids in unfortunate home situations.
"I once worked in a kindergarten. We had this girl who would just gorge herself at lunch every day (luckily school lunches are free in my country).
She was 5 years old and would just eat plate after plate of porridge. We had to stop her just so she wouldn't puke.
Once I opened her backpack and found a syringe in there. That was a rough day, but even rougher was the one when CPS gave her back to her addict parents. I would do anything to know whatever happened to that poor, little girl."
"I once saw a student beaten in the street outside of school at dismissal. The student had forgotten his backpack at home. The mom was upset that she had to bring it to him. So she beat him with a belt as he walked. In front of all of his friends and all the other parents and teachers. She was screaming 'You embarrass me? Now I embarrass you.' We ran after her and called the police and social services. The child stayed in the home. He was in second grade. I still get choked up every time I think about it. One of the greatest regrets of my life. I didn't move fast enough. I stood in frozen horror for a moment before acting. It was terrible."
"The only time I shoplifted was when I was a kid and starving from not being fed by my parents. After I was caught, the store detective and manager let me go. They mentioned contacting the police and I think the sheer look of terror on the face of a scrawny kid, unkept and dressed in hand-me-downs convinced them otherwise. I'm thankful because that would've meant another brutal beating from my father.
I remember my mother taking me to the doctor and being told that I was malnourished. At the time I thought this was just a normal thing kids got, like the flu or something. It wasn't until much later in my life that I realized that this was a symptom of neglect.
While my mom was a rather large, almost obese lady, I was always rake thin. She lamented about never having anything to other than a few slices of toast per day. I mean, this could have been a glandular problem but whatever.
I've been in touch with the few people who were nice to me at school via Facebook. They've told me it was really obvious that I had trouble at home - one girl said that they could see 'sadness in my eyes' - but I thought I was pretty much invisible at school and nobody noticed or cared."
"I taught a child, who at 3 years old already showed signs of abuse. For example, he had a panic attack once when we sat him at a red chair because to him it looked pink to him and as a boy was not allowed to have anything pink.
One day I saw a massive red and purple welt on his buttocks when we took him to the bathroom. We asked him about it, and he said 'Daddy did it' then got this look like he realized he messed up. Throughout the day he found excuses to explain to every adult he saw that he had fallen over, every time looking terribly anxious.
The injury was bad, but worse was watching him try to mitigate the damage he had done by accidentally telling the truth.
When his dad came to pick him up from daycare he would cry hysterically and refuse to go to his dad until someone physically took his hand and led him. It broke my heart one day when his name was called, he looked happy as a clam and walked to the classroom door, then as soon as he saw his dad he stopped, his face fell, he started whimpering and his bottom lip went, he backed away from the door trying as hard as possible not to cry so his dad didn't beat him for being 'soft'.
Again... this child is 3 years old."
"I've had one incident that stuck with me and I've only been teaching for five years.
It was an ongoing issue with one of the pupils in my homeroom group. He was very thin and I never saw him eating at lunch time. I'd just see him walking around. I'd started to slowly and subtly drop hints that I noticed he wasn't eating. He used to tell me 'He forgot his lunch money' and other excuses. In the end I knew his family were not well off and I went against school policy and gave him my own money each day for food, without telling school admin. After investigating, his family said they had him on a 'religious fast.' I asked how long the fast lasted for... 100 DAYS! He'd only be allowed one meal each day at five in the morning. I'm all about respecting religion, but starving a child for 100 days in the name of religion is extreme and neglectful."
"This one still haunts me to this day. I had a little boy who one day was crying in the bathroom. I went to assist him only to discover his rectum was bleeding profusely. He said he didn't want to play the game with mommy anymore and mommy made him and he got hurt. Not only did he have autism but he had a small younger sibling who had no idea that this wasn't normal. We had to call CPS but the mother still came to pick them up that day from school. There was nothing we could do to stop her. We later found out that the mother had been assaulting both kids and the father had no idea.
The mother later confessed after the father became watchful of the mother and questioned her. They are divorced now and he has sole custody of both children."
"I had an 8th grade male student whose dad was also a teacher at another nearby school (remember this for later). This student misbehaved badly at school (fights, being a total disruption the entire class, never did any work, etc...), but I could tell had a LOT of issues at home. Whenever he would misbehave in class I'd walk him outside to talk to him, he would blame it on his parents being divorced and his dad being mean to him.
In any case, fast-forward to parent teacher conferences, I was in my room, and he and his father came in. You could tell his dad was angry at the point (I'm sure a lot of negative reports from other teachers). It was actually making me kind of uncomfortable, so I was completely minimal about his behaviors, 'Oh yes he is chatty...' instead of the full truth. Dad finally asked me if his son sagged his pants at school, I didn't want to lie, so I said yes.
At that point the dad completely lost his mind on the boy and started punching him, so hard he went into the wall behind him. He kept beating his head into the wall. Mind you I'm a 5'7 145 pound female, so I tried to yell. Finally, it stopped, and they walked out immediately and the dad said he had more at home for him from his belt.
I was in absolute shock. It was by far the most violent/sad incident I had ever witnessed. I was even angrier when I realized two male cohorts in other classrooms nearby heard and didn't come running in.
Obviously I had to report it to the state hotline. I didn't want to since the dad absolutely terrified me, but as someone pointed out, he's a teacher and knows those are the rules.
I couldn't come into work the next morning it shook me so much. The boy ended up getting arrested at home for narcotics by his dad. I had a weird understanding that the son was doing those things to him on purpose.
All in all, it was a totally messed up situation. And lesson learned, I will never hold conferences in my room alone again."
"These are two students I have currently.
One is severely emotionally removed. Both parents just got out of jail and are homeless. He is unfocused during learning unless I have us doing a fun dance or game. He doesn't verbalize too much, but he is building my trust. He once was very angry walking to class after lunch. I noticed he looked upset and asked him what was going on. He was like, 'I'm hungry.' I said well you had lunch did you eat enough. He goes, 'Yeah, but I'll be hungry when I go home, and we don't have food.' I set up a snack drawer so now he can pick food out of whenever he wants to provide some security.
My other student just reeks of cat pee. It takes my breath away it's so foul. We wash her jacket at school. Filthy clothes. The student has come so far though in my room! So proud how she's a helper and tries her best. She needs redirection and reminders but is a good girl. Her kindergarten teacher is dumbfounded with her progress.
I teach first grade. It's only my fourth year, so I'm sure I will see some other cases if not worse. But for now I am just happy to see some growth in these students."
"I have seen a lot of these cases, but only one still makes me well up a bit. This girl was in and out of school for a couple of years. It was early in my career; I was subbing and doing short term replacements at the same school for those first couple of years. I didn't teach her regularly until her third year of high school when she was in a grade ten class. She was angry to be there. She showed up but hated it, made allusions to the fact that she was being forced to attend. I knew that her home situation was bad. In the years before a few of us would bring in food for her. I was told that the cupboards at home were bare. She seemed uncomfortable around men, so I brought in food and had someone else give it to her during that time. When I actually had her in my class I asked around and got the full story from a friend.
Her dad was a monster. Our guidance counselor had been in contact with Child Services during the years when the cupboards were bare. At some point the full story came out. Her dad had been peddling her to adult men. He would sell her to his friends, and may have been violating her himself. She eventually became pregnant. Horrified about this, and both poor and pretty uneducated about what her options were, she drank and did all manner of substances while pregnant. When the baby was born it was taken from her immediately and presumed to be severely FASD'd. Thing was, when she saw the baby she fell in love with it. She was in my class as a condition of her seeing the baby was that she attend school. Her attendance became sporadic after the first month, and she understandably was resistant to having any sort of conversation with me beyond class work. I never saw her again after the second month, and have no idea what happened to her. Tried to look her up on Facebook a couple of times, nothing.
The colleague who told me about this looked me dead in the eyes and said that if her father ever came into the school they would have to pull him off that monster."
"I worked with CPS but left last year because it was too much for me.
I had a girl whose family used her as a scapegoat and their punishment for her was to whip her feet. They routinely whipped the skin on her feet to the point she was crippled (muscle, nerve and bone damage). In care she underwent several surgeries to be able to walk again and now has severely scarred but usable feet
One summer, I worked a case where parents kept dipping their babies into boiling oil for 'punishment.' Two died. One boiled to the point he didn't die but had his arm amputated after being taken to the hospital by a family member. Others will be physically scarred for life.
Another case the parents passed after using and the toddler got out of the house. The boy ran into street and was killed as several cars hit him.
This in just one city in the southern United States."
"We had a foster mom in our neighborhood growing up. The house had four foster kids at any given time and a teenage daughter. The mother kicked the daughter out of the house because she refused to get pregnant so the mother could receive another check. She eventually lost all the children because she threw one of them down the stairs as a punishment. But that was after the oldest, around 12, threw himself in front of a truck on the highway."
"Before starting my studies to become a teacher, I worked in a kindergarten. Among the kids were a girl and her younger brother, aged five and four respectively.
They were both very sweet kids, though we had some minor behavioral issues with the brother, who was paralyzed from his waist down and was in a wheelchair.
Anyways, one day I'm eating with the kids, chatting about Legos and Star Wars, when the brother refuses to eat his lunch. After some failed attempts at convincing him to eat, I ask him, 'Abdi, what would your dad say when you won't eat your food?'
Little Abdi just shrugs and as casually as I've ever seen, says, 'Nothing, he just beats me.'
I was shocked. I immediately wrote down our interaction and took it to my boss, who informed me they had already opened an investigation with CPS about the abuse the two were experiencing at home. She then told me further details about what had been uncovered.
The kids lived alone with their father, a very nice and respectful man who I liked very much and had had many nice talks with. However, that didn't stop him from beating his kids with a cane, locking them in closets and burning them with lighters or irons. This man was torturing his own children in an attempt to 'discipline' them. Even his four-year-old paralyzed son.
For some reason the case was taking a while, as CPS were trying to educate the father and make their family work (the abuse was 'infrequent'), and at the end of that day I had to hand them over to him when he came to pick them up. I wanted to kill him, and I felt like a fool for knowingly letting them return to that environment.
Both kids were eventually taken away from their dad and put into an excellent foster home on a farm, where they've progressed wonderfully from what I've heard. Also, I got to testify against the father during the trial against him afterwards.
It still bothers me how nice the dad was. He seemed loving with his kids, and not in a deliberate way, and treated everyone with respect. I met him several times outside of work and never got any bad vibes from him. Apparently old 'habits' from Pakistan carried over. I've definitely been more alert about this stuff since then."
"I was a foreign English teacher working in South Korea.
I taught a little girl from the time she was in 3rd grade to 6th grade. From the very beginning it was obvious that she was malnourished and unloved at home. She was half the size of the other kids, always very dirty, constantly starving, and absolutely desperate for love. The Korean teachers all brushed it off that her dad was out of the picture, her mom was poor, and that her mom was also battling cancer.
But to me what made it obvious was that her two older sisters were well cared for and happy. But they wouldn't so much as look at their younger sister (despite both being really sweet girls). They were definitely brainwashed against her.
I would say it was apparent things were out of control when the little girl's hair started falling out in clumps, and the hair that didn't fall out turned white at the roots. This is a 10-year-old I'm talking about.
I did eventually go against my school's explicit instruction and report it, but Korea has a terrible system for child abuse, and she's still living in that home. I think about her every day."
"When I was a student teacher, I had this 3rd grade class. One little girl had been a victim of incest. I don't know the full story, but she would touch her privates in class. Pretty much all the time. This is a red flag because it was a way for her to escape reality. She would do it unconsciously, we tried making her aware of it, but nothing worked.
The social worker had described it as 'she moves around on her chair' and had closed the file. By the end of my internship, we finally managed to get a psychologist to come observe her in the classroom to corroborate that it was self-stimulation and get the file re-open. Poor little girl would act up on Fridays because she didn't want to go home to her father's."
"When I taught English in Japanese schools, I had these two siblings who were badly neglected and abused.
The oldest girl would come in with her hair matted and tangled and would complain of headaches and dizziness because she hadn't eaten anything since lunch the day before. Her white uniform shirt was always black with dirt, and her teeth were rotting and falling out.
The school tried reaching out to her mother (a single mom who worked nights at a 'cabaret' and left her kids alone to fend for themselves) but things only got worse.
CPS isn't really a thing in Japan (when kids get taken away they're always thrown into horrible group homes) so the school started taking care of the girl themselves. They washed her uniform when she was in gym clothes, saved her lunches to give her breakfast, combed her hair, and washed her up in the nurse's office.
Her younger brother started my last few months at the school, and he was just as neglected, but also physically abused by the mom's boyfriend who thought he was useless and stupid. The boyfriend would insult and berate the child in front of teachers constantly. We tried to monitor if he had any bruises or injuries, but the school was still convinced they could educate the parents on how to be better. I don't know what happened to these kids but I think about them constantly."
"I teach dance and I have this girl who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She might have other diagnoses but I'm not sure. Her name is Sally and she has lots of energy but refuses to do ballet. She will touch the other girls, scream, and bawl her eyes out. Much of this duress comes from bullying I presume. She says the kids at school are mean to her.
One week she was late because she got beat up on the bus. She says her siblings tell her no-one wants her, and they wish she was never born. She gets so upset when she messes up and says she can't do anything right, but her mom does everything perfect. It's pretty sad and sometimes I have to pry her off other girls because she is choking them or hugging their legs.
She just wants to feel like someone is paying attention to her and wants to feel important. The poor girl. She needs help and someone to love her."
"About 10 years ago I worked in a daycare. I was responsible for the class of 2-year-olds.
A new little girl was put in my class. She was as sweet as she could be. I noticed one day while changing her diaper that she had little red bumps around her privates. I wasn't sure whether I should put any kind of lotion or powder on her, so I went to my boss and asked her about it. She said that it was genital herpes. Apparently, her dad had violated her while she lived with him, and he had given her this disease which she now had to live with her entire life.
I was shocked, upset and heartbroken. For the rest of her life she would have to deal with this disease that would be a constant reminder of what this monster did. And she was only 2 years old! My mind just cannot really process how some people can do that kind of thing. I moved a few months later but have always wondered what happened to her and her disgusting father."