Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Gaslighting when dealing with student bullying, records and grading occurs far too frequently in schools. Parents and students need to be able to recognize it when it occurs.
Gaslighting Regarding Bullying
When bullying is occurring, gaslighting by schools can definitely happen, for example:
Staff deny student bullying has been ongoing despite multiple unrelated adults reporting it to the school office, to teachers and even to the Board of Education. The parents of the bullied student are never notified by the school that their child may be being bullied. When the parents find out, everyone brushes it off as the bully was the teacher and the teacher “would never do that.”
Despite reports of extreme racial epithets being stated to a student for months, the student hiding in the bathroom, and daily taunting which is easily verifiable, a school says they cannot verify the bullying is happening. Instead they try to discredit the student to their parent, acting as if the student is hysterical and delusional, not the target of gross and illegal bullying.
A school says they cannot address bullies as the bullied student does not know the names of the bullies, or forgot the exact date of the bullying. This may be despite the bullies being known classmates or the bullying being recorded on school video cameras.
When a student reports bullying with specifics to a school counselor, the counselor does nothing to protect the student or investigate. She says the knowledge she has of the continual abuse cannot be acted upon as it is “confidential.” The student continues to be targeted daily, and spirals downward into depression.
A school ignores parent and student complaints of bullying for months, doing nothing, and when the student takes matters into their own hands, punishes them.
Parents report bullying and the school denies it, accusing the student of lying.
Gaslighting in Grading
Student grading is another area where students and parents can face gaslighting, such as:
A teacher falsely informs a parent that a student is not turning in homework. The student is turning in their work and has proof (copies/pictures). The teacher gives the student “F’s” on the supposedly “missing” assignments. When copies of the previously turned-in assignments are given to the teacher, they still deny the work was turned in. The teacher gives the student all zeros (“0’s”) on the “missing” assignments, which negatively impacts the student’s final semester grade.
A teacher issues a class grade based not on the work a student actually did or the final examination, but based on their annoyance with the student they are grading.
A student receives much lower scores throughout the semester than they actually earned. Despite parent complaints, the inappropriate grades continue to be unaddressed. Eventually a low semester grade is issued. When reported, a school administrator protects the totally incompetent teacher, alleging the teacher is just old and not knowledgeable about computers. The school acts like the parent is being mean to the poor old teacher, who’s just a fuddy duddy… ugh.
A school removes a weighted grade and class from a student’s report card and transcript despite final grades being issued. The class is replaced with an unweighted class the student literally never took and the student’s grade point average (gpa) goes down. The school acts like the parents are wrong when they demand to have the grade and class put back on the report card.
A school alleges a student was cheating as their answer was too similar to the teacher’s answer, and gives them a “0” (zero) on the assignment. How else was a student to answer the questions, but provide the right answer?
Gaslighting Regarding Student Records
Student records and parent access to them can also be an area where parents experience gaslighting by school staff, such as:
The school denies parents copies of witness statements related to their child’s suspension. The school states they are not student records, despite the fact the parents are entitled to the records.
A school tells a parent certain student records don’t exist, when they actually do. The records are later revealed after an attorney requests them.
A school inserts into a student’s records many negative references to a student, making the student seem like a terrible person. The family is unaware of these insertions, as the student is never formally disciplined and the parents were never notified of any issues. Later, the school uses these to support more severe punishment to the student in an unrelated matter.
Student records which should exist, magically disappear, such as injury reports, bullying complaints, and parent reports of harm to a student on campus.
A school somehow completely loses a student’s entire educational file. This might be a mistake or it might not.
Unfortunately, it does not look like gaslighting or lying will ever go away in schools.
Michelle Ball is a student representative and lawyer, who has been assisting students since 1995. As an attorney in the California state capital, she can help parents and students throughout the state, in Redding, San Luis Obispo, Woodland, Vacaville, Tracy, and many more areas.
More on Gaslighting: Gaslighting By School Staff: Is Honesty A Lost Value?