When schools are in session and during the summer holiday, students wait at the kindergarten after school, not attending classes, but playing in the schoolyard until their parents pick them up after work. Until recently, included in the mix of children was the school director’s daughter. An aggressive and undisciplined child, Melih has a tendency to start fights with other children, calling them obscene names and threatening to break the legs of anyone who does not obey her.
Unfortunately, there are no teachers supervising the older children. They are left on their own for hours at a time. When my son plays outside in the yard, I either sit outside on our patio to keep an eye on them or watch out of our living room window while I work. Several times the children have come to me, complaining about Melih’s behavior. I am not associated with the school and I told them that they should go directly to the director with their complaints. They said they did this many times and were told they had to include Melih in their games and be nice to her at all times. Apparently, the director did not want to hear about any problems. After overhearing Melih talk to my son using particularly foul language, I spoke to the director about the situation, but she coldly shrugged it off, saying that there was nothing wrong with her son’s mode of speech and that my son should simply ignore her if he was bothered by it.
Shortly after that, I noticed Melih burying something in the sand pile in the schoolyard where the kindergarten children played. After he left, my son and I went to investigate, discovering that he had buried two small, very sharp knives in the sand. We took them to the director and told her where we had found them and that her son had buried them there on purpose. If the younger children had jumped in the sand pile and dug in with their hands, they could have been seriously injured. Again, the director shrugged it off, saying Melih must have forgotten to bring them back inside. After this, my son tried his best to avoid Melih, instead spending time with the other children, some of whom came onto our patio to sit and talk. Melih never tried to join in, which I thought was just as well.
Things went along as usual for a while, until a few weeks later when I came home to find Melih in our garden with our shovel in her hands, trying to hit one of the street cats that have taken up residence in our yard. Furious, I dropped my grocery bags and ran onto the patio, yelling at her in both Turkish and English to stop immediately. It was then that I noticed that all the glass candleholders that were on our patio table were strewn across the garden, stomped to pieces in the grass. All the cat food and water for the street cats were also thrown into garden. Poles used to tie our plants upright were ripped out of the ground and laying in the schoolyard. My son’s toys that had been stored safely on the patio the night before were missing.
Realizing he had been caught in the act, Melih tried to run through the gate, yelling, “I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do it!” Enraged by his blatant lying, I automatically reached out and grabbed his ear, as I had seen the teachers at the school do repeatedly, yelling at him in Turkish to turn around and clean up the mess he had just made. Reluctantly, he began slowly to pick up some of the pieces while insisting that she had done nothing wrong, even at one point insisting that he had not even been in our garden, apparently overlooking the fact that I had found him there.
Suddenly, a heavyset woman came onto my patio, claiming to be a teacher at the school, although I had no idea who she was. She pulled Melih to her and said the boy had done nothing wrong. At this point, Melih, realizing he had an ally, began screaming that I had been beating him with my fists. The teacher then began shoving me, threatening to report me to the police for beating Melih. As my anger grew at the way Melih had lied, I told the woman if she wanted, I would be happy to call the police and file a report about her trespassing and assault and then filing a complaint against Melih for trespassing, vandalism and theft. Shoving me roughly aside, the woman pulled Melih off the patio and into the school.
A few moments later, her mother appeared, screaming as she ran across the schoolyard, accusing me of beating up her child and threatening to call the police. I pointed to my yard, littered with the remains of what had been on the patio, and I again offered to make the call to the police to report the vandalism and theft and perhaps even place a call the local school board to find out why children are left unattended for hours there. “My son can do whatever she wants,” the director yelled, “including coming into your yard!” With that, she turned and stormed back into the school, followed by staff who had come to see what was happening.
Of course, neighbors in my building heard the exchanges and came to find out what happened. No one was surprised, saying that Melih had continually caused problems, was completely undisciplined and only cared about himself. They even said he was the reason cited by previous tenants for moving out. Complaints had been lodged with the landlord, who also owns the property housing the school. He had spoken many times to the director, but apparently without success.
I have since asked the director three times to come, have a glass of tea and let us calmly discuss what happened and try to find a solution. So far, she has refused. The children were told by the teachers that they are not to play with my son because we complained about the school to the landlord. The landlord did have the director agree that Melih can no longer come to the lower level of the schoolyard, near the apartments, but I often see him unsupervised, wandering wherever he wants until he realizes I am home, which sends him scurrying back into the building. No apologies or explanations have ever been offered, and I know better than to expect relations to improve. From my perspective, the director has succeeded in raising a child who will probably never take responsibility for his actions, who feels lying is acceptable and who thinks nothing of stealing and destroying property. It’s a sad legacy.