Teachers Share Stories Of 'Red Flag' Students And What They Did To Help.

Teachers do more than just recite the curriculum out loud to students. Sometimes, they're the first line of defence when something has gone terribly wrong.


This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.

1/10. I had a high school student who was a well-known white supremacist wear a bulletproof vest to school one day.

I quietly called the administration to come take him from class. His father complained: "Where in the dress code does it say he can't wear a bulletproof vest?"

That was a big red flag. Later that year, this same kid was expelled for extorting money from other kids by threatening them with a screwdriver. A year later, that student got shot in the face and lost part of his nose. He's now in prison.


2/10. I was teaching Freshman English. There was a very good student, female, 23 or so. Really bright and engaged. Frankly, it was nice to have someone other than 18-year-olds in the class.

She consistently participated and was the best part of the class for me personally.

And then one day, she actually totally vanished. Just stopped coming. Two weeks went by. Not a peep. Then one day she showed up, apologizing for missing so much time. By rule, she'd already failed the class, but I sensed something was awry, so I asked what was wrong.

She burst into tears and told me that her boyfriend had been abusive. She showed me the bruises on her arms and legs. It was awful. Of course, I talked her into letting me call the police and I sent her to university-provided counselling.

It got worse. I asked the jerk department-chair what to do about her grade. He ordered me to kick her out of my class. "Oh god, anything but that," I pleaded.

But he was firm. If I didn't kick her out, he would. "You're not doing her any favors by letting her fail," he said. And so, in one of the hardest conversations I will ever have, I told her to withdraw so I didn't have to fail her. She dropped all her classes shortly thereafter and disappeared from campus. (continued...)

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A few years later, I was working a soulless corporate job in another city. My old English department secretary emailed me and told me a former student was trying to contact me. It was her. She'd finally finished school, and she wanted to let me know. It was a moment of pure joy.

And to give the guy his due, the department chair had been absolutely right. She told me dropping out had actually forced her to confront the issues in her life and fix them.


3/10. I had a kid my first or second year of teaching so this was 1995-96 who was pretty scary. I teach English. He was just a jerk; had an excuse for everything, tried to bully other kids, when we had discussions about literature he wanted to derail the conversation into creepy territory. The kid was just off.

At parent conference time, mom came in, and I was careful to say some positive things. Him derailing conversations because "creativity," for example.

The Mom cried and told me no one had ever said anything positive about her kid, before me. She even wrote me a thank you note. I also covered the aspects of his behavior that concerned me, of course.

After high school he got arrested for theft, drugs, and assault and is now in jail. Just because you see the red flag doesnt mean theres anything you can do.


4/10. A bit different from some of the others, but I once taught a class of 30 "at risk" 4th graders. They were getting supplementary math lessons, as they were failing their regular math class, and it was rough.

It was one of those schools where they have metal detectors at every entrance. On multiple occasions I broke up rather terrifying fights. I was an untrained and unqualified teacher. I actually completely missed the "red flag." (continued...)

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One kid, I'll call him Darron, was really well behaved. I never had to say anything to get him to sit down, stop hitting other students, stop throwing things, or any of a number of disruptive activities going on in the classroom.

In fact, he never did much at all. He spent most of the time dozing off or barely listening, leaning forward and resting his head in his hands. I didn't think anything of it, as the rest of the class was so much for disruptive and destructive, I was spending most of my time and energy just keeping them under control.

Well, it turns out Darron was quiet and sleepy during class because his house burned down at the start of the school year. The fire killed his grandma (who had raised him) and his dog.

He was sent to live with his cousins - 12 people who lived in a very small house with nowhere close to enough bedrooms to be legally occupied the way it was.

Darron had been depressed and having problems sleeping (sharing a room with his cousins) for the entire year, by the time I found out what happened. I only learned on the last day of school.

I'm sorry I didn't know, Darron. I'm sorry I didn't notice you were having problems.


5/10. I'm a 7th grade English teacher. Last year I had a student who I'll call Mark. I knew Mark had a lot of issues before I even met him by just looking at his record.

Mark was almost 16, learning disabled, and he had not one but two traumatic brain injuries. These injuries are the reason why I believe Mark had no common sense and no filter, but it in no way excuses the events I'm about to describe.

I did the best I could to prevent all this from happening, and it still makes me mad to this day that my warnings were ignored by the administration. (continued...)

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Toward the middle of the year, Mark started "dating" a girl (let's call her Sue). They had me for the same class period, but they broke up after a few weeks. After Sue broke up with him Mark became obsessed with her, following her to all of her classes, harassing her on social media and in school.

I emailed the Principal and guidance counsellors about Marks harassment, and the school established a no-contact contract between them (sort of like a middle school version of a restraining order). But Marks inappropriate behavior did not end there.

A couple weeks later, I was out for a doctor appointment when I get an email from the Principal at my school saying Mark has been suspended out of school for a 10 days. A student only gets 10 days if they're about to be expelled, and I was freaking out thinking that he had done something to Sue.

Sue was fine, but Mark, as a "prank", had pulled down the pants and underwear of a kid in front of the entire class.

I'd had enough. I went to the Principal directly to write a statement about Marks escalating pattern of behavior to ensure his expulsion.

Long story short, the board decided not to expel him. They said it wasn't in Marks interest.

Flash forward about a month. One day Mark is absent, which is weird because he's never absent. Later, I get an email saying he's transferred to another school in our county. I'm wondering what happened to him, so I reach out to his other teachers to see if they know anything.

What happened was Mark was "playing around" with a kid and pushed him into a metal filing cabinet, causing head injury. We later found out this injury resulted in irreversible brain damage for this kid. He spent the rest of the year being homeschooled and is still in rehabilitation. After this, Marks mom immediately transferred him to another school to avoid his expulsion. To my knowledge, he's never faced repercussions for what he did.

I was furious. This poor kids life has been ruined forever and I blame the schools as much as I blame Mark.


6/10. I worked at an elementary school for a few years and there was this kid I swore was a sociopath. (continued...)

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He was very smart and manipulative, but he also gave me the creeps. He would often find ways to hurt kids by getting other children to do his dirty work. He was so good at spinning this manipulative web of lies, that the children would blame each other, leaving him completely out of it.

Even when he was caught red-handed (which wasn't often), he would deny it. For whatever reason the principal had a soft spot for him, so he never got in trouble for anything that he did and the principal saw him as the victim. I won't be surprised in the slightest if I see that kid in the news some day.

There was one other red flag where for one assignment he wrote about how he was happy his dog died. That got shown to a counsellor and hopefully he got some help.


7/10. I teach arts and crafts class. I had an 11-year-old student who was terrible at using scissors and couldn't thread a needle. She had very high grades academically but something didn't seem quite right.

I recommended she receive special assistance and a referral, and it turned out after testing that she had very little spatial awareness and almost no hand-eye coordination.

After calling the parents in, we found that her mother was paralyzed and in a wheelchair (only dad had come to parent interviews), and dad was very busy working to support them both. So no one had ever played any physical games or activities with her. She hadn't developed any spatial awareness, and was intelligent enough to hide these shortcomings for a long time.

Not a difficult fix (lots of time doing crafts, throwing and catching balls, that kind of thing needed), but something that could have really held her back in the future.


8/10. I had a student ask me if I had any old glasses frames she could have, because hers broke. I knew she was in the foster care system, so I asked her why her foster mom couldn't get her some new ones. (continued...)

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She told me that her foster mom said she could only get new frames every four years, which made her sad because her real daughter had just gotten a second set of frames that year.

I had noticed several other things (the student asked me if I had any extra female hygiene supplies so she could have some at night, so I sent her to the nurse to get extras) that seemed like they should have been covered by the state.

I reported this, and it turned out that the foster mom was clearly not providing basic necessities for either of her foster kids. She was instead taking the money she was given for their care and spending it on her own family. I was really glad I went with my gut.


9/10. Once had a parent find out that a) I'm gay, and b) I have some music industry contacts. They immediately offered me " unlimited, unsupervised access" to their 16-year-old son in exchange for helping him break into the music business.

I was 35 at the time. I reported them immediately.


10/10. I was a 2nd grade teacher and I once had a little boy in my class who would go full 'redrum' and draw crazy things on his dry-erase board.

He would write things like "kill!" next to images of dead classmates. When I took him aside to ask the student why he was writing these things, he just replied with "she's telling me to do it, Miss."

The scariest part was that this boy was obviously absolutely terrified. He truly didn't want to write/draw any of these things but felt obligated by this "woman."

After talking with his parents (who frankly seemed embarrassed rather than concerned) I recommended him for a psych evaluation. It turned out he had severe schizophrenia, the poor thing.

If you don't speak up, you can't get people the help they need.



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