It has been a little while since I have posted. It seems like life is always happening. There is always something more important or more demanding that impedes my desire to be out here chronicling and venting. Here lately, the trials and tribulations of my youngest have overtaken the family again. I will just focus on one incident for today and will make it a point to get to some of the others where she is concerned because we are advancing in our understanding of ADHD, of how the school fits into her struggles and how we are getting her additional help, because as you will see below, she has started a downward spiral in a big way – one which we have to stop NOW before she gets further into her teens.
As you may recall, my youngest (now 13), has battled with ADHD for most of her life. She has her ups and downs; and here towards the end of the school year experienced the beginning of a downward spiral. We have literally been living our own personal soap opera around here. It began with a crush. And like some teenage girls, she was not shy about letting her feelings be known to anyone who showed an interest in the subject. Instagram, her social media of choice since she is not allowed to have a Facebook account, became the platform in which to display her beacon of unrequited love for a certain young man. This certain young man did not appreciate the public beacon and sent her a very nasty text message to let her know about his disapproval of her actions. Lacking impulse control, my daughter returned the volley of age inappropriate language and insults and in her vast wisdom decided to do the only thing she could think was in her power to do: Retaliate. On Instagram. *sigh*
Ok, so some immature posting of “I hate so and so” or “I have a crush on blah blah – Just kidding” seems like no big deal right? Well, if that were the extent of it, then I would agree. However, what transpired was far more dramatic. She carefully reasoned (please read that with dripping sarcasm) that if he did not return feelings for her, he must be into his own gender. She publicly stated such on Instagram. *sigh*
Thankfully, we parents were alerted to what was going on because her behavior changed drastically. She was emotional, she was secretive, she was also very disrespectful and lost her phone for a day because of it. While the phone was in our possession, we were alerted by a teacher that she was crying in class. At that point we went through her texts and onto her Instagram account to see what going on… sure enough it was all spelled out right there for us to see what was going on. Okay, no problem, we deleted the Instagram account for improper use and counseled her on how to properly express feelings in a manner that would not be so shocking when she may experience rejection (i.e. not to do it quite so publicly) and how to properly deal with a broken heart (i.e. singing loudly and poorly along with Pitch Perfect and Rock of Ages while painting our nails and eating inordinate amounts of ice cream – hence why I now need to run 5k every other day). We thought we had this whole situation back on track. She got her phone back on Monday and off to school she went in a better frame of mind to deal with the situation she had put herself in. Then I got the call from school.
This is the call that every parent dreads – although I didn’t exactly understand it at the time. The Vice Principal (VP) calls and says, “I have your daughter here and we have her phone. Are you aware of what is on her phone?” I told her I was aware and asked her why she had my daughter’s phone – did she have it out in school? “No, she didn’t have it out in school. You need to come to the school though, she is with a Resource Officer.” Now, at the time, this statement did not register with me. I was too busy trying to rationalize why some bad language on my daughter’s phone had become such a monumental issue when the texts and Instagram posts hadn’t occurred during school and she didn’t have her phone out inappropriately at school. None-the-less, I told her I would be there as quickly as possible and called the other parents and told them to hightail it out of work and to the school (a good 45 min to an hour drive for them). I made my way to the school and walked in to find a Sheriff speaking to my daughter and holding her phone. My hackles went up immediately. To say I was startled and pissed was an understatement. Pissed that a Sheriff was questioning my daughter without one of us parents present, pissed to know what my daughter could have done that a Sheriff was even necessary, and pissed that VP hadn’t made it clear to me that “Resource Officer” meant “Sheriff.” People had some ‘splainin’ to do PRONTO!
VP indicated a student reported seeing a picture my daughter posted to Instagram that was unsuitable for minors and that because said student used the term “boy” to describe the participants of the picture, she had a responsibility to call the Sheriff’s Department and report it. Sheriff requested permission to search phone. At this time, daughter’s parents were still on their way, and were only marginally aware, as I was myself, of what was going on. I knew there was nothing on the phone like was being described to me as we had been through her phone when it was in our possession, and we went through that thing with a fine toothed comb after we saw the language she had been using. Even though I knew there was nothing there to suggest that she had anything like that on the phone currently (because I wasn’t ruling out the possibility that it had been on there and deleted before we took the phone into our possession), I wasn’t going to help the Sheriff do her job – I told her if she wanted to search the phone that she could get a warrant, and oh, by the way, she needed to stop talking to my daughter. Since none of this happened at school or during school, the VP decided that no action would be taken by the school, they would let the Sheriff’s Office handle the incident.
2 days later, another Officer appeared on my doorstep to serve a search warrant on the house for possession of – wait for it – CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. I’m thinking to myself, this cannot be for real (along with a string of arguably appropriate language for that situation that is not appropriate to post here). I asked him to see the search warrant before I let him in. He said, as he was standing on my doorstep, that he was just there for my daughter’s computer; yet as I looked at the warrant in my hand it listed all electronic devices, storage and media. Basically they could take anything electronic in the house or anything electronic files were stored on. I eyeballed him for a moment and then said, “You realize that is not what this warrant says.” He said he was aware of that and that they had gotten it written broadly in case I “gave them any more trouble.” So my requiring them to obtain a search warrant before I would allow them to search my daughter’s phone was apparently deemed, “trouble.”
Now, when we came home from the school that day, I had immediately searched my daughter’s computer and had found nothing on it. I went through her files, pictures and even her browser history. There was nothing on it that, as far as I aware was illegal, and even the age appropriate questionableness wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting to find. I invited the Officer in and retrieved the computer and gave it to him. He had some questions as to the back story (i.e. wanting to understand how this situation escalated – it was apparently related to the retaliation for the heart break). I relayed what we knew and how we knew it, but again indicated that nothing we had seen on the phone or computer indicated she was involved with CHILD PORNOGRAPHY for goodness sake. (I realize that now every time someone searches for CHILD PORNOGRAPHY) my blog post is going to appear… I’m sure I will be THRILLED to see the increase in traffic to my site (in actuality, this depresses me greatly, but I’m trying to find a silver lining here!).
True to his word, once he had my daughter’s computer he vacated and we haven’t heard from them since. Who knows if we’ll ever get the phone or computer back. Either way, my daughter won’t see the internet unsupervised for a VERY LONG TIME and she won’t have a cell phone again until she is 16.
We sought a lawyer after the search warrant incident and were reassured that it was very unlikely that we would see any charges brought. It sounded like this was retaliation for the retaliation. Needless to say it was stressful and scary to go through. The days of technology have apparently given scorned women everywhere access to reach further and humiliate more publicly both their targets and unfortunately, also themselves. There are lessons to be learned here.
Lesson #1: Once something is out on the internet, it is always there even if it is removed. People can take screen shots and post and re-post and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. This includes texts and emails (and blog posts).
Lesson #2: Retaliation is never a good idea and you often bring even more misery upon yourself (or your family) in one way or another. Learn to let things go – you’ll be much happier.
Lesson 3#: Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them.
Lesson #4: Take the time to teach your children about the pitfalls of using technology. If you don’t know them, learn them, and talk to your kids about them.