Inappropriate behaviours at school, fear of being expelled

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Posting for a 15 year old teenager, to whom I'll read and translate the answers. His motives and mine are different though, he says he wants to understand more than getting help (and I also think he's feeling alone in this), and I'm looking for ways to help him / improve the situation.

His current main problem is the fact his behaviours have started to go awry (again) in school, which has happened before, and ended up with him being expelled. He's terrified of it happening again and doesn't want to behave the way he does or get expelled, at all. He says he absolutely doesn't want to act this way, doesn't want to get expelled, sees himself getting out of control (no depersonalization though, apparently). He doesn't manage to... well, manage, his reactions.

I'll give the full run-down of his behaviours at school. I apologize in advance for the length : 1) i've never learnt to sum up and 2) i'm afraid of making you think over a situation only to tell you after « oh yeah actually these other informations could have been useful to you ». Feel free to read only certain sections, of course.

- He started middle school in a special education needs class inside a regular middle school. They're 16 pupils per class, have adapted teaching, different teachers as well (it's a disputed system)

- Pre-trauma, his behaviour was impeccable, always smiling / curious / respectful. Great skills as well.

- Trauma happened mid-6th grade. After that, the symptoms of PTSD took some time to develop (at school at least). It started in physical ed I think, where he got into fights with other pupils and could be disrespectful. Then he started to have unpredictable behaviours: hitting his head, throwing a table, panic attacks, self-harming, well you get the idea. He and us couldn't find any particular trigger. The year ended with very few school time since he was often hospitalized (he started taking some medication) or let at home to rest.
- The year started peacefully, even if he was very very tired and unable to focus. Then, after two/three weeks, he stopped taking his medication, and he started acting out again, but differently. There was refusal to work, refusal to obey, messing around (physical ed became impossible), and sometimes he froze completely in class. It depended of the classes though, it still went well in two/three of them. He shut off almost completely and refused to talk even to people he used to trust (he still doesn't know why at this day). He ended up insulting and spitting on one of the directors, which was the final straw to him being expelled.

- No school for two months, and then another school is found for him, with the same kind of special needs class. He starts with a scheduling accomodation : he only has schools in the mornings. Quickly, the director finds him another accomodation : two afternoons at another place where he can work in very small groups (physical ed / stitching). It's going very well at this other place.

- School time is gradually increased despite one big fright (a sentimental disappointment which made him completely lose control, he locked himself for hours, emergencies were called, etc etc). He ends the year with a full schedule, and everything goes well, he quickly found friends, had appropriate behaviour, participated in class, etc. (He kept on going to the « other place » at the same time, twice a week)
- The year starts well even if teachers notice he doesn't seem too happy.

- Since november/december, his behaviours have started to go awry again. I don't know why. He tells me that, before (when he was behaving properly), he was dead tired at school. Anyway, it started to go bad with some of his teachers. Then it spread to the others. Now, he doesn’t behave even with the teacher he trusted most last year. Basically, he doesn’t work anymore, sleeps on his table at best, answers a lot to teachers. It can go from verbal insolence (mainly inappropriate jokes, ending the teacher's sentence with something stupid...), to, lately, physical actions (throwing material, pushing a teacher on the wall while he was trying to have a word with him after class because the teacher was « trying to get him to stay » ; i’ve heard about threatening with a knife as well (during a cooking class), but it’s not been brought by the kid himself, and i really don’t know if he remembers or agrees with that; I'll ask him)

- I’ve asked him to narrate the start of a day at school, what he does, what he thinks. He arrives at school, goes with his friends ; he tells me he doesn’t think of class yet. When the ring bells, he tries to postpone it (his words), goes to the washroom, arrives late, hopes for the teacher to ask him to go and get a late slip (which doesn’t happen most of the time). Then he throws his bag, sometimes he gets his material out, but anyway he doesn’t work. Then, at best, he sleeps or doesn’t work (which ends up in detention anyway). Most of the time, he’s agitated (his teachers’ words), makes inappropriate jokes out loud, sometimes throws his material. He says it has nothing to do with the other kids, that there’s no « showing off » component, that he doesn’t care about the others in these moments. His focus seems to be on the teacher, « I’m merciless with them » are his words.
- He keeps on repeating to himself to just shut the f*ck up and not make waves.

- He has actually tried to self medicate to prevent this from happening, taking several passionflower pills at once before going to school (thank god they weren't "real" sleeping pills..........). His parents aren't aware of this.
- The school has made more accomodations. He's now going two full days to this other place where he's doing professional activities in very small groups. It's going well. He isn't as excited about it as before though, he can say "it keeps me busy" for instance, but he likes the people over there and is grateful to them.

- Normally he won't be going to school on friday afternoons anymore either, but the kid doesn't like this idea at all since he doesn't see what prompted this (…. the knife threatening…? seems like he doesn't remember? i need to ask him) and lives it as a rejection, I guess (he really isn't convinced by the "protection" discourse which is the one brought up by school)

- There was also a contract/sanction system put into place. Each teacher writes down how class has been going, and if too many bad hours happen, there's an hour of detention taking place.

- At home, the father says he is asked by school to act since things are becoming unmanageable for them. He can put his own sanctions in place to show he's following through (taking his son's phone for instance)

- The father has been saying repeatedly to his son that he’s wasting his life and his future with his behaviour, which I am sure is very helpful [/irony]. I’ve had a discussion with him (the father) about this but I don’t think he will change, he really thinks that’s the best way to warn his kids about life’s pitfalls. I think it comes from a place of fear, worry and regret. I’ve tried to repeat that his son is really very very aware of himself « failing » right now and that he actually is making a lot of (invisible) efforts which don’t pay off and that he doesn’t manage to control his behaviours right now, but, well. I’m not sure the point hit home.
C/C what I said in the introduction thread:

He's not in therapy, and it's been a touchy topic, but steps have been made.

One/two month ago a spot opened in a talking group (in a "CMP", medical & psychological center), one year ago he had said he was willing to try that (individual therapy was a no no), so I talked to him about this group. He went to the presentation, was told he needed to have individual meetings with a doctor before entering the group. He agreed to that. The staff was very clear on the fact that it was a therapeutic process and only him could know if he was ready for that.
The plan was a meeting once a month until the summer holidays, to prepare for an entry around september. But everything has been put on hold since the lockdown.

There's also some discouragment/avoidance on his part, I think. He's willing to try the group but isn't convinced it's going to help him.
I think he hasn't really felt real benefit from the previous attempts at healing and he's felt discouraged/resigned since then. Two years ago he had been hospitalized (hence the diagnosis). He got medication, tried EMDR (which was a very painful experience, I don't know how the hell it was done or prepared), and was discharged from the hospital with the medication + weekly therapy. The crises and suicidal ideation kept on, so he was feeling very discouraged at the time. Then the summer holidays happened, the therapy was put on hold... I don't have the details but the holidays went badly, he was hospitalized again (and maybe that's when the EMDR attempt was made, actually?). When school started again he was very withdrawn, stopped taking his medication (he now tells me the only difference it made at the time was the nightmares coming back) and didn't want to go to therapy anymore. So, yeah, he's coped on his own since, and therapy has been a touchy topic. But he's been opening up lately.

When I talk about individual therapy now... well the idea of "seeing someone in an office for one hour" repels him. Seeing someone once a month is ok. And yeah, when we talk about his experiences, our discussions are rarely planned, it's more of a "now that i'm talking about it i can keep on talking about it" thing.

The ressources of the family are scarce so we're talking about public structures or nonprofit organizations. A lot of psychologists here refuse to do phone or video therapy (the psychology field in France is..... something.... especially in my region where every psychology university is psychoanalytic......). Not closing the door completely to the idea, when there's a will there's a way (with long waiting lists ahah), but yeah, it's not common here, even less so in the public structures.

My general hypothesis is that fear of exclusion + seeing his behaviours (which could get him expelled) = big insecurity, so the teacher (who is supposed to make the class secure) is a threat since (s)he isn’t making him safe from the threat of exclusion→ defense reaction = agression. I don’t feel like that truly echoes with the kid though? And it doesn’t explain why things have been going well for one year before going awry?

And, I really don’t know how to help him with this. In the past he told me he wanted to understand his behaviours most of all. The fact he auto-medicated tells me he'd also like solutions.

People over the introduction topic have already been helpful, many thanks to them! the ptsd cup explains things, and i really agree with the "taking edges off when can be" and "reduce stress until therapeutic help can be implemented" strategy. I've started imagining explaining PTSD to the teaching staff + trying to get everyone on board for a "no sanction or threatening or punishment" experiment, even though I can only suggest things and don't control what the outcome or approval would be. I know it's a long run thing and that the situation will probably get better once he's out of school in a long year. But I'll take any feedback for him, be it support, insight, reassurance, new perspectives... I'm sure they'll all be useful in their own ways! Thank you for reading.


I think your on the right path with talking to the teachers. Is he in a regular class?
You mentioned he does well in another class his in. What’s the difference between the two?


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Yes, I think talking to the teachers is definitely worth a try, that was a good idea from scout86 and Ronin. I'll suggest and explain it to the kid and the school director.
Is he in a regular class?
No, he’s in a special education needs class, they’re 15 pupils per class and the contents taught are easier than usual. They also have work-based classes (vocational education, is that it?) around construction and restauration industries. There’s one of these special needs class for each grade at his middle school (i hope i’m being clear enough...)
You mentioned he does well in another class his in. What’s the difference between the two?
It’s actually a place structured around vocational education (over there he’s doing restauration & park maintenance + physical training + 1 hour of « usual » class). The main difference is the size of the groups : it’s usually 1 adult + 1, 2 or 3 youngsters. And he likes the way they behave with him and the other youngsters, the fact they’re given responsabilities, that they’re being trusted. I think there’s gratitude for them as well, it’s kind of been a refuge for him I think, the only place it’s been going well for more than one year. The adults working there don't know about his PTSD actually, and it doesn't show over there, so they're really dumbfounded at how he behaves so differently with them and at school.

At his middle school, he also used to do well with some subjects/teachers. My bet is more on the teachers than the subjects actually. He used to behave well with some teachers even when he didn’t like their subjects at all. And his agressiveness and sarcasm is always turned towards the teachers, never the other pupils, so it seems… targeted ?


What I get from what you have written, he does well when he feels people can trust him, when he’s feels he’s has choices. He seems to feel in control when he has responds abilities, which to me would be having some kind of control. Building this kind of a relationship with his teacher would definitely help. Coming together with his teacher and working out what the relationship could look like, would probably help. Him seeing that his teacher sees him for who he is and not for behaviour or labels. I don’t know if this helps. Just wanted to share my thoughts.


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It definitely helps, thank you very much. I think you're on the right track, your post made me think of some of his reactions with other people (family) as well. "Needed to be trusted / to be seen for who he is" sure rings a bell, when he feels like he's misunderstood / that people don't trust his judgment, well, it can send him quick intro distress. I actually hadn't thought of the control issue when it... seems kind of obvious now that you say it. It helps reframe things, I couldn't make sense of him doing jokes for instance (usually completing his teachers' sentences with something silly), but now I see it as a way to reclaim some control over the situation. Yes, your thoughts make a lot of sense.

I'll see if it echoes with him. I'd like to get in touch with the director of his school and see what we (well, they) can do next year which will help building another kind of relationship with his teachers. Them knowing about his PTSD would be a very significant first step, but i'm sure we can brainstorm other things with this framework in mind (around building trust, increasing his feeling of being in control...).


I'm also wondering...

How does he handle the disparity between usual school class, and vocational classes?

Is the vocational one new / pressure to decide on a career & applications to continued education or workplaces in a limited time?

Just wondering maybe the stress of either switching environs or needing to decide something Big like that may be too much.

Would be on a regular student, xth amount of more & in different ways on a spec ed kid battling PTSD & trauma issues.

So maybe asking teachers for more patient and individualized approach offering options, if it is feasible?

Re. The silly endings of sentences... may be just normal goofing around teen boy stuff ;) Teens do many lil rebellions, ain't mean much.

The aggressiveness I'm also not sure would worry me the same way.... seems to me more venting frustration, than aggression / violence? In which help the frustration (or the mess hormones are & biochemistry that age), the aggression lessens. As not about violence, about needs that are hard to get out.

And also think he's a good kid...
He doesn't aim it at other kids.
He's not trying to hurt anyone.
He aims it at non-takeable down targets, that can also punish him... as teachers.

That ain't a violent kid snapping.
That a lost kid crying for help...
In a way teen boys can do.
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(As I thought I prefered to leave him in peace today so the reading of the posts here is postponed till next week)

Huuum, I do wonder how he's living it indeed. Yes, there is a limited time involved, in a bit more than one year he will switch to continued education indeed. He's not yet in the applications process, but next year he will be, he'll have to actively search for a boss actually (I don't know how continued education works for you but here he will probably have like 1/2 weeks of classes and then 3/4 weeks working)

I have absolutely no idea how he's living it though. Same thing for the switching of environnments. So I'll ask him, because yes it's already very very stressful for the regular student so...... my bet would be he likes to keep those ideas far from his mind so far, but that doesn't mean they can't stress him out.

Ahahah, I tend to forget he also gets the right to be a regular teenager :) (about the jokes)

And thank you so much for the "Re" part of your post. Maybe I didn't express myself very well but yeah, the ""agressiveness"" (i should have said lack of impulse control really) doesn't worry me in itself, it's very very contextual and I 100% know it doesn't align with who he is, it just worries me because it's an escalation from the usual, so I guess it means things have been harder on him lately... and also because I know that's where most schools will draw the line between what they can deal with and what they won't deal with anymore if it becomes something too frequent. (not talking about the jokes here, but about him pushing a teacher and one incident with a knife, i don't have the details but according to the school, it was serious enough to justify him not going into this specific class anymore)
But I've always seen him as one of the kindest souls I've ever met. He really amazes me because he's been so misunderstood and let down by the past, he could have easily given up on people but no, he keeps on trying. And I'm sure he'll be relieved someone can see he's a good one from a few written posts. So thank you, really.

I'll keep you posted when we settle down to read the forums! but thank you guys, really, I'm sure all of this will be helpful.


Yeah he very much needs to not have access to knives, much less bring them on school premises - and his teachers aware of that issue, for protecting him, other students, themselves, and order in the classroom.

Like that sort of thing won't fly, disabled or not a stab wound bleeds the same, no matter who did it.

One other thing though - don't demonize *nor* over idealize him (misunderstood hero trope). Neither of those approaches are healthy, esp not dealing with kids with impulse control issues. They need to be taken as people with real needs, not devils, nor angels that can do no wrong. ;)


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I think it was during a cooking class, so at least it means he didn't bring the knife over to the school but yeah, you're definitely right and i need to look into that (the school already took preventive measures i.e. not allowing him into that cooking class again but i don't think he has understood at all it was a means to protect him from doing something he could not erase... but it seems like he doesn't even remember the event, which, if it's true, will.... not sound good to me)

/coughs/ yeah, that is sound advice, and i'll try to remind me of that more often :) because you're right, I wouldn't be doing him any favour.


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We've read your messages last week so I wanted to keep you updated!

He says he's fine with the switching of environnements.
He says he doesn't feel pressure from deciding on a career. He's looking forward to continued education, doesn't see much interest in formal learning anymore. His motivation to "get his behaviour in check" is to be able to stay where his friends are, he really fears having to start everything over once more (happened several times before).

When reading the different ways of understanding his behaviour at school, he didn't really know, couldn't tell. The ptsd cup had actually been explained to him at the hospital. Since then we've refered to this model several times and he says that yeah, the cup is full as soon as he has to enter class.

The "knife incident" or whatever this is is definitely not remembered by him, I asked the parents who don't have much more information either (he would have played with it in class and frightened some other students?). I'll investigate further since it's fueled feelings of injustice on his part (he can't go to cooking class anymore and doesn't see why).

I've suggested some more accommodations to him which could be implemented in his school (i'm a teacher in special ed too), but he's reluctant about them. He says he doesn't want to have a special treatment. I tried to explain to him that it would just be something adapted to his needs, that not everybody has what he has so it's only fair, etc. Tried to get to the bottom of this fear (not wanting to look uncool in front of friends? acceptation that this is still f*cking up with his life?) He knows his friends would be cool with it, but he's the one who's got a problem with that (his words).

So, so far it's "let's get the teachers aware of this issue", a first step he agrees with, and i'll try to keep everything which has been said here in mind when moving forwards from that point on. At the same time, we'll be calling the psychological center he had been in touch with before the lockdown, because I've since learnt they do phone meetings.
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