When a 14-year-old La Crosse boy’s truancy was attributed at least in part to being bullied about his hygiene, staffers at the middle school sprang into action to ease at least that burden.
The staffers met with the boy’s mother Friday to discuss his more than 20 absences this semester — some excused, some not; some explained, some not, according to a report filed by a La Crosse officer who attended the session.
The group concluded that the “smell was not him, but his clothes,” the report said.
The youth’s mother acknowledged that, short on money, she had been unable to do laundry. The group arranged for her to be picked up and taken to a laundromat to wash clothes, as well as having her visit the school’s food pantry to get her family something to eat and to its clothes closet to get clothing.
The woman also is to receive assistance from a company that helps people recover from dire circumstances.
“We’ll do whatever we can do to help kids be successful,” the school’s nurse said in an interview.
“As far as school nurses, counselors and truancy, if there are medical reasons or anything else, we do try,” she said, noting that she was speaking in general terms to protect the boy’s privacy. “We put plans into place if something is out of their control.”
It’s not unusual to connect a student with a doctor if there is a medical problem or helping to arrange for food, as well as laundry tokens, bus tokens or cab rides in a pinch, she said, adding that schools throughout the La Crosse School District have similar plans in place.
The police officer still was required to log the truancy, but the encounter might lift the burden of teasing from the boy’s shoulders.
Bullying of any type is forbidden, and it can inflict greater psychological damage in cases in which youngsters are grappling with problems that they have no control over, the school nurse said.