Mum's on drugs and he's angry

7th January 2005 at 00:00
Donny looks like a criminal. He has cold eyes that assess you. He is squat and powerful. A brooding menace with a built-in sneer.

You meet him and instantly assess that he is not someone with whom you would choose to tangle. His appearance is not entirely deceptive. He is sometimes moved to snarling, abusive anger but for the most part he is a gentleman.

He might save his considerable bile for the police but in school he is helpful and respectful. He is especially protective of women teachers and occasionally admonishes his difficult class if he thinks they have gone too far in their disruption. As long as he does not trouble them then most teachers will not trouble him.

He does little work. He spends most of his time drawing pictures of car crime - theft, chases, crashes. School makes little, if any, impact upon him.

It is Donny who holds his family together. The last time I saw her his mother had marks on her body where she had deliberately cut herself. The psychiatric hospital says there is nothing wrong with her. She may appear disturbed but it is only because she is a habitual drug-user. Take them away and she will be fine. Fat chance.

Donny takes his younger sister to school every day and then tends his addicted mother. He feels abandoned and vulnerable. His mother's rage has made her attack another of his sisters. Donny pulled her off. He has broken down in school, concerned that his own drug use, encouraged by his mother, will spiral out of control too. He is not stupid, just trapped.

He can establish no pattern for the future. He knows what is happening is wrong but his picture of a comfortable, loving family is as alien to him as the image of his life is to us.

And when he comes to school we give him grief. The clothes he has washed himself are not clean enough. They are the wrong colour. He has the wrong shoes. Why should he care? And when such things are going on in his life how does he feel about those of us from comfortable homes and secure families, worrying about such obvious trivia?

He has not done his maths homework? So what? Last night he had to mop up his mother's blood again. So many children in our schools have their own stories to tell. And sometimes all we can worry about is whether they are wearing a tie.

Geoff Brookes works in a south Wales comprehensive

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