School phobia is a recognized condition that affects many children. It also represents an example of how a psychological condition actually extends beyond the individual and is reinforced by people, circumstances and events. For 17 year old Rebecca Makish, her phobia of school has resulted in court battles and fines for truancy amounting to $11,000.
Rebecca's fear of school started when she was five years old. Speaking to a reporter from NPR.org, Rebecca says, "I would go to school. I would just sit there. I couldn't talk. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even concentrate on any of the work. It feels like you're having a heart attack, basically."
At the tender age of six, Rebecca stopped going to school. NPR.org reports that for the next six years tuition was home based and, according to Rebecca's mother Barbara, inconsistent and unstructured. The family eventually won a settlement which required the school to compensate the Makishes $45 an hour for 1,000 hours of missed instruction. Since 2004, the family has received $45,000 for Rebecca's education.
The Makishes had almost total control over how the money was spent for Rebecca's education. Invoices would be submitted and the school would approve them. School officials have now reacted by questioning why this included fees for magazines, a modeling class and summer camp costing $5,000. Barbara Maykish says that she would simply submit an invoice and the school district would reimburse her. The summer camp was viewed as therapeutic as it was aimed towards getting Rebecca out of the house, socializing with others, and a stepping stone towards getting back to school.
Last year school officials asked Rebecca to attend a boarding school in California. Rebecca stayed for three months, but she eventually dropped out. According to Barbara Maykish the school viewed the three months attendance as evidence that Rebecca had made sufficient progress to return to school. Now, the district has imposed a fine for truancy that Barbara say will take her until 2035 to pay off. Barbara Makish is now looking for a civil rights attorney to fight the school for discriminating against her disabled daughter.
In general terms, school phobias are invariably structured around issues of separation anxiety, sometimes agoraphobia and social phobias. It is not uncommon to find that one or more parents is experiencing some form of psychological distress, such as anxiety or depression. Family circumstances can sometimes reinforce the phobia. For example, a lonely single parent who enjoys or needs the company of their child. In such circumstances a child can receive mixed messages about the importance of attending school. Sometimes even a mild protest from the child can result in another day away from school. The resulting problems for the child relate to a likelihood of anxiety-related conditions in later life, poor educational performance and a lack of social skills development.
Published On: July 02, 2008