Shining a light on public education--how can a school let students run the show?

Dear Editor,

I am writing tonight, as a Cape Cod resident and a concerned mother of a student who attends public school in Harwich.  I kept in close contact with the Lighthouse Charter School postings published on CapeCodToday.com, but was always left wondering why Cape residents weren't shedding any light on public school system flaws.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have encountered internal flaws with the public school structure, and absolute epic failure of a school systems internal workings.  Maybe I am the only mother of a young child, on Cape Cod, brave enough to voice her disdain for the public school system-but I find this hard to believe!  You see, there is a gray area for students in public school who have disabilities not yet officially diagnosed by a qualified physician. My child, a vibrant and energetic boy, does not posses the ability to focus as well as he is expected too in his academics.  My child does not fit into the "mainstream" classroom, yet being placed in a special education classroom is also not the best choice. My child, and his young confidence suffers everyday at school because he falls smack in the middle between mainstream and special education.

Honestly Mr. Editor, when did the Harwich school system decide to allow students the opportunity to run the show?  At what point is it acceptable for a teacher to punish a student based on hearsay from a young child?

Last week, I received a letter home from the assistant principal telling me that my child "spit at a child and yelled in said child's ear".  I was appalled by my son's apparent behavior, but could not fathom my son doing something so rude.  Of course, the paperwork said nothing more than "he spit on someone and yelled in their ear while waiting in line for recess".  There was no explanation of what might have caused his behaviors, or what was happening in the classroom at the time of his reported behaviors.  As a mother of a child who has particular needs, information such as antecedents are important.  How the heck am I supposed to help my child behave in school if I don't know what caused the behavior in the first place?  It was apparent from the lackluster conference report, that I was not going to get any information handed to me-something you would actually expect a school to give you when your child displays such offensive behaviors.  I contacted the teacher, waited a few days for a telephone call back and was shocked at what she told me.

During my phone conversation with my son's teacher I learned the following:

  1. The teacher didn't see or hear anything.
  2. A student told my son's teacher that my child was spitting and yelling.
  3.   The teacher sent my son to the assistant principals office based on what a student told her because my son didn't deny the other child's allegations, *but he didn't admit to them either!
  4. I signed a piece of paper which stated that my child "spit on someone and yelled in their ear", even though this was not an actual fact because the teacher, again, didn't see or hear anything. 

Honestly Mr. Editor, when did the Harwich school system decide to allow students the opportunity to run the show?  At what point is it acceptable for a teacher to punish a student based on hearsay from a young child?

Not only am I appalled by the lack of care my son is receiving in the Harwich public school system, I am also disgusted. If things like this are happening to my child in his school, how much do you want to bet that they are happening in every public school on the Cape?  I think it's time for someone to shed a very large spotlight on public school system issues.

Do I worry that my child will be treated differently if I speak my mind? Of course I do, I love my child-he is going through enough at school right now. Yet, if i don't say something now, advocate for fairness and shed a little light on the dysfunctional workings of his school-how will he be treated next month? Next year? When he is 16 years old? My son will not be a child who holds a razor blade to his wrists at 16 years of age, because he was mistreated in school and his parents did nothing to help him.  As a mother, I refuse to see my child unhappy, hurting, sad, and at a disadvantage because he falls into the gray-black hole of public education failure.  That gray area is a very nasty beast, which makes a mother  feel helpless, while her child continues to struggle each and every day at school.

I do not feel as though I am alone in this, I know there are other mothers and fathers out there who feel the same way I do. I refuse to believe that I am the only parent whose child is receiving less then adequate care during school hours.  Some parents complain about the bus schedule, and some complain about spending money on school supplies-I am more concerned with what happens behind the scenes. My son deserves respect, to be treated fairly, and to get the help he needs without being stuck in the gray area between mainstream and special ed. I might only have one voice, but it bellows loudly-this is only just the beginning for me.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Parent
Harwich, MA

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