I recently heard a story through my travels about how a local school had treated a child with a learning difference. I will not share the school with everyone but I will say that people reading about the fantastic accolades of these schools need to remember every story has a second side and to take ten minutes to actually investigate the report.
In brief, the story I heard involves a student who was in need of special education services. The school this child was enrolled in was wholly unequipped to handle this child’s needs but instead of fessing up and telling the parent they did not have the trained staff or financial resources, they decided to provide inappropriate services ,blame the parent for even considering asking for help. Then they tormented the child each day by reminding them they were, according to the school staff , incompetent. Imagine spending every day walking into to work, greeted by coworkers who you were very friendly with and spending the entire day with different bosses telling you of your stupidity. It was apparent immediately to this parent, and anyone with a shred of decency that the school was trying to push the student out of the program. The student’s grades were F’s almost from the beginning of school and being that this was a student who had maintained A/B and an occasional C from Nursery through eighth grade, straight F’s seemed ridiculous.
At the first parent teacher conference the parents were told the poor grades were the students fault and the student was not stepping up to the plate. When the parent asked about what the school could offer or be willing to do because the student was already attending school for seven hours a day, completing three to four hours of homework a night, they said it was not their responsibility to help, students needed to do the work on their own. I guess in all my advocacy training, I missed the part where the Individuals with Disabilities Act say is the responsibility of the student and ultimately the parents to educate themselves. I guess teachers, at least in this school should be called guides. They were there to guide the students, not teach them as teach-ers are supposed to do. I won’t even attempt to explain their thought process behind the federal funds they receive to educate students with disabilities.
Fortunately, this problem does have a solution however; it requires people to be willing to call out the school administrators and the teachers fearful of losing their jobs if they do not go along on this twisted, tormented path. How can parents call out offenders and avoiding be labeled we as “that parent!”
Write everything down. Start a journal where you write down every phone call, every word your child utters about what happened at school, on the playground, in the lunchroom, everywhere, and everything.
When the school calls you to complain that your child is ________________, (fill in the blank with whatever is the issue of the day), sent a polite e- back to them restating what they said.
Dear Ms. Teacher, Thank you for your telephone call, Friday, August 1, 2012. It was nice to hear from you about my child, _____________________ grade _____ d/o/b ____________. From what I understood after our conversation, my child is experiencing a problem with __________________ you are not able to help him/her. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional concerns about my child’s performance in your class.
In addition, do not forgot that when you ask the school for a program or services, ask him or her for your prior written notice. That is a document they must send to you that says who, what, when, where, how and why they made the decision. Documentation goes both ways.
Get yourself to the library, to the Internet, to the bookstore and read, read, read. There is no better advocate for a child than a parent who knows the laws, regulations, programs, and disability inside and out. Websites like Wrightslaw.com and Concordspedpac.org are places to start. Another tremendous resource is Ellen Chambers watchdog organization, SPEDWatch.org, started by a concerned parent who realized that no one was monitoring the people who should be monitoring school districts.
Do not attend another team meeting with having a three ring binder that includes every evaluations, letter, or tidbit that you have not only received from the school but also that you have researched. If the schools says, “we cannot do that” or “we do not have to do that” you can open your binder and say, “Geez, the Individuals with Disabilities Act says you do.” Play a combination of Miss Manners and for those old enough to remember, Colombo, a polite investigator.
Starting with these three steps can help ensure that your child does not become another story of mistreatment by a school district. This certainly is not the solution but a step in the right direction. Schools and the people charged with educating our young people need to be held accountable. Parents must come together and realize that this is not alright and all children deserve to be well care for both at home and at school.
The point is that schoolchildren with learning challenges and disabilities are being bullied daily. Bullying is a hot topic nowadays and parents cannot figure out why their children are being bullied or are the children handing out the bullying. Students witness the bullying at the hands of the teacher toward their vulnerable classmates. Children are a product of their environment and they leave what they learn. Naturally spending six or seven hours a day with someone who is not showing the most appropriate of will lead to some inappropriate behaviors from the students.
I have been thinking all day about the child mentioned above because ultimately the school won the conflict they started. They kept their funding and didn't actually provide any services. The student’s parents have chosen to enroll their child in a private program to help alleviate the stress because the child was borderline on having to be hospitalized for the stress-induced weakness. Nevertheless, in the end, the child is still suffering. This morning, I learned that between yesterday and today the student had to be taken to the hospital for an unexplained migraine following two days of sleeping for 14 hours, each day. The child had no appetite, only wanted to get up and go from the bed to the couch, and was pale and gaunt. After blood work and a CAT scan, the physicians could find nothing but sent the students home to rest plus a prescription for migraines.
The parents quickly realized as they drove by the school on the way home from the hospital that it was the second day of school and their child had to watch friends posting on Facebook about how great school was but they were not there to share in the experience, an experience they are missing. The repercussions of their bad behavior live on even months after the parent thought they were resolved. It is about accountability and getting everyone, especially educators like the ones involved in this family’s life, to understand the harm they are inflicting upon young people. Teachers and adminstrators like those from this story need to be held accountible for their actions and not be allowed to treat another students so poorly.
Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.
Henry Brooks Adams