Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Whose rights?

Once you take away the legalese and the fancy fluffer-stuff, what it boils down to is- because of Columbine and "Zero Tolerance"- The school has 10 "free days" where they can suspend a child for any reason. When I say any reason, I mean any reason.

Case in point:
The principal acknowledged that she is aware that Jaysen's disabilities caused him to react to his environment the way he did. She is aware that the school has not provided the supports he needs. Supports that are in his IEP. She knows that what he said was not said with intent. She admitted to suspending him because of his disability. And it's legal. It's not very ethical, but it is legal.

Me: So when can Jaysen return to school?
Principal: Umm...well, we have to get the behavior plan up and running...
Me: We're here to finalize that today, so he will be back tomorrow.
Principal: No, he can't come back tomorrow. He can't come back until the staff feel comfortable implementing the behavior plan.
Me: And how long will it take staff to feel comfortable?
Principal: Well I just don't know. His teacher still has to go for training, and we have to find a substitute for that to happen.
Me: (How that is supposed to be my problem, I don't know.) I see.

Me: Regarding the incident, why wasn't the social worker called down to pull him aside and problem-solve? Maybe if someone would have tried to find out why he was upset, they would have gotten to the real issue?
Principal: Well, I don't know... I don't even know if...hmmmm...was she in the building...with a student...oh- she wasn't in the building that day.

Me: So you suspended him without allowing him to give his side?
Principal: Yes. I had to suspend him because he can't say things like that.
Me: But you don't have anything in place to give him support with his expressive language.
Principal: I know.
Me: You understand that he uses scripts, and could have complex vocal tics as well.
Principal: Yes.
Me: And you understand that his verbal expression is limited, and his tics are involuntary.
Principal: I understand that.

Me: You realize he was just reacting to his environment.
Principal: Yes he was, but it's a general education classroom. People are going to do things like take pictures.
Me: And I'm not saying they shouldn't do things like that. What I am saying is, that you have a student with disabilities. A part of the disability is sensory hypersensitivity. You and the teacher need to be aware of this. It doesn't take any more of an effort to let him know you're going to take a picture.
Principal: I know that, but if he's that sensitive that the teacher can't even take a picture, maybe we need to discuss alternative placement for him.
Me: Remember, you haven't provided supports yet...
Val (director of Sp.ed): (who knows where I was about to go with this) What she's saying K, is that we need to be more aware of the environmental factors that could be potential triggers for Jaysen, and acknowledge that something may be triggering a behavior that we're not considering.
Principal: (silence)
Me: (smile)

Principal: It's about the other kids. I know there was no intent in what he said, I suspended him because the other kids in class became very upset when he threatened the teacher.
Me: Which we still don't know he actually did.
Val: (interrupting out banter) When will Jaysen be able to return to school?
Principal: (long re-grouping pause) Umm...I'm thinking the very earliest, would be Friday.
Me: So you're still denying him access to an appropriate education until at least Friday.
Principal: Yes.

Me: Let me make sure that I'm understanding this clearly before I have to leave. You are agreeing that you suspended him for something that was due to his disabilities. You are also acknowledging the school has not yet provided him the necessary supports to effectively help him succeed, and this directly effects his behavior.
Principal: Yes.

*blink blink*

Did she just admit to suspending my son for his disabilities?
Yep. And apparently she can do it for up to 10 days.

So, when I got to work, I sent her an e-mail requesting she write a supplement to Jaren's suspension letter, stating that she acknowledges that the infractions were made without intent, and her decision to suspend was based on his classmates being upset. I requested the letter be attached to his suspension letter in his file, and a copy sent to me.

She has yet to respond.


Ashley's Mom said...

Here's a technique I use when I can't get someone at the school to write a letter - I write a letter. I say "As I understand it....(insert everything you wanted to principal to write)". Then close with, "If I have misunderstood anything, please respond to me in writing within 5 business days." You won't get a response, but your letter will be a part of your son's educational record.

That technique ended up winning a due process for me. I had everything documented and there was no record of the school dissenting, agreeing, anything...

mommy~dearest said...

Yes! I love that technique and have used it in the past. The only reason I didn't use it this time is because I feel it important to be attached to the suspension letter. That way, whoever looks at his file, will know immediately that this was a bogus suspension, and won't have to hunt through e-mails.

Now I'm trying to think of a way to implement the tactic after-the-fact...

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

This just makes me want to scream: AAAAaaaaaaauuuuuuuuggggghhhhhh!!! Oh, I could do that again! Hang in there.

Elissa - Managing Autism said...

What a totally horrid thing for you and Jaysen to have to be facing... it makes my blood boil!
And the IGNORANCE of the school!!!
It just stinks!
Hang in there - LOL

Ashley's Mom said...

Include in your letter that you want your correspondence attached to the suspension letter. Even if they don't do it, the record will exist that you wanted it attached.

Casdok said...

All good advice above.
We are all rooting for you.

GFCF Mommy said...

Rooting for you here too. Your Principal sounds a lot like mine. Mine has no clue how to deal with inclusion, but fortunately the teachers have so far been open-minded and willing to learn. My son is in Kindergarten and I'm learning a lot from you about how to use Momzilla tactics, as I find more and more the need for advocacy. It just makes me mad the things we all face and how common all our experiences with public school administrators seem to be.

mommy~dearest said...

Awww- thank you gfcf mommy!Momzilla does come in handy at times. It's funny because I was painfully shy as a kid, and would rather die than stand up to someone. Baby- look at me now! Hahaha...

Ashley's mom- I did exactly that. And I even "played nice" this time. I think I'm going to have to tone it down until next week, for fear of harrassment! That's all I would need right now!

Thank you all for such awesome support and tips!

Marla said...

Keep going. This sounds wrong. It sounds like they are taking this time to push for an alternate placement and not telling you about it. I could be totally wrong but it sounds very sneaky. Call me paranoid but I would be finding an advocate to help. Good luck and please keep sharing.

mommy~dearest said...

Marla- That's exactly what I thought! I'm already working with an advocate, so I feel a bit more at ease knowing that I can back up my arguments.

There is another issue that came up (and it's a juicy one), but I have to wait until tomorrow to write about it since it's *someone's* first day back to school tomorrow, and he needs to get in bed. :)

misha_k said...

I was going to say this sounds like some sneaky tactic to get your son placement elsewhere. I had a similar problem with a daycare and had a field day with it when J was actually kicked out.

The fact that the principal is admitting she suspended Jaysen because of his disability and the school hasn't done anything to implement the support he needs is something heard all too often with other kids. I hope, with the advocate's help, you get this mess resolved and the school does what it's supposed to.