Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our five kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back-n-forth

So last week I sent an email, CC'd to several people in our school district, asking a whole list of questions regarding the 8th grade class trip to be held in October. (deposits are due in April.) The email was sent to the Superintendent, Director of Special Education, Building principal, Angela's special ed. teacher, and the "Tour Moderator" (aka 8th grade social studies teacher).

The Superintended responded within just a few minutes, and had clearly not read the email. I responded back just as quickly, asking her to please go back and read the entire email, and to answer my questions as best she could.

The 8th grade teacher responded, and wanted me to meet with him to "talk this out." Normally, that would have been my FIRST step, but these are questions in which the answers have potential legal ramifications, AND I want the answers in writing.

I have yet to get ONE SINGLE ANSWER to any of my questions!

So I contacted an attorney who specializes in educational law, who also put me in contact with the supervising attorney from the MN Disability Law Center, who I just finished speaking with. He has several questions that he will be finding the answers to (most of which I have already asked but nobody has answered.) so that he can determine which is the best course of action. From this point on, all correspondence with the district will be forwarded to him as well.

So, here's the email I sent this morning:

..............................

Mr. V.

I'd like to preface my response by saying I'm not usually "like this". I think every teacher we have ever worked with in the district will agree that I'm very easy to work with, and I have reasonable expectations for my child. As you said, I know her better than anyone, and am fully aware of what she is and is not capable of. I also won't knowingly put her into situations that would set her up for failure. However, those same teachers will also tell you that I am fiercely advocative of my child's rights. I don't need a pat on the back for doing it. Like every other parent, it's the job I was given the day my child was handed to me. I don't like to be "that mom", yet there are times when it becomes necessary. This is one of those times.

Typically, my first step would be to drop by school and ask you some questions. You know, no big deal. I understand you may not see this situation as being any different, but I can assure you, it is far bigger.

This isn't about just Angela attending the trip. It is about all the students with physical and cognitive disabilities in the district who have been, or have the potential to be left out of events such as this trip. It is about the district choosing a tour company who is not inclusive of ALL District *** students, when there are other companies conducting the same tour, who do not charge a fee for the 1:1 staff to attend with the student. It is about District *** students with disabilities not being included as "ambassadors of the district" along with their non-disabled classmates without paying almost 3x as much money for the trip. It is about my child having equal access to everything her classmates do, something she is entitled to under the ADA, and section 504.

I would love nothing more than to get this sorted out smoothly, and without damaging my relationship with with the district. Attorney D. S. from the Minnesota Disability Law Center has advised me to hold off on any meetings until he is able to gather some information and determine who (myself, District 196 or Educational Tours INC) is responsible for covering the cost of a 1:1 for Angela to attend the DC trip.

In the meantime, I need to put a deposit down on the trip, but am hesitant to do so without guarantee of a refund, and it's unlikely this matter will be sorted out by the deposit deadline.

~LS~

5 comments:

Lisa said...

Very nice. It lets them know that they are on warning that they have goofed, and that you have contacted a lawyer. Can't wait for the response!

NDMom said...

Leah, very appropriate and professional. You are leading the way for future students. Hats off to you! I will be following closely (for future reference, albeit in another state). Thanks for taking the courage to stand up for what is right!

My name is Sarah said...

This is Joyce. I did some informal investigating today and came up with varied responses. It seems that some districts around here do the same as you are encountering - not an official trip - therefore they are off the hook. Others are providing the opportunity for the parent to go as one of the chaperones at no charge.

Now here is an embarrassing response. "Joyce remember how you followed the bus to Columbus for the Ohio trip (4th grade). I thought that was a great approach. You gave Sarah her freedom with her friends on the bus, yet would be there if we needed you." Uhh no, I didn't remember until I was reminded. I don't think I would have done that all the way to Washington though.

I can't wait to hear about what comes next.

Lindsey said...

Very nicely put. You GO girl. I have a daughter who has a disability and she was playing on the school varsity basketball team, but every time they went "away" I had to go with them. The overnight trips were killer on my budget because I had to pay for a room for her and myself...not fair at all, but the alternative was that she would not be able to play the game which she loved...
Lindsey Petersen
http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

WOW this whole situation is so interesting!!! I can't wait to see what the lawyer says!!! Tell him to hurry up, k?! LOL I too would be nervous to put my deposit down because what IF... How much is the deposit?

It really seems the school district found a nice loophole here. Sucks. I wonder if our middle schools do these trips, I'm sure they do! What class is this for? Is it just a homeroom type trip or like a history class based trip or???

Leah, you rock!!!