Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Let me tell you about school
Now, I am going to have to backtrack a bit. All the way back to last spring and Angela's transition meeting from middle to high school. All the 8th graders were registering for their freshman classes, and I needed to register Angela for hers as well, which I did. So up comes the meeting and I am told by the high school DCD staff that we "don't know what Angela's schedule will look like next year so we don't know what classes she'll be able to register for." This did not make sense to me at the time, but what did I know? In my mind, a parent who has had four other high school students, her schedule would look like what I had registered her for. No? Never once during that meeting were the words, "Work Experience Program" uttered.
You see, they didn't "know what her schedule would look like" because they had every intention of Angela being in the Work Experience Program (i.e.; job and life skills class, with very limited academic time in her day.) Nobody ever said anything about the program, or that they needed her mainstream classes to fit AROUND that program, not the other way around. When the proposed IEP came I didn't sign it, because it was fine, with no changes needed. I often don't sign, knowing after x number of days the IEP goes into effect. (however, I WILL, and have signed that I do not agree when I see something I don't agree with!) The IEP was in line with Angela's transition assessment results. The modifications and supports were in place, the service minutes appropriate, etc.
Before school even started this year there were issues. Somewhere around the first or second week of school I asked why my child was playing Wii at school several times per week.
I also asked a very important question. "Why is my child in a program I didn't agree to?" In fact, I've asked that question a lot of times both in writing and on the phone, to district staff at several levels. There has never been an answer given.
The end of September an IEP meeting was held. I brought up several areas of non-compliance of Angela's IEP. Modifications and supports that at that point, four weeks into school, had not yet been put into place. The majority of the meeting time was spent discussing the Work Experience program, as the DCD staff from Angela's school spent a great deal of time and energy justifying to me why this program was so wonderful, the great things they do in there, etc. Yet nobody could answer the question, "But where is the individualized part of this education? It seems you have this program that has clearly been in place for some time, and it seems as if it is expected that all the students in the DCD program participate. How is this an individualized education, and where does it meet MY child's goals and objectives?" That question was never answered, and finally at some point I stopped listening. They weren't hearing me, so I stopped hearing them.
Now let me get picky a bit....
Spelling: Angela has been in school for 7 weeks, 6 of which spelling lists have supposedly been assigned. I have seen ONE. One measly spelling list. I asked, oh...three or four times, why no spelling lists? Finally, last week I was given an answer for the very first time. "Spelling lists are issued every week. We expect the students to be independent." I was told last week, "If you could be a mouse in the corner with Angela during her school day, you would see a young lady who is learning each and every day to be more independent along with the other freshman and doing a stellar job with everything she does." Ok, well clearly Angela is being given more independence than she is able to handle since she's not bringing anything home and I have practically had to YELL that she's not, and STILL nothing comes home!!!!
Vocabulary: All the freshman are required to purchase a vocabulary book at the beginning of the year. I can only assume that they're assigned words at various intervals (weekly?) I did not purchase that vocabulary book for Angela, assuming that she would have a different list since she's clearly not at that level. I have yet to see a single vocabulary word.
From 1st through 8th grade, Angela has used a planner. For the past two years, she has written the information herself, and an adult has written a translation underneath since Angela is not really able to write legibly. At the high school level, all freshman are required to purchase a planner, and I purchased one for Angela. Apparently none of the DCD students in her school use one since the DCD staff is clueless as to what a planner is to be used for. It to inform them it is NOT a communication notebook! It is for ANGELA (with the assistance of an adult) to write down what she is supposed to be doing each day! Not for the adults to write things like, "Angela had a great day!" Ummm this his high school. I would assume Angela had a great day, and if she didn't the planner isn't the place to be writing it!
So lets go back to that Work Experience program, where Angela spends a significant portion of her day. A program that I never approved. That I have asked, time and again, "Why is she there?" Keep in mind that when a student is in a program such as this, the goals and objectives listed on their IEP are being worked on within the program.
Today I received a phone call from Angela's DCD teacher/case manager. It has just now....week 7 of school...come to her case manager's attention that the service minutes for the Work Experience program are not on Angela's IEP.
For those familiar with the world of special education, you may now pick your chin up off the floor.
If you're not familiar with special education this means, in the most very basic terms, that for all the hours each week Angela is in that program the district is in non-compliance with her IEP. Like if you sent your 5th grader on the first day of school, and he was coming home with work that didn't seem right. You keep asking questions, because you think maybe they might have put him in the wrong class. But on the 7th week of school they call and say, "Oops, we accidentally sent him to 4th grade all these weeks!" It is very much against special education law.
So, what exactly HAVE they been doing with Angela for the last 6+ weeks of school? What goals and objectives have they been working on since they clearly hadn't even LOOKED at Angela's IEP to see that HERS DON'T MATCH?????
Let me tell you something. I have been around the block a time or two. Several years ago I was working in another district where Angela was also a student. It was brought to my attention there were issues with Angela being pulled out of class at inappropriate times that the classroom teacher knew didn't match the IEP. After a long, drawn out mess, a complaint was filed with the Department of Education and an audit was conducted. Not only was Angela's IEP pulled, but they also pulled a certain percentage of random IEP's of other students, which based on those findings, turned into the state pulling ALL the IEPs in the district. It just so happened that every student's IEP within one specific program at the district's elementary level was nearly identical. For those not familiar with this process, this would be like everyone having the exact same dosage of insulin at all times. It doesn't work, and in the case of Special Education and IEP's it is illegal. I can only guess that someone this year in Angela's school assumed her goals and objectives were the same as everyone else's. Why would that assumption have been made?
I do not want to send Angela back to this classroom. After raising my concerns time and time again, the case manager still did not see to it the district was in compliance with my child's IEP. To me it is clear she is not able to meet the needs of my child, and the trust I am supposed to have for my child's teacher is gone. Well, let's be honest, it was shaky since the first day of school. I'm one to trust my gut, and I've had questions from day one. The first week of school I told Dean I wanted to move and I started looking at houses in a different district. I didn't feel I have the stamina for this. Angela has four years of high school and Axel is coming up right behind her, not to mention whatever other child we bring home this year. I HAVE to trust the staff in the school we're in. Right now, I have no trust what so ever.
But you know what? I know too many other parents who HAVE moved out of the district for this very reason, and they warned me. I prayed. I hoped they were wrong, and that by the time we got up here the issues would have resolved themselves. But I'm beginning to see a pattern in my life. The staff at this school does not know me. They have no idea that God gave me the tenacity to take on corruption in international adoption and travel to the other side of the world...repeatedly......even under threat of physical harm....so that others don't have to go through the same thing I did. They have no idea that in the late 80's God placed my 22 year old self at a podium in the Rotunda of the MN State Capital where I spoke before hundreds on behalf of those with developmental disabilities and the ADA so that the children I didn't know I was going to have would have a future.
I fought for that future, for inclusion for my children, way back in the '80s. I'm not going to give it up that easily. I stated in a recent email to school staff, "It seems to us that inclusion is not a priority at ***. Perhaps some mainstreaming of certain classes, but "mainstreaming" and "inclusion" are two very different things. What I'm seeing, and what has been explained to me, is a very good description of segregation, and it's not what I want for my child. She is not going to spend her adult life secluded in a room full of students who have various disabilities. I don't mean this as an offensive statement, but one of fact. Angela has a broad spectrum of peers, both with and without disabilities. Angela is also a minority, which means she's going to need to function in a community where the majority of those around her are non-disabled. She will not be successful if her entire high school career is spent in a self-contained classroom......Her typical peers don't know her. They know who she is and are willing to say hello to her in the halls our if they see her out in the community, but they have no idea who she is."