ADHD/ODD Behavior in Private School

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Sheilz, Dec 27, 2007.

  1. Sheilz

    Sheilz New Member

    Does anyone have any experience with a child who attends private school and has behavior issues due to ODD/ADHD?

    My difficult child attends private school (has been there since pre-school) and there have been several incidents this year with his verbal and physical aggression at school. Most of it has happened during the 'transition' from the class to the playground or after school activities.

    The school has been working with us, understands that he has a disability, however, now that one parent has complained, they are talking about suspending him (3rd grade) for bad behavior. What I can't seem to get through to them is that the behavior is the product of the illness. The kicker to this is, his report card this year had all As and 1 B (handwriting.) So, it's hard to argue that the disability is affecting his ability to learn. His classroom accommodations allow him to sit up front, leave the room when he needs to find a quiet spot or to take a time out. There aren't any special accommodations for the playground or afterschool - he's a very competitive child and outgoing child.

    I have to do more research, but because they are a private school, rather than the public school, it appears that I don't have much recourse if they choose to suspend him for behavior issues, even though they are on notice of a disability and are required to accommodate.

    Any thoughts on this or avenues to explore? I'm at the end of a very long rope and trying to find the best environment for him.
  2. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    Unless this private school accepts Federal funds or is a "contract" Special Education facility (which it obviously is not), the school is under no obligation to do anything at all for your child and may not only suspend him, they simply can ask you to remove him permanently. You would have to read the fine print to determine if they will refund tuition in this case. My ex-difficult child's high school would not---not that I was concerned, but it is a measure of the lack of protection a parent of a difficult child has in dealing with private schools.

    difficult children in college are protected either under the ADA or 504 or both because almost all post secondary institutions either are public facilities, i.e., a community colleges, or accept federal funds (a private university that participates in federal financial aid, for example.)

    It is to obtain the protection afforded under IDEA that so many of us hassle with public SDs. It is not that the experience is pleasant, in most cases.

    What you should do in my opinion, is build good will and be non-demanding, because you have no legal position to stand on. That your difficult child is a very good student is a big plus...I believe that if he were not, he would have been gone long ago with the behaviors you describe.

    If you want to keep him in a private school, I would suggest very aggressive medication management to try to keep his behavior under control during school hours, and then hope he is one of the kiddos who saves his acting out for YOU. A small but significant number of "our" kids only act out at home as children. Unfortunately, by adolescence, most act out both at school and at home. If this happens, you will be hard-pressed to keep your difficult child in a "regular" private school. I was able to do this with ex-difficult child POST Tx in an EGBS, but after age 16, he had no overt behavioral issues. If he had, his private school would not have kept him.

    Best to you,

  3. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I just wanted to add my own experiences with private school to Martie's (who by the way really knows her stuff). My son is currently a 9th grader at a private school he has attended since 7th grade. In spite of a an IQ in the gifted range, his grades are terrible because of emotional shutdown caused by anxiety and depression that have been very hard to treat with medication. The school came close to asking him to leave because of his lousy grades last year, but he managed to squeak by with only one D and he was asked back for 9th grade. This year, however, the academic demands have picked up and his grades are mostly Ds with one C and one F. Right before Thanksgiving one of his teachers discovered some of his "writings" in which he said, "I'm a loser," "Everybody hates me," "I'm failing" and "Kill me." The school became very concerned about his instability (potential harm to self) and suspended him indefinitely until he has undergone further treatment. He is currently in a day treatment program at a local psychiatric hospital.

    Private schools become just as concerned about potential harm to others (your difficult child's issue) as potential harm to self. It is simply not acceptable to use his disability as an excuse for aggression. The aggression has to stop, and quite honestly, I'm not so sure a two-day suspension will succeed in accomplishing that, although I'm guessing the school feels it's the right thing to do. What will help most, as Martie suggested, is competent medical treatment that should at the very least include close (as in weekly if your difficult child is not stable) monitoring by a board-certified child psychiatrist. Weekly therapy that focuses on coping skills should also be a strong consideration.

    Since your difficult child has a possible mood disorder -- something I know a bit about from my three kids -- I'm wondering about the medications your son is taking. How long has he been on each and what are the doses? Is he better, worse or about the same since he's been taking this combo of medications? Did you know that he is taking two antidepressants (Strattera and Zoloft) and that each alone can increase aggression and moodiness? Imagine what those two medications could do together if they happen to be the wrong medications for your difficult child?

    I also wanted to ask what kind of doctor diagnosed your difficult child and what kind of doctor is treating him? Has he ever had a neuropsychological evaluation? If not, you might want to consider that to nail down the diagnosis, explore interventions that address his needs and figure out appropriate educational placement.

    Sorry it's been so rough. I hope you make headway with your difficult child soon.

  4. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    It is also my understanding that even though your child is in a private school, you can get testing and services through your public school district. However, as Martie said, private schools do not have to provide services or give you any leeway because of your difficult child's behavior/ emotional problems.

    My difficult child was in a Christian private school in 1st and 2nd grade. A week before he was to start 3rd grade (and after the local school district had already been in session for a month), they told me that his application to attend 3rd grade had been denied. This after they had my deposit and first months tuition for six months. Their behavior was less than Christ-like, to be certain, but it also made my son feel unwanted. I didn't even have adequate time to transition him because of the school's disregard.

    in my opinion, your child would be better off in a public school. There are more services and more options available to him. As far as suspension, if he was in a public school with an IEP, and it was determined that his behavior is a result of his disability, then the school would NOT be able to suspend him.

    Good luck with the school. I would encourage you to start investigating the programs available within the local public school district, and pursue getting the testing done ASAP (the school district has to reply within 30 working days). My son is now in a special day class for children with DSM-IV diagnosis, and has an on-site psychologist who does both group and individual counseling. It's a great program, and there is no way I could afford this if it were in a private setting. It's a much better environment for him, and they are helping him with his social and behavioral issues.
  5. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Looking4hope is correct. You can keep your child in private school and request an evaluation under the Child Find provisions of IDEA. Under these circumstances, the quality and attention paid to the evaluation is highly variable but it does have the effect (in many cases) of letting the public school know that your child may be enrolling soon. If they believe that, the evaluation is apt to be more thorough.

    in my opinion adolescents need the legal protection that being a public school student with an IEP affords. There is NO group of kids for whom this is more applicable than "ours." In some cases, public schools will opt to send a student to a private facility, which is fine if it is appropriate. The way to get the public school to shoulder its responsibility for your child is to ENROLL him. Otherwise, the longer you pay privately for whatever your child needs, the happier the school district is.