New school year in K is a train wreck by day two

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by starcloaked, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. starcloaked

    starcloaked New Member

    I'm going to try to write this post, but I'm not sure I know where to begin. I have another window open where I need to write the "letter to a stranger" that lays everything out rationally and dispassionately, but I'm not there yet. I apologize, this is long.

    My son has an IEP after a long evaluation process last year that got him into the public preschool. He had been kicked out of two private preschools, but in a Special Education preschool classroom, he did fantastically well. In five months, he never had a meltdown. The teacher said she had to speak to him in the hall once. Over the summer, he did okay at nature day camp, though he started to have trouble toward the end of his four weeks there. But it proved that he could do an all-day (6 hour) program with the same schedule as kindergarten.

    Strangely, all summer, we didn't get the IEP in the mail. We got another document, and when we called the SPED department they said they were expecting it and it should be in soon, and then oops, everyone was gone for the summer. We were having a private neurospcyh evaluation, so we figured we would do a new one before the start of school anyway. We figured his paperwork was at the new school.

    I know, you veterans here are shaking your heads at my fatal error.

    I send the neurospych evaluation in August, talk to the ETL (SPED gatekeeper) through phone tag voice mails and a formal letter requesting a revision to the IEP. She says she's putting it in process. I call just after labor day. She calls me back. She can't seem to find the IEP. In fact, the school has never seen the IEP. None of the services agreed upon at the team meeting in June have been put in place, the placement has not been made with his IEP in mind, and the school has NO PLAN for him.

    So I go into advocacy mode, I start giving people deadlines, I cancel my work day to accompany my spouse to the kindergarten visiting day and I give a run-down of the IEP meeting to the teacher, the Special Education teacher, and I meet with the principal who promises me that she will provide an aide in the classroom, assigned to difficult child, until the IEP meeting is held next week.

    All this time, the city's director of Special Education is supposedly driving around town to the old school and to the new school figuring out who has the notes for the IEP and getting it written. He says it's in the mail on Friday. It's now Tuesday and it has not been received by me or by the old school. It's not that big of a city--we have three zip codes.

    The first day of school goes well for my difficult child. Another kid in my difficult child's class has an incident with a friend of my difficult child's, in which my difficult child's friend gets somewhat seriously injured (stitches on her face). This kind of thing tends to scare my difficult child, though he won't talk about it. He had a horrible afternoon AFTER school, including having to be carried out of the Y.

    The second day of school, my difficult child is the out-of-control one. He gets unruly in gym class. He spits at lunch. He throws a block at the teacher, hitting her in the face and raising a bruise. Then the principal comes in, she sees difficult child grabbing another kid's arm, she intervenes (presumably in a scary way) and difficult child freaks out, tries to bite her, hit her, pinch her, spit at her, "say horrible things"...etc. etc. Turns out difficult child dropped a book, the girl screamed at him, and then he, as he is wont to do, freaked the heck out.

    So now he's been asked to stay out of school for the rest of the week, an emergency IEP meeting has been called by the SPED director, and they're talking about moving him to a different school in the district that has some sort of a partial inclusion program, unlike the one he's in. I would have been fine with that had it been recommended earlier, so that we could have planned for it and school-choiced his twin sister into the same school, but now we've got a terrible start when the major decision at the June IEP meeting was that getting off to a good start was the most important thing for him (and therefore a bunch of frontloaded services were in place). And I've had my kids in two different schools for the past year, and I'm not up for that again. I feel like this happened because THEY screwed up, and then when they were supposed to make it right, they failed to do so (why wasn't there an aide there when the principal walked in?)

    The code of conduct document for the school says that kids can be suspended or expelled for threats or assault, so although it's clearly due to their failure to provide services (though since there was no new signed IEP, and the IEP they had said "integrated preschool" as the service to be provided, is that even legally defensible?). So I guess we're going with the suspension. But it makes me completely irate.

    So I have this meeting on FRIDAY, and half the team that was going to be assembled for the already-scheduled meeting to consider the new evaluation can't be there, and I've called a lawyer and got the name of an educational advocate. But I am not sure how to do this, and it feels like every move we make gets us into worse trouble.

    We went for nearly a year with minimal child care. My spouse is working half-time, but got lots of flex from the boss last year, and now was supposed to be time to get back on track (we're thinking maybe FLMA, but don't know how we'll make ends meet). My job is out of control busy. We had really high hopes that he'd finally be in a full-day program that would work for him, since he did so brilliantly well in the preschool. I'm so discouraged, and I feel like we're reliving last fall, when we suddenly got kicked out of preschool and were left with a badly-shaken little boy, a distressed twin sister, and no child care. I know I'll come back and be ready to fight another day, but right now this feels a lot more like beirut than holland .

    How do people do it? I feel like between the incredibly difficult job of parenting my son and the task of earning a living, I don't know how to learn the law well enough to maneuver around these people. I haven't been perfect, but I've called, I've put things in writing, I've followed up, I've informed and supported and reminded and asked for clear commitments. I advocated and clarified and reminded and targeted my requests. Yet here we are. Is it alway like this? I thought it would get better now that he's in school. This is not what I had in mind.

    Thanks, if you got all the way through this. I lurk here a lot, have posted only a tiny bit, but thanks for being here. It helps to know we're not alone.

    Star
     
  2. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    (((star)))

    Wow. I am so sorry that you and your children are being put through this!

    There are two wonderful moderators on this board. They may be on tonight, but will definitely be on tomorrow. They have the wisdom and knowledge that you are seeking. I just wanted to jump in and give you a hug and a welcome. I see that you have been on the board a few months but have not posted much. Welcome, anyways.
     
  3. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Hello,

    Right now, the school district can suspend your son but only for 10 days. After that, they have to provide for his education in some way.

    You are in a very difficult situation, because your desire to have your children in the same school is not relevant to the IEP. However, the school district has made enough legal errors to sink a ship. I am presuming you have no copy of the IEP. Did you take notes at the meeting? In IL, parents have a right to the IEP AT THE MEETING. It is not mailed later (with unauthorized changes often inserted.) This is a very good law but it is a state reg. in IL not federal law. However, I still think it is good practice for parents to ask for a copy of the IEP or meeting notes before leaving if the IEP is not finished. No one should ever agree to letting the school district "finish it." You have a right to participate beginning to end at another meeting if necessary. Period. It may be the practice of school district to finish and mail IEPs but by law, they must be constructed with all team members present.

    Here are the legal principles that are in play:

    FAPE---what your school district has done is not APPROPRIATE

    LRE---moving your son because he had an incident when they were denying FAPE is a problem for them

    HOWEVER, if they invoke the "dangerousness" clause, they can move him to an "interim alternative educational placement" for up to 45 days. This provision is typically used for adolescents who are threatening due to size not kindergarteners. If they want to go this route, they need to reevaluate, and come up with a BIP. If I were you, I would ask for every conceivable service since THEY believe he has so many needs he should be in a non-inclusion environment: this could mean many things but for starters: a 1:1 aide to implement the BIP instantly, training for all staff in handling children who spit and bite (disease transmission risk has been found by the Supreme Court to be a valid reason for exclusion but only under limited circumstances), any other services his diagnosis's would warrant AND if he is academically able, ask for very frequent academic assessment to make certain he is making "progress commensurate with his underlying ability." If he is not, then academic adjustment need to be made. This will prevent them from "warehousing" him. It is very difficult to provide a good academic education in a highly restrictive environment. However, if they force the issue of alternative placement, you should demand a good academic eduction.

    You need to be very familiar with Special Education law to pull this off, but I hope you can turn the school district blowing the start of the school year for your son against them to your son's advantage.

    Martie
     
  4. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Arghhhhh!....it sounds to me like your school district needs a slap upside the head.

    If I were in your shoes right now I would be waging an internal war between what's best for my son, what's best for the family, and forcing the school district to rectify their collosal error and bring in the agreed upon supports ASAP. As an outsider, one thing I might suggest is to visit the school with the partial inclusion program prior to the IEP meeting and if possible talk to parents whose children attend that program.

    My child had very debilitating anxiety in a school that is total inclusion except for TMH and Severe/Profound. There literally is no physical classroom for Learning Disability (LD) or higher funtioning kids with other disorders like mine and that one year he could have really benefitted from it. The district was mostly good about providing necessary supports but for an emotionally fragile child or one whose disorders bring out a lot of behavioral disruption, a partial inclusion program can provide a lot of flexibility that a total inclusion program can't. Obviously I don't know your child and only you can determine which setting would be right for him, but based on my experience I would suggest a visit in order to best be able to compare the suitability of the environments in advance of that meeting.

    Personally I'd be keeping my child out of school until placement is determined and supports are in place because no supports/wrong placement can do a great deal of damage in a short period of time. Do request that class work be sent home because schools tend to get nasty about kids who aren't in school that should be (mine started talking retention at week 3 even though he was 2+ grade levels ahead in most subject areas). You could also request a homebound instructor but I'm not sure that it's worth it at this grade level.


    Good luck with your meeting and decision making--after this foul up I hope the district will bend over backwards to accomodate him.
     
  5. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    One more thing: under these circumstances I would make absolutely sure that any absence due the fault of the school not having their act together doesn't go on his record as a suspension. And I might even get stinky about it being recorded as unexcused absences.
     
  6. starcloaked

    starcloaked New Member

    Thanks to all three of you for the great advice and even greater support. MWAH! (that's me blowing a kiss...)

    I'm a lot calmer today, and I'm back in advocacy mode, partly thanks to you. I read these posts to my spouse on the phone at work today, and it helped both of us to remember that we're not completely alone.

    There's definitely a question about whether to agree to keep him out or to make them take him back. We're keeping him out until Friday's meeting, which we expect will be a manifestation determination meeting, however completely screwed up that might be given the situation. I've hired an educational advocate who has already given me good advice on the phone and who is going to try to be there on Friday, and I had a great talk with a lawyer (who kept, rather satisfyingly, yelling "That's BULL$#!%!" whenever I would tell him a new wrinkle in my tale). The lawyer knows the school system well and is in other litigation with this school, so was able to give me some perspective on their tactics. It may get worse before it gets better, but it's good to have someone on our side who isn't scared of the BSEA process and who seems to get a kick out of making sure schools take care of kids the way they're supposed to. It's all going to add up to some cash, but we've never asked the grandparents for money, and now may be the time. And even though he talked to me for 45 minutes, gave me his cell phone, told me to call Saturday to report on Friday's meeting, he isn't charging us yet, which is awfully nice.

    So that's the news from here. Thanks again for your advice and support. Things may get worse before they get better, but I'll keep you posted.

    Star
     
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