Reply from Principal. Looks like I take the next step.

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Shari, Mar 6, 2009.

  1. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I would be glad to meet with you at anytime. For now though, I wanted
    to make an effort to answer some of your questions.

    In hindsight, when difficult child was removed from his other school, I feel like we should have
    probably started out on 1/2 days at that point. He was placed in a
    completely different learning environment with very different routines
    and expectations. With the issues we were facing, I was wondering if
    this were even the right placement for him. My point in saying this, is
    for the first time, since he has went to 1/2 days, I do feel like he is
    meeting some success. That being said, we still have issues, it just
    seems the ones that we have been seeing, have not been as drastic -
    granted he really has only been on 1/2 days for a week. You ask about a
    time-line. Truthfully, I do not feel comfortable in setting a deadline.
    I want to make sure that we see enough consistency in behaviors and how
    they are being dealt with/handled before we make the mistake of throwing
    him back into full days. Even though you may not view it from this
    point, I believe it is for difficult child's benefit too. I have to make sure
    that the school environment is safe for everyone - students and
    teachers. I can not allow staff members and students to be physically
    hit/kicked/spit on and verbally threatened by difficult child. The earliest
    that I would want to look at adding time is following spring break. But
    again, I would want to make sure that consistency was present. My
    thought is that we would look at adding specials (12:10 - 1:10 art,
    music, P.E....) to his day - see how that goes for a week or so. If
    that were successful, we could look at adding math time (1:10 - 2:10).
    If things were going well with that addition after several days, we
    could look at ending the day with us towards the end of the school year
    in an attempt to have him ready for summer school.

    As far as the evaluation, the SPED staff is working on trying to
    complete it as soon as possible. I do want to point out that even after
    the evaluations are complete and we determine he is/is not eligible for
    an IEP, I do not really see the services he receives changing all that
    much. Since he started with us, we have basically treated him as though
    he were on an IEP. Besides some related services he may/may not be
    eligible for, he will continue to have the same interventions he has had
    since day one.

    You also inquired as to what was being "done to address the
    environmental and support issues that are contributing to his problems
    staying at school." I truly feel like my staff members are doing
    everything they can to make difficult child successful. We are continuing to
    work with the team from MU on ways that we can build consistency for
    difficult child and ways that we can try to head-off some of the issues. You
    have said before many times that difficult child is unpredictable and that there
    is not always a warning or a trigger to try to detour his acting out.
    At times, I feel like you are inferring that it was the "school" that
    was responsible for difficult child's actions. I hope that I am misjudging in
    my assumptions, but I can promise you that they are working very hard to
    make difficult child comfortable in our school. This Saturday, SpEd Teacher, "sort of" para, and I, are taking part in an 8-hour training on Non-Violent
    Crisis Intervention which will also hopefully allow us to add to our
    tools for working with difficult child. The other two para's are scheduled to
    take part in the training at a later date. difficult child will continue to
    work with all three para's since they are also involved with other
    students in our building.

    Your last question was regarding how you could assist. Truthfully, the
    best thing would be to continue to support our plans and efforts in
    making difficult child successful in the school setting. I know that it has to
    be frustrating on your end and probably inconvienent to have him only
    attending 1/2 days. We just want to make sure that we are not setting
    him up to fail by putting him right back into it before he is ready.
    Again, I would be glad to meet with you if you have further questions.
  2. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Yes, Shari - I think so. On a positive note - principal is admitting that current placement may not be appropriate *and* is admitting that they've treated him like a student with an IEP. And also - bravo to them for getting training! Really - that's not the norm in my experience.

    Half days is not FAPE in LRE. Ten-day rule applies here. He's very clearly acknowledging knowledge that difficult child is potentially covered under IDEA.

    I think the concerning news is that principal doesn't see services changing if he qualifies for IEP (which of course he will). So... this is just going to be an ongoing issue. They don't get to *not* educate a kid just because he's a handful.

    Again, hate to beat a dead horse, but I think they are laying groundwork for school to be an ongoing struggle for difficult child, even though principal feels difficult child is "meeting some success" right now. If the solution to the problem is to cut back his access to education (illegal in my humble opinion), he will eventually have academic issues on top of his behavioral and social ones. If he's not there, he cannot be educated. I feel really strongly about this, probably more so now 13+ years out since my own difficult child starting having school issues. It can snowball so quickly, Shari.

    I'm so sorry - while there are definitely positives in principal's response, I think the bottom line (in my biased eyes ;) ) is that school district feels they can dictate under what circumstances they will educate difficult child. He's 6 for heavens sake.

    Sending you calm, strong, assertive :warrior: vibes!
  3. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Sue, that's one of my biggest concern with this whole thing. Principal's entire response is that he will call all shots. And he eluded that staff's involvement in difficult child's current suspension - if it weren't for staff having done what they did, difficult child wouldn't be suspended. End of that story.

    My "plan" if this is what I got was to contact SpEd Director next. I'm trying to spin all this around in my head and make sure that's still the logical next step. I got her attention with my last letter about not accepting the delay and the reasons why. I think (*THINK*) my next step is to let her know that I know that they, as a school district, can't do what they are doing to difficult child.

    My "plan" if that fails is to start spouting laws. I so want to avoid that.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    My interpretation of the principal's letter -

    "We are doing what we think best. We are making all the decisions unilaterally in what we believe to be everybody's best interests. If you want to help, don't interfere."

    Your response -

    "Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter. I can see that you are keeping the welfare of all concerned in mind as you make decisions. However, I do feel it would be more appropriate for there to be much broader input into decisions regarding difficult child's placement, level of attendance and education. I also need to have the opportunity to share with you my own expertise/experience as well as the professional assessments and judgements of difficult child's specialists. Decisions such as these involving difficult child's current placement and his needs can only benefit from having a wider input and group discussion over what is best not only for difficult child but for all those who need to deal with him. I would like the opportunity to ensure that all who have dealings with difficult child have had the benefit of my knowledge and the broader information I have been given. I understand that there are provisions within the system to do this, in the form of Learning Team Meeting. In order to expedite the matter and to also have the soonest opportunity to equip the school with the information you can utilise, I request such a meeting at the earliest opportunity."

    Check the accuracy of legalities etc because what I have written is what I know to be relevant to the Aussie situation. But this is where I think you need to get an independent, outside opinion from an advocacy support network, someone in your area who can tell you, without it sending whispers all up and down the education network, exactly what you are entitled to (for difficult child) and exactly what the principal is allowed to do, and not allowed to do. There's no point getting huffy about the principal making such unilateral decisions, if somewhere there is a loophole allowing him to do just that. For example, in his letter the principal has mentioned safety reasons and I'm wondering if he's leaning on those as his reasons for jumping in jackboots and all. If he's mentioning difficult child attacking people now, he could be trying to build a case to say that the school cannot have difficult child there and guarantee the safety of staff and students. YOu could respond to this in your reply letter by pointing out that any such behaviour form difficult child was the result of mishandling by staff who were not given the opportunity to learn what you know about how to handle him best, how to meet his needs. You have not only your experience, but the guidance of professionals. But go carefully on this one, don't give too much ammunition either. That's why I think you need to talk to an advocay group or support group of some kind, to find out more specific rights in your area (and perhaps find out of thisprincipal has a history of pulling this sort of stunt).

    You've got the weekend to do this, ring around and talk to whoever you can. Post something about this over in Special Education, too. Then you should be prepared with your reply letter on Monday.

    Good luck, I hope you find you're still on strong ground and it hasn't been undermined beneath your feet by this principal. He sounds a wily one, and cocky with it.

  5. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I agree, Marg. He's wily. And no, he can't do this. IN fact, the only real question we had he took care of with this letter - since wee difficult child is in the evaluation phase, there's been some debate over whether he's already covered by sped laws...principal nailed that case closed.

    Principal is quick to bring up wee difficult child's biting and kicking whenever we discuss this; however, that's not what he was suspended for! This is his 3rd suspension and not one has been for that behavior!

    The whole summer school thing - perfect example of what you're saying - we sent difficult child to summer school twice. It is short, it is not structured at all like the rest of the school year, he has to change entire teams of staff, and he didn't make it thru either month of summer school - they were disasters (once was at the early intervention preschool, too, where he was almost a easy child - until summer school disrupted his routine).

    I have a reply back to principal written, much like yours. My next step is to contact the SpEd director, explain to her why difficult child is suspended, tell her that I am not ok with principal and super (who's never even met my son) making placement decisions like this, and we need to get something going to fix it.

    Really, there's only 7 weeks left of school. This year is a bust, but my goal is to get things lined up so we are starting over come next fall.
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    While I am VERY disappointed in the Principal, I am not terribly surprised. I think i would feel differently if at least wee difficult child was being exposed to all of the core curriculum. but by missing math he is definitely NOT getting that.

    I would not hesitate to call the half days a "suspension" and to point out that suspension can only equal a MAX of 10 days - equalling 20 days of half days IF he had had NO suspensions. I would also point out that wee is entitled to FAPE in LRE. If he is only going to get half a day of education every year he is a handful he will not get 12 years of education, he will get 6. And THAT is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    Law states that during the evaluation a student IS given all the protections of IDEA until it is proven he is not entitled to it. It is the law. So his suspensions count to the 10 days, they can't keep him out 1/2 days indefinitely, and they should be jumping up and down to have you as you are trying to educate them as easily as possible. Don't give on this stuff though.

    I highly recommend having an advocate or attorney help with this. I have a feeling this principal is going to be a jerk once he sees he can't just get his way because you know the laws (or where to learn more about them!)

  7. ML

    ML Guest

    Nothing to add except support. Hang in there Shari, you are doing everything you can.
  8. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    How frustrating this has got to be. As far as the summer school thing-we were told to sign difficult child one summer. He lasted two days due to behaviors. Then they said they don't take kids with IEPs-grrr.

    Maybe your difficult child will qualify for ESY (extended school year)? That is suppose to help them work on their IEP goals.

  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Shari, I forgot your school year is almost over. That means you really have to insist that meetings are set up NOW so everything is in place for difficult child for next year, with consensus on what is done for him. Do what you can do set this up.

    In the meantime... you have difficult child at home for some of the day. USE that time to make sure he gets access to curriculum material that YOU provide. YOU fill in the gaps, quietly if you must. We went through similar things, although with us it was difficult child's school avoidance and extreme anxiety mimicking repeated gastric illness, not the school sending him home.

    Because I knew difficult child 3 found being at home was more restful (who wouldn't?) I didn't want to set up a conditioned response where he would try to get himself sent home (either for bad behaviour or 'being sick') so I made home as school-like as I could, and insisted that during school hours, he MUST do schoolwork. And that was when we discovered just how little he had ever learnt, even when he HAD been in school. One of difficult child 3's severe deficits was Geography - at age 10, he had no idea how to find any country on the globe, he had no idea where we lived (couldn't find Australia, the US, Europe, Africa). We'd go for a drive in the afternoon and he would ask if we had left the country. At school a couple of years earlier he had written a report on Japan, but he had no idea where it was and it was as if he had never written the report. So I began with Geography, but all I could find was "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"
    It turned out to be a stroke of genius. There is a connectedness to that game, which did for GFG3what none of the classroom learning had been able to do. It gave him the entire concept of the world and how it fits together. From there, he was finally able to take in any other information about the world (as in news) that filtered into his consciousness.
    And it was so easy for me to do - I just set him up with the game, showed him how to do it and left him to it. Sometimes he needed help to get past a problem, but generally he managed on his own.

    Other computer software hewlped him learn in other areas. Maths & logic was taught by using various Zoombinis packages. There are various talking DVD packages (Arthur, for example) which helped a lot. I have some Maths software packages which are basicdrill but with some interesting twists. And there are documentaries on DVD, some TV programs during school hours are designed for schools to screen to aclass - I plugged in to those as well. PLus when I had the energy (or we had to go out somewhere) I'd plan a small excuriosn, to a museum or zoo perhaps, or sometimes (because of where we live) we'd just stop on the side of the road to explore the river, a patch of temperate rainforest, the mangrove swamp, the tidal flat, the beach - it all plugged in to the need for connectedness and hands-on.

    All this has meant that we've privately worked on filling in the gaps in difficult child 3's education, and not only helping him catch up but to also pass his peers. In the home environment he actually learns far more than he learns in the classroom.

    When I was a kid at school, I lacked confidence in Maths. I also was an avid reader and needed to read SOMETHING to ward off boredom. I remember a few times when I was bored and had forgotten to bring a book, I read my Maths textbook. I read ahead, not bothering to do the problems but just read the information at the beginning of the chapters. But the outcome - when it came to do that work in class, I already was partly familiar with it and found the work was suddenly very easy. It boosted my confidence and I went from doing badly at Maths, to being top of the class.

    Computer software makes life even easier these days. You don't have to spend thousands, either. A really good revision package I bought for difficult child 3 which covers most high school Maths, cost me A$70. We spend A$90 a year to access a detailed, complete, Maths curriculum that is very similar to another system I won't name that costs many thousands. I also do the packages myself so I am familiar enough with them to help him. I have found it good for me to exercise my brain, and I wish I'd had these when I was a kid; I'm understanding it all so much better now, and I can easily explain things to difficult child 3 that years ago I also struggled with.

    So fight this, get difficult child back to school at least for next year. But in the meantime, use the time he is at home to help him over his academic hurdles. Don't let the so-and-so principal succeed in keeping your son down academically.

    The best revenge is success.

  10. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    My last reply should have said I want to set things up so we are NOT starting from scratch next year. My bad.

    Anyway, thanks for all your support. I know we're in the right on this and that he can't be calling the shots. After the second suspension and the way that was handled hush-hush and under the table at a 6am meeting, I suspected this was the real guy under the fluff...what I have to do now is stand my ground and salvage as much of a working relationship with this man as I can.

    I was denied an advocate but am appealing; however, there's a non-profit organization that does IEP training for parents that I have been talking to, and since I can't get into the training before we'll have his IEP meeting, they are going to try to send a representative to help. But between them and you guys, I've read enough laws that I really beleive we're on target here.

    On a good note, SpEd teacher and the paras have all read Lost at School and The Explosive Child now, and "sort of" para is really trying to implement TEC. The other para and SpEd are also jumping in quicker to model it for her. So this whole fiasco isn't a complete wash. If I could just get that _____ principal out of the way so the SpEd team could do what they know they need to do... They really are a good team, even "sort of". She's willing to learn.

    PS Oh, yeah, even tho difficult child's only been in school for 7 weeks and hasn't been in math class for 2+, he got the highest marks in math on his report card! He taught the class a song about counting by 10's that he learned at his other school, and his teacher said she hears the class singing it when they have to figure something that involves counting by 10's (counting dimes, etc). Something for him to be proud of, for sure!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Principal should be picking up my reply back to him about now...I am anxiously waiting to see if I hear anything...while simultaneously scheduling a meeting with the districts Special Education director...
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Shari, be prepared for there to be communication up and down the line of command. Your letter may already have been partly or fully communicated. Be ready for this possibility.

    One thing to prepare for (and I hope you don't find it, but I suspect with the principal you could) - watch out for the person who shares SOME of your letter with people (especially people who have previously been supportive) but shares it in a way that makes it look like you are shafting them (the supportive ones).
    If this happens, you may find yourself attacked by someone you thought was on your side. If this happens, resolve it immediately by showing them the FULL letter and asking them to tell you which bit has upset them. If you have said something upsetting inadvertently, apologise, because you need your supporters. But go carefully.

    THis happened to me - I had written in a letter concerning difficult child 1, that he had felt unsupported at his school, that he had even been harassed by a staff member (who I chose to not name, because I suspected, rightly, that the person who was doing the harassment would be the one to open the letter despite my marknig it strictly confidential). I went out of my way to praise difficult child 1's aide by name for her tireless efforts that themselves were unsupported by her colleagues. But the cow who opened the letter (and who then immediately leaned over difficult child 1 and shouted, "WHO'S been harassing you?") then told the aide about the letter in such a way that she thought I had singled her out for criticism, not praise.
    Luckily I had a copy of the letter and was able to say, "You have done such a wonderful job with him, despite the lack of support from others, that I wanted to say so. If there has been anything in that letter to indicate otherwise, then it is not truly a reflection of how I feel. I don't know what you were told or shown, but here is the full copy for you to look at now. Please show me the bit that has upset you and if I need to, I will write a clarifying letter to make sure your efforts are on record."

    I saw this with other staff members at that school also - where you have one extremely controlling, bullying senior staff member, you find otherwise lovely people toeing the line and even (while they're at that school) believing the stuff they spout in support of the bully. After all, often a troublemaking parent (ie you and me) will be gone soon, even if they have to wait for the child to graduate out. But the colleagues remain, and need to rely on one another to back each other up (no matter how much it sticks in various craws). Plus, bullies are really skilled at controlling and brainwashing some colleagues.

    I'm probably warning you for no good reason. Just trying to make sure all your bases are covered. because if this happens - you can quickly make it no big deal, if you handle it right. And that will further undermine the bully. A potential snag, turned to your advantage.

    Hang in there.

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2009
  13. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Adding hugs and support. Stay strong, Shari!
  14. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I already know my letters and emails have been thrown around that disctrict like tennis balls at Wimbledon, so when I sent this past one, I copied and delivered them to everyone principal has ever copied an email on, plus the assistant superintendant (figured it would be unfair to leave him out of the fun).

    I got a short email reply from principal yesterday in response, but really all he did was parrot what I had said to him about the need to work as a team (which I certainly didn't get from his answer to my questions!). As for the meeting, he said he would be contacting me soon. I left it at that and contacted the SpEd Director - waiting to hear back from her, hopefully today.