Taking the school battle too hard

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by whatamess, Jul 18, 2011.

  1. whatamess

    whatamess New Member


    I have been labelled by my school district as a whiner/complainer/excessive parent. My son has been mistreated so many times emotionally and physically that he has suffered a great loss of trust and education. The school district knows how to prevent law suits and protects their own. Even when I have gotten 'insiders' to come forward they are quickly put back in their place and warned not to come forward anymore. My repuatation precedes me and leaves me unable or severly incapacitated for advocacy efforts for my son. I feel I give lots of leeway and understanding, however if things become out of hand, I will always say something! It is not perceived in this way. I am very angry that I cannot be heard. My voice has been taken by a few key people in administration whose word would always be taken over mine. I think about this every day and have taken on pursuing some sort of accountability for the school as a "part-time" job of sorts. I cannot let the past go because it continues to impact my son's education. I have pursued many avenues to resolution (advocacy agencies, police, education dept. in my state) and all have reasons why this is too hard to pursue and therefore are marginally helpful. What I am asking of you parents, is how do you move on from this type of situation? How do you stop pursuing justice? My son was diagnosed PTSD in relation to his school experience and yet no one is held accountable. Insight into how to handle this is appreciated...
  2. keista

    keista New Member

    WTH? Didn't they read "The Little Engine that Could"???????????

    ((((HUGS)))) I'm so sorry they all refuse to help. Have you tried the ACLU or the News?
  3. exhausted

    exhausted Active Member

    I am so sorry this has happened to your boy. I don't know the specifics-maybe a little insight would help. You say you have used advocacy groups so I am assuming you have used the local law center for people with disabilities? To me, once you reach an impass, you have 2 options, one is to rest assured you have done what is in your power to get justice and it is just not possible, or to spend money on legal counsel. You have to decide what you can live with. Can you help your son heal and move on, or are the things that happened to him too bad to let go? (PTSD makes me wonder how severe these things were). In the long run, what will benefit him more? Are there other schooling options? I will tell you that school districts and teacher's unions can be a bear to fight. Have you had a fair hearing with an outside mediator? If you can't let it go, you will have to get legal counsel. Finding affordable help is tough-been there done that.My daughter has PTSD brought on by repeated sexual abuse by her teenage cousin when she was only 4/5 years old. She has been a victom since then. We have reported all this over a year and a half ago with all contact numbers and addresses and so on. Nothing has happened with the 3 reported cases. We too feel so much anger at times. I have been labelled as over-protective. Too bad, I do what I feel I must for my child. The discomfort of others is not my (nor your) problem when they do not do what is needed for my child. We have decided that if the state will not act, we will, when and if our daughter wants us to. The justice is for her. If she is ok moving on and wants to move forward, we will support this as well. How does your boy feel? Does he understand what is happeneing?I think the fact that you have advocated for your boy also lets schools know you are watching. I think it is ok to say that you love your kid, have little trust for the school system, and you will be hovering whether they like it or not. I know it doesn't feel good to be labeled, but you have to do what you think will keep him safe. Lastly, have you stopped to look at your behavior? I,m not being critical-because I had to do this for me as well. Have I been reactive at times, do I need to patch up anything? Am I being reasonable? If the answer is, I've done my best, decide to move on or decide to get legal help. A big hug to you!
  4. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Had very similar issues re: my oldest son. Won't go into a lot of details because I can still get whipped into a frenzy over it in about a nanosecond flat. Briefly, fought the good fight for FAPE in LRE for a year, against the most morally bankrupt sped director ever and the SD's attorney who... well, I cannot for the life of me figure out why she has a license to practice law, aside from the fact that the SD's in this state *adore* her ability to totally ignore IDEA and get away from it (she's a very popular SD atty). Who, me, bitter? ;)

    I made the conscious decision, after a year of unbelievable ridiculousness, to walk away from it. My main motivating factor was that my son was being retaliated against. Unquestionably, undeniably, and very well documented. But also, I was a complete basket case. The extent that some SDs will mess with you is astounding, and it takes not only an emotional toll on a warrior parent, but a physical one as well.

    My situation was different in that Boo will never hold a job nor live independently, so caving into the SD's manure in real terms didn't affect his so-called education, aside from the fact he was put into a program that wanted him, as opposed to being in one that didn't. They religiously taught him for 6 years that leaves fall in autumn, it snows in winter, and beverages on a menu mean drinks. Every stinking year. I had to resort to some very dark humor to get thru those years. Boo of course was utterly delighted whenever he brought home his "school work" because he knew he was guaranteed a show. :rofl: Seriously though, we have "educated" him here at home. Lifeskills, common sense, shopping, self-advocacy (though obviously I inhale forcefully at that, LOL) etc. "School" was simply an opportunity for him to interact with other people. Education was not something that took place there.

    Bottom line, *if* you have accessed every available resource to you and are still fighting a losing battle, in my humble opinion there comes a time when you have to weigh the personal cost to yourself and your family against the potential of ever making any headway with the SD. When I finally gave it up, I had lost a massive amt of weight, was useless to my family, was completely *obsessed* with- the battle to the point of not sleeping, and was probably a hair away from total collapse. Boo wasn't getting any benefit out of it, and realistically, never would, and at the same time he had lost a functioning mother/caretaker to boot.

    If you do decide to walk away, it will be a very conscious decision and you will have to really work to stick with that decision. I cannot begin to express the deeply intense anger I feel still over the failure of my SD to educate Boo, and the abhorrent manner in which they went about beating me down, through him. I was fortunate in that sped dir from Hades retired shortly thereafter - if I had had to continue to deal with her... well, it would have been exceptionally difficult.

    Work with the SD so that the least harm will occur to your son, and rechannel the energy that you've been expending in fighting them towards his real education. Some brick walls just are not going to come down.

    Just my opinion.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry that you are having so much difficulty. What exactly do you want the SB to do? Are you seeking a particular placement or a specific type of help? If you are hoping that they will address past problems chances are you are hoping for the impossible. Most schools do not accept culpability even tho they dictate "zero tolderance". Sigh! Are you emphasising future supports in your meetins with them?

    Frankly I believe the others are probably right that you are fighting a losing battle. With so much history of negativity it seems unlikely that there will be a turnabout. on the other hand...there is a slight chance that if you have specifics for the future and let go of the past it could work out. What a shame to have to worry about the right to a safe and adequate education! Sending caring thoughts your way. DDD
  6. Liahona

    Liahona Guest

    I pulled difficult child 2 out of school in Dec. for this reason. Now most of my kids are homeschooled. I was a sp. ed. teacher and while most people in the education system are very good people wanting to make a difference there are some who I won't trust with my kids. I could fight all I want to but I would never get the schools to admit to what the teacher (or aide) had done, or change the effect it had on difficult child 2, or make sure it didn't happen again. My fight wasn't about policy or how much support was available to my kids it was about how my child was being treated.
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Unless you can get some outside professional to support you, its a losing battle, and your energies are probably better spent elsewhere. But "outside professional support" isn't necessarily a lawyer. (Sorry, I'm Canadian... we just don't "do that" legal stuff up here!)

    Its really hard to be the advocate, when you're dealing with a system that sees you as "just a parent". Alternate voices can be... the psychiatrist or therapist (been there done that), someone from a learning disabilities association, a retired teacher who knows the system and the case... in other words, anyone who can come up to speed on the situation, supports your basic views of what this child needs to move forward, can work as the go-between. It takes emotion out of the picture, which is especially important when there is "history" to the case.

    Just something to think about.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There does come a time when you have to decide - what is best for my child?

    If the school environment is doing him harm, remove him and teach him at home. There are various options including some computer based or online alternatives (and they needn't cost thousands; we have two really good Maths online options, one is free and the other is A$99 a year). difficult child 3 is enrolled in a correspondence high school which has teachers available by phone also, as well as in person if we drive in to the school's home base in the city.

    I have seen a lot of parents pull back their battles on behalf of their children, purely out of fear of what the school will think of them. I have also seen how some school staff use intimidation tactics to bully their arguments through. Even after the child leaves the school, staff attitudes can follow them and their parents.

    Example - our local school. I hassled for difficult child 3 (before him, I also hassled for easy child & difficult child 1) but I also made myself as useful to the school as possible. I helped out where I could, I started an activity group at lunchtimes and even drove kids to and from team events. I did this deliberately for numerous reasons:

    1) It meant I was very much present and able to see stuff for myself.

    2) I was too useful to the school for them to safely criticise me; if I left and abandoned my projects, the school would have some angry parents to explain to. I knew what I did was appreciated by the kids and their parents.

    3) The school was unable to use the argument that I was a complainer who never did anything positive.

    Even after my kids left this school, I stayed involved.

    Along the way I met another parent. Highly intelligent, professional and dedicated. We have become firm friends. She fought even harder for this school, beyond the point where I would have walked away. For several years I urged her to remove her daughter and walk away. Finally she did. At that point she also walked away from the things she had been doing for the school. People did notice her departure, but a lot of her efforts were deliberately played down or twisted to make them seem self-serving.

    At this school there was a culture of attacking those parents who eventually removed their kids. Our teacher numbers are directly related to pupil numbers, and as student numbers drop, we lose teachers. I fought to keep a teacher one year and succeeded - for a year. I also (and my friend) gave solid, non-school reasons for moving our children (to lessen the attacks). We still got attacked, but not as badly as other parents.

    Now, in our village we have only one elementary school. All other students, including ALL high school students, have to travel across the water, or out by a long road journey. Many parents car-pool but it involves an hour's drive twice a day, at least. So my friend began campaigning for a government bus to handle these non-local kids. I was one of the first to sign the petition.
    Then a very nasty email began to circulate around the town. It was unsigned but came from the email address of a male relative of one of the school office staff. My friend was devastated at some of the really mean (and untrue) things the email said. It covered all the mean gossipy things people had been saying - we were snobs, we were rats leaving a sinking ship, we were disloyal, we were only complainers who never did anything constructive. We were self-serving. (Well, that told me where the nasty comments about my friend allegedly being self-serving had come from earlier!)

    My friend was too upset to be rational about it, so I stepped in and wrote a reply. The email being circulated had been done by an amateur - the recipients list had also been broadcast, so I used it to broadcast my own (although I suppressed the list). I simply answered every argument in the email politely but firmly, addressed it to the person whose email had been used and not to the person I really suspected. I said that the person he knew who worked at the school knew me better than to say such things about me; to ask her. I also defended my friend and listed all the really good things she had done for the school. I also pointed out that neither of us had said bad things about the school, we certainly had not stood outside the gates with recruitment brochures for other schools! I used humour, I also apologised to all those on the email list who had been forced to read the hateful drivel that had been unnecessarily and hurtfully broadcast. I also pointed out that the bus application had been an incentive for the entire village and that actually, neither my child nor my friend's child were likely to be able to use it. Nevertheless we had both helped campaign for it, for the sake for the village. For other people. And if that was the definition of "self-serving" then may we all be as self-serving as that.

    I never got a reply or even an apology, but next time I crossed paths with that school staff member, she was very nice to me. By addressing my email to her male family member whose email she used, I had given her a way to save face. She fooled nobody, we all knew she was the one who had written it, but she was content to use my fiction to CYA.

    ANd that is the thing - they know I will do this. I will speak up, but I will also troll up my sleeves to a greater extent than they would themselves.

    One final ironic sting in the tail to this story - I was driving difficult child 3 to his drama class on the mainland. We have to drive past a private elementary school on the way, and I saw there, collecting his child, the same man who had been so openly critical, loudly vocal, about rats leaving a sinking ship. He personally had been very critical of parents who were disloyal and removed their children form our local elementary school. And her he was, he had moved his own child. After attacking others. He did not see me but it still seemed to me that he was trying to hide his face, trying to hunch over to hide his tall, distinctive figure. I took great delight in telling people where I had seen him and how glad I was that he had finally chosen to move his child, as others had done before him.

    I can be a grade A B*tch when I choose to be. And the people at the school know this, too. And when they see me choose not to be, they breathe.

    When I have needed to really kick rear ends hard and fast, they have seen me do it. My favourite trick is to call up the chain of command. I did this when I needed to save that teacher's job and because it involved difficult child 3's class placement that year, I felt personally justified in using every dirty trick I could.

    First call - local principal. "Tell me why difficult child 3 is looking at being put in a composite class of 40 students and has had three different class placements in the first three days." The principal was open with me about his frustration, was frank with me about the details.

    Second call - district office disabilities person. "difficult child 3 cannot function with all this upheaval, and he will not function in a composite class of 40. Fix it." Trouble was, the staff were all in meetings. So I left that message, and one other - "I am going to keep calling up the chain of command until I get to talk to a person who can fix this today. The sooner you get back to me, the fewer people over your head I will get to call." I then left this with the person who took the message and made it clear - YOU choose whether to interrupt the meeting to pass on my message, or instead to let three hours pass during which I could be doing untold damage to your boss's professional reputation.

    I then was as good as my word. I rang over people's heads. I called the next person in line up the chain of command. In meetings. I left the same message. Eventually I had exhausted all the education officials in the state. I had even rung the Director-General's office and got no reply. "He is in a meeting, he will call you back." Along the way I had been given information by staff who were also disgruntled. So I called two other chains - the state advocacy group who put me through to the president on her car phone. She had a meeting with the state Minister for Education in a couple of hours time. Here is his number. So I called the Minister's office, spoke to the person who actually does the work (his principal private secretary). I provided them with a list of who I had rung and when, as well as their failure to prevent me from my calls by actually (heaven forbid) getting back to me. I said I must save that teacher's job by close of day in order to give my son a chance at education that year. It was an urgent disabilities issue and nobody was actually doing anything brave.

    Outcome - the advocacy president plus principal private secretary to the Minister ensured that within two hours, the Minister began the series of calls back down the chain of command. Along with the calls came steel-capped boots kicking every rear end along the way. I made enemies that day, but I also showed those same enemies that I was about as safe to play with, as an angry tiger snake. I got what I wanted - for a year. It took more pushing afterwards, the local education officials tried to water down the eventual agreement but I stood firm.
    At the level of the school, they were grateful because I had saved a teacher's job. They did not see that I had done it for difficult child 3, they felt I had simply used difficult child 3 to gain my primary objective - the teacher's job. Idiots.

    I have absolutely no doubt that a lot of the local school staff absolutely loathed me. Despised me. But they knew I could make things happen and also knew I would take a stand and stick with it.

    Sticking with it is important. Once you start a process, you have to see it through. If I had stopped pushing, stopped my phone calls half way, I would have had zero outcome but my name still would have been mud. I at least acquired some respect in the process; admittedly, the same sort of respect Rommel had from the British army in WWII, but it was still acknowledgement to take this person seriously.

    I had not made my final phone call - it would have been to the media. Not always the best call, but you can get good results when you involve the media. It can also come back to bite you. Never take this step unless you are prepared to follow through. Also be prepared for it to fall completely flat, so don't talk about it until it is coming to fruition. Don't threaten too lightly to use the media, in other words. And whenever you make such a call, have your pitch ready. Sell the story to them in as few words as possible. Make your issue as broadly relevant as possible - "if my child with a disability is getting trampled, what else is happening to other children around the state? Not every such kid has a mother tigress like me."

    Now, despite my activism and past successes, we still reached the point where I chose to transfer difficult child 3 out of the public education system. We had tried, we really had. And we could see what was still not working, what would never work. Interestingly, I was bullied by district educators because I removed difficult child 3 and transferred him to correspondence. I had made sure I had all my paperwork filed correctly, all paragraphs initialled. But they still tried to bully me to put difficult child 3 back. I was threatened, I was abused. I stayed calm and referred them to the appropriate (more senior) person and I then telephoned that person to warn them of the attack. And then the obvious logic hit me - the blustering was common practice, the senior correspondence people were very accustomed to it and said to me, "It will be okay - let me handle him. He should know better by now than to tangle with me over this."

    Bullying at an institutional level is often present in situations where schools are not addressing bullying issues. How can they, when educators set such bad examples? And when you try to advocate for your child about bullying, only to be bullied yourself - that is a good time to shrug and walk away. You COULD fight that battle but in the meantime, what damage is done to your child in the name of justice and fair play?

    Since we chose this route, I have still had opportunities to speak up about this. I am taking another such opportunity now. We have also been interviewed at times, and again told our stories. A year ago difficult child 3 & I were on national television discussing autism, difficult child 3 especially was very effective in explaining how bad it is just on a day to day basis, let alone when you throw beatings and attacks into the mix. They actually showed the photos of difficult child 3's bloodied head, a photo taken by the ambulance officer who attended the scene after difficult child 3 was attacked by a group of local, very young, bullies. We got some very interesting feedback, much of which was shock and horror when people realised how bad it can get. And I know difficult child 3 has not had it anywhere near as bad as some kids get it.

    So when do you stop fighting and walk away? How can you convince yourself that it's time to give up the fight? When you have a better alternative for your child, and when the battles are more difficult than the alternative.

    I got fed up with being called to the school almost daily. I got fed up with difficult child 3 coming home bloodied with torn clothes. I got fed up with difficult child 3 being told it was his fault or that he had not really been beaten up, he had misunderstood because of his autism. I got fed up with the truth being rewritten purely to stop the bullies having to answer for their actions. I got fed up with having to cancel appointments and turn around to go collect a boy who was vomiting again purely form stress. I got fed up with carting my boy from doctor to doctor trying to find a physical cause which the school insisted was the reason. Nobody could be that sick just from anxiety! I got sick of being told I was a neglectful mother if I failed to work hard to find a physical cause. I finally got fed up with the lies told about home schooling - especially the greatest lie of all, that home school is bad for a child socially. And a bullying environment at school is NOT bad for a child socially?

    That was my AHA moment - when I realised that difficult child 3 would be less socially isolated and in a more natural and appropriate social environment, under MY control and his control, if he was at home studying. School is not a natural environment. If kids can handle it - that's fine. But for some kids, it's not healthy.

    Never again in a person's life will they have to sit in a room all day with 30 other kids the same age but not necessarily the same ability, supervised by one older person in authority up the front.

    Once home-schooled, difficult child 3 could come out with me on my appointments. No phone call from any school saying, "Come and get him." He would interact with other people in our environment - doctors' waiting rooms have other patients, children and adults. Shopping centres have a wide range of people performing a wide range of functions all requiring some level of interaction. This is LIFE. difficult child 3 was learning life. it is, after all, what he will need to use for the rest of his life.