what actually constitutes a suspension (or change in placement?)

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by pepperidge, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Ok not earth shattering drama, but my son ended up suspended for two days because he was twirling his shoes around before gym class talking to this kid (and probably annoying him), kid was backing away according to student eyewitness accounts (another whole story there) and difficult child accidentally probably at least partly on purpose hit the kid in the groin with his shoes. It didn't hurt the kid as much as startle him and he hauled off and really let my son have it--my son ended up with a knot on his head. This is difficult child 2 and about the 9 day of suspension so far. Principal believes that if punishment doesn't fix difficult child's problems then the answer is even more suspension. But that's also another story.

    So here are my questions. difficult child sat in the office with nothing to do for about 4 hours while they investigated, got hold of me etc. (they didn't even give him the opportunity to eat his lunch in the office ). Even though that day was not considered part of the official suspension it sure seems to me like it was in school suspension since they refused to let him go back to class. Any one have any legal knowledge?

    Second do you think the length of suspension was fair? He was suspended in Dec for two bizarre incidents of physical aggression which we are convinced were medication related (his trial of Zoloft). Then they only let him go back to school half days for eight days in Jan. They said that this incident was an "assault." Seems a bit over the top, but I have no idea what standard practice is.

    Yes he is on an IEP. Speaking of which we are supposed to have a meeting on Monday to discuss the FBA that was done a few weeks ago. We have asked for but have not received a copy of it. Am debating asking them to reschedule the meeting which would probably just annoy everyone--am wondering if there is a better way to handle it (like go to listen, but not comment until we have had a chance to read it). I think his Special Education teacher is genuinely trying to get some advice from the specialists and is already trying to think up ways to improve things for him unlike the administration so I would like to maintain the good connection I have with her.

  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Go to the meeting, but make it clear - you cannot agree to anything until you have been given time to absorb the information in the report. Expecting anything more form you is an ambush and is unacceptable. If they complain about time-wasting, remind them that you have been trying to get copies of the repot so you would be able to arrive prepared - it is not YOUR deficit that resulted in you not having a copy.

    Also at the meeting raise the procedure that had him not allowed to eat his lunch. Not acceptable. Kids need nourishment. That should have been dealt with. Even prisoners in jail get fed.

    It sounds a lot like difficult child 1's suspension - that teacher handled things badly for him, too, and had him sitting in her office for hours, without calling me. I just happened to drop in to the school for a totally different reason, and saw him. And asked. He had been there for two hours at that stage, and they had made no attempt to telephone me. And by then, they should have. They wanted to present me with a fait accompli of suspension (which they did) but for me, it was the last straw. He had done something stupid and earned the suspension (idiocy, not being a bad kid) but the teacher (acting principal) mishandled things and clearly demonstrated the bias. So when we went back for the "Have you seen the error of your ways?" meeting three days later, I went armed for bear, ready to pull difficult child 1 out of that school if I was given the slightest reason. And I was - so I did. And her attitude changed from punitive to grovelling so very fast, it was almost laughable, if it hadn't been MY kid being mucked around.

    Do your homework, find out his rights and your rights, and push the envelope on the limits to suspension. If they repeat that he deserves to be punished for his bad behaviour because it's the only way he will learn - ask this: "How well do you think he is learning this? How is this working for you? Because he will soon be unable to be suspended. What do you intend to do then? Since you must change tack then, why not change now? Because from my point of view, your methods are failing him miserably."

    Good luck.

  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    You need to document that he was not allowed to eat/given lunch. The school is getting federal funds to provide school lunches (all public schools do and many private ones also do) and it is ILLEGAL for them to not let him eat - whether he packs a lunch or not. This is BIG HUGE GIANT ammunition - even ONE incident of this can cause them to completely lose ALL federal $$ for school lunches. I am NOT NOT NOT joking - this is teh LAW. So this is a battle that they CANNOT win and have already shot themselves in the foot while preparing for war.

    You may have to do some digging, but file a formal complaint about the school not letting him eat. ALL children, regardless of if they pack, buy or get free/reduced price lunches, are required to be given lunch - there are NO ZIP ZILCH ZERO exceptions to this. Many parents don't follow through because they don't want all the kids with free/reduced price lunches to go hungry, but with a first offense they will likely get supervision from the feds rather than losing funds. they would only lose funds if they kept doing it or were difficult to handle from the fed's point of view. Here is a state by state list of contact info for the federal school lunch program: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Contacts/StateDirectory.htm

    I think being out of class for hours counts as suspension or change in placement, but check on the sp ed forum or with wrightslaw to be sure. I am sure other schools have tried this route to get around the 10 day limit on suspensions.

    It truly sounds like you and difficult child need to find a lawyer to help wtih this. The principal clearly is NOT going to work with you unless aliens take over your body and you suddenly want your son to be constantly punished and discriminated against. I am quite sure that if other students did something like this TO difficult child the principal would not punish them and would say it was just "an accident" and that your difficult child shouldn't be playing around so he 'deserved' it. This is clear discrimination.

    Please document every contact with the school. After every discussion write an email as a "letter of understanding" and send a copy to yourself and to the school. Keep these in a file for backup as well as in your computer's memory.

    Are there other schools that your difficult child could go to? Unless the principal gets out of the way and changes his methods, your child is just going to be mroe and more picked on and have more and more of his rights violated. You really NEED an advocate and a lawyer to protect both of you from this school/principal.
  4. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Marg, thanks for the advice on the meeting. You are such a master at this that I always look forward to your advice.

    I will certainly raise the issue about the lunch as well as about the more than 1/2 day of school not attended. I thought it was pretty awful. He is not eligible for the free lunch program, Susie, but still it is not acceptable. Of course they will probably say that difficult child lied about it too, but he volunteered it to me almost as an aside so I don't think he was making it up.

    Another thing I found out is that his gym teacher was not there when this incident happens. She comes from another part of the building and the kids wait for her to arrive and unlock the gym. So there was no adult present when this happened. He has already had one incident in gym class and we talked with the school about him needing proximity to the gym teacher as a way of helping him deal with the more unstructured high energy nature of gym class. So apparently the remedy for this will be for him to check in with Special Education teacher before gym to give the teacher a chance to arrive. I think that if my son had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the kid pounding him we might have had a pretty good case legally given the kids were unsupervised.

    Unfortunately for difficult child there are no other options in our district or even in neighboring SDs that make sense for the remainder of 8th grade. This weekend I made the decision to pull him out of the school when it is appropriate. We've mobilized our ed consultants. Yes I could go through the whole legal thing of trying to get them to pay up etc but that would waste a year or more of his life and a lot of $$ on lawyers and would be a hard case to win. These cases usually are. If things get really bad I will pull him out and homeschool him for the remainder of 8th grade which he won't really like and hopefully our ed consultants will have some good recommendations of what to do with him. He's really not a case for an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) but would benefit from some skilled social intervention, small classes and lots of supervision and a really positive environment with great adult mentors.

    In the meantime I have to figure out how to constructively channel my feelings of just wanting to nuke the whole school. I can do some constructive things but it is so hard when you are just so angry and fed up.

    The SDs next move will probably be to place him in the 60 day behavior center program which in my understanding deals mostly with CD kids at his grade level. And those are the kids that we have been working hard to keep him away from given his propensity to seek peer approval in whatever ways he can. He is so vulnerable to being manipulated by more clever conduct disordered kids.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    It does not MATTER if he has free lunch or not, or if he never buys his lunch or never packs it. The rules for the free lunch program are that EVERY child in the school MUST have lunch EVERY DAY no matter what. Forgetting that the kid has been sitting in the office all day is NOT an excuse, neither is saying the child refused to eat. He still MUST spend some time sitting wtih food. Period. The feds are NOT joking around wtih this and can get really nitpicky on a school that has had a complaint filed. Feds also make it crystal clear when they sign you up for the program (as a district) that this is NOT something that can be worked around, negotiated, or messed with. NO ONE is allowed to use food or access to food as a punishment. Period. They also are firm on certain guidelines as to what every child must have if htey get a hot lunch - ANY changes require a TON of paperwork for both you and the doctor to fill out. Otherwise the school can lose funding for the lunch program if they don't give a child a veg one day or an entree the next because of allergies or religion or whatever. Until ALL of the paperwork is filled out they still have to provide a lunch which has certain basic elements. We learned this when thank you went to school because his food allergies.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If you don't want hi put with the Difficult Child kids, and that is where they are pushing to place him, pull him out for home-schooling at that point but also make it clear to the education authorities (go higher than the school - it's almost time to do that now) that this school has failed to meet its legal obligations for your child. They are actively discriminating against hi; they always choose to believe the other person vs him, even where it's a "e said, she said" situation. They are not providing supervision where they are supposed to. They are leaving him wide open to bullying and hassling. He got beaten up - what has happened to the other kid? Because in incidents where your son has been provoked and then lashed out, HE has been punished with suspension and more. This is not equitable.

    I said before - this sounds so familiar, it is scary. difficult child 3 had horrible experiences at our local primary school, but even so he has fared better than other kids we've met. One really lovely kid, very gentle and a good student, was getting hassled so much by peers that he was repeatedly beaten up, several times knocked unconscious and needing hospital. This was often filmed and put on YouTube. The boy has Asperger's. The school did nothing to punish the perpetrators. With one incident that had this boy in hospital, and the YouTube film clip clearly showing the attack, the school tried to suspend the victim for fighting! The police said they could do nothing. We met this boy when he was started in the same correspondence school class as difficult child 3. We saw him blossom - he left the correspondence school two years ago, to complete his schooling through our adult education colleges. This boy went from being scared of his own shadow, to acing every subject every year he was at difficult child 3's school.

    For us, correspondence works better than anything. There are ways of home-schooling a kid in this situation, without it all falling on you as an ogre. Before I had the correspondence school I was de-facto home-schooling, and I relied on the computer, on educational software and on documentaries. The carrot for difficult child 3 - NO HOMEWORK. Because it ALL becomes homework, and if he works it right, he can get it all done during school hours.

    We kept a Communication Book for all of difficult child 3's mainstream schooling. He spent some days last week reading them. He then came to me in tears. "I never had a chance, did I?" he said. I told him that was very perceptive of him, but he was not the failure here. The school system had failed him badly. But now, the current placement was wonderful for him and they were doing their utmost for him, because they believe in him and acknowledge he has a right to this.

    What is happening to your son, is damaging him. You will have your work cut out to undo the damage. Every time they do this sort oft hing to him, it sends a message to your son that he is a bad kid because of how he's made; that he is horrible, that he is dangerous, and that whatever he does, he will always be punished because that is what he deserves.

    When we first transferred difficult child 3 from the local school where the bullies got at him regularly and the school did not stop it, there was a very telling (and very minor) incident. The kids were pouring out of the classroom and, being new, difficult child 3 was slow and hesitant. Another boy shoved past and said, "Out of my way, dummy!"
    difficult child 3 however, just stood there looking at the kid and said calmly, "Go on. Hit me."
    The other boy, to his credit and according to indoctrinated school policy, ran and got a teacher - the principal, as it happened (who was the person who told me of this). He worked out - difficult child 3 was so used to the pattern of behaviour from bullies - first the name calling, then the inevitable beating - that he just wanted this kid to hurry up and get it over with.

    Very sad.

    I rang the SpEd on Thursday after difficult child 3's teary session over his realisation of past bad treatment. The SpEd pointed out, "He has made amazing progress since he started here. When I think what he was like to begin with, how we had to shadow him around other kids, how we had to sit with him when we had Study Days, or you had to sit with him to keep him on task, how he would sometimes curl up in his chair, we got no eye contact - now he's marvellous!"

    When you can place him (including in your own home) where he feels safe, he will relax and begin to heal.

    This school is not a safe place.

    But legally, it should be. Legally, you have rights. But you need a lawyer of sorts. This is such a vital human rights issue, there could well be a pro bono lawyer available via a welfare organisation, to help you with this. it's worth asking. Or you could (if you have to actually start proceedings) take on a lawyer on a contingency basis.

    From what I know now - I wish I had sued. Even though the teachers and principal were basically nice people who are my neighbours and friends. They still let my child down. MY child. And in a choice between my friends and my child, I know who I should have sided with.

    And this is coming from an Aussie - we tend to not take legal action here, our legal system is set up for informal mediation, as the first step in everything. So if I say, "I wish I had sued," it really means something.

  7. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Wow, this clarifies why the school insists on giving the kids food when they forget their lunches. I though one hungry day would end the 'forgetting' but the school always fed them.