From Hilary Jenkins-Spangler:
The rally on Wednesday was a success and a good start – and this is just the start. We endeavor to strengthen the special ed programs, intervention services and support the teachers. We received good coverage on the 5 o’clock and 10:30 news. Ryan Burbey from the Teacher’s Union, Jeanette Jennings, the former principle from Hickory joined us. We are planning another rally for next month. My husband had a brilliant idea to honor the amazing special ed teachers in the county; while also continuing to bring awareness to the importance of supports for special educators and the specialized training required for many classrooms.
Jeanette Jennings believes this will have to be a sustained and ongoing effort to keep the administrators accountable. Challenge is healthy, it keeps people focused and systems strong. We can’t have a healthy school system if one part of it is weak and failing. An organization is only as strong as its weakest link.
In an earlier letter I mischaracterized a child as being behaviorally disturbed, a more accurate description would be his behavior disturbed others, it was highly disruptive, and was not receiving the benefit of guidance that would equip him in ways to more appropriately express himself. I now understand, it’s a CSP classroom – not a Regional Autism Program I was told by Robin Meyer. It’s my son who is in the wrong classroom, I guess it’s just another of those many ‘misunderstandings’ I seem to have had with Central Office (which was why I sent a follow up email after the Central IEP meeting to Robin Meyer and our attorney to clarify the main points – the placement was in a Regional Autism Program for high functioning kids on the spectrum who did not have disruptive tendencies. If there had been a misunderstanding, the professional response would have been to reply and correct error – surely?) One of the things that concerned me most in the classroom was the complete absence of a behavioral therapist on site. My son’s brilliant and wonderful private speech therapist would have a lot of highly effective strategies to deal with the type of behavior this child was exhibiting, unfortunately, his teacher didn’t. His unruly behavior stood in the way of his, and everyone else’s learning. This further illustrates HCPS denial of special needs children and their educational rights. I wonder how much educational benefit this child is getting? Free appropriate education (FAPE) is every disabled child’s right, but the parents are the enforcers. Laws are typically enforced by state or federal agencies, for example if you speed, a cop will give you a ticket. FAPE doesn’t work that way, the parents are the ones who have to hire attorneys and be the enforcers, so receiving FAPE isn’t so straightforward.
At our first Central Meeting (which had taken seven weeks to schedule) an hour into the meeting the head of the team announced they did not have all the necessary documents, so another meeting would be necessary. Now, if they had re-scheduled the meeting as soon as we got there, there could have been a compliance issue, but by doing it this way they cleverly achieved three things: 1, they got to further delay things, 2. They know attorneys and advocates are expensive, ($3,000, for conference calls, prep and meeting time, for a non-meeting) and most people can only spend their finances down so far, this speeds things up a bit. 3. It also made it highly frustrating for us, thus increasing the likelihood we would eventually walk away, or maybe even as some parents have done, move to another state…
My son likes to be read the same Pokémon book every night at bedtime. It’s mind numbingly boring as far as bedtime stories go, but he loves it. Each page starts with the name and picture, followed by possible moves: tack-down, switchero, double-team etc. When I think of the games the Central Team played with us, put in Pokémon terms of possible moves it would be: lie, prevaricate, withhold information, deceive, exhaust parents financially and emotionally, marginalize, disempower. The list could go one, but you probably get my point, at best it’s disingenuous.
Harford County is pretty far behind the curve, (or maybe under the curve when it comes to special education!) There is also a public misnomer that these kids aren’t going to amount to anything so why waste money that could be put to better use. Special education isn’t necessarily about have a low IQ, it’s more about remediating things that stand in the way of learning – for example, dyslexia. Thirty years ago dyslexics were often thought of as lazy or lacking intelligence, which we now know isn’t the case. In fact quite the opposite, people suffering from dyslexia, statistically tend to be more intelligent. One thing I really wish we could find a cure for is willful ignorance, it’s one of the most destructive forces I can think of. I guess it’s up there with narrow mindedness and being closed to new ideas. A strong system thrives on challenge, opposition and new ideas.