Word to the wise: Don't Yell at School District Administrators
Posted Nov 21 2008 4:46pm
Word to the wiser: Don't let THEM yell at YOU, either.
I haven't been writing very much lately, and part of the reason why has to do with the fact that I'm working through, in my brain, a number of things I am really not going to ever write about.
But have to break my silence because I'm finally ready to tell you this story:
In March, The Kid's school and I met for an IEP addendum meeting. You review an IEP on an annual basis, and his annual date happened to fall in the midst of last fall's placement fiasco, so I was never satisfied with the goals they set him, or about the information contained within the document in the first place. In fact, when the IEP was written back in October, I had pages of requests for changes, but those changes never happened. I let it slip, for a little while, knowing I could, or rather thinking I could, approach making those changes at a more appropriate time, like when I wasn't spending my time between bed, work and a hospital. So, when The Kid started his current school, I asked that they work toward cleaning up his IEP, and setting goals that fit his needs.
When I got the new IEP, I saw some really great teaching going on. His goals are measurable and real. Like, they changed from 'The Kid will behave better' to something more along the lines of 'he will increase the amount of words he can read.' 'He will gain the ability to work independently during writing.' And after each goal, they wrote really excellent plans to make those goals happen. Because, when you are a kid with an emotional/behavioral disability, or at least a kid like The Kid, your ability to attempt academics are a direct demonstration of how well your behavioral issues are being addressed.
They aren't "easy" goals, but they are attainable, and really, isn't that the "goal" of goals? I think it is. The feedback and the background information the current school wrote described my son, not some monster that was keeping a teacher's day from normalcy.
But (and with me it's always about but, isn't it?), they wrote all of those "new" things without altering or adapting anything that had been written by the old school. So, those errors that were made about The Kid seeing doctor X and taking medication Y on date Q, they were still in this legal document. And, in some cases, when there was no update to add, they left an evaluation in the IEP, unattributed or undated, that described The Kid when he was at the nadir of his insomnia, anxiety, negative drug side effects and what I can only describe as a mixed state of the worst of The Kid's life with bipolar disorder. For example, under the heading of "Present Level of Communicative Functioning," it stated that he had variations in intelligibility, and that his words often run together and were slurred. When I read this in March of 2007, not realizing that it was describing my son of October of 2006, I completely freaked out. The mishmashed speech and slurring, those were side effects of the evil meds he was on for about two weeks last fall. We immediately discontinued those drugs, and those side effects stopped as well. I have grave concerns that an acute reaction to one med he was on for two weeks in the month of September was recorded as his "present level of functioning."
I asked the school to attribute that information to an author, or to please update it. If it were a matter of, "oh, he grew out of that," it would be one issue. But because of the nature of that description, being brief and because it was due to a bad reaction to meds and therefore ultimately anomalaic, it doesn't belong in the IEP. In my opinion.
So, in this March IEP meeting I expressed my concern about these things existing in a legal document with my son's name on it. I thought I made a well reasoned case on why I would like to see some of these things correct, and also made it clear I wasn't trying to remove warts from my son's record, nor was I even trying to take the district to task on our dispute over his old school's IEP violation wherein they made me homeschool him because he wasn't allowed back at their school again. The current school asked me to list the changes I wanted made, and they would see about it. I could tell the lovefest we were having about the great things they had been doing and the strides The Kid were making melted into a pool under the table. Being a therapuetic school, no doubt these folks have seen it all.
I made my proposed changes and sent them in a lovingly worded email to about 6 people at the school district. I heard nothing for over 5 weeks, when I received a call from a district special ed supervisor informing me that none of my changes would be adopted because they were all conjecture, and that would be that.
He told me that I wasn't seeing the forest for the trees, and asked me "how could making all of these changes actually help The Kid?" I gently counted, "I don't really see how having incorrect information in his IEP could help him much, either." I then explained, as if this man needed explaining--and really this is where my big, expensive college edumacation and my fancy words and well, my bitchiness really isn't a helpful tool--that I'm well aware that the goal of therapuetic schools are to prepare a child for reintegration into a more mainstreamed classroom setting is the main goal. Right now, we're looking at a change in placement again for The Kid as soon as second semester next year. Further, I explained, it appears that the habit of the schools in the writing of IEPs are to build upon what is already written (he was evaluated by special ed services in preschool, and all of those items remain in his current IEP), and if that is going to happen, it needs to be right. Even further, think of the worst case scenario. A scandal. A horrible violent outburst. Something we can't even forsee. If his IEP is inaccurate, it hurts us all. Finally, I told him, these things are not conjecture. I can go get my pharmacy records if you'd like, but he was not on med Y prescribed by Dr. X on date Q. It's a inexorable fact. No conjecture.
After that, it turned into screaming, me at him, and he at me. He insisted that I'd missed my chance in changing things in October. I had been told we could address it later. He told me I was SOL. I never called him a name, but boy did I want to. He was not allowing me an inch of power in the writing of my son's IEP. And that was the final word.
Today, out of the complete blue, I received in The Kid's backpack a copy of his IEP. Everything written by any previous school had been removed. All that remains is the "new" info. The good stuff, I guess, but I'm still not mollified. Why can't they even meet me half way? If it is a practice of the schools to include a history, have they wiped his out, rather than find one we can both agree on? And what the hell happened to make them decide to do that? I fear they won't call me anymore because I have such a bad reputation with them all.
I throw up my hands. I am not a teacher, and I am not a school administrator. But I am a damn good mom, and a strong advocate for my son. I've been told I'm an important part of this process.
I can't think of another way to end this one, mostly because I don't believe it's over yet. It's perplexing, and counterintuitive to me. I read all over the internet, I grew up in a house with parents as teachers, and I know how frustrated they get when they have parents that don't care. In me, they have a parent that cares so much. I care so much I've started a fucking geeky blog to document how much I care.
My friend and I were laughing on the phone the other day about how if The Kid were not The Kid, but some completely typical child, I'd be such the PTA mom. The school would know me, and I'd do as much as a working parent can do to help her kid and his school. But I have this whole other direction, and I know they hate me. But I don't know how to do it any other way.