Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Thunderstorm in Boundary County

If you have reached this blog through I do not know the person who owns the webiste, nor do I have any association with that person. I have asked that my blog link be removed from that website.

I've hesitated to write this blog because it's rather a blight spot on north Idaho. However, rotten apples are in every barrel and in the Boundary County public school system some rotten apples seem to be making the rest of the barrel smell rotten, which is not fair.

This has to do with the services being received, or not, as the case(s) may be, for students who qualify for Special Education services. Some of the Special Ed teachers attempt to provide exemplary service; unfortunately it's steadily beginning to look like their best efforts are being thwarted by both the head of Special Ed. and the Superintendent. This could be the result of chauvinistic bias, laziness, under budgeting, or just plain abuse of administrative positions. Let me provide the facts so that all readers may access the codes and laws and talk to these people themselves.

Turning to Partnerships for Inclusion, a north Idaho business that provides information, training, one-on-one teaching, and some advocacy, a number of parents reported, complained, and/or requested help in getting Boundary County Special Education to provide legally-mandated services for their children. A number of these children were spending less than two hours per day at school because the services were either so inadequate or just not being offered.

With another school levy rapidly approaching, the head of Partnerships for Inclusion asked the Superintendent to speak about the levy to approximately 13-15 parents who had concerns with Special Ed. services. The parents' disillusionment hit its acme when the superintendent said he felt that the head of Special Ed. was doing a good job because he consistently comes in under budget. So, money is more important than children. Good job, supe! With that kind of logic, you don't even need to wear a button that says, "I'm a Republican."

Because of the large number of complaints by parents, including several who actually moved out of the school district in order to get mandated services, CO-AD (Comprehensive Advocacy, Inc.), offered to provide an information and training class to the community on Saturday, May 5th. CO-AD's purpose is, as their website states, "Assisting people with disabilities to protect, promote, and advance their legal and human rights, through quality legal, individual, and system advocacy." About 40 people showed up for this event, including parents, teachers, and interested community members. It was, in many ways, a success for both the community and the parents.

But get this, the Boundary County Superintendent and head of Special Ed., refused to send out a mailer telling the parents of Special Ed. children that the meeting would take place! The Superintendent claimed that the statement on the flyer, "Do you have problems accessing a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for your child?" was "misleading or questionable."
Say what?!

First, as an educator, an administrator for education, and a representative of public education, why would you not welcome extra education for your parents, teachers and community? Secondly, I would think that this visit by CO-AD was an opportunity to discover how well the school's Special Ed. program was working, identify problems, and find solutions. Third, sending out the mailer and attending the meeting would have been good PR for future levys. And finally, CO-AD was "...designated by the governor as the Protection and Advocacy System for the State of Idaho." Why would any educator deny information about this legal service, provided by the State for people with disabilities! I can think of only one reason: guilt.

The list of complaints is long and was discussed at length at the CO-AD meeting. Many of these complaints were specifically directed at the head of Special Education in Boundary County. Some of these included outright denial of services, shifting blame to the children and parents, and a chauvinistic stance towards women. Mothers have long been advised to bring their husbands with them when meeting with the head of Special Ed. Complaints have also been made about the high school principle. I know from personal experience that Special Ed. or not, the principal will sit in a student's classroom, day after day, and just stare at the student as a means of intimidation. More specific complaints were also offered. The more challenging the child, e.g., lower IQ, depression, ADHD, the more complaints heard. This is a difficult and terrible situation that includes inappropriate or ignorant behavior at best and human rights and ADA violations at worst.

However, a silver lining now exists under this cloud of problems, denial of legally-mandated services, and egregious behavior. The parents have learned how to organize in order to act as a team. They have learned about the avenue of utilizing the School Board. And they have seen the community support that surrounds them. Hopefully, the end result of all this will be a school district that in the future will be able to laud its Special Education program.

1 comment:

MotherMatz said...

Parents know and understand their children better than anyone else ever will know them. Parents MUST consistently demand the services and education be provided as needed for the individual needs of their student. It can require more energy than you feel you have, but in the end you will know your student achieved because of YOU and the wonderful staff you will find along the way. God bless each of you and your children.