Malfeasance

Okay…so, I tried to be cuddly and snuggly and kissy last night with my husband, and I nearly puked.  Quite literally.

The stress is eating me alive.

It’s not the stress of my daughter.  Strange as it might seem, I can handle that.  She’s mine.  I love her, and I have a high tolerance for outlandish human behavior.

What has pushed me to the edge is her school district.   The last time I came upon this kind of malice and total disregard for the well-being of human beings, I was sitting across the table from lawyers representing an auto insurance company.

By law, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 204), a school district is obligated to provide a fair and appropriate education (FAPE) to every child in their district.  If a child is suspected of having a disability, under IDEA, that district is bound to evaluate (more specifically under the Child Find clause of IDEA) that student and provide an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and the appropriate accommodations which will allow that child to learn.  Under IDEA, a schizophrenia spectrum disorder is a disability, and my daughter needs an IEP in order to be educated.  She is unable to attend school more than three hours a day.  She cannot attend school in a mainstream classroom anymore.  Currently, she needs either 1:1 tutoring or she needs, at the least, a self-contained classroom with no more than 8 to 12 students with a high teacher to student ratio.  My child has deteriorated quickly in a year.  It’s rather stunning.  Some days, she’s not even functional.

Last year at this time, we were, unbeknownst to me, just in the beginning stages of prodromal schizophrenia.  Last Saturday, she tried to crawl under a table at a restaurant because of “The Men” who follow who everywhere.  Her antipsychotics and mood stabilizers still need tweaking.  It will be like this until she’s at least 18 years-old.  She just turned 12.

You would think that the special education teachers at her school would want to help her.  They don’t.  They don’t care.  They denied her an IEP evaluation.  Twice.  I have pleaded with them for help.  I told them that she was actively psychotic.  They told me to just send her to school, and, if she needed a break, then she could go to the break room and play with her fidgets.  I told them that she couldn’t be in a room with windows or mirrors because she is terrified of them, and they refused to listen.  I told them that she had been hiding in one of the school’s bathrooms to get away from “The Men” during school, and they were unfazed.  Did anyone know she had been in there? I told them that she was getting lost on her way to Language Arts class and needed help.  I told them that she is unpredictable.  She is unreadable–unless you’re me.  I told them that she might harm herself.  I told them that she is paranoid and delusional.  “There isn’t enough evidence for an IEP evaluation.  She looks fine”

Grace missed over twenty days of school in the first two months of school.  Her psychiatrist even sent the school a letter insisting on a special placement in a self-contained classroom.  He even defined psychosis and clearly stated that she has childhood-onset schizophrenia.  The school had no response.

I stopped sending Grace to school.  The school didn’t care.  I can’t send a psychotic child to school.  What would happen if Grace had a psychotic break in her classroom? What would happen if a student came into class wearing a cowboy hat or a bowler hat, as odd as that sounds? Middle schoolers, however, do strange things not the least of which is wearing a bowler hat.  One of the men who follows Grace (when she’s psychotic) wears a cowboy hat.  The other two wear bowler hats.  Can anyone predict what she might do? No.  She has stabbed herself.  Would she stab someone else? I have no idea.  She tends to be a runner, but what if she finally decided that she’d had enough of this harassment.  What if she hurt another child in a psychotic state, thinking that child was one of the men who stalk her on a daily basis? It is the school’s job to make sure that every chid is safe once they are within the boundaries of their property.  Clearly, they have failed.

We’ve had to begin consulting an attorney.  I see her on Monday.  We already have an advocate through a state agency.  This advocate does have some power as they represent a state agency that makes recommendations that go on permanent record.  One doesn’t want to piss off this particular state office.  The school’s response? Obstruction.  I spoke with Grace’s advocate this morning, and she described the school district’s treatment of Grace as “beyond the pale”.  One social worker from a neighboring district who got word of this situation gasped and said, “Shame on them!!!”  Another special education teacher from yet another school district who heard about our school district’s deplorable treatment shook her head and hissed, “Douchbags…”

I’m not some entitled parent.  I just want Grace to have a FAPE, and I don’t understand how a school psychologist, a speech pathologist, a special education evaluator, a superintendent, an assistant principal, and a director of special education services can deny a child like Grace the accommodations that she needs to get that education.  But, they are.  What’s more, I’ve learned that they are doing this very thing to other children, too.

And, I don’t like it.  The injustice of it is burning a hole in my gut.  The problem is…what they are doing is not only unjust.

It’s illegal.

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9 thoughts on “Malfeasance

  1. 😦 I’m very sorry to hear of so much trouble. I wish I could offer up some sort of suggestion, but I know (with your brilliant mind) you’ve already considered every angle. Very frustrating – I wish I could take you for a hot chocolate (with baileys, of course).

  2. There was a thought percolating in the back of my mind as I read this, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on it until I read your line about not being an entitlement parent. What I was thinking, and being married to a teacher I have seen this, is that schools deal with so much crap from the ever growing entitlement crowd that the get colored glasses and cant see the forest for the trees. I am in no way defending them, their actions are disgusting, but an unfortunate reaction to so many people with their hand out all the time is those that are truly in need of some service seem to have a harder time getting it. I hope you find the help you need and some peace to go along with it.

    • Cynicism, however, is a choice. I do hear what you are saying which is why I mentioned entitlement. But, if we were to step back and actually listen to the heart of that “logic”, it’s akin to a doctor saying that he denies treatment to legitimately sick patients because he’s grown weary of all the hypochondriacs he sees. That logic does not make any sense. Furthermore, if that logic were true, then it suggests that over 50% of the children being brought to SPEC Ed. departments for evaluations are, in fact, being brought there by entitled parents solely looking for handouts. This, however, is not the case. There are a lot of problems in the way that the current system works. Firstly, back in the 80s the entire mental healthcare system was dismantled by the federal government in an attempt to localize services putting a great deal of pressure on states, local governments, and schools (where they don’t belong). Secondly, there is the issue of medical diagnosis vs. educational diagnosis. For example, a child can be autistic. S/he can have a medical diagnosis of autism given out by 10 of the most prestigious facilities in the world, but a school will not recognize that diagnosis or grant that child any services if that child does not meet the criteria for an EDUCATIONAL diagnosis. The school must do an evaluation of that child BEFORE any services will given out, and if that school denies and evaluation? You’re screwed. In Grace’s case, she has a disability, but does she meet the educational requirements? Essentially, is she “educationally disabled”? This is another case of a medical DX vs. an educational DX. And, it’s also a case of the staff being trained. Do you think the average school teacher or SPEC Ed. evaluator is adequately trained to evaluate a schizophrenic child? No, in fact, they are not. There are community psychiatrists who are not adequately trained to treat Grace. I have run into one or two parents who want IEPs for their children who MIGHT not need them. I have, however, never met a parent whose child was completely fine. Not once. These people you speak of who are just looking for a handout? I’ve never met one. All the statistics show that the majority of children with mental health issues. disabilities, and serious educational needs are the ones who live below the poverty line. The marginalized. And, if a district employee is that jaded and that cynical that they really cannot see when a child needs to be evaluated? Then, frankly, they need to find a new job. That’s a sign of burnout.

      No, the truth of the matter is that there are countless books, websites, and agencies in existence to help parents battle districts because districts can be very difficult about granting services. Why? It mystifies me. In the end, they are using taxpayers’ money to do this. That attorney that harassed my advocate? He was being paid by the taxpayers to act that way. IDEA and NCLB (as flawed as THAT law is) exist to make certain that districts do NOT behave this way, but they do it all the time. IF you start talking to parents of special needs kids, you’ll find out just how broken the system is. There is only one school district in my area that is doing it right–out of 10. That should tell you something. Handouts? Nope. I’ll get to the bottom of what’s happening at my school district. Grace will get what she needs.

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  4. .”Okay…so, I tried to be cuddly and snuggly and kissy last night with my husband, and I nearly puked.”

    Not to devalue the gravity of your situation, but you have to admit, that’s a funny opening line, MJ!

    • Oh, yes, it’s funny. I tend to poke fun at myself and my situation. It’s how I cope. Seeing the absurdities. Like last week when my husband and I finally had a moment. FINALLY!!!! We’re in the bathroom of all places trying to get it on and a kid is banging on the door, “I have to go! I have to go! I have to go!!!” And, we’re so deflated and hanging our heads…so discouraged, with our pants around our ankles…but, yet, it was funny. The scene….Oh yes…there is humor to be had. Geez, I think that’s TMI! Oh well…

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