02 August 2009

What Would You Say?

*Gulp* The school board passed a rule that you must submit your statements in writing, and only speak of agenda items at their meetings. I've written this letter to a woman I was very excited to see elected, who ran on cleaning up the school financial mess, transparency, and accountability. I'm always afraid of speaking out because I see Woodjie may have to attend school here. I've been thinking and thinking on it. Finally, I thought... all the more reason I need to speak. Here goes:

Mrs. Boardmembername:

Thank you for working to ensure that school board meetings are open and transparent. Like you, I was disappointed by the "guidelines" set up by the board. They would thwart open discussion of things the school district would not like to air openly that "somehow" never will make it onto the agenda.

We have been homeschooling for almost three years. Staff repeatedly locked my autistic six-year-old in a closet for "bad choices" when he was in public school. This closet is called a "safe" or "recovery" room in education circles, but I would imagine that if I locked my child up that way that I would be investigated for abuse, and rightly so. He is autistic. He does not have a behaviour problem, although it's my firm belief that his behaviour in school worsened due to his inhumane treatment at Name Elementary in the first months of the 2006-2007 school year.

As you may know, children have died in these rooms and they have been shown to traumatize children. I did not know this at the time. I thought that the educators were the "experts" who knew what worked and what was best. It positively sickened me, but I went along with what they said for a time, thinking that it was "helping" my son.

I know differently now. I also know that even at the high school, students may be subjected to beatings with a wooden paddle. It's detailed in the student handbook! It should make every parent sick. Surely students are not so routinely out of control in Cityname schools that a room must be set aside to lock them up? Surely things are not so out of control that paddling needs to be detailed in the handbook? Parents can't pick up their children before they are beaten??

It's just sick. But I do have some hope.

I'm sure that you are aware that a new law has passed mandating that every district create written procedures for the use of the so-called "safe room."

I have another autistic child at the Junior High, and I also have a non-verbal child who will go to the public preschool. (Obviously, I think autism is genetic based on personal experience!) I have never had a problem with middle school staff or junior high staff. They are to be COMMENDED for working on ways to diffuse tension before a crisis point is reached. I also have made it clear that I have no problem with a "room in which to calm down," but I DO have a problem with a child being shut up and locked in a cell-like room. I have asked that when my son "needs" the Safe Room, that the door remain open.

Might I make a suggestion? In the formulation of the "safe room" procedures, please have your committee look at how they handle things in the preschool. I understand (believe me!) that working with preschoolers is a different ballgame altogether; however, I find their disciplinary procedures are less PUNITIVE and more toward integrating the child back in when he has calmed. Many of these children are disabled and will need extra support. You should be very pleased with what you find at the preschool. Have you seen their Sensory Room? It's incredible.

I'd submit to you that the entire BIST system of working with children is adversarial, and a PBS model would show more respect toward the student. Would you please look into it? I know the preschool is more on a PBS model. At the very least, I think the ethos of some staff toward disabled children needs to be changed, and PBS is a step in the right direction.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Mrs. C's real name and address

What would you say if you received this in your inbox? "Crazy lady?" Or "I'll look into it?"

10 comments:

  1. Corporal punishment was abolished in Tasmanian schools in the early 90s. I have commented previously regarding my outrage at the use of the so-called safe room.That would be illegal here in Aus as well.

    I think your letter is well written and it outlines your concerns in a constructive way. I will be interested to see the boardmembers response.

    But I still sit here shaking my head in amazement at how 'political' your school system is.

    good luck.

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  2. I think your letter is a good one.

    However, in defense of schools, I no longer think it is an unreasonable policy to ask letters to be submitted in advance (in one way). This past year our new principal implemented such a rule. When I asked why, he explained it was so that proper reflection could be given to an answer rather than giving a poor answer "off the cuff."

    The flip side of course is what if they don't address your question at all, pretend not to have received your letter, or that they are not yet "ready" to respond. So it's a way for the administration to keep total control over the meetings, and the meeting agenda, and "get out" of controversial meetings that turn into free-for-alls!

    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Oveseas (in the Middle East
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

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  3. Thanks, Kim. I shake my head, too, sometimes. And I remember students getting CANED in Australian schools. Thankfully you are beyond that now, and we need to do a little catching up on that "treating kids like humans" thing.

    Eileen, I think some of the policies are reasonable such as limiting yourself to three minutes and that total citizen input can't be more than half-hour. First ten to get there get a ticket to speak or something. BUT, I think most people have pretty good common sense and board members don't have all the info *right there* all the time. They should be able to say, I'll give an answer at the next meeting. I'd way rather hear a real answer than something stupid off the cuff. It distracts from the focus of what the person wanted answered in the first place, and benefits no one.

    :]

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  4. I think it's a great letter. How will they know what we are thinking if no one cares to write and voice their concerns? I have had no schools work with me in a long time for Chaz. It's frustrating.

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  5. I would look into, but I'm not a politician. Many politicians seem to make their decisions based on how their action can them get re-elected.

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  6. Exactly, Virginia. But I'd be afraid of repercussions if I get anyone *too* mad.

    DF, that's just it. We'll see what really happens. She is a minority on the board, and likely the rest of the bozos who weren't just elected don't know common sense when it bites 'em in the butt.

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  7. Crazy lady.

    Kidding! I think it is a good, well-reasoned, well-supported letter - gets the points across without sounding like a crazy ranter.

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  8. You are awesome Mrs C. Your letter brings me to tears as it sickens me that these rooms are used liked this.

    Here, smacking has been outlawed as of 2 years ago. No one is allowed to samck a child at all here.

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  9. Thank you, Allison. Your comment means a lot to me.

    Nikki, I can't say that I'd be comfortable outlawing all spanking but sometimes I wonder if that's what it's going to take before people realize there is a line between correction and abuse. And really? "Correction" wouldn't have to happen nearly so often if we controlled the environment and our reactions to things a bit better on the whole.

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  10. I hope spanking is not outlawed here in the states. I swat my children on the bum if they are rebellious to me. It's not only lawful here, it's biblical. Goodness gracious if it someday comes to only putting them in time out when they are naughty. When I go out places, I can always tell the time-out kids from other kids. You can't put a kid in time out in the store. I don't believe in smacking on any other part of the body at all. Just where God put the cushion. However, I wouldn't want another adult in a school spanking my kid. I do believe in time-outs. I reserve swats on the bum for major offenses.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)