Summer writes about the student "voted" out of his public education kindergarten class and about another who was insulted by his teacher. I'm sure there are plenty more tales of woe out there. What do you think you should do after a bad run with public education?
"It is cases like those that really bug me when people say parents who choose to home school should just be trying harder to make the schools better. How exactly? Not only can we not change the teacher:student ratio, or the curriculum, or the hours, or the politics, or any other number of the negative things, we also cannot fire the bad teachers," she writes.
Yes, I sure hear ya. The whole system is stacked against you. Even if you have the money to hire a lawyer to stick up for the rights of your special-needs kid, the case can drag on forever. Your child will continue to suffer. Eventually you have to come to the place where you ask yourself if what you're doing is worth it, and whether it's going to bring about any lasting change.
I suppose that we should all be very proud of the mavericks who fought against race-based segregation, went to court, and allowed their children to go through a tough time so that things in our country would change. As a parent, though, I don't know if I could put my child through that. Looking at these schools now, they're inner city cesspools of hell. What was gained? People fought for admittance to THAT? Bleh. They finally get their rights but find most of the students and staff are against them.
Anyway, that's kinda how I felt with Elf. They were against him. They didn't WANT to help him. If they did, they'd spend actual real American dollars on his education by giving the child the aide he needed and a smaller classroom instead of claiming that he was "manipulative" when he found large groups challenging and tried to hide, etc.
I know that there are special-needs warriors in the trenches trying to fix what's broken. The people at MPACT are the most awesome and dedicated workers for these children I've seen. There are whole-day seminars on IDEA law and what-not, free to Missourians. Some basic counselling on the phone (and no, I don't mean the "how do you feel about that?" kind of counselling). There are so many parents working to ensure their children get the best education they can.
Unfortunately, I think the struggle for equal education for special-needs children is going to be much more difficult to see through than the struggle for racial equality in a given district. First off, because it costs extra. Second, teachers don't want more "problems" than they already have. Just being real with you. Third, there is no real accountability for the schools because the accountability seems to happen when IEP items don't get done, NOT the fact that, say, a child who HAS autism should have x, y, and z in the IEP in the first place.
Writing an IEP is *worse* than negotiating for a new car. At least when you negotiate for a new car, you know you're working in dollars and cents. You know if you have the dollars and cents and if you feel you're being jerked around too much, off you go to the next dealer. Sure, they have all kinds of psychological intimidation tactics like making you wait while the salesman "checks with his manager" to see if you can get this incredibly low price (snort) on the vehicle in question. Sure, there are little mind games like them making small talk with you and trying to leverage you by calling you by your first name. (It's MRS. C, thank you so much. Even when I was 20-something, it rankled me to have some "dude" just call me by my first name. Respect, yo.)
Not so with an IEP. You don't even KNOW what products and services might go with this package. The staff at the school Elf was in claimed to have NEVER HEARD of ABA therapy. Never! But they'd be danged insulted if you told them you weren't sure that such-n-such test might not be ideal for our situation, because they're the professionals. You want an IEP, this is the test you HAVE to take. Yes, they *lie* to you. They manipulate your answers to their questions and the things you've revealed in their nosy "social survey" against your family. They are truly evil from the pit of Hell. Not that I'm resentful or anything. ;]
I enjoy home educating immensely and wouldn't want to give it up any time soon. I'm concerned for the parents who feel they have to leave their special-needs children in the system. I'm just not convinced that sending my child into that system is going to do any good. Perhaps this is a local problem, but our public special-needs preschool is so wonderful and excellent that unless things have drastically changed, I would consider sending J there if he qualified. They really do care for those kiddos and try to help them learn, and speech therapy and the like is available to the children who need it. Emperor and Elf I think learned a lot there. Unfortunately, the elementary school (regular ed) doesn't seem to have the same "outlook" on serving the needs of the individual student.