Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Updates and possible closure to the Cameron Incident

I want to bring you all up to speed on a few things going on in my life. Below is an article I wrote about an issue that took place with my son back in June of this year. I wanted to bring it back for the specific reason that this can happen to anyone's child and there are ways of getting resolution other than walking into the school. To some of you it may seem like a trivial matter and should have been left as is but to my son and my family, it was the last straw of a very tumultuous year. The other reason I'm bringing it back is because we're almost at a resolution for what can be done to stop this from happening to other children. No child should be left out because a teacher doesn’t want to deal with them and the effort we put into this validated our choice to call out a flaw in the system. If what we come up with helps all students in our school district then this was well worth the time. Feel free to post comments or ask questions if your family has or is going through similar issues.

     Back on June 3, 2011 my son was involved in a playground incident at school. According to the principle, my son and another student were rough housing at lunch recess. From what I was told, my son became a little too rough and hurt the other student. The injuries were not severe and both my son and the other child made up and are still friends. The principle then explained he felt there was no intended malice on his part but my son would need to have detention next week for the incident. The principle did explain that he did bring my son out and was watching him but got distracted for a moment. That’s when the incident occurred. My son is on a modified recess plan where, from my understanding, he is to only go out on morning recess but not afternoon recess. To give everyone a quick profile on my son he suffers from ADHD and Bipolar disorder. This causes him to have difficulty controlling himself once he becomes over stimulated. My conversation ended with the principle and myself, the wife, my son and my youngest daughter stayed at the playground for a little while longer then headed home.

     When I arrived at home and checked email, there was an email from his teacher. The email stated that my son had another incident at school and he received a “red card”. This is a way for the children to understand what behaviors are unacceptable and how they would be punished. A "red card" signifies a serious offense and would lose recess or play time. The email then continued to go on that due to this incident; he would not be allowed to go on the year end field trip unless my wife or I attended. I responded back to the email with concerns on how this choice came about. Was this a parents concern or the school? I had just had a conversation with the principle and he never mentioned the field trip. His teacher replied with she "thinks" it is the schools concern.

     The follow Monday, June 6, I went into the school and spoke to the principle. He did state there was a conversation held with the teacher about possibly one of us going with him but never decided if that was the case. I then explained that with my other children and work, it would be hard on short notice to make accommodations as well as getting the proper CORI in place. A CORI is essentially a background check on adults to ensure the safety of the children. I did make the case that he has been on other field trips without incident. The principle said he would speak to my son's teacher and see if he could change her mind. After waiting several days, I spoke to principle again and he stated that my son's teacher was not moving on her decision and one of his parents would need to go for him to go. Once again I explained how that is not possible with time notice and lack of time to process a CORI. The principle then asked if my oldest daughter could possibly go in our place. I stated my oldest is 16 and would be in school that day. I then proceeded to take my concerns to the school department.

     I went to speak to the school superintendent. We met and I explained my issue was with the way this situation was being handled. I stated I felt this was a decision being made by a teacher that was just tired of dealing with my son and felt it was unfair. The superintendent stated very little in any type of response and that he would follow up with the principle because it is his decision. I informed the superintendent that this decision seems to be influenced by the teacher than anything else. He restated he would follow up with the principle and see if it was his decision.

     A couple of days went by with no answer sent back to me from either the school or a call from the superintendent. I called the super and left a message with his office on what the status was. Later that day I received a partial voice mail message from the school board but could not make it out. The message was cut off midstream. My son come home after school and advises me he was told he cannot go on the school trip. I sent an email to the teacher asking what the circumstances were surrounding my son finding out he was not going when I did not tell me yet. She responded with they were setting up chaperoned groups and a student asked to have him in their group. I guessed at that point he was told. 

     Friday came and we kept him home. He was upset on being excluded so we took him out to an arcade and out for lunch so he would at least has a chance to enjoy the day. He had a good time and was appreciative but you could tell he was upset over being excluded from the school activity. Of course, being the protective and quite pissed off parent I am, I started to do some research. I felt this action by the school was wrong but really didn't know if there was anything I could do about it. You gotta love the Internet and all its access to information 24 hours a day.

     Did you know that there are rules and regulations concerning children on IEP's and 504 plans? I knew there were some but not to the extent I came upon. Of course I will save you all the boring details and cut to the meat and potatoes of the findings. With my son being excluded from this trip without merit, he has fallen into the Department of Education civil discrimination realm. Most of us only think of discrimination on a certain plain but having a physical or mental disability falls into that area. I spoke the DOE on the matter and asked for an opinion. I know as a parent I can take things on a slanted view. Who wouldn't when it comes to protecting their child?  Well my gut feeling was right and the DOE (Department of Education) felt the same. Under a 504 plan, a student should be afforded the same access to all education and activities regardless of disability. His teacher, the school, and the superintendent all decided to not allow him to have this access. The good thing is now I can file my complaint with the DOE and they will handle it from here. I would like to point out that they are only a fact finding division and will investigate the matter. The goal will be to interview all parties, gather any documents, and present the final decision.

     I know this may be an aggressive approach to handling this issue but maybe this will get the attention of a school board that tries to avoid doing the right thing. This is clearly not the end of this story and I see many chapters over the next couple of months. As I get information and answers, I will share. I hope my struggle in the area will help those that are heading down the same road behind me.

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