Back in November 2010, I wrote a post about recruiting the help of an advocate to assist us in getting appropriate accommodations for my son. I trusted this person to be an advocate for my child. The district was discounting the NYU Child Study evaluation. The advocate convinced me and my husband, our concerns were well founded and backed up by leaders in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Unfortunately, the school district had an agenda. The agenda was to provide as little as possible for my child although severe deficits were revealed in the very lengthy report complete with graphs and data analysis. No matter. The district succeeded in fulfilling their unsavory agenda with a dog and pony show for the advocate convincing her, my son was well placed in the current program. The end result, my son was denied extended school year due to the special education teacher refusing to advocate for it. In our view, it was retaliation for expressing the concern the teacher's judgement was clouded by racism.
Our suspicions were not far off the mark. As it turns out, a classmate of my son who didn't have an official diagnosis (shared by the classmate's parents) only suspicions of ADHD was not only provided with extended school year but a referral to BOCES. When I asked the parent how difficult it was to gain that accommodation for her son, her response was and I paraphrase, "no issue at all". In fact, the special education teacher advocated for it! As it turns out, the student was white.
It didn't matter that back in 2010, school psychologist noted on the IEP, issues about my son's working memory challenges. In fact, in her words on the IEP, she deemed my son to be borderline "mentally retarded". If the special education teacher considered my son to have learning challenges, why would she advocate against an extended school year? "Due to his distractibility, visual prompts or cuing are helpful as they help to gain his attention and engage him in his learning. Processing difficulties, poor attending and high distractibility can impact Aren's overall performance and new learning. These should be taken into consideration when assessing Aren to be sure an accurate reflection of his knowledge is being gained." ~ T. Nethercott, Special Education Teacher
A child with impaired intellect needs all the support he/she can receive. It was downright retaliation for calling her out on racism. Truth hurts so bad that it makes people want to get even, even if it means, negatively impacting a child!
Further, this special education teacher is now a CSE Chair in the district. Back in 2010 at a CSE meeting, this 2014 newly appointed chair verbally expressed that she "is not concerned about state tests. This person is now in the decision making position regarding very important outcomes about special education student accommodations. It is apparent, emotions could cloud her views and decision making.
It's a concern because what assurances will parents have that this person will not "cherry pick" which student gets appropriate services, supports and which will be left to flounder as my child was made to do. There is a preponderance this educator/administrator gave preferential treatment to a white student without an official diagnosis over my brown skinned child with documents fully identfying his disability and needs as it relates to his education. It is a microcosm of what is wrong in our society and feeds right into the statistics of the disparity of how children of color are treated differently. White privilege prevails, alive and well even among educators!
"Young Black men — across the board — score below their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to graduation rates, literacy rates and college preparedness. And many African American men, in turn, are virtually locked out of employment and are filling up the nation’s prisons in disproportionate numbers." Fact Sheet: Outcomes for Young, Black Men ~ T. Thompson
Is this the fate for my child? Will my child end up yet another statistic? What does it say about this school district that deliberately withholds the educational tools my son needs as of yesterday and 6 years ago! Here we are, white parents advocating for our African American child so that he doesn't end up on the wrong side of the tracks and every obstacle has been thrown in our path! We have situations in this country like Travon Martin and Ferguson in part, because as much as many want to believe, children of color are just not given the same opportunites and access compared to white children. Statistically, this is accurate still in 2014 and it's alarming.
As parents, we are working to create an appropriate path for our son so that he can hopefully, live a full, meaningful life, making contributions in our society. The school district instead, focuses on how to minimize much needed accommodations! If he ends up a statistic and falls into harms way, white society will point a finger of blame at him! Society will not acknowledge it is the fault of the system. And, who is the system? The system is US - you, me, everyone. It takes people to make a system.
Racist tendencies apparently is an issue in this district. Back in February 2012, it came to my attention that there was no display in the school library on Black History Month. I wrote to the elementary school principal/CSE Chair about the apparent lack of education and available reading material for students on Black History Month. This is the appalling response I received: "At the primary level we incorporate stories and activities within the classroom. In project Adventure this month they learned about "Bojangles" and how to tap dance. We also do a great deal around MLK and Abraham Lincoln." ~ K. McEnroe
Apparently, she was not well versed that African Americans do not take extra pride in "tap dancing". What happened to teaching young, white minds about people such as Rosa Parks and Fredrick Douglas? I live in a very homogenous community. It's important to teach children about the positive contributions African Americans have made in our country to help broaden an otherwise narrow point of view. I viewed it as a direct "dig" to me because this principal/CSE Chair was not an ally for my son either!
Only recently, the district cut the hours of the only African American educator we have in the district. An educator that teaches music/voice lessons to students and has helped them earned coveted awards. An eduator who has been instrumental in bringing diversity and culture through song and music into this homogenous community; had his hours cut! The last thing we need in this community is not less awareness to different cultures; we need more. It's a microcosm of what's wrong.
Earlier this year, the district ordered a triennial psychoeducational evaluation on my son. I was notified by the CSE Chair the district will pay for it but provided me with only one professional to choose from. We were not comfortable with a single choice. In fact, the district should have provided us with a list of professionals to select from. Given that the district has created this atmosphere of distrust, I pushed back. I sought an equally qualified professional who has worked with other districts in the Hudson Valley area. We had not met previously. She didn't know my son so it was reasonable to expect an unbiased, objective evaluation with a focus on the student. The CSE Chair bristled when we advocated for them to hire her. At first, the district flatly refused. I pushed back telling them they need to explain in writing why they refuse to hire her when she possessed all of the required credentials to perform the evaluation. Eventually, after much push/pull, the district agreed. Dr. Rivera of Learning Insights, performed a very extensive evaluation on my son. It took several days to complete and another trip down to The Bronx to The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory.
Fast forward, the psychoeducational evaluation was completed this past April. The annual review was held and when it came time to discuss the evaluation the district paid for, the CSE Chair pushed it off! And, by the way, we now have 3 people designated to chair the CSE. One of the Chairs, is the school psychologist. The same school psychologist with only an M.A. degree who considered my son to be "mentally retarded" without testing him first!
Last week, after I took the initiative to call a meeting with the CSE/IEP team to discuss the recommendations in the evaluation. The new CSE Chair delayed on the recommendations. Instead, she requested the school where my son attends, to do assessments regarding his level of functioning! What was the psychoeducational evaluation for if not to determine his current level of functioning? Once again, the district has created another block and pushed off further discussion of the evaluation's recommendations for 5 weeks! It seems the district is working overtime to figure out again how to short change my son because apparently they don't like the facts and supporting data. It seems they keep working toward an answer they want instead of embracing the facts from experts in the field of Autism research.
Listen as the team gets a big chuckle from the list of recommendations needed for my son. In fact, the CSE Chair agrees wholeheartedly it's too much to expect a nine point list of accommodations for the student stakeholder that is only 4 grade levels behind on reading, writing and math! My husband and I failed to see the humor.
The agenda is to give as few accommodations as they can get away with. By many accounts from other parents I speak with, it's a disgusting, prevailing thread of districts working to give as little as possible to our kids in need. Further, it's disturbing that race is factored in regarding students that receive versus those that don't. Yes, I'm making a case for it. Yes, I have many, many documents to back up everything I state on this blog.
If my son doesn't get what he needs immediately in the way of tools to help with his working memory deficits, research-based reading, writing and math programs, he is, in fact, at high risk of failing!
“Our deepest concern shouldn't be just the kids who can't go to school, but those who are going and not getting proper education” ~ Samer Chidiac