Every baby is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our School Journey, Part 2

We had thought we would enroll our son in our local school in Colorado where we had lived for the last 19 years. Things changed, and we moved from Colorado to Texas right before he was set to start first grade.

The law in Texas requires parents to enroll their children in the school that geographically serves the area where they live. We enrolled him in the elementary school that serves our subdivision. We had hoped for a positive experience for all of us.

From the beginning, though, we knew this was not going to be an awesome experience because this school was not equipped to offer him any services, including an aide. We'd been told they would never give him an aide/ Because the school district is so large (50,000 students) they do not offer services at every elementary, but rather have designated schools with services. Our local elementary was not a designated school for the services he needed.

We had meetings and asked for modifications and accommodations, but we were met with resistance. A lot of resistance. They did not want to keep him in that school. At all. He had to go through testing in order to qualify for services that we all knew he needed, with the end result being that he would have to attend another school. We wanted him to stay in our neighborhood school where his older sister attended as well as neighborhood kids and children from church, and give him the help he needed to be successful.. We believed that was the intent of the law regarding students with special needs, especially because that is exactly what it said (children with special needs should not be moved from their neighborhood school just because they need accommodations or modifications to the curriculum) What it said and how this district interpreted what it said, we found out, were two completely different things.

We went round and round. At one meeting it got quite heated. We quoted the law, we pointed out successful inclusion stories, we shared our own experiences with him and his ability to learn, and we showed them graphs and comparison charts collected by reputable researchers in inclusion studies. It did not matter. The bottom line was they were not going to provide any services for him at that school. they were not happy that we kept asking for meetings and one of the district staff members did not treat us very well.

(As a side note, when I was at the neighborhood school, the kids had to stay in lines, could not speak in the halls, had to always face forward in their lines, had to walk down the halls with their hands behind their backs, It felt much more like a military school with all of its rigid requirements. It was not a warm, welcoming atmosphere at all).

We hired an advocate to help us.  We attended a Wrightslaw Conference. We read and studied. Yet, every thing we brought up in the meetings was met with, "We're sorry, but we are not required to provide that for your son. You will have to move him to another school." That meant disrupting my daughter's education and her social network that she had established.  

Stay tuned for the next installment in our journey.

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