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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Passing on our Problems

I was at a meeting this week for a student with serious behavior issues and learning disabilities.  The meeting was being held to determine whether or not his handicaps were the reason for the ten disciplinary suspensions that he incurred over the last four months.  It was attended by our school associate principal, school psychologist, district behavioral specialist, the student ‘s case manager, the parent, the student and myself — the token general education teacher.  During the meeting, it was disclosed that the case manager had failed to provide the student ‘s general education teachers with the proper documentation that listed the accommodations and information necessary to enable the student to succeed in class.  Therefore, all disciplinary actions were nullified.  The mother of the student, however, was not interested in the fact that the school had failed in its compliance with special education law regarding her son.  She just wanted to remove her son from Special Ed. Period.  And she was adamant about it. And she wanted him enrolled into Independent Studies. No one at the table tried to dissuade her from her purpose except for me.  At sixteen years old, this student was having a hard time reading and writing, he was clearly not ready for the mainstream, let alone Independent Studies.  But the mother persisted.  I explained that if he was signed out, he would lose all access to special services up through community college level.  I gently tried to explain that due to her son ‘s below grade level performance skills he still needed the support and assistance that special education provided, and that pretending there isn ‘t a problem doesn ‘t mean that the problem doesn ‘t exist. I waited the for the others at the table to add to my argument and support the need for continued special education services. What happened, in fact, was just the opposite. the associate principal, behavior specialist, case manager and psychologist all encouraged the mother to sign her son if that is what she wished to do.  Instead of cautioning her against rash behavior, they itemized the procedure that she needed to follow and urged her to do so as soon as possible. End of meeting.

I sat there in disbelief not wanting to realize what I had witnessed — the passing on of a social problem from one institution to another. The associate principal seemed delighted that he would now have one less behavior problem to deal with.  The case manager had one less student on his case load.  No one seemed bothered by the fact that they had just encouraged one more student to pursue a direct road to failure.  No one seemed bothered that they hadn ‘t taken the time to inform the parent that she was doing a serious disservice to her son.  I walked away disgusted at what I had just witnessed and wondered why I was the only one who seemed to care that the future of this young man was now in jeopardy because instead of doing what was right, we did instead what was easy.

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