Friday, September 26, 2008

No Child Left Behind? Really?

There have been 19 days of school so far this new school year. And for all 19 of those days Ashley has not had the support called for by her IEP.

Ashley’s IEP calls for the services of an instructional assistant who is ‘sufficiently proficient in sign and speech so as to provide a language role model.’ The IEP states she should be receiving those services for 6.75 hours each school day. The school day is exactly 6.75 hours long.

Since providing such services has always been a point of contention in past school years, I checked with Ashley’s school staff prior to the start of this current school year. I was told, of course, that they had not been able to find anyone to fill the position, and that the classroom assistant in Ashley’s class would fill in until someone was hired. The classroom assistant is ‘sufficiently proficient’, and I am more than pleased when she works with Ashley. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is the classroom assistant is entitled to a lunch break every day. So, for 30 minutes each day, Ashley is without communication support. The classroom assistant is also entitled to sick leave. So, for one full day this month, Ashley was without communication support. And, the classroom assistant must attend weekly physical therapy sessions outside the school building for an injury she sustained last year in the classroom. So, for two hours each week (in addition to the lunch break and the sick day), Ashley is without communication support. None of this is the fault of the classroom assistant. She is doing everything she possibly can to assist Ashley, but the school district has rules that must be followed (lunch breaks, sick time, etc).

Ashley is profoundly deaf in her right ear, and has a severe loss in her left ear. She is totally blind in her left eye, and has a clinical measurement in her right eye of 20/2000. She communicates with sign language and prefers that whoever signs to her does so directly in front of her ‘good’ eye. She doesn’t use a communication board because she has chosen not to. She doesn’t speak because she has never been able to hear well enough to learn to speak. Sign language is her preferred and only means of communication. None of this is news to my school district. Ashley is currently in the eighth grade and has been receiving services from this same school district since she was two years old.

At the start of the second week of school, after attempting to resolve the issue with my school district and getting nowhere, I filed a complaint with my state Department of Education. At that point, a very long timeline goes into effect due to all the administrative aspects of the complaint investigation and resolution. Monday, September 29th, the school district is required to file a response to my complaint – unless of course they don’t and then they are given another 7 business days. The actual investigation by the Department of Education may then take up to 50 more days – for a total of 60 days – unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist and then they get more time. If the school district is found to not be in compliance, they have 30 business days to file a corrective action plan, unless they don’t file. Then the Superintendent for the Department of Education is notified and gets involved. Then….who knows. That’s where the documentation stops.

So, do you think this will get resolved this school year? Here’s a hint – I’m getting more than a little perturbed and I have my attorney’s phone number on speed dial.


Amazing_Grace said...

I had two girlfriends that got a special education lawyer and finally got what they wanted and then more at their child's school.

I hope things work out. Have you considered contacting a local newspaper to tell them your story? Ask your lawyer first and then bring all your papers to your interview to back up what you are saying. :)

Anonymous said...

All the regulation in the world does not prevent this circumstance. So disappointing that the system fails so often.

But, there are strong and determined mothers like you, whose work on behalf of your own child does help others, I believe.

I sympathize with you (I've seen this many times) and I encourage you - I've seen what amazing_grace reported many times, too.

DES said...

I surely hope they get on the stick soon and you won't have to hire a special ed lawyer. are doing the right thing! The whole 'no child left behind' has many many parents wondering about its effectiveness! Parents like you who follow through and stay up on the supports/adaptions the kids are suppose to be getting help the other parents in the long run as well.

I hope this all works out...for Ashley's sake!

KittyDobson said...

And that is why today is World Wide Sign Language Rights day, there were rallys held all over the world today so that we can try to get that support in the class room as soon as you request it!! Hope you can find what your child needs to help you support her chosen language!!! Good luck!

Barbara said...

The primary impact of NCLB on children receiving special education - mandated restrictions on how many children COULD be given the adapted test procedures for outcome measures. A layer of oversight to be sure that schools did not count poorly performing regular ed students among those needing special education. SQUEEZE the schools a bit more.

The name of the law was just part of the spin to get it passed. IDEA looks really good on (mountains of) paper in that it seems to offer so many protections. IDEA has not changed the will of individual people - some of whom are responsible to implement it.

I have recently decided that public displays like a rally have little impact on social opinion. Demonstrations are a 40-year-old anachronism.

The 'fight' for implementation of an IEP is one-on-one. Deborah, wishing you and Ashley all the best luck.

Ashley's Mom said...

Barbara, I agree. I personally have found that the only 'systems change' (a term I have heard thrown around for years now) occurs through some form of litigation - be it state complaints, due process, or an ADA lawsuit.

I really don't like those approaches, but for me, it has been the only thing that has worked.

And before anyone yells at me, Yes, I have tried many, many techniques for working collaboratively with my school district. It hasn't worked. I have four chidren, three receiving special education services. I have a LOT of experience.

MMC said...

The worst of it is, I know there are many bad situations for special ed students in the US, but in Canada it is much worse. We have no law like IDEA, each provincial gov't is responsible for education and I find many simply copy some of the pretty language (like the right to an "appropriate education") found in IDEA, but there is no teeth behind it.

Then there is the fact that very few parents can actually afford to proceed legally. As I understand it, in the US (at least in some states anyway), the gov't or disability organizations will pay the cost of a lawyer for a parent. Not so here! So all in all, it really sucks!

All that being said, the best of luck to you, Deborah. There is no doubt that you are the kind of mom to get things done. Which is just the kind we all need.

rickismom said...

I only got what I needed for Ricki after two court cases and the threat of a third. (Threat working as they know I don't just threaten,....)

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. I understand the frustration because we always had the same experience with M. They always said, "We are just so busy with the I Step testing that her IEP really won't begin until a month or so. Ummmm....are you kidding me? I spent so much time advocating and feeling angry. M was the one who suffered through those times.

I will be anxious to hear what happens with your complaint.

mommy~dearest said...

Oooh... to be in battle with the school this early on. I'm thinking of you!

At least your district left you leverage. Jaysen's school won't commit to any binding language. For example, his IEP reads: J will receive parapro support blah blah... to the best of the school's ability.

What kind of junk is that?!? And that was with a special ed atty. The argument was the school has to supply what the law states, and not an ounce more. They can provide more if they choose, but are not legally bound to. Nice.

Anonymous said...

(I'm the same as Barbara - just did not have time to sign-in then.)

"The argument was the school has to supply what the law states, and not an ounce more. They can provide more if they choose, but are not legally bound to."

Even reg ed functions under this principle. In an effort to provide for all, the minimum becomes the standard. The school districts that provide more than the minimum do this because of parent involvement. Barbara