Just Do Right By Our Students

It’s a gloomy, stormy day and under the comfort of fog and rain, I can be still and ponder.

images-19Two weeks ago I was giving testimony in an education due process hearing. I was not called as an expert witness. I was called to review (be grilled about) observation reports I had prepared and submitted to the district as requested by the parents.

It was horrible.

How did we arrive here before a judge?

Simply answered, we didn’t do right by a student.

We? Yes, I take some responsibility because I am part of a world that doesn’t do right by kids far too often.

Although two weeks have passed, I am still reflecting and worryinimagesg my testimony raw. I am wondering what makes districts take such a strong stance, paying googahs of money to lawyers just to keep from doing what is best for kids or admitting they could have done better.

I am questioning why schools always have the advantage. They have insurance for such legal fees. Parents do not. How just is that? A district can appeal a judge’s decision over and over until the parent can’t   images-20take any more, can’t pay their own legal counsel any longer. Many parents go into deep debt fighting for what is right for their kids with special needs.

Is that OK with us?

images-1Parents do not enter due process easily. It’s risky. It’s painful, exhausting and can pile even more stress onto already fragile families and marriages. Some are crushed beyond recognition.

I have spent way too much time replaying  certain parts of this whole experience. I tend to perseverate when I cannot make sense of something. I admit, I was stuck for a few days.

playrewindplayrewindplayrewindplayrewindplayrewindplayrewind

But I wasn’t only stuck in worry. I was angry. I am angry. Angry that the other side did all they could to negatively characterize a mother who has trusted, time and again, that FAPE would protect her kid. To see the other side minimize her importance is something I will not easily forget.

And even though the district has generally done right by my own kids, the due process experience has forever changed the way I will present and advocate in future IEP meetings. It’s all tainted now and that makes the current significant concerns I have for one of my kids all that much more difficult to navigate.

I was stung by the nasty wasp of betrayal in this process.

I was betrayed by a system that aUnknown-2dvertises good intentions for all students. Betrayed by a few professionals I believed I could trust, by a system that keeps those with big money in power and control of the less advantaged.

The student’s long, detailed, sad story told in this due process hearing should have left everyone sick.This student’s story is full of too many wrong turns, poorlyimages-23 executed interventions, a school district steadfastly shirking responsibility for wasted time and documented psychological damage done.

There are answers, solutions. One has to be brave enough to reflect honestly, and that simply is not in the best interest of school district.

I would love to have a transparent and honest discussion with the school district. I do not understand their motives. I want to talk to humans, not the institution.images-25

I want to understand how they sleep at night.

Now we wait. The judge is wading through testimony, briefs prepared by each side’s legal counsel. We will know her decision mid October. We know that if it does not favor the school district, they will continue to throw money at it in images-22appeals.

Meanwhile, a student has been harmed, is not receiving what he deserves, and he will be 18 years old in just a few months.

And what will become of his parents? They face hard decisions if this does not get decided in favor of their son.

As the rain pours down from the foggy sky today, I ponder.

What is so hard about doing the right thing?

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