Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Aug 31
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by Jess


My name is Dawn Warburton and I am a follower of both your Facebook page and website. I often share your information as I find it is valuable and important for people to know. However, that is not why I am writing.

Today is the second day of school in my area, Cape Cod, MA. My son, age 16, a junior, is not there. Instead, he is in bed suffering from an unexplained migraine that he has been battle for the last few days. A headache so intense we spent four and half hours in the hospital emergency room last night getting blood work and a CAT scan only to find it was considered a “tension” or stress headache. This is not the first time my son has been sick, in fact he has been battle illness since the middle of his ninth grade year. The week before our winter vacation he was out of school for five days with a high fever and swollen lymph nodes. A trip to the pediatrician resulted in a diagnosis of a “virus” and a prescriptions of rest, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. As the remainder of the school months continued, he became sicker and sicker. Finally, out of frustrations and six more doctors visits, I took him to an off cape functional medicine doctor in Wellesley, MA who diagnosed him with mononucleosis, pneumonia, and a parvovirus which effects the bone marrow. Imagine my surprise, shock and anger that my son had been sick for so long.

With a diagnosis in hand, we moved forward and try to get him healthy. Lots of good foods, vitamins, supplements, and most importantly a summer in a program that was mentally and educationally beneficial for him at a well-known school for children with dyslexia. See, my son was diagnosed at age 6 with dyslexia. He spent his entire nursery, elementary, and middle school career in small private schools. All with under 50 students per school and five to ten students per class. He got a lot of one on one attentions and was able to flourish because he was learning the way in which he learned, was accepted for who he was and was given positive reinforcement. During this time, I had been working as a special education advocate, attending training with the state parent training center, Wright’s Law, the state department of education. I worked for an advocacy organization, I knew the laws, regulations and programs that were required and available to children with learning difference.

After getting through ninth grade, which was at a small 200 student public high school, our families first foray into public school, he applied and was accepted to a charter school. He was excited and coming off the exceptionally positive experience at the private summer program. He already had friends from private school at the public charter, was ready to learn and motivated to get up each morning. He was even excited to take the bus. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, this school was rigorous but no more rigorous than his private middle school. The school promote a new climate, a special place, where kids were part of the process and were educated in a new way. By the end of September, I knew it was more than just a problem. He was failing every class. My A/B student, who loved school, was a social butterfly, starting getting sick. First it was the fatigue and then came the blood noses which was followed by his complete loss of appetite.

Then came the first Individual Education Program meeting. As usual, the table was stacked heavily on the school side. The special education coordinator, associate director, counselor, history, math, and science teachers, special education teacher all around the table. At the end, sitting together, was my son and I. The coordinator started with the obligatory introductions and the reasons why we had convened. She then turned to the math teacher and asked him to tell my son and I what were Lucas’s strengths and weaknesses. Apparently, he heard the questions wrong because he began rattling off the 101 ways in which he felt my son was just about the worst student he had ever had. My son, according to him, could do nothing right. Wait, I take that back, his only discernible skill was the ability to raise his hand. Yes, he told my 15 year old son, he only knew how to raise his hand. I repeated back to him, exactly what he had said, and asked if I understood him correctly. He looked me in the eye and said, “Yes, that is what I am saying.”

The process went downhill from there, even beyond that meeting. They blamed my son for his inability to learn, even though his evaluations had shown he was reading and performing much lower grade level. They blamed me for being an overinvolved parent. At one point the coordinator refused my son access to books on tape because she said “in good conscience, your son does not have a disability” forcing us out the a neurologist to confirm his almost decade long dyslexia diagnosis. The associate director, sent me an email notifying me that he would only speak to me in scheduled meetings. Even when I had to pick my son up at school, he would see me in the hallway and not acknowledge my existence. I got emails upon emails upon telephone calls telling me that my son, again the problem, had not stayed after school for his 15 minutes of miracle work that the school assured me would “fix” his grades and all his problems.

But at what point did anyone ask “What is happening to the student?” Naturally, I kept asking but the school had decided that my son did not fit the profile outlined by their charter and he had to go. He needed services that were going to cost them money and they didn’t want that blemish on their academic or financial records. No matter what my son did, how he performed, or even the fact that he spent every waking moment in that building hearing about what an awful, under achiever he was, he kept getting up each morning and showing up for school. It was obvious that the school was emotionally toxic and physically draining for my child. He began to experience all the same symptoms from ninth grade. He was exhausted, sleeping 12 to 16 hours a day, not eating, losing weight, and not doing any of the out of school activities he loved.

Back to the doctor we went, to find out that he was still having all the same virus problems. His body refused to flush these diseases out of his system. The doctors put him on vitamins and supplements and tried to get his body moving with specialized treatments but he did not tolerate it very well. The nurse practitioner, with a doctorate in nursing, signed a hospital/homebound form, which the school refused to accept. The school made us go back, an hour and half drive from our home, and get another signed form plus they refused to waive his previous absences without a doctors signed note showing every date. It was a game and they were winning.

I finally realized my son’s life was on the line and his Dad and I decided to enroll him in a private online program. We had to do something to stop the vicious torment that the school was afflicting upon our son. We had one more meeting, which the school felt needed to be facilitated by the department of education bureau of special education appeals. I attended with my son and mother and right of the bat it was apparent that it was a useless waste of our time. My son opened by asking the special education coordinator if she believed he had dyslexia. At this point both a prominent neurologist and a respected Harvard University professor had sent reports to the school verifying the dyslexia diagnosis. What was her response? “It would be inappropriate for me to say if I do or don’t think you have dyslexia?”. He asked again, “Do you think I have dyslexia?”. She responded, “Well, these reports seems to say you do?”. He answered, “So you obviously don’t think I have it and aren’t going to help me.” She responded with silence. At one point in the meeting, my son was speaking telling this table of professionals that he wanted to be able to read the material and perform with his classmates, he wanted to go to college, and be successful, everything that IDEA stands for and the response was silence. Wait, I take that back, the response was the IEP facilitator interrupting to tell him he was getting off track. At that point in the meeting, he stood up, took his back pack and said he realize no one at that table was going to help him and left. The school continued on as if he had never been there.

We needed him to be healthy and not end up hospitalized because he was so gaunt and weak. We talked a lot about if this was the right decisions. He is so incredibly social, how would he handle not seeing his friends each day but he decided that it was just too much for him to handle. He would forgo the friends if it meant no stress and getting his health back to normal. With a couple of weeks of being at home doing school work, he started to perk up; he didn’t look so pale and was finally eating on a normal schedule. He has had to sacrifice so much just to be healthy. To say that the 2011-12 school was the worse experience of my family’s life, would be an understatement.

Throughout this entire process while my son was sick, we never got a phone call, email, a card, from anyone at the school saying, get better soon. In fact, he started getting messages from the  students saying they heard he wasn’t coming back, all before we even un-enrolled. The school won. The coordinator, the associate director, the teachers, all the people who supposedly care about their students had beaten the life out of my child. They had accomplished their goal of frustrating my son to the point where he would not return to school. They had grabbed ahold of the blemish and ripped it open and now it was gone without anyone being held accountable for what they had done. Now, on day two of school, its 10:30 in the morning, my son is still sound asleep in bed, with the blankets covering his eyes to block the light, which is ripping through his skull because of the head ache, he has lost his appetite, his skin’s sharp paleness has returned, and I am brokenhearted that he is suffering in a way I can’t seem to repair.

Who is responsible for the bad behavior of an administration and it’s teachers? The community sees this glowing program filled with false accolades that self-promotes like no one’s business but they don’t see the children who are driven out because they will diminish test scores and may tarnish their shiny image. The community doesn’t seem to see the havoc they’ve wrecked on my child. Schools need to be held accountable, teachers need to be held accountable, children are not puppets to be played with an discarded when their stitching comes undone. Schools, teachers, and administrators need to be held to the same high standards that parents are held to because they are charged with not only educating a child but ensuring their safety.

As we speak, I hear my son’s footsteps down the hallway. It’s eleven o’clock and he is just getting up. He sounds sad and doesn’t want to get shower or get dressed, just move from the bed to the couch with his blanket. I want everyone to know that this shouldn’t be happening and should be criminal. Even if you would not consider posting my story, please consider writing a piece about abuse at the hands of educators and administrators. It must be stopped.

Parent and advocate,

Dawn Warburton

Editorial Note:  I received this blog this morning via email and decided to post it right away.  It shows the pain and suffering that can be infilcted upon a family and a child by a school adminstrator when they are adamant about removing a child from their school.  I hear stories like this all to often as a special education advocate and it gives all the other well meaning, hard working school staff a bad name.  I also refuse to allow the comment section below to be a catalyst for more pain and suffering for this family so please remember to be respectful when and if you comment.

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Abuse and Mistreatment by a School, 4.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
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10 Responses to “Abuse and Mistreatment by a School”

  1. This describes so much of what is wrong with charter schools (and it should be emphasized the this is a charter school). They operate outside the boundaries of law and morality, and very often it is students with disabilities who suffer the most. Thankfully your family is vocal and active and so is your son. There are far too many people who have been marginalized and don’t know how to respond. Perhaps you’ll consider legal action against the school. I hope this story finds a happy conclusion and your son goes on to achieve everything he hopes to.

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  2. I’m so sorry this has happened to your family.

    Please consider getting your son counseling to begin healing his depression and repairing his self esteem that the school saw fit to trash.

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I agree the community of parents with children with special needs must know about these wrong doings.

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  3. I’m not sure if I should rate this 0 because I am horrified with what teh school did, or 5 because what you have written obviously took a lot of guts as did dealing with the school. I hope you and your son re-find the happy, A/B, social butterfly that you used to have.

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  4. There is no such thing as an “overly-involved parent.” Any teacher worth their weight will tell you that. Good luck and I hope you find a solution. My heart breaks for you.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experience Dawn. A Parent Advocate friend shared your posting on our CURE Facebook page for other parents. In Rhode Island there is over 20,000+ DIAGNOSED Dyslexic children in the Public Schools but they are not taught with the necessary tools. Legislation was put in first time last year,,,but only for a Study Commission.

    We share having children in a Toxic Education Arena that ignores their methods in which they need to be taught. And I so agreed with “Schools, teachers, and administrators need to be held to the same high standards that parents are held to because they are charged with not only educating a child but ensuring their safety.” I am doing everything I can (although it doesn’t feel that way) to fight and ensure he doesn’t get to the point of “giving up”.

    @ Matt, Sorry to say, but this is NOT a Charter school issue – this is a National issue. You need to equip yourself and surround yourself with as much information/tools to gain more knowledge than the schools have. Wrights Law is definitely a godsend, but there is so much hands on experiences that you can gain flights of levels so much quicker by learning from other parents that have been there.

    I am dealing with the RI Disability Lawyers. Although this is great, it’s snail speed for me – UGH!

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  6. The same thing happened to my son last year in 8th grade in a traditional public school. Only, they kept saying they wanted him there. At the end he said he would run away if he had to go back. He has started a small private school – so far so good. I hope you find the right learning environment for your young man too.

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  7. Would like to talk with you!
    25 families left a charter school in Redding CA
    9 complaints went to the CDE
    6 investigations, some did not meet the 1 year timeline
    3 had several corrective actions Child Find and access to grade level standards.
    1 is still under investigation
    5 uniform complaints were sent to the Shasta County Office of Education Board – they will be monitor for 2 years and had to change many things.
    We called the US DEPT of Ed and the CA Dept of Ed.

    We are pretty sure they are all dyslexic students who just need a different approach. They werfe put below grade level for several years or retained with out an Orton Gillingham intervention.

    We were told they are a charter school and can do what they want. Don’t tell our teacher what to do.

    Found this article -http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-543

    We asked if the school can call Child Protective Services who do the parents call when the school is harrassing students? We still don’t have that answer.

    Thank you for speaking up!!

    Can’t wait to see the movie Won’t Back Down!

    FB me!

    I’ll be praying for your son and family.

    Our experience was a nightmare as well. They are willing to change now but would not when we 1st spoke up in Dec. 2010. It’s called Constructive Discharge! Charter do have to follow IDEA and ADA.

    We have learned not to let the grass grow on a complaint. Give 2 weeks and then file with Office of Civil Rights or Ca. Dept. Ed.

    And yes, we had to remove our whole family from the toxic environment.

    We are working to educate and empower parents now.

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  8. “Who is responsible for the bad behavior of an administration and it’s teachers? The community sees this glowing program filled with false accolades that self-promotes like no one’s business but they don’t see the children who are driven out because they will diminish test scores and may tarnish their shiny image. The community doesn’t seem to see the havoc they’ve wrecked on my child. Schools need to be held accountable, teachers need to be held accountable, children are not puppets to be played with an discarded when their stitching comes undone. Schools, teachers, and administrators need to be held to the same high standards that parents are held to because they are charged with not only educating a child but ensuring their safety.”

    This statement struck home for me! Thank you for sharing this open wound with us~parents who are in the same boat as you. The public school my daugher attends apparently is not accountable to anyone either as they are allowed to get away with things that we as parents would be jailed for. The icing on top of the cake is that they use TAXPAYER”S money to harrass and retalitate against parents who advocate for their kids~ and still are NOT providing appropriate educationaal programs to the most VULNERABLE children in our town, yet seem to have NO PROBLEM collecting Federal monies for the IDEA grants and ARRA grants~all of which should be funneled to assist students with disabilites! From an oursider’s point of view this is the best school in the universe~the best school for the regular education students~not the kids who don’t fit THEIR mold~rather they publically accuse the SPED kids for weighing down their state testing scores~never occured to them that they are AT FAULT for NOT teaching the students appropriately so they can learn and succeed!

    You are 100% correct to ask who are they accountable to? In ten or twenly years our kids will be forgotten or remembered as the ones with the “difficut parent”……but WE will still be caing for and nuturing them in hopes of them being successful and independant. An enormate amount of damage can be done from this lack of accountablilty within these schools. Damage that could take years to reverse or worse permanent damage that cannot be undone.

    Please hold these schools accountable. It is about time that someone does!

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  9. My heart goes out to your son and family for the unfair, outrageous treatment being imposed on your son. I too am a parent of a child who has an IEP. He was actually in learning support the last three years. However, after my request to be reevaluated, we have been told by the psychiatrist that he has actually dropped significantly in his testing and is now considered to qualify for Special Education. I have been fighting the Phila Public School system in regards to adequate classes and tools for my son since he started school three years ago. It so sad how we as parents have to fight so hard for equal rights for our children who need extra help. I am greatly considering home schooling him and my oldest child (who has no learning disabilities) by way of virtual online schooling. Waiting to see what this year will bring before making the move though. Prayerfully, things will get better for my baby boy but if not, home schooling it will be. Although, it will be a great sacrifice and I’m sure very challenging, it will be well worth it. I pray that your son will get better physically and that you will find the right education system for him. May God bless you and your family. Don’t give up. Help is on the way!!

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  10. This breaks my heart and sends a chill through me. My son had very similar symptoms that I kept questioning when he began 6th grade, transitioning from ES to MS. I was assured more than once that he was prepared and ready for MS. From day one there were problems and I had questions. The teacher put off answering my questions and when I began skipping the ‘friendly’ talk and going straight to questions she answered with vague responses or told me she would get around to answering them ‘tomorrow’ or ‘later’ but often didn’t. There were daily ‘events’ that were compounding because by the time I would discover the answer to a question I had posed days or weeks earlier we were into a new ‘problem’. I was frustrated to the point of tears. This teacher also didn’t bother attending back to school night – the classroom door was locked tight with the light off. She didn’t let me know until the day of b2s night that she wasn’t attending but I went anyway. After he came home with two bruises and a scrape on his thigh I got an advocate. Things aren’t perfect yet but a lot better. His outlook has improved but he still acts rather subdued in the presence of most adults unless there is lots of prompting for friendly interaction. I couldn’t have gotten as far as I have without an Advocate. You are in my prayers. God bless you and your family.

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