Sabine Neal is not giving up on making the public aware of what happened to her child at Academy of Dover. She is making it well-known she is not happy with their denial of services and what now appears to be a massive amount of suspensions. Even with an extremely weak 504 plan, this child still has rights as determined by state and federal law! Has this school ever heard of something called manifestation determination? Child Find?
June 12, 2015
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Sabine Neal and my children are students at Academy of Dover. You may be aware of my family’s issues involving this school but I really feel compelled to voice my concerns again. I want everybody at the Department of Education well aware of the many issues that we have with the Academy of Dover.
My main areas of concern involve my son MarKayvion. He is six years old, attends kindergarten at this school and is special needs. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, high functioning autism, and separation disorder. He entered the school in August 2014 with the special education manager at the time, Patricia Miller, knowing that he had been diagnosed with both ADHD and autism. I requested that he receive a special education evaluation in August. My son does not transition very well and he requires a very strict schedule that must be adhered to at all times. I let Mrs. Miller know all of this. The first week of school seemed to be running smoothly until the bus driver would not allow my daughter and son to sit together because they were opposite sex. This was an abrupt change to my son’s routine and he resisted by running off of the bus at every stop. I contacted Mrs. Miller about this and she said they did not have the staff to put an aid on the bus and that he didn’t qualify for a one on one aid anyhow. Between her, myself, and the transportation specialist, Chavonne Stewart, we determined that it would be easier if I just dropped him off. I did have to relinquish my duties at work as a teaching assistant because I would not be able to get to the classroom in time with this new drop off time. The arrangement seemed to work for an additional week or so, until the school would no longer allow my daughter to walk my son to his classroom. This was such a small thing that helped him transition into the classroom, she has been doing this since he entered preschool. They said it was against protocol for a fourth grader to be in a kindergarten wing and that he was old enough to do it by himself. This, along with his teacher, Mrs. Burton leaving, really caused serious issues in the morning transition from my car into the building. I would have to force him into the building and then a staff member, such as Ms. Stewart or Mr. K (gym teacher) would go into the boys’ bathroom with him and let him scream and tantrum until he calmed down. It was a horrifying experience to have to leave my child like this every day. I could hear his screams all the way in the parking lot. Through all of this he had been suspended three days and I continually called Mrs. Miller who would never return my call. I finally insisted upon seeing her before I left the school. I asked why he hadn’t been evaluated and why there had not yet been any IEP meeting. She told me she was unaware of any issues and didn’t think that I still wanted an evaluation. I confirmed with her that I did still want an evaluation. Around this same time it had become necessary to form a routine with MarKayvion upon his entrance into the building. Ms. Stewart coordinated this routine with him and things seemed to be working out better than before the routine was in place. MarKayvion had his first IEP meeting at the end of October, where it was predetermined that he wouldn’t be eligible because his autism diagnosis was 3.5 years old and it takes six months of observation for ADHD to be a qualifier. At this meeting it was confirmed that he would have a 504 B plan which would basically substantiate the routine that Ms. Stewart had already set in place. This routine does work if actually followed and if all steps in the routine stay consistent. There are issues when consistency is lacking. Following the IEP meeting I looked into obtaining a new autism diagnosis for my son. His pediatrician suggested a local neurologist at CNMRI which I did set an appointment for. He had already been to this neurologist but it was just a medication check. So I went to an appointment on November 4th where she gave me surveys for myself and the school to complete. They were returned to the doctor, at which point she said that she was not qualified to diagnosis him with autism. My son’s therapist, who he has been seeing since September, suggested that I try and schedule an appointment with Delaware Autism Program. I did schedule an appointment but he couldn’t be seen until after the first of the year due to a change in medical insurance. In late November my son came home from school concerned because a “stranger” pulled him out of class and talked to him. I called the school insisting I know what this was about. Apparently my child was being evaluated by a psychologist for a learning disability, to which I had no knowledge of. When I asked why I had not been notified, I was told that I don’t have to know or approve of everybody my child comes in contact with. I did request a second IEP meeting, and the new special education manager, Ms. Betts, scheduled a meeting for December 22nd. As far as the learning disability evaluation, he was found to not have a learning disability. This was no surprise for me because he gets A’s and B’s in school. At this meeting he again was deemed ineligible but the school reiterated that he could be deemed eligible for services if he received a new diagnosis of Autism by Delaware Autism Program. Unfortunately due to poor weather conditions this winter, he wasn’t evaluated until February 3, 2015. Dr. Susan Peterson was the psychologist who evaluated him at DAP and I returned two weeks later to receive her evaluation of MarKayvion. He was diagnosed with high functioning autism, again. Armed with this document and a document from his therapist listing his other diagnoses I returned to the school on March 5, giving all of the reports to Ms. Stewart who told me to give them to the nurse. Ms. Stewart told me that if they made him eligible for any services the school would notify me. I did not receive any notice and the year continued to progress in a negative manner. One of the days I went into the school and requested to speak to Ms. Stewart, Cheri Marshall, Ms. Halliday (3rd special education manager), and Mrs. Owusu (his “teacher”). I had already complained about the multiple issues my son was having with his teacher and the fact that she was not certified to be a teacher, she only had the credentials to be paraprofessional, yet she was actually hired to be a teacher. When I met with the three of them, I said that something had to be done. Their suggestion was for my son to attend a day treatment program at his therapy center, which I did listen to and placed him on the waiting list. To this day he is at number six on the waiting list. The fact that they suggested him going to a treatment program shows just how unwilling they were to do anything to help my child.
My son has been suspended on multiple occasions: September 5, October 7, October 8, November 13, February 23, March 11, March 26, May 4, May 11, May 20, May 26, June 8, and June 9. These are the days that I have documented, two of the being ISS days, however I know there are more than these. This is completely unacceptable. The school should have seen a bigger issue just by seeing how many days he wasn’t even in the classroom setting. My son always said his teacher, Juanita Owusu had a problem with him and he felt like she didn’t like him. He also told his therapist and I that he needed someone big to stand up for him at his school because he was scared. I tried to be patient with this school all year, I tried to make suggestions to his teacher on techniques that he uses at home to relax himself. She told me she had more kids than him to worry about. All of his issues really came to a head on May 4, 2015 when I received a call by Ms. Stewart saying that I needed to immediately come to the school. When I arrived I was ushered into Cheri Marshall’s office, where Ms. Stewart, John Leon, and Mrs. Marshall were all waiting. I was informed by Marshall that Mrs. Owusu had kicked my son in the leg, saying it was a natural instinct because she was frustrated. It had apparently been investigated, with Mrs. Owusu admitting to doing it and it was viewed on the camera. As a parent I was absolutely infuriated and to make matters worse Marshall and Leon tried brushing it under the rug as a natural instinct, saying my son doesn’t have to face consequences and that he know right from wrong. As much as I disagree with Ms. Stewart, she was the only person in that room that apologized and seemed upset that the situation had occurred. I asked where Mrs. Owusu was and what her punishment was, Marshall said that the situation had been handled and left it at that. The school did not report the incident to anybody or call the police, I did. While in the parking lot at 3 pm, dismissal time, I saw Mrs. Owusu leaving the building and I also later learned that she attended the staff appreciation dinner later that week and that she had only received a week off of work without pay. It was only after I raised a huge fit and contacted DOE and the police that the board at Academy of Dover allowed Mrs. Owusu to resign, she wasn’t even fired. This is very shocking to me because not only did she abuse my child, she admitted to doing it, it was on video, and my son had a huge bruise on his leg for almost 3 weeks. Since May 4th (ISS) he has been suspended 5 times. This shows a serious problem in the schools ability to acknowledge and deal with special needs children. In this time he has been threatened that the school would call the police and he would be arrested. Cheri Marshall has stated that she didn’t know of this problem until March or April which is a direct lie as she acted as the secretary at the first IEP meeting. Also she was Vice Principal and then became the head of school, how did such a serious problem pass by her? Which again it didn’t because she had no problem stating at a public hearing that the school had issues with my child all year long.
I know that the major area of concern that the DOE has with Academy of Dover is their financial issues but I implore you, as the Department of EDUCATION please care about these children’s education, care about my son’s education. Yes, he gets good grades but think of the education he missed and how great he could have been. My son is special needs. He has been diagnosed multiple times by multiple doctors. There have clearly been issues that impeded my son’s education. This school and the staff that has dealt with my son should NOT get away with what they have done to not only my son, but my daughter, and myself. Please consider this letter in any decision you make regarding Academy of Dover, a school cannot improve when it has the same unwilling leaders.
My last thought:
“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
This letter might not mean much to you, it might not mean anything at all. But I do promise that this letter and everything that my family has gone through will mean something to the thousands of families with special needs children that have dealt or will deal with these issues in a school. I will not be silenced until justice is served. You, the Department of Education can do something, you have the power. This is my fight song and I will keep singing for my son, MarKayvion and every other special needs child who is not receiving the education that they are entitled to.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Sabine N. Neal