So How’s My Kid Doing?

Thank you to all who have sent their concerns and well wishes for my son.  I just wanted to give an update.  He is currently on homebound instruction for the foreseeable future due to the concussion he received from another child at his school the last day before Christmas break.

His MRI came back clean, but we are awaiting the results of a second impact test which shows if there is any problems arising from the concussion.  He is under a lot of physical limitations.  He wanted to ride his bike today, but he can’t.  He can’t be in a travelling car for more than half an hour.  Screen time is vastly reduced.  He’s not as tired as he was a couple weeks ago, but he has not gotten back to his normal sleep pattern.  His doctor recommended some physical therapy for the concussion, so we have that coming up as well.  He misses some of the kids at his school, and some of his teachers.

One punch.

That’s all it took to wreck his life.  One punch.

There is a lot about this situation I am unable to write about at this time.  But I did commit to making bullying a top priority for this year.  For those who have been following this blog from the beginning, you know when I start on a big topic, I tend to write a big article about it.  It’s coming.

In the meantime, I pray he gets better soon.  Many parents have said “Why doesn’t he fight back?”  Cause we’ve told him not to.  This is a child with disabilities.  Sure, there’s a part of me that wants to say go to town if he is assaulted, but the reasonable part of me knows what could happen.  Kids with disabilities that fight back don’t always have the best future.  Some of them wind up in residential treatment centers.  Possibly out of state.  And it’s not like our schools are always fair when a kid defends himself.  I wish he didn’t have to defend himself.  I wish kids would see him the way I do.  But you can’t always get what you want and all that.

I will defend him though.  Against the forces that are bigger than him, bigger than most of us.  I will fight the future.  I will fight those who say they want the best for our children while they fill their wallets with our  money.  I will fight those who sit behind the protection of the state but take advantage.  I won’t be a bully for my son, I will be a warrior for him.

Advertisements

Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities

I posted my last article of 2014 last night, and I talked about how my son needed an MRI after he received a concussion at his school stemming from his 8th physical assault since the end of August.  Since then, the number one question I have received is why.  That’s not an easy question for me to answer.  If I knew the answer I could try to fix the problem

It’s very easy for me to focus on Priority Schools, FOIAs, charter school financial mismanagement and non-profit tax forms for educational lobbyist groups.  The answers come very easy for me with just a little bit of investigation.  Disability bullying is a very tough topic.  It’s personal for me because it involves my son.  And I will need help from other parents who have gone through or are going through these types of ordeals.  This needs to be an ongoing conversations between parents and schools.  It can’t just be the schools. Continue reading “Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities”

The Last Post of 2014 Will Be A Huge Part of 2015

New Years Eve.  The transition from one year to the next.  Like I said a week ago, this blog will be changing gears soon, and it will be going against the grain.  Some things need to be talked about, and there needs to be an honest conversation about it.  It exists, and it is seldom talked about anymore with all the other talk in Delaware about priority schools and corporate education reform.  I understand teachers are pissed off, and I am to.  I can’t stand what has happened to education in the past ten years.  But one thing gets me angrier than anything, and that’s this:

jacobsbrain

This is an MRI scan from a boy with special needs.  He got hit in the head two days before Christmas on the last day of school.  This was his 8th physical assault this year.  That is 8 too many.  He got a concussion from the blow, and it’s considered moderate to severe.  He has had headaches and nightmares ever since.  He will be spending the month of January at home when the rest of his peers will be in school.  He will have homebound instruction with a tutor.

This child has an IEP, and he was approved for a one-on-one aide, but a permanent one has not been hired yet.  His IEP team was told on day one that he can say inappropriate things at times based on his disability, but it was his parents hope the social skills training in his IEP accommodations would help.  It would have helped this boy if that social skills training was given and not used as a punishment when he said something inappropriate to someone in his group.  Because of that, his social skills accommodation was taken away, and his parents weren’t even aware of this until weeks later.  He lost this accommodation for well over a month and much of the bullying and physical assaults against him took place during this time.

His school wants to say much of what is going on with him is behavior and not his neurobiological disability.  This has caused his parents to become very upset with the school on many occasions.  The boys parents feel they are not treated like peers, but as “guests” in this public school district.  The school has no problem in making my son take responsibility for his actions, but when it comes time for the school to do the same, things get very quiet.

There is so much more I can and may say about this boy.  His father understands the plight of teachers.  He understands the impact the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell, and all these bizarre shadow organizations have had on education.  He is against the current teacher effectiveness program.  He hates the priority school initiative.  But this father has to look out for the safety of his son, and when his son has to get an MRI because the doctor is worried about the results of an impact test from the concussion, this boy’s father has to start tackling the biggest problem in Delaware schools.  The problem that has been present for years in ALL Delaware schools.  The problem that all too often gets swept under the rug.  This boy has Tourette Syndrome, and he is my son.

 

Office For Civil Rights Gives Stern Warning To Schools About Bullying Against Students With Disabilities @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @TNJ_malbright @DeDeptofEd #netde #eduDE

The Office For Civil Rights division of the United States Department of Education wrote a colleague letter today about the rapid increase of bullying against students with disabilities.  The department has seen a huge rise in bullying reports since 2009 according to a report by Disability Scoop.  Even though they have written letters about this issue to US schools in the past, this new one gives more detail about what constitutes bullying against students with disabilities.

One part even suggests that even if a report rules that bullying did “not create a hostile environment” the school is still obligated to determine if a free and public education (FAPE) was violated under Section 504 and IDEA guidelines.

“When a student who receives IDEA FAPE services of Section 504 FAPE services has experienced bullying resulting in a disability-based harassment violation, however, there is a strong likelihood that the student was denied FAPE.  This is because when bullying is sufficiently serious to create a hostile environment and the school fails to respond appropriately, there is a strong likelihood both that the effects of the bullying included an impact on the student’s receipt of FAPE and that the school’s failure to remedy the effects of the bullying included it’s failure to address those FAPE-related concerns.

This ruling by the OCR also indicates a significant shift in how IEP or 504 teams must handle bullying issues.

“If the school suspects the student’s needs have changed, the IEP team or the Section 504 team must determine the extent to which additional or different services are provided, ensure that any needed changes are made promptly, and safeguard against putting the onus on the student with the disability to avoid or handle the bullying.”

This means that a response to bullying on a school’s part cannot be isolating a student away from situations or peers where bullying can occur. The letter reminds schools they need to be vigilant in regards to preventing any type of bullying, whether it is disability discrimination or not.

It gives three examples of the following classifications: 1) Disability-Based Harassment Violation and FAPE Violation, 2) FAPE Violation, No Disability-Based Violation, and 3) No Disability-Based Violation, No FAPE Violation.

To read the full letter, please go to http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-bullying-201410.pdf

The US DOE has also issued a fact sheet for parents: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-bullying-201410.pdf

Bullying Against Students With Disabilities in Delaware #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DEStateBoardEd

In a study done in 2011 by the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council on bullying, the council found that 3.2 million students are bullied every year on a national level, and 3.7 million students engage in bullying behavior. As well, each school day it is estimated that 160,000 students miss school because of bullying. These are alarming statistics, and unfortunately students with disabilities are often the victims of bullying. The report states “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all students and adults have access to a “free and appropriate” public education. If “peer-on-peer” harassment infringes on this right, then schools, parents and state entities must be prepared to advocate and intercede on behalf of bullying victims. This position statement outlines the DDC’s stance on bullying students with developmental disabilities and possible courses of action to limit further bullying.”

In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 549 substantiated (determined to be bullying by administration) incidents of bullying and 662 “substantiated” incidents. This report was made available to the public on 9/18/12. For the 2012-2013 school year, there were 713 substantiated incidents. That school year was the first where schools were obligated to report the number of alleged incidents, which was 2,446. While I’m sure there are some reports that may either be false accusations or not actual bullying, that still seems like a very huge amount of alleged bullying incidents not counting as substantiated bullying. The percentage rate between alleged reports and substantiated reports is a little over 29%. The 2013 report does show a breakdown, and out of the 713 incidents, it showed 32 were due to disability bullying.

But on February 19th, 2014, Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn and Attorney General Joseph Biden, III issued a report entitled Unfinished Business: Implementation by Delaware Public Schools of the State’s 2012 Anti-Bullying Laws. The report indicated most public schools were in compliance in regards to listing information about the state ombudsman of bullying, through the Attorney General office, on their websites. Most charter schools were not in compliance. The report stated “The most prevalent reported causes of bullying in Delaware public schools are students’ physical appearance, student disability, and student gender identity.”

The report cited a study done by the National Center for Education Statitistics which estimated 28% of middle school students are bullied. It went into more detail about the disability status, which showed 10% of the 713 reported bullying incidents in Delaware during the 2012-2013 school year were against a student with a disability which starkly contradicts the 4.48% reported by the DOE.

What none of these reports cover is the unspoken bullying. The students who are too afraid of retailiation and say nothing. This goes on every single day in schools. Students who would rather be mocked and ridiculed at a lower level than “snitch” and be retailiated against. Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Centers cited on their website that 64% of bullying goes unreported.

For students with disabilities, this is immensely cruel. These students have a hard enough time with their disabilities, and then to have students tease them because of it? And to be so afraid to speak up about it? Unacceptable. They already know they are different, and then they feel like they are being punished for it. Pacer had some very shocking statistics in their reports. Among them were the following:

Statistics about bullying of students with disabilities

Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. (Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009).

Researchers discovered that students with disabilities were more worried about school safety and being injured or harassed by other peers compared to students without a disability (Saylor & Leach, 2009).

The National Autistic Society reports that 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.

When reporting bullying youth in special education were told not to tattle almost twice as often as youth not in special education (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

I went through many of the school district and charter school websites, and I found that the vast majority of them do have a list of potential reasons for the bullying, but many don’t show a section for disabilities.   So Delaware’s reporting of 10% of the bullying being against students with disabilities is most likely a much lower percentage than reality.  So it can be very difficult to understand why there are the two major discrepancies between the two reports.  I question the validity of any report of bullying against children with disabilities within the state of Delaware because of these factors.

Something needs to change. I have heard from many parents who report that schools are very resistant for education of a class in regards to a physical manifestation of a child’s disabilities. As a father of a son who has been bullied, it breaks my heart. Schools need to be aware that repeated offenses against children with disabilities can lead to civil rights investigations.

My advice to special needs parents of students with disabilities, do not wait one second when your child reports a bullying incident. Report it right away, in writing, and if the school’s form doesn’t include a “disability” section or any suspected reason checklist, write it down, apart from everything else so it stands out. If you don’t hear back from the school within 48 hours, go to the school with a pen and paper and ask to see the principal.  Write everything down!  The Delaware DOE is required to receive any bullying report from local school districts or charter schools within 5 business days (not school days) of any bullying incident (alleged or substantiated) so parents can certainly check with them to see if the school has been in compliance.

This is just one more thing children with special needs have to deal with on any given school day. The bullying needs to stop and teachers and school staff need to be watching and paying attention much more than they have been.