October 02, 2009,
K.F. asks from Hayward, CA on September 30, 2009
Seeking Advice on My Rights Concerning My Son's Special Ed Program Hayward Area
I have a 5 year old son on the autism spectrum(kindergartener) who started in a K-2 special day class this fall. He just left a special day preschool last June that was wonderful. His preschool teacher was excellent and her aides as well. I saw him make so much progress in the preschool class and was never once concerned for his safety while he attended school there. We knew that when preschool ended he would have to leave this particular public school (they only have preschool classes) and that he would have to attend kindergarten at a different school in the district. I dreaded the idea of having to get use to a new school but found a good school program near our house that we felt comfortable with.
At his regular IEP and transition IEP, my husband and I voiced our preference of the school we would like him to attend and were immediately told by the school administrator that our son could not go to the school that we liked because it was not our "home school" (even though the school we liked is just as close to our home as the so called 'home school' is) When she told us what our 'home school' was, we visited the 'home school' and did not care for it for various reasons. We again voiced our concerns that we would prefer our son attend the better school that was just as close to our home, and then were told that the school we preferred was now full for the coming school year and our son would have to attend the 'home school'. The administrator kept telling us that the teacher at his home school was very experienced and had a great class program. We requested to meet this teacher, who did attend our child's IEP last May and she went over her educational program in detail. We even went to her classroom to observe for awhile and saw that there were good educational materials and routines he would have there. The fact that this teacher was so experienced and that the class routine and materials were good, gave us some comfort and we agreed to try this 'home school' for him this school year.
Since he started at this 'home school' in August, several things have since happened that only confirmed the doubts we had about the school in the first place. First, we get to class and find that the experienced teacher we had developed some level of comfort with is not his teacher at all. It is a new teacher who has not taught class for over a year and who,to this day, has not yet really began a classroom routine with the students because she doesn't have good staff support and has been out for several days with trainings. The classroom and all the great materials we previously saw are not there. In fact, it is a totally new room that almost looks like a daycare room more than a classroom (toys, broken computer in the corner, books hidden away). Our son's aides, and even teacher, keep changing from week to week as the school keeps bringing in substitutes. There are other kids in the class who are physically violent and have put their hands on my son more than once. My son has not retaliated. He is very calm and justs cries when others bother him. And the school in general just does not give us a safe feeling (i.e. people who are not students or staff walking through the school parking lot to get to the other side of the street, etc). I could go on and on about the problems we have with this school but that would take another three pages. Oh, I did forget to mention that we recently received a letter from the school district informing us that this 'home school' we were sent to has been a failing school for over three years (a little fact the administrator at our IEP failed to mention to us despite our telling her we felt this school was not the best option for our child). In the letter, it said one right parents have is to transfer their child from a failing school to a non-failing school in the district.
Needless to say, my husband and I are beyond angry and want our son transferred out of the this school ASAP.
I want to call an IEP but would first like to have any and all knowledge of our rights in this type of situation. I wouls also like to know who we should bring with us to the IEP (besides our RCEB case manager) since I am now all too familiar with the fact that the school district will mislead parents if they think you don't know all of your rights. I know the school district will claim that they just don't have enough special ed programs available and that all of the other better performing special day programs are currently full, but that's not going to be a good enough answer for me. Especially now that I know this school is failing and that my son's safety is in question while he is there. I also am afraid he will lose ground on all of the great edcuational progress he made in preschool.
Any advice on who I can contact or what I can do regarding our parental rights in this type of situation, and how to get my son into a better special ed program in the district will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much.
M.E. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
K.H. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Well, I think you should be able to have your son switch...
I have found that the school and school district want you to be happy - they really don't want to deal with an upset parent, or worse, legal action. If there is space in another school, they should be able to transfer you. If the other school is full, it may be harder. If you inform them that you are seeking legal action, and tell them what you want, you should be able to get it!
My advice is to be firm, but calm.
H.D. answers from San Francisco on September 30, 2009
No offense but what did you expect from public school? I have a 22 year old son with Asperger's, believe I KNOW what you are going through with your son...even more so because they were just starting to understand what Asperger's is when he was in school! I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to have your child labled "a bad kid". Be glad that there are programs available! Insist on a new teacher (though that has its drawbacks too). If you aren't willing/able to move so that he can be in the school you like then send him to private school. Consider homeschooling, there are some good programs out there. Otherwise you are pretty well stuck with what you have.
THINK about it! Just in one school alone in Pleasanton they let 14 teachers go last year! The schools are getting squeezed financially. Class sizes are growing, programs are disappearing.
Why not volunteer in his class? Don't put all the education of your child on the school, be willing to participate. I feel for you but realize that this will be a yearly battle. Even with an IEP there will be teachers that will ignore it.
I just wish there had been something for my son...I still do...there is very little available for adults with Autism.
A.N. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Structure is very important for kids with Autism; with changing teachers and aide and substitutes, as well as physically violent classmates, that give enough reasons to ask for change and improvements. I will fight for the best for your child. Even if you don't win, you have shown your concern.
K.J. answers from San Francisco on October 02, 2009
Check out Faith Ringgold, it's a small charter school in your district, no one's "home school", and I know that they have worked with autistic children before. ###-###-####. It's a different kind of school, small classes, an emphasis on being kind to each other, etc.
C.C. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
I think you should find an advocate(or a lawyer) who is familiar with special education law. You can find a list of advocates on the Parents Helping Parents website. www.php.com. Also, Loni Anderson of Parents Helping Parents is very knowledgable about advocacy. Her email is ____@____.com. I am not sure about the phone number. It seems like the school is denying your son a free and appropriate education.
The advocate can advise you of your rights and help you take the school district to due process if you can't find a reasonable solution with them.
You have the right to ask for a interdistrict transfer from the school district. Usually, this is done at the time of enrollment.
Also, the school should have given you a list of your parental rights at your IEP meeting.
I would look up the school district policies and procedures.
Please feel free to email me at ____@____.com if you need more help.
S.B. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Seek a "Special Ed Advocate". These are people who will represent you and know the law. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING right now (incidences that are happening to your son, days teacher/staff changes, perhaps staff ratios are low, observations, playground issues, classroom issues, violations you see). Put in WRITING that you feel your child is in an unsafe environment(citing reasons/documents), that the specialized needs of your child are NOT being met (again cite specifics/safety/etc), cite "out of compliance" issues like no aid/staff support, etc, AND state that you are willing and ready to remove your son from the school and enroll him in a private program (do your research and find the ideal one for him-cite it) at DISTRICT COST unless the district finds a program to put him in NOW that will meet his needs. (If they balk, consult a school lawyer found through your advocate group--there are MANY kids in private settings funded by public districts who have been "out of compliance"). Consult your advocate and any of your preschool support people: you may even want to write your letter and send in to head of district/spec ed, super intend, BEFORE the IEP meeting so they KNOW you are serious and what you are requesting so your meeting time isn't spent spinning wheels trying to "pacify" you.
You have EVERY right! Stand firm!
M.E. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Contact Parents Helping Parents......google it. I don't have the website right infront of me. They can help you will all that you need or tell you where to go. I work in a spec. ed preschool in the bay area and what you're describing doesn't sound right to me......get more help!!!
T.F. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Inform the school, in writing, that you are requesting a review of your son's IEP -- that will get the process started, as there are strict timelines. Do so immediately, as there are many school holidays right around the corner, and schools have a difficult time meeting the timelines when requests are made in November and December. And inform them that you are seeking legal counsel regarding this situation. Lawsuits are much more costly to the school than simply honoring a parent's request for a teacher or school transfer. If you cannot afford counsel, at the very least inform yourself (people have already made some great suggestions) of your rights and the mandatory timelines for IEP review. Good luck!
R.B. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Sadly, it's the same for special ed as it is for gifted. If they "meet the needs" at your home school, legally their job is done. Doesn't matter if it's not the 'right' school or 'right' envirnoment for your child. They've met the letter of the law and there's nothing more they need to do legally.
You have three choices, you can move to the attendance area for the school you want (and believe me, I understand your frustration - to get to my son's high public school, I would pass BY another high school and a 3rd high school is actually closer and easier to get to!)
Your second choice is to work within the system to get your child into the school you'd prefer. In our district, you need to file papers for a intra-district transfer to attend another school. Then there's a lottery for any openings at that school. If you get in great, you may get in at the beginning of the year, middle or during the last week. But, if and when your name comes up, you MUST take it or you lose your spot and must re-apply for the next year. Every year you file papers again and it starts over. Once you're in though, you're good as long as you follow the protocol for paperwork to continue your transfer - be sure to meet every deadline!
Your third choice is to pay for private education for your child. This only works if you find a school that meets your financial constraints and your child's needs.
Good luck. I know it doesn't help, but please know you are not alone in your frustration in dealing with the public schools!
A.P. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
What a horrible situation. I really feel for your son. I also have a son in special ed prek and he's with a really great teacher and I could understand your concerns. I would keep on pushing for a transfer, until they're sick & tired of u and just let u do it. But remember to be calm & tey not to let the stress get to u, for your baby. I was wondering what school is your son currently attending? I am also in Hayward area and I would like to steer clear for next year. Good luck
T.S. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Sorry to hear what's happening to you. Definitely schedule an IEP but before you meet - be sure to get all your paperwork in order. Find an advocate to see what you can do. If the teacher that you met with is on your IEP - listed as his teacher - then there might be some recourse. I would also get Wrightslaw's books on IEPs. Some of them are really helpful.
Document EVERYTHING. IF you do not agree with something, write it on the IEP - ex. we agree on the understanding that teacher so-and-so will be teaching our son etc., the book I read - From Emotions to Advocacy gives parents tips on what to do - especially with districts that really do not help.
D.S. answers from San Francisco on October 01, 2009
Greetings K.: My name is Glenda, I have been active in the SELPHA, that your child is part of. I have been on the CAC board for several years(CAC- Community Advisory Committee). I am the mother of a child with Aspberger's Syndrome, as well as other learning disabilities, I have an older child that has Auditory Dyslexia. So I became a Advocate for Special Education. My husband taught in HaywardUSD. His concernas a teacher was that he was not given any IEP information until he had requested it several times for his students. I appreciate the detail that you gave with your concern. Let me share my experiances.
Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, are all part of the SELPHA. In many cases they share the responsibility of the students so you may have a CV student, attending in Hayward, a Hayward student in San Lorenzo,a visually imparied student going to Fremont etc.. With that said.. Believe me this has NEVER BEEM EASY ON THE FAMILIES.
I am always on the side of what is best for my child and believe that the childs needs come first before the convience of adults. That being said; the reality is Hayward, is a basket case when it comes to several areas. They have such a large amount of students that English is the 2nd language, and to have disabilities on top of it is a hardship. As well as retaining thier teachers. I know that is not your problem-- I just want you to be prepared that you will hear all this.
I have reviewed several IEP's lately, making sure that services are being given. I know that the term Home School, is in a gray area, mostly because the way that streets are divided up for the elementry and Jr. High levals. Just to let you know that in Fremont, my cousins lived 3 houses from an elementry school and had her children bussed a distance away.
You are ableto call an IEP, at any time it is called for.
1. You, will have to show that this current school is not able to give your child the education that the IEP calls for.
2. That the school you want is ready, prepared, and not over the number of students that they are able to take without causing detrament to others education.
3.** The district, may offer you to send your child elsewhere within the SELPHA. They do have that right, but as a rule I found that it is only done for the benifit of the child.
Trust me that you are at the start of many fights. I have been at this for over 30 years and am always surprised at the things that I hear.
I suggest that yu or your husband, offer to sit on the CAC Board. to represent the Hayward District. I found over the years that Hayward, did not have enough parents to represent them. I can say that you will meet and get to know all the Directors, of all the Special Services in all districts. You will get to see, hear, and ask questions that otherwise you would not get to. Help decide about the guest speakers, and topics that parents will be invited to. Over a 6 year period, I have seen parents get all that they needed for their children because of being able to get the advice from the other parents, and leadership that have been at these meetings. They are held only 5 times a year.
To address the issue of who to bring to IEP. YOU have the right to bring anyone that will give you support and help you to remain calm. This is the most important meeting you can have for your child. As an advocate, I always suggest that you bring anything that you have that proves your points, a person that speaks well and can stay to topic-- it is to easy to get emotional and loose sight of the goal. That you contact CASE, to see if they can advise you of any current changes in the laws and state programs.
If you can get a current copy of the laws and definitions of words and titles, that the state will send you for free. Read and highlight anything that you believe pertains to you.
If you are at all considering anything legal. Ask the district, to give you the information for fileing a GRIEVANCE. This will be valuable information to have. I wish you well. If I can be of any help please feel free to contact me. Just keep in mind always that it is all about your child and what is proven to be best for him not anything for the convience of the parents. Nana Glenda