Saturday, January 5, 2008

SPED Stories Volume 1

Disclaimer: Some details have been tweaked so as not to identify specific people; however, the gist of the events is true, especially in the outcomes.

So I’m at work one day and I get a phone call from my own kids’ elementary school. I need to come and pick up my daughter from the health room and take her for a doctor’s appointment. Seems she’s been punched by another student (male). Off I go as soon as they find a body to cover my classes for the rest of the day. Exit stage right.

When I get to the school I find my daughter (10) holding an ice pack on her eye and her lips on the right side puffed up and purple. And I’m thinking WTF. But I’m trying to be civil to the Healthroom Aid because, after all, she is not the one who punched my kid. So I ask my daughter, OK, who hit you and why. “PSS1 (Pseudonymous SPED Student 1) was mad at me because I told him I wanted to hang out at recess with the girls,” she replies. Fuck me. My inner monologue is a train of expletives and I slide into schizophrenia as I politely ask the Health Aid how quickly I need to get my daughter to the doctor’s or if I have time for a short talk with the principal.

Backstory: PSS1 has been in PD’s (Pseudonymous Daughter’s) class since first grade. On the one hand he is supposed to be some kind of freaky genius, especially in math and geography. On the other hand, he not only has no social skills, he’s a bit of a showstopper. He likes to crawl around on the floor and pretend he’s a dog, barking at and sometimes licking the other students. He hangs out underneath the tables while the other kids are doing deskwork, and once in awhile he snuffles at their feet. Most of the kids avoid him like a social leper; however PD has always had a heart for the less fortunate. In preschool she was best friends with a boy in her class that was not only blind, but had had some kind of rare eye disease where they had taken out his eyes and sewn them shut. Two years running the parent teacher conference was centered on PD’s empathetic abilities and her patience in guiding the blind child around the playground during outdoor time. Since 1st grade, PSS1 has been in PD’s class. She has been a loyal friend to him and the teacher nearly always pairs her up with him for partnered work as no other child wants to work with him. Every year the school mixes the kids up as they move up through the grades and PSS1 is the only child who has been in PD’s class every year. Which I find suspiciously on purpose and over utilization of my daughter, who, after all is not a paid aid but a student herself. Recently she has been complaining about the girls in her class teasing her that PSS1 is her “boyfriend” (welcome to the wonderful world of adolescence PD). He has been monopolizing her time at recess and she does not know how to break away and do her own thing as he is insistent on following her around. I had talked to her teacher who was supposed to have PSS1’s aid work with him during recess so my daughter could get a break.

Enter the principal’s office where (I’ll get straight to the punch line) he tells me he cannot impose any kind of punishment on PSS1 as he’s a SPED student and that false cracking my daughter twice in the face is a part of his impairment and therefore unpunishable. ??!! So, I ask, how is he supposed to learn the natural consequences of his actions and what about when he turns 18 and continues with these behaviors? The legal system does not make accommodations that parallel what the schools are doing and isn’t it possible they are just setting him up for heading off to jail or prison for assault one day in the future? The principal tells me there’s nothing he can do, that the system is structured around the law suits of SPED students and their parents and until the regular education student population brings a lawsuit to reverse this swing in the pendulum, odds are that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

The following day when I pick my daughter up from school, she is holding a huge bouquet of flowers. PSS1’s mom felt horrible about PD’s busted up face. I felt like the bad guy when I searched out PSS1’s mom in the parking lot, returning the flowers and having to explain how creepy it was to follow up a beating with an apology and flowers and that this was not a course of events that I wanted my daughter to think of as natural or normal in any way whatsoever.

I never brought about a lawsuit. I figured since I work in this fucked up system it shouldn’t be me and another regular education kid’s parent could have the honor. It’s been a few years now, and to the best of my knowledge, this still hasn’t taken place.

1 comment:

Kristan said...

WOW. You handled that with SO much more class and grace than I could have. I'm sorry you had to, though.