Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Brain dump or temper tantrum? You decide

I have just spent some of the most frustrating time of my entire life in a meeting at Needham High School. I'm naming names. I'm doing so to send a warning to anyone who lives in the town of Needham and has children with special needs in elementary and middle school. Because the high school? Their special education department sucks. It's led by Kathy Heller, who has a chip on her shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore. This is NOT a nice person. She's a rigid beyotch who has no empathy whatsoever for her students and their families. She deserves to be fired after her performance today.

My client has two children, both of whom had cystic fibrosis. The son also has diabetes, mal-absorbtion problems, liver disease, an enlarged spleen, ADHD, depression, and executive functioning disorder. That's quite a list, huh? This child has repeatedly been denied an IEP. Not once or twice. Repeatedly. And once again, he was denied today, even though the school KNOWS that his illness does affect his learning. See, they don't care. They are so afraid to spend money on an IEP for this kid because they have been seriously out of compliance for years with IDEA and FAPE. Oh yes, they have. Moreover, if they were to give him an IEP they would also have to give his sister an IEP. And... if those kids had an IEP and needed extra help like tutoring during hospitalizations or even an out of district placement, the school would have to provide this by law. So Needham has determined that if they don't give the kid an IEP, heck, they don't have to do a damn thing to accomodate the kid.

Now this is the amazing part. The kid, at the very same time we were in the IEP rejection meeting from hell, was in the hospital having emergency surgery. His feeding tube had fallen apart inside him and the kid was SO anxious to learn about the IEP decision (which he desperately wants), he decided to have the surgery without anesthesia. Unfortunately, there was a problem and he was rushed to a second surgery with a general. Poor kid. His dad was with him so his mom could attend the IEP meeting. Imagine the stress this woman is under. Her kids already have a very abbreviated lifespan, and while her son is in surgery she's getting beaten up yet again by Needham High School's very own wicked witch of the North, Kathy Heller.

Yesterday we had a pow-wow at the client's home and her husband made it clear that he was done fighting this. This child would have an IEP anywhere else in the US. To deny one is patently ridiculous. And illegal. The dad was going to come to the meeting today and say "If you are not going to offer us an IEP, we're all wasting each other's time. My lawyer will be in contact with you." He couldn't do it from the hospital, so the mom did. And the delightful Ms Heller was all "fine". That idiot was BEGGING for a law suit. Plus, we told her we were going to sue for damages because they were so out of compliance. She showed absolutely no consternation. She didn't care. At one point I actually said "I have NEVER seen a school system begging for a law suit before."

The mom had an army behind her. There was an educational advocate (me), a parent support counselor, and a social worker that has worked with this family since the initial CF diagnosis 14 years ago. We have all sat in on many IEP meetings. We've all been to many different school systems. Honestly, I've never seen a stupider bunch of people sitting in that room pretending that an IEP was not as good as a 504 for protecting this kid. Let me just mention that until the end of April, when I got the case, the 504 said absolutely NOTHING. It didn't even mention his CF, ADHD, depression, hospitalizations for depression. It was literally a joke. We went over everything we wanted in the IEP and they put much of it into the 504, and then they sat there and said "Well, Kid has a working 504 now, so he doesn't need any accomodation." Yeah, he's had the 504 for 6 freaking weeks and I basically wrote it.

Oh, and Ms Heller had the audacity to leave the meeting early. I just wanted to trip her on the way out. Of course when she left, so did the nurse and the vice principal (who is leaving) and a couple of other people. I mean the gall to get up and leave when the meeting wasn't even over. I HATE that woman!

I am so furious I just want to hit someone or something. Once the meeting was over and the mom picked up her cell and found out that there was a second surgery, she just broke down. My heart was breaking for her. It was so horrible. She was sobbing those squeeky hyperventilation breaths. And then we (meaning her support people, not the Needham nasties) were crying too. Just imagine this.

I do want to say that not everyone in the Needham High School is an asshat. Mr Dornan is a delight. Bob McGuinnes is a savior. One of the two school psychologists is wonderful. The other one needs to remove the pole from her ass. The Vice Principal should just have left already. She obviously didn't care one whit about what happens to this family. She was too busy telling us about how the Kid was making such huge progress. Sure he was, with hours of special help from the learning center both during and after school. Oh yeah, he gets special help, hours of special help each week. But he doesn't deserve an IEP.

Needham High School. You really really suck.

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Blogger C said...

Via NaComLeavMo.

Wow, that post makes me so angry and sorry for that family... I can't imagine what it must have been like to have actually been there! I hope they are able to get the accomodation they need.

16/6/08 4:40 PM  
Blogger Fox In Detox said...

This is horrible. I hope NHS gets their asses handed to them in that law suit. The world needs more caring people like you. Hats off lady!

17/6/08 7:14 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Thank you for making this public. For every caring teacher and administrator, there seem to be at least two who work against kids instead of for them. Thank you for providing moral support and more to this family.

17/6/08 1:22 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Daisy, this is the first time I've ever gone public with actual names and places. I did so because this woman's behavior was so outrageous and the treatment she gave this family so insensitive that I felt strongly that she SHOULD be called on the carpet. Now all the other families that she's treated like crap know they're not alone, that this is her modis operendi and that legal action against her is possible.

If she doesn't lose her job soon, I'd be very surprised. Any educator that actually invites a law suit isn't thinking of their district or their clients. They're just being stupid.

17/6/08 5:03 PM  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

How frustrating!

19/6/08 2:59 AM  

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