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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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Something is wrong. Really wrong.

Our family has been a part of our high school for almost four full years now. In that time we've had an increase in very negative behavior from the kids. I'll grant you that. The kids in attendance right now can easily be labeled as a troubled bunch. The school has averaged about one or less expulsions each year until this year. This year it's been expulsion a-go-go, with kids having expulsion hearings almost weekly. Some of the kids have done some really aggregious things, like spitting in the face of a staff member. That's an assault, and that should not be tolerated. One kid drove on school property during school hours drunk and smashed into another car. Also not a great idea. Several kids have been linked to smoking pot on school grounds. What were they thinking? But almost all the kids that have been in trouble this year have one thing in common. They are all kids with IEPs in special ed programs at the high school.

Now, I've complained plenty about how I believe that every one of these programs, save one, is a dumping ground for kids that the school just doesn't want to deal with. I know for a fact that many of the kids that are in trouble have been pushed from program to program, continually left in the public school community because financially the school system can't afford to send them to outside placements anymore. I understand the limitations of finances, but the issue is, are these kids being properly served by the school department? I don't believe so.

It's a dirty little secret that troubled kids are dumped into programs that are absolutely unsuited to care for their needs. It's a dirtier little secret that what parents are told, and what is reality are two very different views of the programs. As more and more parents are being duped into putting their kids into one program or another, the school can heave a sigh of relief that they have once again saved the city money for a residential placement. Not only are the kids not being served, they are not being helped. These are kids that are within a year or two of being on their own in the community and don't have the slightest idea of how to behave socially, never mind posessing the live skills to lead a safe life as a good citizen.

These kids need help. They are emotionally and psychologically fragile. They move from Life Skills to Compass to Springboard to Turnaround to Southside, all programs that are supposed to help kids with emotional and mental illnesses. Oh, there are plenty of programs. Plenty of them. But do they help? I don't believe most of them do. And I have a lot of reason to believe so. Not only my own kids, who have been to a few of the programs, but pretty much every one of their friends have passed through at least one of these programs.

Of the programs, the kids either facing expulsion or have been expelled are involved save one kid. Otherwise, we've got a situation here where there have been drinking, drugs, fighting, aggressive behavior, and rank acting out, misbehaviors that are screaming that these kids are not being served adequately by being shoved into a former garage with no windows across from campus. Ahem.

My experience with how these kids aren't well served is based not only upon the Girl's experience with the incompetence in the special ed department, but from knowing kid after kid, some of whom we've known since elementary school, get into trouble because they didn't seen to understand consequences, nor do they feel a part of the school community as a whole. When a kid is in one of these programs, they are shunned by much of the school population as a whole, and they tend to find friends with other fragile kids in similar situations.

These aren't bad kids. Mostly they're good kids with terrible impulse control and a diagnosed mental illness, mainly bipolar disorder. The school tends to label them early on, and most of them have no chance of getting out of this morass of worthless programs. This is why I fought so hard for the Girl last year, and refused any placement in one of these programs. I knew that if she were placed where they wanted to put her, she would have sunk to the bottom of the barrel like so many other kids do, and would probably end up dropping out. Because I refused to cooperate with the school, instead she's doing fabulously well in mainstreamed classes, is loving school, and hasn't been in a lick of trouble all year.

Kids know they're being dumped. I've spoken to so many of them, and they all understand that they are not being served. They are, in some ways, more sensitive and smarter than their parents. They don't want to be railroaded by the "experts" who are more concerned with the bottom line than actually providing an appropriate education.

So many kids in trouble. So many kids destroying their chances for college, or even high school graduation. One bad apple in the bunch I can understand. But when the bad apple is part of a fruit-fly filled bunch of rotten apples, there is something amiss. Special education at our school is not serving these kids. Creating programs that don't work, and then persisting in trying to sell these programs as a panecea for troubled kids is malicious in my opinion.

I'd like to see some changes made. But I won't. The bottom line won't allow it, our superintendent won't admit that there is a problem, and we have an outgoing principal that doesn't seem to care.

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Blogger Daisy said...

"Emotionally and psychologically fragile" -- I hear you. Kids know, too, when they've been dumped. I've taught kids (elementary kids!) diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and they need every support available and more. Not less.

14/3/09 9:36 AM  
Blogger Marinka said...

There are few things that are as heartbreaking as children being mistreated by the system that is supposed to help them.

14/3/09 11:34 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

This breaks my heart. My own daughter is much younger, but the loving and attentive care she has received this year have been just what she needs to shine and thrive, and the thought of her ending up instead in a dumping ground program which would stifle all that wonderful potential and growth we've seen this year is the stuff my nightmares are made of.

PS They're going to start mainstreaming her any day now!

14/3/09 12:25 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Robin, I've had my kids in a school system that went overboard to accomodate my kids issues. This is not that school system. We've had problems from the moment we got here, and the problems have never really disappeared. Every single parent I talk to is miserable about our schools, which used to be in the top 5 in the entire country, but have just fallen apart in the past 10 years. It's all about money, and as the money started to dry up after the state stupidly passed Proposition 2.5, which limits the amount of property tax increases to 2.5% per year, we went from great schools to really pretty crappy schools.

Nothing we can do. It takes money to deal with special needs kids, and the city has made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in trying to fund better programs.

14/3/09 12:54 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

This is EXACTLY why we homeschool my bipolar 13 year old.

14/3/09 1:32 PM  
Blogger Ei said...

Being the mom of a 9 year old bipolar kid...sigh...this just makes me want to cry.

Visiting you from DaMomma...figured if Liz says you are good, then, I'd better come say hi. :)

15/3/09 6:43 PM  

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