Today’s IEP Meeting went relatively okay, with us agreeing to his move to the new classroom formally. The main sticking point about it was that summer school would be only four weeks instead of seven. Their main philosophy seems to be that since he’s done so well with his learning so far, let’s give him less since he doesn’t need it any more. We have deep disagreements with that philosophy and believe that if a certain level of training has brought about positive changes, the last thing you want to do is reduce it. We are adamant that the intensity and time Porter is in school should remain the same or increase. These are the critical years when the most benefit can be realized from special schooling. So the last thing we want to do is give him less schooling. To us, the ultimate goal will be if he can start kindergarten at age six without the need for special assistance. So we feel we must do as much as possible between now and then to give the best shot at succeeding in life. After much haggling we finally compromised that he’s spend the first four weeks in his regular summer school class and when that was over, he’d then be in his old classroom for the remaining three weeks, but with some responsibility so that he can continue to be challenged.
The other main disagreement is that the school teachers and administrators are chracterizing Porter as no longer severely handicapped. This is worrisome because it implies that services he may need later could be withheld by invoking this designation and saying he’s no longer entitled to them. It’s very difficult to know if we can trust anything they tell us, and that’s a big problem. His teacher’s certainly seem sincere and appear to want what’s best for Porter, but we also know that they’re under certain pressures for the future of their careers not to be too enthusiastic when it conflicts with budgetary and other similar concerns that the administration has. So do they tell us what they really think in these meetings with their bosses in attendance? It’s hard to believe they do when we’ve had at least one instance when what they told us privately was different from what was said (and not said) in a previous IEP meeting.
They claim that based on his current behavior in class that he’s no longer severely handicapped and you would think that would be cause of rejoicing. The problem is that when we observe Porter with typical kids his age, his handicap is still very much apparent to us, even though he has made enormous progress. So for now, we’ve agreed to disagree about that one.
There was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend where the reporter basically blamed rich parents suing school districts as the problem with special needs kids and the overall cause of budget problem schools face today. The reporter came out and said that these rich parents were forcing school districts to spend more on their kids at the expense of the general population of school children. The only problem is that it was complete and utter rubbish, a one-sided screed that completely ignored many of the facts. For example, just last year a school district’s law firm in Fresno was sanctioned for using “‘misguided advocacy’ over four years of opposing services for a special-education student in the Bret Harte Union School District, southeast of Sacramento.” “Maureen Graves, the Orange County attorney who fought [this law firm] in court, estimated that the Bret Harte school district, east of Stockton, spent nearly $500,000 on a case that she once had been willing to settle for $8,000.” The ethical violations were so egregious that the judge “ordered every one of the firm’s 80 lawyers in seven cities to undergo six hours of ethics training and ordered [the lead attorney] to take 20 hours.”
So this is the sort of thing we’re potentially up against. We don’t like to think our own school district is this bad, but the reality is you never know. We know people have been forced to sue our county’s school districts over these very issues. We know that the County Controller, the third-highest elected official in the county, moved his family to Sacramento because the care for his autistic child was so bad. So these sort of facts do not exactly fill us with confidence.