Special Education/homeschool FAPE follow up
I cannot thank you enough for your thorough, detailed and relevant answer. I was not lying about knowing a parent who received $50,000 in compensation for homeschooling but again, New York City is another universe. She hired people, frankly I think overpriced people. But private schools in NYC run from $50,000 to $100,000. Clearly they're not doing a very good job with special ed to have this competition which is hardly cost effective. Please do not get offended when I say that I don't think teaching can be "taught." It is JUST my opinion. I have well above average skills in multiple areas and with or without a degree, I consider myself an excellent teacher. In some areas, I consider myself a master teacher. I don't want to pay $30,000 for a Master's nor do I have the time for it. I think teachers would be better if they simply showed intelligence (good college record) drive and excellence in their subject areas. I am not changing that system. I want to make clear that the school said the placement isn't good. Does that help me? They don't have anything else. The problem is my son won't want to change now. What can I do to try to change the aide? The aide is awful and is a critical person. Let me elaborate. They rotate aides. Originally, he had one that ignored him. They agreed. Then they rotated someone who had also ignored him but not as much and he doesn't relate to her. He's just used to her. He never goes to her. He used to run to an assistant at his previous school where he spent fewer hours (a preschool). She basically isolates him and does NOTHING to integrate him nor does the gen ed teacher who is cold and actually had our son moved to the back of the room for not being absolutely quiet (we don't know if it was a tic or not but moving him all the way into the back was really assuring he wouldn't be part of the class). He is not badly behaved. He's a little mischievous but nothing overly disruptive. It's an issue of being forced to sit a long time and not being integrated into the fold. He knows all the material he just doesn't get all the language as easily or is tuned out. I really feel if an outside observer saw him, they'd be mortified, meaning that you can see he's not paying attention and the providers are still going through the motions. Then when our son is completely alert and interested, they ignore him. Being that they have access to materials for older kids, I feel they should use them. He really is incredible in this way and completes higher level work with ease. I want to add they've broken EVERY agreement they've made regarding communication. I can't even get a 2 week update! Does this seem reasonable. They told me the special ed teacher is overseeing all and she only contacts me before a 6 week progress meeting. Can a parent file a civil lawsuit on their own behalf? I know it's a longshot but I simply cannot afford an attorney. The contigency attorneys only operate in NYC and very slummy areas where kids are thoroughly neglected. There was recently an article in the Atlantic about a mom who homeschooled her autistic son and saw "miraculous" improvement. Some of it I related to, some not but I did agree with her assessment that school was taking everything out of her son. My son is getting exhausted and not learning or being helped. The author felt teachers can't be psychologists but her son is much older than mine, I don't know what was being done all before middle school in that case. I am telling you our son can be helped. That's the sad part of this. He can be the BEST student. Sometimes he's the worst. he's rarely in between. They're getting the worst. They have told me they can't be me, that they see how he responds to me, they ask me questions, but ultimately they do their own thing. Their response to his tune out is to bore him worse sitting him in an unnatural group of 4 kids having him answer really easy questions for himself over and over. there are NO games. in terms of FAPE, do you have any suggestions how to draft a letter so that I know what's relevant. I have wrights law book but honestly it's not very specific. If we cant mediate and I withdraw my son, am I supposed to file a suit immediately or at the end of the year when I've accrued costs. I get that it's a longshot but honestly there's something to be said for sending a message that something is just wrong. I can live with losing. This system didn't always exist. I wish it didn't except for the most needy. I feel that this segregation has led to poorer not better outcomes and more poorly trained teachers who don't have to deal with children who are a challenge in some way. Thanks again for all your help. It is very very very kind of you to be on this board.
To some extent I agree with you that all of teaching is training...I believe people who have a propensity to teach can become better with instruction, but people who weren't made to teach can't even with appropriate training. That said by a teacher educator by trade!
Before the courts will hear a civil case like yours it will determine if you have "exhausted all administrative remedies." Since there are due process steps usually the court wants you to try those first. You will not be required to do the mediation as both parties have to be willing to agree to compromise and it sounds like your district is not compromising. I think you have done your share of working through your IEP team and the school officials, so I would suggest you start by filing a Formal Complaint through the State Department of Education. In 60 days a state official will render a decision. You simply state that you son is not receiving FAPE because the program is inappropriate. What you described is a child who has a one on one aide who is not only delivering the instruction, but totally responsible for it. While the Special Ed teacher is there, she barely oversees anything until it is time to report to you. I have seen this happen a great deal with one on one aides, which is why I used to resist all attempts at 1 on 1 as an administrator...but that is a different story.
After you attempt to correct things through the Formal Complaint, if it doesn't work, then you can hire a good special education attorney and file for a Due Process hearing. It is like a real court, but the judge is really a highly trained lawyer who knows special education process, as opposed to an actual judge...but has extreme authority. When the case is decided whatever is concluded is supposed to be binding.
If that doesn't work, then you can go to civil court and try to obtain the funds for homeschooling.
If I were you, I would first get a free consult or two with attorneys who provide legal service to parents of disabled children. I don't know if an agency exists in New York like that, but most state's I have worked in have had some group who will at least meet with you and hear your problem...they then might give better legal advise than I can. In Arizona it is called the Center for Special Education Law Support. I would think that NY State has at least one of those organizations, but I can't find one on the internet, so who knows.
Again, I have devoted my life to helping students like your son and wish you would have had more positive results. It saddens me that you have had to struggle when the law is suppose to help you and your son.