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Note: I will be updating these pages and adding new content.  - Dave Thompson, Sept. 25, 2005

Special Education - A Life of Dignity and Meaning. What happened?
The Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I requested Matt's educational records. I paid the district $55 for copying expense and received an unorganized, un-inventoried stack of papers containing   whatever the district chose  to include. Their "complete set of records" excluded quite a bit of relevant material. But here we go again, the schools take the position: make me, we are the state, you are but one lowly parent. We have the power, we have the money, you have nothing but foolish illusions.

 

 

 

 

Image

Furthermore, the plan which the Consent Agreement contemplates, which may make possible for many of the plaintiffs [disabled children] a life of dignity and meaning, is well on its way toward becoming a reality. {Emphasis supplied]

From a U. S. Federal District Court case (343 F.Supp. 279) in 1972 (Pennsylvania Assoc. for Retarded Children [PARC] v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). The PARC case (343 F.Supp. 279, 1972 and 334 F.Supp. 1257, 1971) along with Mills in 1972 (Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia, 348 F.Supp 866) were landmark court cases that demonstrated the need for federal legislation regarding public schools and disabled children.

While the court may have felt that we were "well on the way", the facts in Texas and other states do not support the image put forth by "compassionate conservatives" nor fit the sculptured presentation of the news by newspapers. There is a mean-spiritedness in our public life that is reflected by the treatment disabled children receive in public schools.
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Reality

Child "Missed snack time [in self-contained classroom] because his noises were not allowed at the table. He was given two tries at coming to the table w/o making rude noises. Both times continued [sic]."

The child was my son and these are the notes from his teacher's secret notebook. Normally my son would bring home a notebook in his backpack containing notes from the school about the child's day: this would be considered his "regular" notebook. One day my son came home from school with two notebooks in his backpack The second - or "secret" notebook contained a parallel set of notations about the child.

For the same day that the teacher made an entry in her "secret" notebook about rude noises, here is what she recorded in my son's regular notebook,   "Matt has seemingly felt well today. He participated in a variety activities [sic]. We have just began [sic] a packet on our 5 senses which will be completed by the end of next week."

Another entry from the secret notebook, "During snack he knocked the table & caused [another child] to spill his drink. He [Matt] wanted to leave the table but we continue to make him remain."

Now here's the same day entry from the regular notebook meant for the parent's eyes: "Matt worked hard today. He has learned to go around & around wiping tables. He wiped the lounge & library tables today. I was very pleased at how well he did his work."

These are only samples. But let me tell you, this stuff is written not for any educational value, in fact its purpose - in my opinion - is quite the opposite: it is meant to devalue the child, demean the child based on his disabilities, and create a "factual record" to support whispering campaigns against disabled children. This is special education in Texas. Welcome to the world of "compassionate conservatives".
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The Hypocrisy Continues

My son had an evaluation to determine what adaptive activities might be appropriate for him: a visually impaired, legally blind, MR child who is also orthopedically impaired due to a modest deformity in the position and use of his left ankle (he wears am 'AFO': ankle-foot orthotic, i.e. brace). On of his "goals" was to throw a ball 30 feet. During this time frame I found out that Matt was not even allowed outside to play on the playground. As someone observed to me, "I guess he can throw a Nerf ball five feet six times in his classroom." After all  5 x 6 = 30, That would do it, huh?"

Now here is some information from a school vision assessment conducted by a regional education center (Region 10 of Texas) person:

Diagnosis: Congenital optic atrophy.
Acuity: Legal Blindness

Note: Congenital means 'present at birth'. Matt was a preemie, spending the first few months of his life in intensive care. At fifteen, he still carries the scar on his neck of the tracheal tube used for breathing as a newborn.

"When the assessor moved the [toy] car to activate [the] lights, Matthew took the car to his left eye nasal corner to within a 1/2" distance." "Matthew appeared to be able to locate and orient himself visually and he was able to identify people at 5' [five feet]."

Now when this vision assessment was presented at the child's ARD (IEP meeting) - Matt has been declared legally blind every time he has been seen by an M.D. ophthalmologist - the "recommendation" was that a vision specialist consult with Matt's teacher four times a year. In other words, no direct vision services were to be provided this child. His teacher - in a classroom of 11 disabled children with one teacher and two aides - would be "consulted" every two months or so.

I noted at this same meeting that, four day's previous, I had picked Matt up from school. Entering the room (to pick Matt up) I motioned for the person sitting with Matt not to say anything (about my walking in the room). I walked up to within four feet of my son and stood still. Apparently sensing someone nearby, Matt said, "Who's that." Without my speaking, he had no idea who was there.

This is a consistent observation by me of the child's ability to recognize people by sight: he doesn't. If he knows your voice, or if he knows that you are expected to be present, then he can call you by name.

About one year later when I was able to obtain an independent evaluation for Matt, the evaluator's first sentence in the recommendations section of her written report was, "Matthew needs to be taught like a blind child."

When Matt had this independent evaluation, supposedly at district expense, I paid $200.00 to have a vision specialist present at the evaluation. The district refused to reimburse me for this. I paid the $200.00 because the evaluator, before the evaluation, had recommended she bring in a vision person to assist. I agreed, told her to do so, and that if the district refused to pay for the vision person, then I would. They did (refuse) and I did (pay).
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Trivial and Demeaning

During Matt's first year in the Allen, Texas, ISD, his teacher had a Christmas presentation by her students. Matthew had a short, memorized, speaking part. He was great. I told his teacher that I had never heard that child speak so clearly and project his voice so well. I was thrilled, and told the teacher so.

The next year, for Christmas, Matt's next teacher had the children sit on the floor and had one regular ed student volunteer give each child a little bell to ring. How nice. While the children weren't given balls to spin on their noses, it would not have surprised me to see that happen. Welcome to special education in Texas.

Of course, on that day, I suppose someone else had to wipe tables in the teacher's lounge.
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More and More and More

Matthew's "records" are full of this sort of thing. The efforts of the school and the cooperation of TEA (Texas Education Agency) and its regional education centers are a travesty and an offense to decent people and to disabled children. More and more (and more) we find children being punished for their disabilities. We find their lives demeaned and devalued by the schools and by the state.

Once I sent an attorney with a national reputation, a check for $250 asking for telephone consultation of a length at his discretion (e.g. 45 minutes or one full hour). He sent the check back, refusing to discuss anything without the child's "educational records." It's his business, he can do as he likes. But a tinge of hypocrisy seeps into the process at this point. The message I get from the attorney is that if the schools have made their case already, whether truthful or not, what's to be done?

It is a sure and certain fact that I didn't have $1 million of outside funding as a "common American", nor did I have someone with $40 million willing to endlessly pursue a specific agenda. Thus, in the final analysis, the attorney was correct: Dave Thompson could not afford The Rule of Law. And one presumes - in the current political environment - that disabled children are persons with civil rights only to the extent that the parent has the money to assert his child's rights. The state acts against the child. The federal government occupies itself auditing procedures.

And - after all - I live in Texas, home of the compassionate conservatives.

That's some of the story of My Child. I wish better for Your Child.

Dave Thompson
January 17, 1999

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