Hold Out for the Entire Paella

This is for the soldiers over at Dad Blogs...

I've had to polish my armor, sharpen my broadsword and am about to mount my high horse. I am going off to war. My opponent, my insidious, wily and downright lowdown opponent will spin fabrication at the drop of a hat. She is a fiendish foe whose goal is to wear me down and make me feel my voice insignificant.

Oh, you, fiery hound of Hell, stand back. Because I am now armed with truth and am not afraid of battling you who shall not be named. You gnarled root ball. You canker blossom. You thorny thistle. But enough mystery! I must reveal your identity, call you by your true self, for I am not afraid of unleashing unending misery upon the lands. That is simply myth. I officially throw down the gauntlet Board of Ed! Your move.

It started innocently enough. Well, he is a boy, after all. I'm sure he'll catch up. And I chose to believe that my son's physical and mental growth was still within average range. This is what I know now... Those people who spoke those words so as not to make us overly concerned, did a huge disservice. The truth is simple. Sebastian has a learning disability.

Sebastian has had IEPs since he was two. (For those of you not in the know, IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. If your kid needs any specialized service from the school board, he or she will have an IEP. Everyone weighs in, the teacher, the therapists, the school psychologist, school nurse, and the special ed liaison, which in our instance is the Vice Principal.) Over the years, Bash has received services for speech, physical and occupational therapies. Once he entered kindergarten, physical was taken away and resource center was added.

After his most recent IEP, the Board of Ed offered only one choice, a special day program at another school for the coming school year. Michael and I visited the proposed school, an architectural nightmare in cement and barbed wire. It had all the charm of San Quentin at lock down. Security buzzer at the front door. An ex-Major type (probably the PE teacher) goosestepping during recess, wearing a whistle round his neck. And when he'd blow that whistle every student went down to his knees, obedient or else. This was a big city school with a big city personality. Not the sunny elementary Sebastian is going to presently. I kept thinking, but he's only six. Let him keep his innocence just a bit longer. In our guts, Michael and I know, this school is wrong for him.

Certainly there must be another program in another school. The Vice Principal says, "The Board of Ed does not like parents..."

Yeah, I'm beginning to get that feeling.

"...does not like parents to cherry pick schools for their kids." This is where I loose it. Where the rose colored glasses fall away. Where I ask someone to pinch me, they actually do, and it hurts like a motherfucker.

But isn't that my job as mommy? To cherry pick for my kids. I choose the food they eat. I choose the after school programs they attend. The sports they participate in. The clothes they wear. The toys they play with. The soap that washes them. The books that are read to them. What time they go to bed. And now that I've provided a safe environment and moved to a good neighborhood with a good school, you're saying tough shit, Sherlock.

I end up reaching out to anyone who will listen. I phoned and emailed school administrators, special ed coordinators, special ed teachers, district offices. Listened to what they had to say, some with good advice, some useless. But, it was through another parent, another soldier who fought the system that I was pointed in the right direction. She gave me the name of a special ed lawyer. I never knew there was such a thing.

"The district has failed your son, this year," the lawyer said after reading Sebastian's IEP. Horrible, yes, and yet music to my ears. It lit a fire under me. I realized how complacent I've been. But then I worry. How much does a special ed lawyer cost. "Nothing," she tells me. "The district will reimburse me." My jaw drops. Another secret disclosed.

Then the lawyer says the board of ed should have recognized Sebastian's specific needs and implemented whatever was necessary. But they're tricky. They wait for the parent to make the first move. Then they offer the smallest grain of rice hoping we will grab it without question. I'm telling you, these people put used car salesmen to shame. And Michael and I have done this. We've accepted those measly grains of rice. I have five of them sitting right here in front of me. But I was an asshole. I should have held out. I would have been able to make pilaf by now.

I say to you parents, you are your kid's advocate. You need to do what it takes to make their life at school successful. If you are met with no, realize that even no has wiggle room. Ask to see where the no is in their bylaws. Ask for the no in writing. Get them to squirm. Because once they saw we had a lawyer, the San Quentin school suddenly left the table. "I'm sure the district will give you a list of other schools to check out." Isn't that a blip? Where was that list before?

Parents have the power. Never sign on the dotted line for one grain of rice. You might be able to hold out for the entire paella.


organicvegan said…
I love you guys! Thank you for getting on your high horses. He belongs at Frankilin.
Steve Heller said…
Good for you, Hutch and Michael. Hutch, even with a penis (and WHAT a penis!), you're a hell of a good mommy!

Adopt me?
FrugalcosIhave2 said…
You are damn right. IEP's are legal documents, and if the school did not do the right thing, you have recourse. I am glad you found this out.
Been there, done that. You guys should move to Iowa, best special ed I have ever seen. Social life sucks though.
Our Crazy Life said…
Good for you standing up for your kids. I am afraid I may have backed down to avoid the confrontation even though I know I shouldn't. Way to go!!!
jamie pachino said…
Way to go you!! I'll bring the Sangria.
Anonymous said…
This per who pointed you in the right direction is a god-send. This is vital information to know.

Thank you.
WeaselMomma said…
Fight for and accept no less than you know what is right for your child. I know a few families who have to fight tooth and nail for their kids. the schools always want to ignore the problem or pass it off to another school. Follow your gut.
Yankee Girl said…
School districts say they want to do what is best for children, but in so many cases they want to do what is best for their bottom line. I'm so glad you fought for your son. Not many people would have had thought they could do that.
Way to go MWAP!!!!
This is good information to know. I would have always thought we are at the mercy of the board of education...They don't reveal that parents have a lot of the power...hmmm
Joanie M said…
Good for you for fighting for your son! I'm glad you found someone to steer you in the right directions, with the right help.
Kelli said…
My heart goes out to you and your family! Good luck fighting the good fight! Hopefully Sebastian can get the education he rightly deserves!
Sue said…
No one should have to "fight" for what is right for our children. That should be a given. Props to you both for standing up to the "system" and getting what is the best for your baby! Stay strong in your battle, and at least now you have learned better ways to march into combat!
Take care, Sue
Keely said…
Good for you for being Mama Bear. It's the school district's job to minimize how much they accommodate people, I think. But it's your job to scrap for what's best for your children, and I think you're better at your job than they are.

Also, the special ed lawyer, good info to have! I wonder if it works the same here in Canada.
Guess what? The Renaissance Chick is a long time educator...classroom teacher and campus principal. You do just what you are doing...standing up for your child! Hooray for you getting a lawyer! They will push you until they know you aren't playing! Stand your ground...you are a good Mommy!

quinn cummings said…
Sebastian got exactly the parents he was going to need. Fight on.
Anonymous said…
are you in LAUSD? we're about to enter those waters and it makes me very nervous. i'm glad you have found someone who can help.
Anonymous said…
Yeah for fighting the system!! I have my own tale about our board of ed, which I won't share now because it will probably make me insanely angry all over again. I am so glad that you decided to find help with your fight. You have to remember that education is a huge business - whether anyone wants to admit it or not - and they want to keep as much money as they can. All that special ed stuff is expensive! Good luck with your fight in the name of that handsome boy you are raising.
Super Mega Dad said…
That was a really great post! Thanks!

I fight for my kids WAY more than I have EVER fought for myself. Something in those little eyes just makes you want to do whatever it takes to make their lives better.
-Justin said…
Good for you! This is info I haven't gotten before. When my little ones are old enough for school I'll be watching them. Closely. Thanks!
only a movie said…
Great post!! I'm a special ed teacher (I even teach at one of those scary day schools), but I'm also the lone parent of a kid with lots of quirky special needs, and I had to fight my own school district to get my child services. Almost went to lawyer route.

Good for you! I am psyched when parents go to bat for their kids (even when I'm on the other side of the table).
CSY said…
Good for you, Hutch! Our children DO need us to stand up for them. Your children are lucky to have you both.
Bella Daddy said…
INSPIRING!! So damn proud of you!

I came your way awhile ago and have loved reading your blob (while lurking) but I have to comment here.

My son is 9, the first year he went to school he was pout on an IEP plan as well. About half way through the year they wanted to have him 'tested' and moved.

No, no, no. I voiced my opinion loud and clear and became persona non grata, BUT I got my way. Now my son still has his IEP and gets extra help but he is NOT separated from his peers - and he is doing well.

GOOD for you for you for getting in their respective faces. If parents don't step up I think the child would get pushed to the wayside.
i am the diva said…
F*CK YEAH! I'm so glad you are fighting for your baby!
viridian said…
Oh I have been there. Keep up the good fight! I agree with Super mega Dad:
"I fight for my kids WAY more than I have EVER fought for myself. Something in those little eyes just makes you want to do whatever it takes to make their lives better." Hubby and I adopted 3, one with lots of special needs.
ciara said…
i'm glad someone sent you to the right resources to get what your child needs and deserves. i hate all that bullshit bureaucracy of the board of ed. it all trickles down into the schools, too, and it sickens me. i don't have a child w a learning disability, but my goodness if i did, you can be sure they will never get rid of me when it comes to doing what is best for my kid. all i can say is you guys are awesome parents :)
Job well done. I as going to tell you you would love Movie, a SPED teacher and single mom of a special needs son, but I see she found you before I did.

Advocates are ther for a good reason.
Gaston Studio said…
Good job!!! Never take what someone else says at face value unless you check it out yourself... when it comes to your kids, I mean!

Left something for you on my post today; hop over and pick it up when you have time.

Annie said…
Way to go! Thankfully, neither of my kidlets (adopted, BTW) need special services, but they just don't fit well in round holes. I threw my hands up in the air and moved 'em to a small charter school that is an incredibly good fit for them. A parent just needs to do whatever they need to do for that particular child.
Hit 40 said…
I am so glad that someone gave you the right name... this was going to be my advice. But... finding that right person to help is always tricky!

Good for you!!!

More advice.... be very nice to his teachers. They can give you ideas on how to work with him. Steer you toward good resources to help him learn one on one with you. Try to work with the teachers even when you get mad with them. If you charm them, they will charm right back.
carsick said…
Hi, I just found your blog (well I've been lurking awhile) This post really hit home. I too have had school issues. Our oldest daughter went through hell because of it. She is now 21 and hopefully not too badly scarred. I now home school the other kids. You are right to say you are your childs advocate!! If your gut is telling you somethings wrong here you go with that and don't let up!

I really like your blog
Jason said…
That's awesome and I'm glad you guys are finally heading in a good direction for your son! I wish you all the best!!
~Just me again~ said…
Way to go! He's a lucky lil boy. Have to keep em on your toes, or should say they will always keep you on your toes.
billbradley73 said…
Just found your blog! I also live in a place where the administrators don't like parents. My son is 12 with high functioning autsim and is hard of hearing. We're in constant battle with the school.

Good on you for lighting your BOE up!
billbradley73 said…
Oop, wanted to add: your children are just beautiful!
Out-Numbered said…
All you have to do is watch this. It pretty much sums it all up for me. Sir Kenneth Robinson is one of my favorite...

Kisa said…
Being a mommy takes balls, too. :-) I hope you find a great school for S. I'm sure there are a lot of excellent teachers and others in The System who are on the same wavelength....here's to finding them.

(And a super huge hug for having missed you the past couple months, through 100% fault of my own ;-) .)
Chris said…
One of these days, someone's going to blog something positive about their kid's school and I hope I'm there to see it (I'm an elementary principal, by the way).

Anyway, your points are well-taken and the whole special education arena is an industrial-strength can of worm. You are absolutely right when you say parents should hold out for the best. After all, you are the number one advocate for your child. Most schools mean well and do a good job, but we're not perfect. As a parent, you definitely hold the cards and can make a huge difference.

Keep fighting your fight, my friend.
Good for you. I have son with Autism. Been fighting since he was pre K. Mainstreamed since then and now going into 5th on grade level. The louder you bitch, the easier it gets.

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