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How I came to this epiphany
You’d think I would know better. I was an administrative assistant for Shelby County for seven years. I watched children with behavioral problems go through the revolving door called Juvenile Court.
I viewed thousands of psychological reports and typed millions of paragraphs on my IBM Selector typewriter for punishments that didn’t fit the crime. I’ve seen the police try to arrest a five-year-old for bringing a gun to school.
As a single parent to my then nine-year-old daughter, I did my best to keep her out the injustice system. A young black girl with an absentee father is a disastrous recipe for failure. I did my best to set a good example by having an education, owning my home, and going to church.
I was conditioned to believe that if you lived right, life would be fine. And for a while, it was fine. Far from perfect, but I tried to give her a good life so she wouldn’t end up where I worked.
Fast forward to 2010, I get married at 40, and shortly after I became pregnant. When most of my friends were getting ready for graduations and even grandparenting, I was starting over. I didn’t fuss too much because this time I was married and living in the great state of Texas where children still say yes and no ma’am or sir.
I thought my husband’s presence in our son’s life would exempt him from trouble even from his ADHD, but I was wrong. My son’s ADHD has wreaked havoc. Tantrums, lack of control, and limited resources have made our lives hell. Since age 3, he’s been ejected from three daycares.
Two out of three centers he attended, he hit another student and one because he was too hard to control. I can still see the daycare worker’s eyes rolling at my son when I brought him the day I was told he couldn’t come back.
Eventually, we were able to enroll him in a public school Pre-K class. For a while, it was a Godsend; I was able to relax. It didn’t last long because the behavior started again. Keith would get physical, use four-letter words, and rarely listened. Academically he excelled, but his behavior was keeping him from being his best.
He had to attend an additional year of Pre-K because Texas school law states a child has to be age 5 by September 1. My son’s birthday is on the sixteenth. I don’t know if a year really makes a difference all I knew then is I was ready for him to leave Pre-K.
I believe some of his problems are his brain works faster than most kids. Holding a kid like that back a year doesn’t do him any good, but as I was soon to find out, public education is not about what’s best for the child. Public school is about numbers.
When it was time to enter Kindergarten, Keith was a little worried because Pre-K was all he knew. He would be leaving behind his friends and teachers. He was scared and I was too because I knew his problems would follow him there.
You’re probably familiar with IEP programs if your child has ADHD or other learning disabilities. The school puts together a team made of teachers, the principal, and the guidance counselor to help your child do his best. What I was promised in that meeting is the new school is aware of his learning disability and that they would help him succeed.
I was wrong.
Keith’s behavior and ADHD showed up as usual. At first, dad and I were able to talk to him. The counselors and his teacher seem to be on board. However as the days went on, things became worse.
About a month into his kindergarten year, the principal and vice principal requested a meeting. My husband has mandatory overtime on Fridays and couldn’t attend. I mentally prepared myself because it wasn’t the first time I met with an administrator, but I wasn’t expecting the bombshell they dropped in my lap.
Keith was charged with bullying another student.
I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. The parents of the other child filed a police report against my son for bullying. In the principal’s words, my son “targeted” this kid. In my son’s offense, he was protecting a little girl from this kid who threatened to throw a bug on her the day before.
In my son’s offense, he was protecting a little girl from this kid who threatened to throw a bug on her the day before. My son is terrified of bugs and with his ADHD, he has trouble from moving on from something that bothers or intrigues him.
I suppose I could go on a rant about the total BS of that conversation, but I won’t. I could scream bloody murder about the injustice to my son, but I won’t do that either. What I will say is this: public schools don’t give a damn about ADHD.
Think about it. If my son had a wheelchair, they would build him a ramp. If my son was deaf, they would hire an interpreter. Yet he has ADHD which is a real disability, they have nothing to offer him.
ADHD was taboo in the African-American community in the 90s. When my daughter was diagnosed, she was placed on medication. Behavioral therapy wasn’t offered at the time because it was thought all was needed was a pill. Before the Internet exploded information was scarce.
Now some 15 years later, we know more about this learning disability. While medication is helpful, therapy has worked wonders for our son that is when we can get the insurance company to pay for it. That is a topic I will address in another blog.
But back to the public school system. What or why aren’t they doing more to help children with learning disabilities? There are two federal laws on the books that are supposed to help children.
“Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 does not have strict qualification criteria but is limited to changes in the classroom, modifications in homework assignments, and taking tests in a less distracting environment or allowing more time to complete tests.”
“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B (IDEA) requires public schools to cover costs of evaluating the educational needs of the affected child and providing the needed special education services if your child qualifies because her learning is impaired by her ADHD.”
During our IEP meeting, dad and I were told that every accommodation will be made to help Keith but I feel like they failed him. We still have the paperwork on what they promised, but failed to deliver. we could get a lawyer, but we’re not those people. I’m fortunate enough to work from home and have a schedule I can work around to help get what he needs.
But what about the other parents out there? Who fights for them? Who fights for you?
I invite you to comment below or even share your story on my page. Read and sign the disclosure before submitting. We’re in this homeschool adventure together.