Public School:  Where the Rights of a Few Trump the Rights of Too Many

One of the foundations of our Constitution is that the rights of many do not impede upon the rights of a few.  I get that, and I think it an imperative cornerstone of America.

But today I am writing about discipline in public school…stay with me; there’s a connection.

All children have a right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). FAPE gets tossed around a lot.  What it means is that the school is bound by law to serve every child, whether he or she has a special learning need or not.  Again, I agree that we need to ensure the rights of a few.  But when do the rights of a few trump the rights of many?

I’m sure that we have now all seen the video of the South Carolina Resource Officer who flipped a child onto the floor.  Was he wrong?  Absolutely!  Should he lose his job?  Yes!  Was it overkill?  Probably.

What got him to that point, though?  A teacher had to call in an administrator who then had to call in a police officer (and yes, they are trained officers…with vests and guns) to deal with a child who allegedly would not leave a class of 25-30 students. ONE child kept a class of 25-30 kids from learning.  ONE child kept instruction from other students who also have a right to FAPE.

As a mother and an educator, though, I am growing more and more concerned that students who are “average” are being pushed out of public school by those who need special attention.  Gifted students get extra money from the coffers; students who don’t speak the language get extra money from the coffers; students who are medically fragile get extra money from the coffers; so do kids with ADHD if they have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  They get special testing plans and extra time on tests; they get extra resources; some even get their own teacher.

How has it gotten to the point that schools must use resources such as a full time, certified  teacher for one student, or an assistant to a teacher of five students when the “average” child is stuck in a classroom with 30 other “average” kids?  When one reads about student teacher ratios, averages are used.  Meaning, when a parent reads 12:1 ratio, the school or school system is not taking into account that some of the children in that school have their own teacher, or there is a class of three students who are highly special needs.  These children need special attention, and I appreciate that.  I understand that they are either medically fragile or at such a place that their education depends upon those resources.

Brenda Wood has some comments about public school’s discipline problems that I found refreshing.  I appreciate her thoughts, but I don’t think that Ms. Wood understands that students who have an IEP can be as “mouthy” as they want to be because those students can only be suspended ten days of school…period.  If a child who has a special need of Behavior Disorder (BD), s/he can cuss out a teacher or even threaten to hurt a teacher, and before anyone can do anything, a hearing must be called to see if the behavior is a “manifestation of disability”.  That means that if Susie cussed me out and threatened to kill me, it may have been something that set her off, and we as a school just need to be better at handling Susie’s disability.

I have a couple of little people who are “average”, and they sometimes come home and tell me about their day, saying, “No we didn’t have much reading (or fill in the blank) today because Susie was having another one of her bad days.”  I then ask what they did, instead.  Sometimes they go to another classroom until Susie calms down (lost instruction), or sometimes they just wait until Susie calms down (complete waste of instruction).  Sometimes the principal or assistant principal gets called in to remove the child in a way that they have been trained.  But then the principal or assistant principal has to sit with Susie until mom or dad arrives.  Sometimes they do; more often, they don’t.  So what do I do?  I get angry because there’s nothing I can do.  I find it unfair that now the rights of one are impeding the rights of the rest of the class, my child included.  Before I had kids, I was much more inclined to be understanding and inclusive, but that was before my children’s rights to FAPE were trumped by that of one child who was not “average” but special.

One day, some crazy parent might decide to sue because their “average” child is being lost in the masses of “special” children. That crazy parent may just be me.

Legal Equalizer App Gives Breakthrough on Policing the Police

Legal Equalizer

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Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Freddie Grey, Sandra Bland, and the list goes on.  Many of us have spent days and nights contemplating the injustices that have happened to these individuals and their families; we find ourselves asking how this could have happened and in this day and age?  Some of us have gotten angry and taken to the streets in an attempt to make sure our voices are heard by our elected officials.  Others have taken to religion and prayed for those affected; trying to show compassion and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.  But one young man here in Atlanta has put his knowledge and passion to use in order to create something that would not change the past, but prevent a repeat of history with the creation of his app called Legal Equalizer set to be released to the public next week.

Continue reading “Legal Equalizer App Gives Breakthrough on Policing the Police”

The Future of APS: Playing the Hand Dealt

cardsWeek before last I shared the invitation for Atlanta Public Schools’ State of the District Address.  I attended.  It was impressive.  Not only was I psyched to be in the same halls as those that MLK Jr. and Maynard Jackson walked, I also am encouraged to see a Superintendent take such an interest in the rich history of her schools.  Atlanta has a vibrant history.  Its schools helped to foster it and, at times, have been the center of the city’s identity.  I must admit, I’ve never been to a State of the District Address, but I believe this one was truly unique.  Lots of rah-rah, lots of theatrics, and some strong sentimentality that played well for inspiring those in attendance.  I have seen more than a few dog and pony shows (put a few on myself), but what interests me always are not the circus acts, but the ringleader. Continue reading “The Future of APS: Playing the Hand Dealt”