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aforred 05-02-2013 01:57 PM

When a child has problems at school
I thought I would post this to keep parents from having to go through the same battle I did with my child's school.

Here's a little background. DS is coming up on the end of 5th grade. I held him back between preschool and kindergarten because his motor and social skills were a bit slow and he was already suffering some self-esteem issues.

Fast-forward to 3rd grade. At this level, the kids are asked to do more independent work. His math grade started slipping. 4th grade was more of the same. Two months into 4th grade, I asked the principal for a meeting to figure out how we could help him. He said the Student Improvement Team met one day a week, and they didn't have any openings until after Christmas break. Break comes and goes, and still no word. I kept contacting the school, and kept hearing back, "We don't have any available meeting times." I never did get that meeting. I just helped him at home as much as I could.

The first day of 5th grade, I walked into the office and asked for a meeting. The principal was unavailable. I didn't hear back from him that day, or the next, so I went in again. I finally got that meeting. We came up with a plan to help DS with his major issues, and decided to give it until the quarter was up to see how well it worked. It did, for a while. The main problem is that once he started doing better, the teachers dropped the support. Things like filling out his planner (they don't give them to kids at this age in our school, but it's an easy way for me to see what he's working on and to communicate with his teachers): my son can't remember to do that on his own, every day.

The really scary thing happened a couple weeks after the follow-up meeting. I got a call from the principal, and he told me my son had talked to the school counselor about committing suicide. I just happened to have a doctor's appointment scheduled for that day and took him in early. The doctor talked to him and determined that it was not a kid just saying something they didn't understand. My son had a plan. At this point, I'm sitting in the doctor's office bawling. They had a long talk, and made a plan to keep in touch. (Doc is a family friend, so that part was easy.)

It turns out, my son had been getting bullied at school. When he came home, he would tell me stories about what happened that day, and they sounded much the same as they had the year before. The difference was that his two best friends had moved away, so he didn't have a peer support system. He would tell the teacher or playground attendant what had happened, and they would deal with the other child. But DS did not know the bully had gotten in trouble. He thought nobody at school cared or would do anything to help him. This lead to another meeting, so that the principal could explain school policy and that any bullying behavior would be dealt with. I made sure to get him talking as soon as he came home, and if a red flag came up, I called the school.

It was a turning point, of sorts. He was much happier at school, but his grades plummeted. Instead of communicating with me when a problem came up, they let it drag out for close to three months before THEY called a meeting. His math teacher wanted to hold him back again. There was no way I was letting that happen.

I got a referral for the best child therapist in my area. I told the school that I wanted them to test him for a learning disability, just to rule it out. They said he didn't fit the criteria, but they did it anyway, because I got the school counselor on my side. He was diagnosed with ADHD, and started on medication and therapy.

I just had another meeting with the school yesterday to discuss the results of their testing. His teachers reported that he is doing much better. He is showing a lot more control of himself in everything he does. One teacher said if this turn around had happened a few months earlier, he would have no problem catching up. I told her that if I had had these meetings the year before, when I first asked, he never would have gotten so far behind in the first place.

We are finally on the right track!

So if your child is having problems at school, here is my best advice.

1. Write all communication in letter form, and make sure it's dated. Keep a copy.
2. Get to know the school counselor and other people who have regular contact with your child.
3. If the school does not respond in a timely manner, write to the superintendent, enclosing a copy of the letter to the school.
4. If the problem is bullying, look into resources for the school. My state has a program where people go in and teach the teachers and administrators how to deal with bullying. I didn't know about this program until his therapist told me about it. The CDC has one for high schools.
5. If you suspect something is wrong at school, it probably is. Talk to your child, his/her friends, teachers, playground attendants, and anyone else you can think of.

Corporal 05-02-2013 02:27 PM

I subbed for 10 years while I was getting my teaching certification, and gave up after I taught in a public middle school for 2 years.
I'm glad that you are proactive. Public schools that work are hit and miss and mostly a myth. They care about YOUR child's body at the building so that the state will pay them for this. They truly believe that your child is the problem. The Bully children have bad home lives and need to be babied. You and I KNOW that they need to go to Juvenile Jail.
It doesn't help that are some really good teachers bc it gives a good face to the really poor tenured teachers.
If POSSIBLE, and for the sake of really educating your son, I would suggest you look into a private school. Much better for your son to study Catholic saints for Halloween, then to study the last smutty movie in Drama class in a public school, along with free condoms and support of teenage promescuity and exploring alternate lifestyles.
At a private school YOU are the paying customer and your voice is much stronger.
BTW, my youngest DD is a 2L (2nd year Law School.) She went to a large PS through 7th grade, then we moved to a rural school district, 8th to graduation (2006.) While at the larger school she was a fighter and advocate for her friends, and this acumen is serving her well in her to be next career.

cakemom 05-02-2013 03:10 PM

I disagree. I live in a small rural community and have three exemplary children in as much as never once has one been disciplined or in trouble at all at school. The two older routinely maintain a 4.0 and the oldest has the highest scores in her school. She also has social anxiety disorder, and her younger brother has ADD, the youngest is a dream, and thrives on love, so engages herself in people's lives and makes her own way.
I say this because the oldest two are not easy kids, but their teachers have made sure they make their fullest potential. Each year I get phone calls from excited teachers that they are going to have my kids and have investigated their scores, and never have their anxiety and Add status followed them.
I make sure that these children have what they need. You DO have to fight. They are your children. If you don't make the schools that your taxes pay for be what they need to be then its your own fault. As parents we have to be part of the solution.
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aforred 05-02-2013 03:20 PM

Congratulations on the DD!

We are in a rural school district. DS has 11 other kids in the classroom with him, and there is another 5th grade class of 12. There is one child in particular he has problems with, and this other kid bullies a lot of kids. It's very frustrating!

My dad wanted me to be a teacher, and I flat out refused. I'm great at working with kids that want help, but a bunch of kids that HAVE to be there? No thank you. I am always impressed by the good teachers, but I'm not impressed with DS's math teacher, for sure.

ETA: I would seriously consider private school if there was one close enough.

Corporal 05-02-2013 03:22 PM

THIS is why the horribly run inner city schools and Federal intervention into ALL schools gets a pass. My Youngest DD loved her 2nd, rural school dist. She had the Best chemistry, math and physics teacher--6 in her class for that. So WHAT? The dist. she left gets worse and worse and worse, while their $income gets higher and higher and higher.
I maintain that we need to get back to personal control and involvement in our children's education. The quality is SO hit and miss, and everyone gets taxed, even those without any children, that we need to re examine what happened one hundred years ago, when public schools won out over private institutions.

Saddlebag 05-02-2013 04:24 PM

Do you not have a school board that oversees a number of schools? My son was being treated inhumanely by his teacher and altho he didn't complain I learned about it from his friends. I was so angry I didn't dare talk to anyone but instead wrote a letter to the school board of how this teacher had dehumanized (that's always a good word to throw into the conversation) my son and that if disciplinary action toward the teacher wasn't taken, there's be a lawsuit. Each board member received a copy because of my not trusting a single letter would be thrown out. The next day the board was willing to work with me to appease the situation. Every day after that a woman came to the school to give support to my son and monitored the teacher very closely. He was shifted to another school for the next school year.

aforred 05-02-2013 04:39 PM

The school board in our district oversees two K-8 schools, and one high school that is located between our two towns. Last year, they refused to do anything about the principal at the high school, despite numerous complaints and kids being pulled out of school. Last year's graduating class had a quarter of the students that started there. They moved to other districts, or got their education on the computer. That principal had basically run most of those kids off. She would tell them, "You are not the kind of student I want representing this school." That line was delivered to people who dressed differently, or didn't have stellar grades, or who disagreed with her.

We elected new school board members, and they told her she could retire or quit. She's retiring. These people are a lot more supportive of students and parents, and I wouldn't hesitate to turn to them for help.

cakemom 05-02-2013 06:35 PM

Glad to hear you guys have a new board. I work in our two local schools as a sub now but when I was a stay at home mom I volunteered in their classes about three days a week. I'm nosey, and pushy, and bossy- really, I'm kidding!! But you are smart to be watching closely and being a part of their education!
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Saddlebag 05-02-2013 08:46 PM

When dealing with any business or school board always, always put it in writing. The letter/s have to be kept on file. There were numerous vocal complaints about this teacher. There's an old saying "what you heard isn't what I said" and this is why it has to be written. Of all the complaints I was the only one who submitted a written complaint.

tinyliny 05-02-2013 09:16 PM

Those are good points of advice. Especially the put it in writing.

Also, know your rights. The school is reguired by law to provide a quality edcuation for each student (well, the quality might be subjective) But, they are required by law to do what is necessary to make every student's access to the educational benefits as equal as possible. Therefor, if your child needs remedial help, or extra time on a test, and this can be proved by some kind of diagnosis of qualifying "disability" ( I hate that they call it that), then if they cannot provide this for you, they are required to actually PAY you what it takes for you to get it in the private sector.

Look into getting your son an I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan) once you have that, you have the right to require special treatemnt, if necessary.

Now, no none wants any more "special" treatment than necessary. The kids sure don't. But, in some cases they do need some wider leeway.

My son, the super incredibly bright one with autistic spectrum personality, could not keep track of anything. He needed me and the teacher working together to keep up on his homework,(due dates and such) and he needed sometimes a bit longer to get things in. He was very , very bright, but could not stay focussed on some things. I am talking juniour high and high school, where the kids juggle 6 or 7 different classes. If you think this is challenging NOW , in 5th grade, think ahead!

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