Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Well, spit.

I asked for a meeting with the Supervisor of the STEM Programs.  My intent was to present her with the statement about IEP carriers that is on the STEM website, to recap her statement about IEP carriers in STEM, to inform her of what we were met with when my son entered STEM in the 6th grade, and to ask her to explain/reconcile what is happening (that inclusion isn't the practice).

My meeting was at 10:00 yesterday morning.  I figured it would take maybe 10 minutes.  When I got there, the Supervisor informed me that she had asked the Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services to join us.  We sat down.  The Supervisor said that she hadn't known which of my children this was about (as I have two in STEM), and I replied that my daughter doesn't have an IEP, so this was with regard to my son.  I quoted the STEM website and the Supervisor's statement and explained how we were told we had to change the IEP and that later we were told that my son couldn't have any accommodations/modifications in STEM.  Then I asked her for an explanation.

The gist of the reply (with pieces from both women) was that if a student with a disability meets the basic criteria of acceptance into an additional program such as STEM, then s/he is encouraged to participate  with accommodations that allow access.  However, the program (or what is done in the classroom) can't be changed.  (Interestingly, I learned that the same thing happens in our high school AP classes.  Also interestingly, the Director took me to task for writing down her answers, claiming that I was making it difficult for her to have a conversation.  I responded that I couldn't keep track of the information, process it, and form a response if I didn't write it down.  (I didn't think until later that I really hadn't been particularly interested in having a conversation -- I had come to ask a question and get clarification.  I think that writing down the answers to a question is reasonable and appropriate.  If someone in that room had a different agenda, it wasn't me.))

I had asked a couple of other questions at the beginning (How did there come to be conditions on students with IEPs?  Who decides the appropriateness of accommodations/ modifications/ interventions?), but they got lost in the shuffle.

I emphasized (and repeated several times) that the website allows for appropriate accommodations and modifications, and that parents/students are basing their decisions about applying to and attending STEM in part on this explanation.  I don't think the Supervisor understood at first what I was saying -- that the website says modifications are allowed, but they just told me that modifications aren't allowed.  I also emphasized that all of it needs to be made clear, in whatever manner that happens, so that parents/students can make informed decisions. 

Both the Supervisor and the Director agreed that the website needed to be changed.  The Director suggested that the transition teams at the elementary schools needed some training -- I think that was her word -- and she postulated that when I was told that my son could have no accommodations/modifications in 6th grade, the team was trying to make it clear that they couldn't modify the program.  (I find that an interesting take on the situation.  I wonder how she would explain that my son has a benign accommodation in his IEP -- to be able to type his work -- but he was not allowed to do so for certain Science activities in 6th grade.  He had to handwrite those pieces despite his documented issues with handwriting as well as his proven track record of producing more when typing than handwriting.) 

Clarifying that one concept was my sole plan in speaking with the Supervisor.  What actually happened in the other 50 minutes of that unexpected meeting that included the Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services was a Q&A about my son.  I several times stated directly that I wasn't prepared to answer some of the questions that I was asked and that I hadn't known the Director was going to be there and hadn't prepared for anything other than my stated purpose.  The Director's purpose seemed to be to have me state exactly what accommodations in my son's IEP were not being implemented today.  The Supervisor's purpose seemed to be to state that since my son's grades were fine, he must be receiving the accommodations he needs -- or perhaps he doesn't need them.  None of that was why I asked for the meeting with the Supervisor of STEM, and I couldn't answer those questions well that morning.  (Other things happened, too: The Director said that it was disingenuous of me to say that my son hadn't grown in the four years that she had known him.  Interesting comment on a couple of fronts -- one, that I was attributed with making that claim (hadn't done so), and two, I had to go look up "disingenuous" (ouch! that would have hurt had it been true).)

So now I'm left with a few problems:
  • What do I do about the fact that there are still conditions on children with IEPs in STEM (and in AP classes!)?  The Office for Civil Rights clearly states that this is a violaltion of FAPE.
  • What kind of damage control do I need to do with my son's past and present school teams?  My meeting with the Supervisor of STEM was not supposed to involve them; I wanted a clarification of how the website and the Supervisor's statement of inclusion could be reconciled with what we were told and what parents are still being told in practice.  My off-the-cuff answers to some of the questions during the rest of the meeting seemed to me to become the Supervisor's and Director's focus and how they wanted to proceed; I only wanted an answer.
  • What damage has already been inflicted on my children because I brought all this up?  Who is scurrying in the background, trying to make this about me and not the children?  Who is trying to make sure that all legal bases are covered, and perhaps not hearing what I'm saying?
  • If I publish this post, do I endanger my children or the future of other 2e children in the STEM programs?

1 comment:

Lori said...

Okay...catching up....whew...my Reader is WAY behind! Can't wait to chat tomorrow!