Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Educating Joseph Part II

Before I move on to the second part of this story about my nephew’s Special Ed. experience, I need to straighten something out. He transfered to Grant High in October, not November.

Grant High
Joseph started at Grant High on October 18th, 2000. We had a good feeling about this change. His new teacher had begun to revise his IEP to include some very positive educational goals, and he now had a vocational gig at the Red Cross detailing cars. He’d started there when school resumed and was doing well by all reports. That changed in the blink of an eye with a phone call on the 22nd.

The call came from the Vocational Coordinator at Grant telling me there had been an incident at Red Cross that same morning. I was told that Joseph had “charged” at his supervisor and injured the guy’s hand. A few things need to be mentioned here. Joseph has always been a very gentle fellow. In fact, when he first arrived here we had to work with him on not hugging people all the time or kissing women’s hands. Secondly, his supervisor was this burly big man, who I definitely would not want to meet up with in a dark alley. To this day, this is the ONLY act of aggression he’s ever been accused of in the 8 years he’s lived in Portland. Anyway, the vice principal suspended him from school. The 20th and 21st had been a weekend, so he was suspended on his 3rd day at Grant. As they say in the big leagues, he was there for a cup of coffee.

We received no communication from Grant about the length of the suspension or the disciplinary level that was being applied. We did attend what is called a Manifestation Determination meeting which decides the fates of disabled students who have aggression problems. At the beginning of this meeting the vice principal who suspended Joseph proclaimed; “I just want to lay my cards up front: it doesn’t matter what is decided at this meeting, Joe will no longer be allowed to attend Grant.” Suzanne and I asked “Why not?” He then said; “The decision has already been made. Joe can’t attend Grant.” To which I replied; “Then I will sue you.” By now we were learning Special Ed. law, and knew what he was doing was illegal. We later found out that on the same day of the meeting the VP had signed a transfer slip (not expulsion) to transfer Joseph to “another placement.” Kinda like; “Not in our neighborhood.”

That afternoon Suzanne called the Principal at Grant. She asked if the Principal was in agreement with this decision. She said she didn’t know anything that was said at a meeting she didn’t attend. Her answers to all of Suzanne’s questions were vague, and evasive. Suzanne asked her if an Expulsion Hearing was scheduled and she said it was. We decided that seeing how it was Joseph's disability that caused this behavior (or not) that we weren't going to participate in any such hearing. We never did receive the results of this hearing because we don't believe it ever took place. On November 3rd we were sent a letter from the Area Supervisor saying Joseph was still a student at Grant, but he couldn't return there. Figure that one out.

There was another meeting on November 6th which included the Director of Special Education, her assistant, the Grant principal, the Area Supervisor, and the teacher from Grant. We were told the school district’s Attorney would be there, but she didn’t show up (yet). By now we knew we needed witnesses at these meetings, and had 2 education activists from the Education Crisis Team with us. The Director asked us where we thought an appropriate setting for Joseph was and we answered “Grant.” That didn’t seem to be an option so we asked her what she thought. She told us that Eastside Education Center might be a good option. She also suggested Marshall High and Madison High. We agreed to check these out and get back to her.

The next day I checked out Marshall and Madison. Of the 2, Marshall seemed less bad, so we decided to send Joseph there, where he would work on life skills. We were looking at Eastside for academics but couldn’t get in to see them. I finally got in on November 29th to talk to the folks there. No one on their staff had ever worked with students having autism. That’s probably because it was a school for juvenile delinquents and kids with serious emotional/mental illness. We came to the conclusion that the Director of Special Education either didn’t know what she was doing, or she was trying to set Joseph up with a profile of a very troubled person. On December 11th we formally filed for Due Process.

To Be Continued...