Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
An incident took place at my son Matthew's school a few weeks ago upon my arrival to pick him up from school. My other son Nicholas was with me as his school start date was a few days away. This happened the friday prior to Labor Day.
Matthew does not ride the bus, so I pick him up fifteen minutes early as Nicholas gets out of school before Matthew and I do not like to be in the middle of the school yard with Matthew when all the classrooms let out and it is chaos with children running through the property, not to mention the traffic jams on the streets with cars stopping wherever to get their kids.
On this particular day Matthew and one other student were the only ones inside the classroom. There was a classroom aide near the door about to leave with a student while the teacher was standing near Matthew's table.
The other student was on the floor with chairs strewn about. At the precise time that Matthew was getting out his backpack and pushing in his chair this other student tossed over a table with it smashing to the ground with a loud thump.
I was quite surprsed when the teacher said to ignore the student. We headed to the office so I could inform the Assistant Principal of what I just observed. She was with another aide and student from same classroom along with the Occupational Therapist.
She indicated she knew the student threw the table, which meant to me he did it earlier as it would be impossible for her to know as it had just happened. A few days before this incident the teacher was holding her arm up and sideways. She indicated she could not move it and was hurt in the classroom. The year before she was on crutches because one student tripped her near the door. The first year she was teaching and Matthew was a student in this classroom the teacher was in a neck brace the last few months of school and did not return. They went through several substitutes. I was told that a student pushed the chair out from her and that was the result, her sprained neck.
Now after witnessing this table incident with this student I wondered if he was the same student that injured the teacher three separate times. Today I met another parent whose child is also nonverbal and does not take the bus. This parent informed me that said student kicked his son and he saw this student push both our kids.
When we got home that Friday afternoon I called the parent complaint unit to find out what to do about my observations. Next I placed a call to the Los Angeles Unified School District to make a complaint and find out how to secure the safety of my child in the classroom.
I was told that the student had rights, which I am well aware of. On the one hand I always worried what would happen to my son Matthew if he did something in the classroom. I had images of him being sent to a padded room with no lock or being restrained until he fell down collapsing or worse yet being led away in handcuffs by the police.
These are all outcomes that have taken place across the country in various schools. I felt relieved to know that nothing like that would happen since they just let a kid toss a desk and chairs and were ignoring him and removing everyone from the classroom.
I also called the Behavior unit within the District since I had a name of someone who had observed to help out with Matthew's Behavior Support Plan. I so lucked out when she answered the phone that Friday afternoon before a long weekend.
I explained what I had witnessed and also described the three injuries the teacher has had over the three years and wanted to know if she was aware of what this student had been doing. She was not and said she would make calls to learn more about this.
I realize there are confidential issues here due to the other student, but never has a letter been sent home from this school informing parents of the dangers lurking in the classroom with this student. The other day Matthew went around on the playground and scratched a few kids. They took one to the nurse for his small scratch on his neck that I did see. Then the teacher wrote a note for his parent.
Yet there is a student hurting kids and throwing furniture and no one gets notified. If my son was taking the bus daily I would be a clueless parent not knowing that these behaviors take place.
Parents need to know what is going on at school as you will not be informed otherwise. Take the opportunity to visit the classroom if you can or pick up your child early. Maybe there is a home provider that can go make a visit if your child cannot tolerate you being there, as my son Matthew would want to go home the moment he sees me.
Being informed starts by being there and viewing what is taking place with everyone in the classroom. Read through the school handbook to find out how they handle behavior issues and what their policies are. How are parents notified, if at all, and what is the protocol they follow for serious and dangerous issues inside the classroom.
I also read through my Composite of Laws book which did mention that an emergency meeting needs to take place after such an incident. I don't think they would release that type of information to another parent, but I am out of the loop on what is going on with this student. I feel his placement is wrong and he needs to go elsewhere.
There is really no format for a parent to express their concerns about another student in a special education classroom since they all have behavior issues at one time or another, but when is it time to make a placement change due to the safety of the rest of the classroom?
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.
Safety in the classroom - from Safe Canada
Mc Gruff school safety
Classroom Safety Kits
LinguiSystems Behavior Lesson Plans CD