I told you on Monday in Frustrated mom about how my daughter’s day at school went. I told you they once again put a “helper” on her who was anything but helpful. How they used known triggers to force her anxiety to skyrocket all day long and used it as an excuse to deny her access to class and keep her in the office for the last few hours of the day.
Last week was a successful week. Her teacher worked with her and helped her to cope with her anxiety and settle down. I have numerous emails back and forth between her teacher and I that show she is settling in and can find success.
But, her teacher wasn’t there on Monday. They tormented her and used her disability as a weapon against her. She then was dealing with a bullying situation on the bus. She went to the bus driver for help. Considering how high her anxiety already was, this is huge. She went to the grown up in charge. This is exactly what we encourage our children to do. This is what the anti-bullying campaigns in the nations schools tell our children to do. He refused to help her. She had an anxiety attack at the idea of having to return to that seat.
When they pulled her off of the bus instead of moving her seat, her anxiety became greater. She began throwing rocks at the staff who had been part of her torment all day. She feels guilty for throwing the rocks. She knows she did a bad thing. We had informed the school that we would be keeping her home the remainder of the camping trip and she would return to school on Thursday. The principal confirmed Thursday with my husband when he picked our daughter up from school Monday. Last night around 730 pm I received an email from the principal.
They have decided to suspend our daughter for the remainder of the week, calling it aggressive behavior. More than 24 hours after the incident they suddenly implement a punishment. And, they are choosing to punish her for a manifestation of her disability that they caused by using known (documented) triggers. It is not aggressive behavior. It is fight or flight. (Read Anxiety or Aggression? When Anxiety in Children Looks Like Anger, Tantrums, or Meltdowns for a better understanding of GAD and fight response)
The law requires development of behavior support plans (BSPs), involvement by general education teachers, and use of behavior support as an alternative to discipline.
There is no positive behavior support plan or behavior intervention plan in place. We are not saying that our daughter is innocent here. She needs to learn how to control her anxiety response. She is working hard on that. We do not see these types of behaviors at home, at the park, at the store, or anywhere else for that matter. When we are present, nobody is pushing our daughter into anxiety attacks. If anyone were to try, we would step in and stop them.
She has quite a few coping mechanisms and tells that show her anxiety is increasing. These so called aggressive behaviors only happen if her anxiety is so high she only knows fight of the fight or flight response. Her body is being flooded with the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. She doesn’t feel safe. She feels threatened.
It is irrelevant if their intention is to threaten her. When using known triggers to increase her anxiety, they are using bullying tactics to force a situation so that they can punish her. This is an honest threat. Perhaps not to her physical safety, which is how she reacts to it, but it is definitely a threat to her emotional health. And bullying is illegal.
Last night, I replied to the email from the principal. I asked for a copy of the school’s disciplinary guidelines showing that it is common practice to wait more than 24 hours and then issue a punishment. I told her that I had real concerns that my daughter’s 504 civil rights are being violated. I informed her that they had created a hostile environment that caused our daughter’s anxiety to manifest.
I then also wrote an email to the school superintendent. I inquired if it was district practice to wait more than 24 hours to issue a punishment. I informed him of everything that our daughter has been through since returning to the district. I told him about her successful week when they weren’t using known triggers to increase her anxiety levels. I told him I have documentation in the form of emails from the teacher that prove that the week was successful.
I sent them both the link to the Anxiety or Agression?… article. I haven’t heard anything back from either of them.
Last Friday, we had a 504 meeting regarding our daughter. The meeting started late, and the teacher was unable to stay and attend. She handed her notes to the principal so that she could still provide insight during the meeting. The principal shoved the teachers notes to the bottom of a stack of papers and never pulled them out and shared them. This morning, I sent an email off to the teacher. I flat out told her that the principal did not share her notes and asked if I could have a copy. I would like to know what she had to say. After all, she was finding successful ways to help our daughter work through her anxiety, remain in class, and have a successful week. I know she won’t return from the camping trip until later today, but I am hopeful I will hear from her today.
I also contacted the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service.
Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) is the independent, private, nonprofit organization designated by the governor of the State of Michigan to advocate and protect the legal rights of people with disabilities in Michigan. MPAS services include information and referral, short-term assistance, selected individual and legal representation, systemic advocacy, monitoring, and training.
They took down our information. They asked me some questions and listened to our concerns. We are waiting for an education advocate to call us back to discuss our problems.
In the meantime, we have a meeting tomorrow afternoon. A team of five of them will be attending. A team of five of them who believe they can bully us into whatever they intend to pull on us this time. I have no doubt they will use bullying tactics. They will continually cut me off when I am speaking. They will claim to know things about our daughter that are untrue. They will pretend that they are the experts in what works and we have no choice but to comply with their plans.
They will be wrong. We cannot be forced to agree to anything. We cannot be forced to comply with what they want. We are our daughter’s advocates. We are responsible for ensuring her safety and well being. We are the ones who know our daughter and know what will benefit her. IEPs and 504 plans have to be designed to the benefit of the success of the child. They cannot be used as a means to bully or coerce.
We will continue to stand up for our daughter. We will continue to fight. We will reach out to more and more people in a position to help. I wanted to call a lawyer today. It was my full intention to find an attorney that could help us. It was during my search for the attorney that I found MPAS. If they find that we need an attorney, they will direct us to one that will help. If they cannot help us and we need to find our own attorney, I’m prepared to start searching for one.
During all of this, I also reached out to our OCR investigator. I told her my concerns that it is all happening again. I told her that they denied us a due process hearing. I told her I was concerned about filing another OCR complaint because it has been almost two years since we filed the last one, and they are still investigating. Of course, she did say that filing another complaint was an option. She also confirmed for me that we do have the right to a due process hearing. I think I am going to send an email to all of them that we are requesting a due process hearing.
I don’t have it in me to go through this again. I am not sleeping. I was up until almost four this morning, my brain refusing to shut down. Battle plans must be prepared. Protecting our daughter is top priority. I couldn’t shut it down. I couldn’t make the thoughts quiet long enough to get some sleep. My brain is in overdrive. My thoughts are running a mile a minute (as I’m sure you could ascertain from this blog post). I’m a woman on a mission. I have no choice but to stand and fight. No matter how much I want to give up. No matter how much I want to give in. I can’t. I won’t. I will fight to the end for my baby.