So Furious at son's principal - Mothering Forums

So Furious at son's principal

mommsie's Avatar mommsie (TS)
12:21 AM Liked: 76
#1 of 10
12-23-2013 | Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2013

My son has been having a lot of trouble at school this year.  We suspect he has ADD like dad and older brother, and are going in soon for an evaluation.  Anyway, the school has 4th/5th grade switching rooms between the two teachers, and this has really been difficult for him.  We've been to the school to talk with the teachers and the principal to see what we all (school and home) could do to increase success.  They had few ideas, and seemed unable/unwilling (?) to come up with anything other than "we've had the same system all year.....don't know why he can't do it....." etc,.  Any ideas I come up with are not consistently applied, even when a teacher admits it works!  His homeroom teacher in particular is very inconsistent.


Okay, so that's the back story.  What made me so furious at the principal was this:  my son has been getting to the point of a.  not wanting to go to school, b.  be homeschooled,  c.  not doing well in school.  Without our knowledge, she takes him into her office and asks him "Do you like 4th grade?"  When he said yes, she said sarcastically "well, good, b/c you're going to be in 4th grade again the way you're going.  Congratulations."  Cuss.gif  Then, she tells him, "we're not having any more parent- teacher - principal meetings, either."  By this time, he was so scared all he could do was nod or shake his head instead of answering her, so she mocked his head shaking.   He's not even failing any of his classes, for crying out loud! 


When my husband shared this with me, I about lost it.  He was calm but furious.  He actually didn't tell me about the mocking part with the head shaking b/c he figured I'd be enraged enough at the other things like calling him in w/o telling us, and telling him he was going to fail, etc,.   We have an appt. tomorrow with another school to transfer him.  We've lucked out in two ways:  a.  the principal has gone out of his way to schedule a meeting with us after a business meeting even though the next day is Christmas Eve, and b.  normally, it takes ages to get an evaluation due to waiting lists, but b/c of a research study, he is set to go in a couple of weeks instead.  That's a whole other serendipitous story.


How and why do people like this even become principals?  headscratch.gif



gooseberry's Avatar gooseberry
09:56 PM Liked: 1421
#2 of 10
12-23-2013 | Posts: 266
Joined: Feb 2012

That sounds awful.  I would email the principal about this, and cc one of her superiors - someone at the district level. I think it's really important that bullies don't get let off the hook.

mommsie's Avatar mommsie (TS)
10:32 AM Liked: 76
#3 of 10
12-24-2013 | Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2013

I have thought about reporting her after the holidays since offices are closed.  My husband already spoke to the principal, and she tried to pretend concern over Spenser, and said she was just "trying to show him the seriousness."  Whatever......

Geofizz's Avatar Geofizz
09:09 AM Liked: 434
#4 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 7,987
Joined: Sep 2003

Holy smokes. 


I'm generally slow to suggest changing schools.  I'm glad you're changing.


You need a 504 plan at a minimum, if not an IEP.  Your child can qualify under functional skills even without a medical diagnosis.  The medical diagnosis generally only supports & guides the educational need, but it is the educational need that should drive the services.  Ask this new principal to get a temporary 504 plan in place, and ask for an evaluation and a 504/IEP meeting for a month after your son starts at the new school.  A hallmark of ADD, however, is initial success, only to fall apart once supports for new executive skills are assumed to be in place.  For the first quarter, the teachers are likely teaching the skills of getting from one room to the next, after which they withdraw the organizational support.  A child with ADD will need continued support.  By all means, continue the path of outside evaluation, as this will likely provide additional information and guidance on your child's individual need.


OK, that event with the principal:  My policy as a parent is to take reports from my kid seriously, but not necessarily interpret the same way as presented to me by my child.  As such, I wouldn't necessarily assume that the principal said things in the way my child reported.  However, in this case, am I correct in understanding that the principal acknowledged this to your DH?  Yikes.


If that's the case, then I think it's important to put this event into writing.  I would write it with a tone of wanting to clarify the events of XX Date in which YY child met individually with the principal.  I would copy the letter to the superintendent (and if your district has one, director of intervention services), and include the dates of, the nature of, and the outcome of the parent-teacher-principal meetings.  The denial of services and the refusal to continue to discuss your child's needs are violations of IDEA and Child Find.


If these meetings were qualification meetings (my district calls them ETRs now -evaluation and testing report - or something like that, but used to call them MFEs - multifactored evaluations; premeetings before the ETR were called IATs (individual assistance teams) now called RTIs (response to intervention)), then your letter should state what flavor of meetings these were and the outcomes.  That is, I would include: "For the ETR on XX date, it was determined that YY child does not meet the standards for qualification of a 504 despite continued struggles with {include struggles}; We requested these meeting because we suspect child YY has ADD, limiting his functional skills and affecting his academic performance."


The timing of this letter is another issue, and it would depend upon your goals of the letter.  It will potentially produce retaliation, something you don't want your child to experience.  I would tend to delay sending the letter until after you've transferred your child.  If it takes a while to transfer your child, I would tone down the one-on-one meeting issue, and simply commit to writing that it happened after the preceding intervention meetings that produced no services.  This alerts the principal and superintendent (and director of intervention services) to the issue that you suspect your child has a disability and that no services are in place.


Books to read:

Smart but Scattered -- this will frame for you clearly the typical needs for organizational support, including how long many children, even those without ADD, take to learn such skills

From Emotions to Advocacy -- it looks to me as though you suspect your child to have a disability but you don't have a clear picture of the school's responsibilities here.  Having the right vocabulary to speak their language helps a lot.  Simply saying the phrase "Child Find" should change their tone immediately.  Even in a positive and supportive environment, knowing how the school systems are to work and how to work within that structure helps tremendously.


Good luck

mommsie's Avatar mommsie (TS)
09:15 AM Liked: 76
#5 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2013

Since this is a private school, these weren't IEP meetings, just get-together meetings to try to improve things for Spenser.  I'm not sure they violated any laws since I'm unsure what they are required to follow.  I am a teacher, so I should have known about looking into a 504, but you think initially that just working with the teacher/principal would be enough.  Somehow when you're the parent, you get sucked into a confusing whirlwind and forget to step back and do what you know to do.  It's given me more empathy for my schoolkids' parents who don't always seem to do what I think they should do in regards to their child.


Thanks for the support.

lauren's Avatar lauren
09:20 AM Liked: 12070
#6 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 6,780
Joined: Nov 2001

Geofizz thanks for the excellent post. Mommsie I didn't realize this was a private school you were talking about. I personally get confused about why they do not have to follow federal guidelines for children with special needs, but I guess no public money=no public responsibility.  Lots of folks seem to choose private schools for their children with special needs, thinking they'll get more individualized attention, more state of the art ideas, only to find their  child gets hurt by this lack of attention to best practice for disabilities.


So sorry you and your son have had to deal with this treatment. What are your thoughts about the next school's ability to meet his needs?

Geofizz's Avatar Geofizz
09:26 AM Liked: 434
#7 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 7,987
Joined: Sep 2003

Sadly, not being a public school changes most everything I wrote.  Is the new school public or private?


In many cases, kids with disabilities are actually better off at public schools because of the legal protections, as well as their experience in working with all flavors of child.  It sounds like your child needs experience in his teachers and administrators to appropriately serve his needs.  Go and interview the principals of your public options as well.  You might be surprised at what you find.  Also, some districts are better than others at providing services to a child with qualified needs at private schools within their catchment areas.  Our district sends a speech therapist to a few of the private schools within the district area, for instance.  I suspect that executive skills are not likely well served this way, however, as it will require accommodations from the classroom teacher.

mommsie's Avatar mommsie (TS)
04:03 PM Liked: 76
#8 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2013

Actually, we may have really lucked out.  The principal at the other school was very encouraging about the help they could give our son.  They have a special services coordinator who would work with him on executive function skills, and if his evaluation does lead to an ADD diagnosis, he will receive more help from the public school district's tutors that service this school.  It's amazing to me how principals in the same archdiocese can have such contrasting ways of dealing with these issues.  One wants only children who fit the mold, and the other goes out of his way to help children with learning difficulties.



Geofizz's Avatar Geofizz
06:48 PM Liked: 434
#9 of 10
12-26-2013 | Posts: 7,987
Joined: Sep 2003
Sounds promising! Yes, in my now 7 years of advocating for my kids' unique needs, it's remarkable how much the school's head really affects the tone of the school. A head who wimply "gets it" can do so much. The one who didn't ... Well, DH wouldn't let me get her cookie cutters as her retirement gift (because that's how she wanted students... Identical)

I'd recommend still you request a meeting after 4-6 weeks to touch base and adjust course or fine tune at that point.

When will you have your report in the ADD? Get from the principal how to start the process with the public school side of things.

Good luck!
IdentityCrisisMama's Avatar IdentityCrisisMama
08:06 AM Liked: 51267
#10 of 10
12-30-2013 | Posts: 10,677
Joined: May 2003

I'm glad to hear that you have the possibility of switching schools. I think a principal needs to be a safe place for students go to "check in" and get the support they need. I think the whole idea of a big scary principal needs to fall by the wayside. 

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