The longer I work in special education and the older I get, the more I long to do what’s right for my students and the braver my voice gets. Part of my job is to advocate for what’s right for my students. My opinions are not always popular with the parents. Sometimes the parents like my opinions and my opinions piss off other teachers or, heaven forbid, Central Office. But, regardless, I’m supposed to do what’s right for my students. That’s what the laws tell me to do. To provide a Free and Appropriate Education for my students. If I don’t feel it’s appropriate, it eats away at my conscience like a bad battery. I lose sleep over it. I incessantly chew my husband’s ear off about it. I’m sure it’s pretty irritating. One day, I’m going to get an ulcer over all the things that are wrong with the system. There are too many times that I keep my mouth shut out of fear of repercussions. I’m told that I’m not allowed to do certain things. My hands are tied. I have to play the politics. Or else. The repercussions of morality are pretty steep.
Well, I sat in a meeting the other day where I kept my mouth shut. I heard no one say anything, even though I knew that 90% of the people in the room disagreed with what was going on. The child was inappropriately placed. The child was not being provided with appropriate resources. The teachers providing him with services were not appropriately trained to serve the child, this child had just had a year of constantly talking about how hating school, had lots of incidences of behaviors that had never occurred before (this child is probably the sweetest kid ever), and it just wasn’t right. Decisions had been made behind closed doors without a team present. I sat. And then I said something. I said it with tact. I made sure I mentioned how much I cared about the child. That this had nothing to do with me not wanting the child around, but that I couldn’t, with good conscience, not say anything. And I refused to sign an IEP that left this child in this setting. My team ultimately decided to do the same. The parent, I know, was not pleased with my opinion. My director is not pleased with my team. My principal is not happy that I spoke up at a meeting where everything was going smoothly until I spoke up. I feel bad that I waited so long to do so and that my timing was so horrible (I probably need to work on my social skills).
Here are the repercussions: the director has, in no uncertain terms, threatened to split our team up. She thinks we orchestrated a mutiny, pretty much. This is untrue, but irrelevant. We have a right to disagree with a decision that isn’t right for a child without being threatened. My main issue here is that I live out of district and my child, who has Autism, goes to school out of district. If she moves me, this could, indirectly, make things very difficult for him. He needs stability. He’s used to that environment. All of the teachers know him there. He has a service plan in place there, and we have things ready to go for him. If she moves me to another school, I’ll be too far away to handle things if something comes up. As of now, I’m right next door. I’ll also be too far away to pick him up if I get moved. And my current location has been really good at working with my on my planning period and with my appointments. So, when I spoke up for the good of a child, I did so at great personal risk.
I also decided immediately afterward that it was time to sign up with a company that would provide me with legal protection. And if she does anything that jeopardizes my child, I will be utilizing that, and I will also be calling that number I have reserved in my phone to someone higher up. Because I have the personal cell phone number of someone who outranks her. I have so much information I could share about what goes on that doesn’t follow regulations. I just fear that doing so would result a fight that I’m not quite ready for yet.