These past two weeks have been loaded with distractions, but one has consumed my time and attention.
Although the house we moved to in November is exactly 1.5 miles from the elementary school Seth has attended for the past 2 years, it is in a different district. Our new neighborhood school happens to be one of the best in the state and we have been excited about the opportunities it will provide for both Seth and Ana-Sophia NEXT SCHOOL YEAR. Seth had a very difficult time with the move. He cried that entire week both at school and at home. He had inappropriate emotions for every situation and because of how upset he was, I made several visits to the school. I explained to both his regular and special education teachers that he was having a difficult time with the move and because of how hard change is on him, we planned to keep him there for the remainder of the school year. They both gave their support.
Fast forward to January. Federal forms come home and we fill them out, stating that Seth is a military dependent. The school gets money.
Fast forward to March 1st. I get a phone call from an attendance officer with Fairfax County asking me where we live. I told him. He asked why we had not moved Seth and I explained that he is autistic and he has a difficult time dealing with change. I also explained that we would be happy to move him next school year when we have had the entire summer to prepare him and that I had discussed this with his teachers. He thanked me and scheduled a meeting with me and the principal two days later.
March 3rd. I show up at the school and sit with the attendance officer while we wait for the principal who is more than 20 minutes late for the meeting. I remind her that I had to spend time at the school the week of our move because of how badly Seth was dealing with the change. She gives me some spiel about how beneficial it would be for Seth to go to school with the neighborhood children where he can build lasting friendships. Hello? He has yet to develop a lasting friendship. Most of the neighborhood kids are freaked out by all of his stimming.
I then ask her why it is so important to her that he transfer at this point in the school year. Get this. Her reply to both myself and the attendance officer was….”I have to answer to my PTA. We are over-crowded and I have to answer to them concerning pupil placement.” What?!?! I have served as vice-president of the PTA. I have served on a district PTA council. I have read the national PTA charter. Principals don’t answer to the PTA! While I’m sitting there trying not to let the tears of anger and frustration spill from my lower lids, she gets up and says, “I’ll let you know what my decision is.” I’m still standing there trying to grasp how the opinions of the PTA are more important than an autistic student as she walks away.
The attendance officer voluntarily tells me how to appeal her decision if she decides that Seth must immediately transfer.
I spend a week reading every bit of information I can on the VA dept. of education website and the Fairfax County website and taking notes on how many statutes this woman has violated. I learn from my amazing Army acquisition officer husband that the fact that the school had the knowledge that we moved, but waited until after the federal funding was allotted to boot Seth is seen by the federal government and the Dept. of Defense as fraud.
Fast forward to March 10th. We have waited a week with no word and we now assume that she has just let the issue go. This is fine with us. School will be over in 3 months and we can move on. It’s dinner-time and Chad is digging through Seth’s back-pack as he helps him with his homework. He finds an envelope with a letter. It says,
…”I am writing to advise you to register your son at Waynewood Elementary School, your neighborhood school, at your earliest convenience. Your son’s last day at Stratford Landing Elementary School will be Wednesday, March 17, 2010.”…
Six days! She gave us six frickin’ days to prepare him. We’ve all heard of human mothers becoming mama bears in defense of their children. I think I would better be described as a fire-breathing dragon. I have had flames shooting out of my nose, ears, and eyeballs. It took a couple of days for me to gather my thoughts and calm down enough to be productive, but the woman now has a war on her hands. I have filed complaints with everyone from the local special education director up to the state board of education. I have explored contacting the local media and I have contacted both military and autism support groups. I wrote a “glowing” review on greatschools.net.
We have decided to only request that Seth stay at the school for the remainder of the grading period. It ends April 9th and that gives us 4 weeks to prepare him. We have walked down to the new school and driven by it several times and we’ve begun talking about it. He has cried at almost every mention of transferring, but today he did say something about his “new school” without shedding tears.
If you’re on the Stratford Landing PTA and you’re reading this, well, you have more power than you probably realize. You might want to start using it wisely.
If you’re someone who just loves or even mildly cares for our family. Pray for us. Pray for me to have some self-control and for some of this fire-breathing anger to be replaced with some peace. Pray for Seth. We have seen him regress since the move. His stimming has increased and the time that he spends interacting with us, or anyone for that matter, has decreased. I get a little claustrophobic feeling when I think of what changing schools and adding a new sibling to our family, all in the same month, are going to do to him.
If you’re reading this and you home-school your children, send me some feedback. I’m seriously considering home-schooling for the remainder of the year and the thought scares the crap out of me.
As a side-note…..I seriously dislike “springing forward”. We just got robbed of an entire hour.