I’m not an educator, I have no background in special education and I’ve never had a child of my own in a resource classroom. I’m also not an investigative reporter, but with your help, I might become one.
My blog is only a month old and already I’ve got about 25,000 thousand of you to turn to for input, so I’m hoping you can help me figure out what the hell has happened to special education.
Maybe it’s just here in Huntsville. Maybe there are other communities out there where they’ve got it all figured out and have a great system in place for supporting students who require special education services. Maybe I’m uninformed or am only hearing one side of things because my sources are parents who are in the trenches, fighting every day for their children to have the education they are entitled to receive.
I’m hoping that you’ll comment on this post and enlighten me, guide me in my search for answers.
I’m going to start my investigation with one situation, one policy that has me scratching my head and wondering … what the hell has happened?
From what I’ve been told, in most of the schools in our county, parents are not allowed to visit or observe in their child’s resource classroom. When I first heard this from a parent, I thought I had heard them wrong.
What do you mean, you’re not allowed to observe what’s going on in your child’s room? You mean, you have to make an appointment so you don’t disrupt the class, so the teacher knows you are coming? No, they told me, it’s not that simple. They have been told flat out, “You are not welcome in your child’s classroom.”
My first reaction was to think this has to be a singular occurrence … maybe this particular parent has been “prickly” in the past, has done something to put the school’s administration on notice and made them think this parent might be looking for something to cause a stink about.
But as I asked more of the parents, I heard the same answer over and over: Nope, we’re not allowed to go into our kids’ classroom.
Okay, I get that since Columbine and Sandy Hook and all the other horrific incidents in public schools there is an increased need for security. I understand that the days are long gone when a parent can waltz into their child’s school unannounced and have lunch or help the teacher or watch what’s happening in class. I accept that you have to sign in, show an ID, have a purpose for your visit.
And I also get that a teacher wouldn’t appreciate a parent barging in without arranging it first, since I know they are held to an impossible standard of adhering to a certain number of “teaching minutes” in each day, minutes that are too precious to waste with unanticipated interruptions.
But to be told that you can’t come in the classroom ever? I don’t get that.
Parents told me they are given a variety of explanations for this policy, including privacy and confidentiality (if they go into a resource classroom, they might be able to ascertain another child’s diagnosis or might witness behavior problems), but the same parents also told me they are encouraged to volunteer in the school clinic … where they are privy to more confidential information than they would be in the classroom, info like which students take ADD medicine, who had diabetes or asthma.
Who’s behind this policy? The parents tell me it’s not the teachers – they would welcome parent support of their classrooms. Parents say it’s our school administrators, who don’t want a parent to visit a classroom and possibly see that their child’s IEP isn’t being followed.
Parents tell me that teacher’s hands are tied because special education in our city has been cut by more than $7 million, aids have been let go and it’s impossible for a teacher to adhere to every guideline in every student’s IEP because of this.
And what about those parents of a child who’s non-verbal? That child can’t go home in the afternoons and tell their parent what they learned in class that day. They can’t tell their parents if something wonderful happened to them … or if someone abused them.
The parents can’t help reinforce the things the teacher is working on because the child can’t communicate exactly what they are doing in class. And the parent doesn’t know what’s happening in the classroom because once the IEP meeting is done, the parent is locked out of further direct input into their child’s daily experiences. They get notes from the teacher, but a note isn’t the same as seeing for yourself what’s happening with your child in their classroom.
One of the things parents talk to me about is how isolating it can be when you have a child with special needs, how cut off from mainstream activities they and their children are. Not only are they cut off from the mainstream, they are cut off from each other, because in our school system, parents are not allowed to know who else is in their child’s resource room (privacy, again).
I find this ridiculous.
When my children were in school, I was the room mom and knew every child in the class and I had a roster with the names and emails of all the parents, too. I could get to know other parents because of that list, as we worked together to put on class parties and special projects. I could arrange car-pools, play dates and activities with the other parents because I knew who they were.
In the resource classroom, the parents are cut off from each other and, since they aren’t allowed to visit the classroom, the only way they can find out who else is in their child’s class is by becoming a vigilant observer of things like who’s on the bus.
Why do we make it so hard for families to connect?
What would it hurt for parents to know who else is in their child’s class?
So, please fill in the blanks for me as I try to understand this policy:
Why is it a good idea to keep parents out of the resource classroom?
What is it like in your school or community?
Is there a better way to protect privacy and still facilitate connection between people?
Please share your thoughts so I can understand what the hell has happened!