A few months ago, I said I would never blog about my kids again. I’m going to make an exception for this post. I also mentioned that it had to do with a legal dispute and how what I said on this blog was twisted and used against me.
Now the legal matter is over and I’d like to set the record straight about what I was talking about. I started this post at least 30 times, trying to find the right words to explain what happened once and for all. Part of me wants to maintain silence. Part of me wants to say what happened to serve as a warning to other parents of special needs children who may be considering due process.
Guess which part wins?
My daughter is a tough case. She has Asperger’s Syndrome, which can make her challenging to understand and educate. She has an above average IQ, yet most of what 12 year-olds know about relating to other people is a completely foreign concept to her that she has to learn step-by-step. In the public school over the course of 2 years (4th & 5th grade), I watched her erode in front of my eyes. I saw the district staff value my daughter less and less, and blame her (and me) more and more for her inability to focus and communicate effectively. They refused to understand what her disability was doing to her, and they were stabbing in the dark trying to find interventions that worked.
In January 2007, I was still hoping that we could find a way for Laini to be emotionally successful in the public school. I was becoming more vocal about my dissatisfaction at meetings and I started seeking private therapy services and evaluations, but I had not spoken to or hired an attorney, and at that point I wasn’t thinking for a moment that we would be sending Laini to a private school.
At that time, I still considered myself part of a team that included my daughter’s teachers, school-based therapists and child study team. I thought that despite our disagreements, everyone believed we would work it out. I brought in a lay advocate and outside experts not to contradict what the district was doing, but to help the team figure out what could be done. They weren’t offering to figure out what was really going on with Laini, so I needed to do that on my own. Over and over again they were telling me that they didn’t understand what motivated my child. They didn’t get her.
I thought I was helping the team. I was naive. Unbeknownst to me, school district personnel came to my blog in mid January 2007, searched out posts from 2005 and 2006 where I talked about my kids education, printed them out and placed them in a file somewhere. How do I know this? Because those very blog posts were taken out of context and presented as “evidence” against me in the hearing in December 2007/January 2008 where we sought to show that the district’s proposed program for Laini was inappropriate. I was able to tell from the sidebar of the printouts when they were printed.
We were seeking reimbursement for the private school, and we lost. We didn’t lose the decision because of the blog posts. There are other reasons that the hearing officer decided against us which aren’t necessary to elaborate. I have no idea if the hearing officer cared about the blog post because he never mentioned them in the decision, but I’m sure those words taken completely out of context didn’t help my case.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of betrayal. I am not as upset about the blog posts being used in the hearing. That’s the chance you take when you expose parts of your personal life online. I am livid that those posts were printed out months before my disagreements with the school district turned ugly. Months before I found the private school that specializes in Asperger’s Syndrome that has made the most incredible difference in our entire family’s life. Months before I hired an attorney. I thought I was part of a team, and the truth was that they were building a case against me. I shudder to think of what may be in other “problem” parent files.
I may rag on technology, but I have never ever posted anything negative about people who are working with my children. In fact, that was exactly the problem. They printed out my positive comments as evidence that I was thrilled about my daughter’s education, when the truth is that I made the conscious decision to only post the positive which isn’t the same thing. No one can say that Paula Abdul loved an American Idol performance because she said the kid looked great in their outfit, but in fact that’s exactly what the attorney did to me.
I can understand them coming to my blog out of curiosity and seeking out the education-related posts. I can’t understand how they could watch me express my frustration at things that weren’t going right in early 2007, and then print out positive blog posts from 2006 “just in case” they needed to refer to it or use it against me later. I can’t get past it. I probably never will.
We have decided that West Windsor, New Jersey is not the community we want to live in anymore. This is not the school district we want to support with our taxes. In Stamford, I spent a lot of time and energy working with the school district and encouraging parents to find ways of resolving their differences. I have to live somewhere that I can believe that everyone is playing fair. I can’t be sending email to my daughter’s teachers trying to work through an issue and be worrying about how it will be used against me later. I want to support a district that believes in my kids no matter what their test scores or how they compare to others.
So, just 3 years nearly to the day after we moved here, we’re preparing to put our condo on the market and move closer to Laini’s school. Driving her 50 miles each way to school and back is killing us, $4/gallon of gas notwithstanding. It’s not a great time to sell and we’re going to take a large loss compared to the price we paid in 2005. Luckily we have plenty of equity and real estate is far more affordable where we’re going.
We’ll be fine. We’re looking forward to what lies ahead. I even promised the family we can get a dog once we have a house with a back yard again. Most of all, I’m looking forward to putting aside the anger I feel here, setting the last couple of rough years behind us, and starting over in a better place.