On Wednesday, I got a phone call at work. I recognized the number as being from Elise’s school, and I groaned right out loud – when the school calls in the middle of the day, it’s never a good thing.
It was the principal of Elise’s school, and she was calling to tell me that Elise had bitten another child – completely unprovoked, she said – and that the school would not tolerate that behavior. Elise needed to be picked up from school, and was not welcome back. She would not be able to finish out the last two days of the school year.
What can I say? I was shocked. I felt dizzy, and like I was falling. I flipped out on the school principal.
In my fury, which I realize now was completely inappropriate and probably immature, I reminded her that a year and a half ago we had Elise in a private kindergarten, and when we were told by her teachers halfway through the year that they believed she had developmental delays and would be served better in a public school system, I moved from the town I was in to the one we are at now so that Elise could go to a better school and get the help she needs. What kind of help is this? I asked her. Mike and I have gone to countless parent-teacher conferences, we’ve had meetings with her teacher, the principal, the school psychologist, speech pathologist, special education teachers, including the head of the behavior management classroom, AND brought her therapist, Ms. Ray, along to PPTs. We’ve been diligent. We’ve done everything we can to get Elise’s behavior under control. We’ve been telling you all this time that something is wrong, you know that something is wrong. I told Elise’s teacher immediately after Ms. Ray gave her diagnosis that we were pretty certain Elise was on the spectrum, and evidently it didn’t matter. Evidently it is more important for the school to save their precious budget money than to do the right thing and give Elise the help she needs, to help her instead of continuously punishing her. I told the principal she should be ashamed of herself, and asked her, How many other children do you think you’ve failed?
Elise is a challenge, I get that. It’s a phrase that echoes all over the place. But she’s smart, and she’s sweet, and she doesn’t deserve to be treated like a monster – she doesn’t even understand what she has done wrong.
What happened, why did you bite the boy at school?
I don’t know.
Did he do something to bother you, or make you upset?
He was in front of me.
So you were mad because he cut in front of you in line?
No, he didn’t cut me. He was in front of me.
Elise, why did you bite him?
Because he was in front of me.
Later, when Mike brought her home from school (because there was no way I was going in there to pick her up after that phone call) we had to explain to Elise that she couldn’t go back to school.
Because you bit that boy.
I said I was sorry.
I know, sweetie, but you broke a big rule and hurt him very badly, so they won’t let you go back tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s wacky hair day.
When am I going to go back to school?
You can’t go back, sweetie. You’ll go back to school in the fall, to a different school.
But I don’t want to go to a different school.
Elise seemed to forget about all of it until bedtime, and she asked me if I was going to give her wacky hair in the morning, so I tried explaining to her again that she wasn’t going back to her school to finish out the year. Why? she asked, and we had the whole same conversation over again, but longer.
This morning when she woke up, we had the conversation again.
Why can’t I go to wacky hair day, mommy?
Of course this had to happen in the middle of spirit week – the best week of the entire year for kids, remember?
I don’t know where we’re going from here. I’ve done extensive research on the school’s website, and it seems that technically her principal is not allowed to expel her from school – there has to be a long record of certain kinds of suspensions and discipline and intervention before that happens. I emailed the principal and requested a due process meeting – I am imagining, based on what it says on the school website and what I’ve read on other cases similar to this, this will have to be written up as a suspension. We’ll see where that takes us in the next couple of weeks. I have a lot of research in my future it seems, a never-ending list of questions that I may or may not be able to find answers to. But I’ll tell you one thing – I’m writing a letter to the Board of Education. I feel like the way Elise was treated in that school is not right – I feel like the school had ample documentation to determine that Elise needed special services and an IEP, because what six year old deserves to be kicked out of school for something she doesn’t understand, and simply can’t control?
This week is kicking our butts.
I also posted this on Spectrummy.