How does Georgia treat special education students?

In 2004, a 13-year-old boy committed suicide after being sent to an 8-by-8 concrete-block time-out room in a Gainesville public school for students with behavioral problems.

The case is an extreme example of how some special education students have been mistreated. But it forces parents, teachers, school leaders and lawmakers to question how Georgia teaches children with disabilities.

The school in Gainesville is a special facility for students with such severe disabilities they can’t control their behavior and are unable to attend traditional schools.

Many special education students are taught in traditional classrooms where their classmates are kids without disabilities.

I’ve heard from parents who say their children are not treated well in any setting. Some say their children don’t receive the services promised under the IEP. Others say the classroom teacher doesn’t have the training to help a child with disabilities.

At the same time, I’ve heard from parents who praise their child’s teachers and the attention they get.

More and more parents have turned to private schools focused on a specific disability. While many of these private schools exist in the metro Atlanta area they are harder to find elsewhere in the state.

What successes and failures have you seen in the way public schools teach students with disabilities? Is there a teacher, school or district doing a good job that others should follow?

95 comments Add your comment

ScienceTeacher671

July 27th, 2009
8:49 am

Because of the current push toward inclusive education, coupled with the fact that under NCLB many very good SpEd teachers aren’t considered “highly qualified” anymore, a number of students with IEPs who would be better served in smaller classrooms with fewer distractions and more personalized attention are being forced into overcrowded regular classrooms with teachers who don’t have the time or training to give those students the assistance they need. As a result, the students with disabilities are left behind, and if they act out, the other students aren’t well-served either.

As an aside, with the state supposedly in dire financial straits, GPB reports this morning that Sonny Perdue is off on a junket to Canada at taxpayer expense. There’s also this article from a Savannah paper that was posted in another blog: http://savannahnow.com/node/758019

Old School

July 27th, 2009
9:01 am

For all the problems our school has, it does a fine job of serving special needs students. Example: when a wheelchair-bound student (I think he had spina-bifida) enrolled in our metals class, the students fabricated a welding table and adapted other parts of the lab to enable him to fully participate. He was also a member of our outdoors club and went hunting & fishing with the others. When his wheelchair failed, the student body rallied to raise money for another.
Another student (same type challenges) was an active member of our choral groups. Students casually open doors and lockers, carry books, pick up and return dropped items, and generally just accept their special needs schoolmates as peers.

We have many, many other positive interaction stories. In fact, the only negative interactions seem to be instigated by those special needs students with severe behavioral problems or extremely poor social skills. The other students soon give those kids wide berth.

ScienceTeacher671

July 27th, 2009
9:08 am

There’s also the question of students who should have IEPs but don’t, because the state is misapplying the research on RTI, and using it to delay testing students.

ScienceTeacher671

July 27th, 2009
9:20 am

Posts disappearing already….

Seen it all

July 27th, 2009
9:25 am

So what, now we’re saying that GA mistreats its special education students? The AJC is something else. They hear about ONE SPED student who commits suicide and now the whole system must be defective, evil, and cruel. Guess what? Wrong!!!!

There is a definite need for these special psychoed centers. The students at these facilities CANNOT be in a regular school, much less a regular classroom. They would cause CONSTANT DISRUPTION, MAYHEM, AND ARE A DANGER TO OTHER STUDENTS AND TEACHERS. That’s why they were sent there in the first place. These students were already in SPED, were served in the “regular, mainstream” classroom, couldn’t make it there. Then they were placed in self-contained EBD classes. Raised too much havoc there. Finally, for the good of all, they were placed in the alternative school.

As my name states, I have seen it all. Long, long ago, I used to work at a psychoed center. Drove a school bus there. I know what the students are like there and why they are there. These kinds of students are VERY FEW and FAR BETWEEN. In fact of the 1,000,000 students in GA, only about 5,000 are in these centers. The boy was obviously disturbed. He committed suicide over nothing.

But here is the more insidious question- why is the AJC doing a story on this? Why is the AJC interested in the suicide of a boy that we all know is considered one of the “throwaway” people? The question now becomes why would you be interested in a story about an obviously emotional disturbed boy?

You see, the story gave the impression that, somehow our educational system is cruel, barbaric, and mistreats its students. Far from the case. The techniques used by the transitional centers are often the only way to safely deal with violent and out of control students. These are extremely violent students at these facilities. Otherwise they would have been in their “home” schools. This is another case of the AJC attempting to smear and destroy public education. They are simply playing on people’s emotions and not telling them the whole story. You know what this is called? PROPAGANDA.

Old School

July 27th, 2009
9:37 am

My true story about the wonderful positive interaction between regular and special needs students at our school evidently was launched into cyberspace on the wrong trajectory. So sorry you’ll not be reading about hunting/fishing trips, customized welding tables, regular acts of kindness and acceptance. . . all by students for students.

Old School

July 27th, 2009
9:38 am

Okay, I’m learning that patience pays and miracles do happen. . . even in the ajc.

Seen it all

July 27th, 2009
9:43 am

On a side note, read this account of a teacher who used to teach in a majority black school.

http://martynemko.blogspot.com/2009/06/white-teacher-speaks-out-what-is-it.html

I have been reading and contributing to this blog for maybe five years. I have read a lot of interesting things. Learned a lot, too. BUT I HAVE NEVER READ ANYTHING THIS FUNNY AS THIS MAN’S ACCOUNT OF HIS EXPERIENCES TEACHING.

This is the funny thing I have read in a LONG TIME. When I first read it last night, I could not stop laughing. Even after 10 minutes, I was still reading and it was still funny!!!!! I was actually laughing out loud!!!!!

Read it for yourself and tell me what you think. Isn’t it the funniest thing you ever read or what?

Afterwards, perhaps you will gain some insight and understanding of my philosophy on education and improving schools. “Seen it all” says it all.

ShoeShee

July 27th, 2009
10:15 am

I think the story focused on the fact that solitary confinement is being used on a regular basis for students at this facility, along with questionable restraint techniques (something a bus driver would not be aware of). The point is, some schools in the state are antiquated in their administration and that formal, written guidelines need to be created which evidently, Georgia does not have.

As for Seen It All’s perspective that the teacher’s essay was funny, all I can say is that there are those who will read that and understand the deep issues that need to be addressed and work to start from where the students really are to make things better and then there are those who will cruelly mock the students themselves in order to alleviate their own guilt for only helping themselves and allowing generations of poor, urban or poor rural youth to be essentially “left behind”.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
10:44 am

I am glad this is coming out. This is the first situation. Today too many students who should not be in the psycho ed schools are there because of mild disruptions. Students with behavioral issues can and should be educated in the normal school setting. These facilities should be havens for those who truly can not function. Unfortunatley they are FAR from havens. Leaving anyone in isolation for extended periods will cause trauma let alone a child. What happened to teachable moments?
Keep reporting and keep eyes open to both the good and the bad.
There are many great teachers who are trying and we are thankful, but there are too many others who are there simply for a paycheck.

AP Teacher

July 27th, 2009
10:53 am

The SPED students at my school get more focus, attention, modifications, etc. than the other students because they form a subgroup that could affect AYP. I wish the gifted students were given the same attention…

Ducking the issues. Again

July 27th, 2009
11:03 am

Notice Maureen “blame teachers first” Downey ducked the issue of Georgia teacher furloughs to write about what’s happening in a college across the county? I guess Blame Teachers First couldn’t figured out a way to blame teachers for being furloughed, so she avoided the issue altogether.

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
11:11 am

The article reminds me of ” yellow” journalism. Unfortunately, this form of inflammatory and misleading print is now the accepted norm. Ask yourself if you would approve of that type of assaultive, belligerent, dangerous, unstable student being in the same classroom with your motivated and well behaved child. Traditionally, the kind of behavior that the child exhibited results in jail if the behavior is not corrected by adulthood. A SPED student’s right to an education does not and should not be at the expense of other students.

Fulton Teacher

July 27th, 2009
11:16 am

Amen AP Teacher! My gifted child receives very little attention because he will pass the CRCT, but special ed kids are expected to perform on level although their skill set is years below. Will anyone in power ever get a grip?!

ShoeShee

July 27th, 2009
11:17 am

I didn’t get from the article that anyone is requesting that children with severe behavioral issues be mainstreamed. I understood it to say that there are no regulations at the state psycho-educational facilities, which are independent of traditional schools. There is much research on how to deal with behavioral issues, just ask the Bernie Marcus center or any well-trained occupational therapist. Sticking a kid in solitary confinement for 19 days out of 27 is draconian.

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
11:22 am

ShoeShee, I think the hidden message is that we are somehow obligated to finance these centers and behavioralists. The real question, I think, is wether or not we as a society are willing to continue funding these programs.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
11:28 am

There are many students at psycho ed centers who are not dangers to others. Many autistic children are there because no one in their home school knew how to effectively deal with them. This is not the first student to be injured and it is not yellow journalism to report when a child takes such extreme measures.
People need to know what is going on, and with little accountability that has not been the case.
How is the story misleading? It states the facts of this case.
WHen I said they could be taught in the school setting, I did not say every child should be in a general ed setting.

I did not hear anyone complain about the DFACS stories regarding children who died while in state care. This is the same type of situation. Schools claim en parentis loco (they want to act as a parent when they have our kids). Any parent who had a child committ suicide is going to face DFACS scrutiny to find out what was going on. Parents are held liable when they deny medical care to their children. What is so different about asking EVERY school to prove they are ensuring a safe environment to every child.

Chris Vance

July 27th, 2009
11:50 am

After practicing as a special education/disability law attorney for over a decade, I have seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly of special education in Georgia. I have represented many educators’ children over the years, and many referrals come from educators. I too was an educator before attending law school, and many of my family members are educators. I respect most educators and appreciate all the challenges they face, yet this does not change the fact that severe abuse of disabled children is taking place over and over and over in psychoed centers. This is a fact, a reality, and if anyone questions this for even one moment, then he or she simply is not aware. I have photos, injury reports, lock down room logs, seclusion reports, video, and audio all proving the gross abuse of our most needy children. Not only are children being abused in too many of the psychoed centers, it is costing tax payers in Georgia a fortune to fund this abuse, which is ineffective and often results in the children functioning worse, not better. Federal law prohibits the use of seclusion and restraint for punishment or alleged rehabilitation, yet I have proof that these illegal tactics are ongoing in psychoed centers. While I’m not advocating for children who cannot function in the mainstream to be mainstreamed, I am advocating for sound moral, educational, and fiscal policy: Georgia psychoed centers must be prohibited from abusing disabled children. Lock down rooms are unconstitutional jail cells, and the constant placement of disabled children in these rooms is causing severe, irreprable injury to children who require proper intervention, not abuse. I cannot imagine that any decent citizen would sanction abuse of a child simply because he has severe disabilities. There are schools in Georgia that can educate our most severely disabled children without abusing them, and at these schools, children make progress. The last budget report I saw from the state dep’t of ed showed over $400 million spent for 2009 for psychoed centers. That is a lot of money to be paying for abuse of disabled children and pitiful educational results.

catlady

July 27th, 2009
11:58 am

concerned: you must live in an alternate reality. It takes an act of God to get a kid into a psychoed center. Meanwhile, the classmates of these students suffer for YEARS until the placment happens.

Science teacher 671: amen on RTI. The way it is applied in my system means unless the kid has a third eye or is so developmentally delayed that they do not speak, it is unlikely they will get sp ed services that they need.

We have been told we had “too many” sp ed kids (we are the dumping ground for the county, BTW) and now it comes out that because of problems with Powerschool, kids who have been exited from speech still show up as sp ed, inflating our numbers tremendously (and continuing to guarantee a job to our speech teacher, whose father is a bigwig with the system, BTW). What a farce! Meanwhile, kids 2-3-4 years behind (in elementary school!) are NOT served appropriately.

Out of school 2005

July 27th, 2009
12:18 pm

Well my child was in the MID program and all they seemed to focus was going out to eat every friday and making sure they could get the correct change back. They did other things but not indept as this. My child has done better being out of school and trying to get their GED. I found a dissappointment in that particular special edu. program.

Nikole

July 27th, 2009
12:28 pm

I think RTI is a cause that teachers should take up. It seems like GA is using it so that in a couple of years they can say that their sp.ed. population has declined. The massive paperwork with no time or help to complete it is enough to discourage me from even participating in the SST process. Anyone have any ideas on how to advocate for ourselves and our students about the misuse of RTI?

Seen it all

July 27th, 2009
12:37 pm

Shoeshee,

I am well aware of the restraint and isolation used by the public school system. Physical restraint is only used by TRAINED school personnel. Teachers in regular schools use restraint on SPED students. It is often the ONLY option when a student is violent and out of control. The same goes for the isolation room. There are guidelines for restraint and isolation. And, BTW, I have been inside psychoed centers, including doing actual observations of classrooms, cafeterias, etc. Although I once drove a school bus, I got most of my experience in and out of the classroom. I know the system and its rules. Are you an educator or just somebody on the outside looking in? What- the story about the “little boy” hanging himself tugged at your heart? That was the whole point of that AJC article, to play on your emotions and steer you away from the fact that somebody wants to close down these centers and DUMP THESE CHILDREN BACK INTO THE REGULAR SCHOOLS. To save money no doubt. Meanwhile the people back at the regular schools have to live with the H__L these monsters cause.

Also I used to work at school that was the elementary EBD site for our area. Those two EBD self contained classes were a nightmare for the school. Constant fights, students running away from the school, violent outbursts, hitting (and hurting) teachers and other staff members. When the county moved those classes away from our school, the whole atmosphere of the school changed. For the better.

As for the teacher’s account- it was funny because it gives you a true picture of what some teachers, administrators, and staff members really think about some of the their students. Look at the language used by this man. Those students were described in the lowest possible way. In fact someone on that same blog entry replied that the essay had been posted to the Stormfront.org website. Neo-nazis praised and concurred this “teacher’s” account of teaching in a black school. So apparently this “teacher” thinks of his former students as simian in nature, baboons, or savages- unworthy of his time and energy.

The ironic thing is that I when I taught at a majority black school, I had co-workers with the EXACT same attitudes and beliefs. So I know that low expectations exist for minority children. Even when teachers have well behaved children, their expectations are very low– and their instruction and relationship with the children show it.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
12:51 pm

I live in reality believe like the attorney I have seen more than I care to see. I do not condone unsafe learning environments in any of these schools and in the metro area it is too easy to place kids in the psycho ed centers. It should be hard to get them placed, and schools should be made to show that everything that needs to be done has been done. Now, if a safety hazard is present, than that is a different issue altogether. The law says: SAFE FOR ALL. The problem I have it that once removed these kids need SPECIALIZED training and the funding is there to accomplish this; yet it is not occuring and with no oversights in place it probably never will. Many of these children get worse and require even more restrictive hosptilization as a direct result of the trauma they suffer in these facilities. That is not a good thing since it should be the drive to create productive citizens not adults that are more likely prone to criminal activity. Can these kids be saved: most of them can given the right theraputic interventions.

I also agree since GIFTED came out from under the special ed umbrella all those years ago that sometimes they don’t get the help they need in some systems, but there are systems where the focus is on them and no one else: so again a balance for all needs to be obtained, many special ed children are dualy gifted.

My belief is this: all children can learn, all children have a right to a safe learning environment, all children have the right to reach their potential (whatever that may be) and it breaks my heart when I see things like this occur because it means a lost potential. We will never know what that child was meant to be. There is another case at North Metro of abuse: again lost time in that child’s education. No child should ever suffer at the hands of educators. Do I condone no discipline: no, we need to use positive behavioral interventions to teach appropriate behavior to all students.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
12:55 pm

This story has accomplished its purpose: it is generating heated arguments on both sides> But people are talking about the situation and that is what we need.
We need things to be open. These schools get our money through funding because they are public schools. They should be accountable for how the funds are spent and how the kids are treated.

At least we are talking, even if we don’t agree.

DeKalb Conservative

July 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

I watched my ex gf work with severe autism students for years. The program was extremely expensive, with the parents giving up the rights to their children, the children living in a 10-15 person house with 24×7 staffing from multiple employees. The progress these children made, combined with the vehicle safety incidents of children having unstable behavioral incidents while there van transported students from the house to their specialized school left me with one sad, unfortunate conclusion:
– The progress these children will make and their quality of life as adults will be far lower regardless of how much time you spend with them, or what treatment you provide.
– They had a similar “time out” style room for behavioral incidents
– The best case scenario prospect would be for them to be a stock-person in a retail setting as an adult
– Realistically as an adult they would be confined to a group home because they would not have the capacity to independently function.

THE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS:
The real need for Special Education in GA needs to surface around AP classes and AP students. If the AP students are ignored, the potential for them to be leaders of industry and society will be retarded. While it may fee obligatory and humane to do everything you can in special education settings, the fact is some students will have certain limitations and won’t be able to function at a preferred level.

The useless AJC

July 27th, 2009
1:20 pm

Where are the results of the internal investigation that APS promised to release last week? Why has no mention of the failure to produce this report been mention by the AJC education reporters or the editorial staff? And this is the AJC that prides itself on being a watchdog?

laRue

July 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Treatment of Special Ed Students?? I would Georgia an F+! I can not see where they are ready or even that knowledgeable to take care of or teach children with specal ed needs. I teach and what I have seen is just mind boggling to say the least. It was bad enough that kids made fun of the Spec. Ed students but teachers too??? Teachers set the tone, positive or negative for their students, some are so busy with their cell phones, they “unintentionally are also weighed in the balance and found wanting in the area of neglect

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
1:34 pm

Concerned, you state ” Can these kids be saved: most of them can given the right theraputic interventions.”. Not only is this comment condescending, it is also arrogance defined. Most people would agree with you on idealistic grounds, but most would disagree when the time comes to pay for the services. Limited ability still means limited results. No one is to blame and no one is at fault. Our arguments and indecisiveness only line the pockets of of law practices that hover outside the schools waiting for an opportunity to play the school board lottery. By the way, would you be willing for an instant to teach in any of those environments? I mean really. If your daily instructions were interrupted by threat of violence or being assaulted? If your neighbors dog attacked you, would you expect to be blamed because you didn’t take proper precautions against being attacked? Would you expect to be investigated because you insisted on the dog beiong restrained following the attack?

Teacher Teacher

July 27th, 2009
1:41 pm

Is there a way to banish the comments about “some teachers are just there to get a paycheck”? Whenever I hear this comment, all I can think about is that there are people in EVERY profession that can be labeled that way. All I can say is that if someone entered teaching “just to get a paycheck” . . . . they really need to evaluate their ability to make sound decisions . . . . :)

Gwinnett Teacher

July 27th, 2009
1:42 pm

I’ve never been to Gwinnett’s psycho ed center so I can’t comment on their educational opportunities or how well/poorly they are treated.

However, I have experienced the same conditions as ScienceTeacher671 for resource specail ed students. Due to the pressure to increase their performance on standardized testing used for NCLB/AYP, the resource students are being mainstreamed into the classroom due to those teachers being “highly qualified” even though they may benefit from smaller class sizes and individualized instruction from a special ed teacher.

TC

July 27th, 2009
2:07 pm

Students in Special Education are still mistreated by teachers, principals and support staff. Why don’t you check with the state department to see how many compalints have been filed against different districts.

TC

July 27th, 2009
2:09 pm

Check with Richmond, Gwinnett, and Bulloch county to see how many parents have filed complaints

DeKalb teachers and GAE

July 27th, 2009
2:14 pm

So DeKalb GAE gets to crow about teachers not being furloughed. But at what cost? DeKalb won’t pay into the teachers retirement this year. Are DeKalb County GAE teachers happy with that? Before they answer, they may want to consider published reports that DeKalb spends $100 million a year more in administrative salaries than Fulton. That’s right, one hundred million dollars.

How can DeKalb County justify that, and how can DeKalb GAE justify not addressing that before supporting not paying into teachers retirement this year? Does the fact that DeKalb GAE also represents administrators mean they felt they had to be silent about that, even if it meant selling out DeKalb teachers and the retirement benefits that would have received this year?

If you’re a DeKalb County teacher, how do you feel?

catlady

July 27th, 2009
2:19 pm

Anyone can file a complaint. I could have filed quite a few myself as a parent (I can think of 4 cases that I would have won if I had filed a lawsuit against the county). As a parent whose child has been assaulted by other students who were continuously out of control, I could have filed complaints. As a parent whose children’s educations were negatively impacted by sp ed students, I could have filed complaints up the ying-yang. As a teacher, there are complaints or even lawsuits that I could have filed related to injuries caused by uncontrollable students.

I personally, in 37 years, have never seen a sp ed student mistreated. We go way out of our way to try to keep the sp ed lobby and attorneys off our backs, and do what keeps the parents happy, to the detriment of the other 90% of the student body. FAPE should be applied to ALL students, not just sp ed.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
2:20 pm

Sidelines, you sound jaded. My point is that the funding is there it is just not being used appropriately. If there was more accountability than maybe these kids would get what they need. The whole purpose for removal is to provide services that can not be provided within the 4 walls of a regular school building.

You asked if I would expect to be blamed if my neighbor’s dog attacks me: guess that depends on wether or not I am doing something to provoke an attack. I grew up with large dogs that could have been dangerous if mistreated. I would say anyone who mistreats animals would mistreat people and vice versa. I would do neither. If the dog attacked unprovoked then it would not be my fault.

Your logic is interesting.
As to would I teach in that environment: yes and I have and would again although once in the room behaviors often reduce because of the environment created. One of the posters made a valid point; teachers create the environment wether postive or negative.

MCMM

July 27th, 2009
2:25 pm

The article made it sound as if all students enrolled in psychoed programs (such as North Metro)are housed in separate buildings. In my school system, the vast majority of the students in the psychoed program are in a regular school building, and many of them participate in regular education for parts of the day (some for academics, some just for lunch and social activities). There was no acknowledgement that there are students in psychoed programs that are thriving, improving and that many are returned to their home school placements. This article probably lead many to believe that all of these students in the state are “locked away”. This is unfair to those teachers and therapists that work so hard to help these kids succeed and return to less restrictive educational placements.

Catlady – just FYI, “speech teachers” are actually speech-language pathologists (SLP), or at least speech therapists. I wasn’t ever trained as a teacher and I don’t teach “speech”, but I did receive very specialized training in my area so it is appreciated to at least be referred to by the correct job title. Also, it is extremely unlikely that your SLP has a job because of her father; there is a nationwide shortage of SLPs in the schools (including GA). I have great respect and admiration for teachers; it is a shame that SLPs rarely get the same treatment.

jim d

July 27th, 2009
2:43 pm

My thoughts.

A few years ago in Dacula a wheel chair bound student was placed in a lower class room setting because he couldn’t get into a trailer that housed his class. When volunteers offered to build a ramp to make the trailer accessable permission was denied basically because Alvin didn’t like the mother. After a great deal of crap–and threatened legal action the two class rooms were exchanged to accomodate this young man.

If we are to provide for these children, I believe that we must first treat them as human beings. But then that is JMHO.

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
3:08 pm

Concerned, I may well be jaded, or perhaps experienced in the setting. However, I’ll agree with your assertion that the money is there. Would you care to define ” appropriately “? Our educational fiscal policy is for the most part modeled after ” Robin Hood”. I also think that RTI and the SST processes are designed to drive funding from those programs. The trend towards ” Inclusion ” isn’t incidental. A teacher that says they make a negative or positive environment in the classroom has been reading too much ” Harry Wong ” and has never taught in an self contained setting. Those environments ( I’ve taught a few ) are negative without any help from us. You’re making a living out of despair, I think. Isn’t all this solicitation for increased services just a little bit like sales?

Throwaway Mom

July 27th, 2009
3:11 pm

I’m the mom of a “throwaway” child. I am also the mom to three others — all honors graduates (two from AP classes that were freely given to my children) from our local public school. All three have completed or are currently in college. Our “throwaway” child was born to a mother who abandoned her at birth to an orphanage in a foreign country. There she was malnourished and neglected for 20 months and was likely abused as well. So first she was thrown away by her birth country.

We brought her home right before age 2 and over the next several years became aware of her severe neurological impairments along with the damage that was inflicted by her early traumas. We have sought help from many, many professionals and tried many, many interventions, medications, etc. Some have made a big difference – others no. We placed her in the same public school as our other children, believing it to be the best place for her to receive an education, trusting what educators told us, and believing that they too, would identify problems that kept our daughter (who has a “normal” IQ) from learning and put her in an environment that helped her to overcome them. Instead, her behaviors escalated.

When the school insisted our daughter go to the psycho-ed (GNETS), I began looking at what they were really offering. They were offering to warehouse my daughter from age 8 on, with long bus rides to and from the school and placing her in isolation rooms or classrooms where academics were not the focus. There were no therapies offered to her, but a complex point system designed to “teach her how to behave”. The staff there clearly told us through their actions and comments that these children are considered “throwaways”. Witnessing several restraints and children being dragged to the seclusion rooms myself, I knew (and her private doctors & therapists agreed) that my daughter would be significantly harmed in this place – so we refused to let her be thrown away by Georgia.

Perhaps, as some of you have suggested, we can’t afford to be humane and view these children as people worth providing their right to a free, appropriate education. But, my question to those who believe that these children (currently only 5400 according to the AJC article) are taking the funding from your AP students and therefore deserve to be warehoused and thrown away is, “where are you throwing them to?” What happens to uneducated children with disabilities who grow up with no basic education, no skills, no motivation, no abilities or belief that they are anything more than “throwaways”. The reason GNETS academic and graduation data are aggregated back into the schools the children are sent from is so it isn’t as obvious that the vast majority of these kids are going to jails or residential treatment/psych hospitals when they leave the warehouse.

Guess whose paying for these jails, treatment centers and hospitals?

My AP/honors children don’t believe for one second that their little sister is a “throwaway child”. They see clearly that your life matters and you have the right to be all you can be, even if that isn’t a doctor, lawyer, engineer or other high dollar professional.

Jeff

July 27th, 2009
3:16 pm

What are the demographics of most retarded children?

Throwaway Mom

July 27th, 2009
3:19 pm

I’m the mom of a “throwaway” child. I am also the mom to three others — all honors graduates (two from AP classes that were freely given to my children) from our local public school. All three have completed or are currently in college. Our “throwaway” child was born to a mother who abandoned her at birth to an orphanage in a foreign country. There she was malnourished and neglected for 20 months and was likely abused as well. So first she was thrown away by her birth country.

We brought her home right before age 2 and over the next several years became aware of her severe neurological impairments along with the damage that was inflicted by her early traumas. We have sought help from many, many professionals and tried many, many interventions, medications, etc. Some have made a big difference – others no. We placed her in the same public school as our other children, believing it to be the best place for her to receive an education, trusting what educators told us, and believing that they too, would identify problems that kept our daughter (who has a “normal” IQ) from learning and put her in an environment that helped her to overcome them. Instead, her behaviors escalated.

When the school insisted our daughter go to the psycho-ed (GNETS), I began looking at what they were really offering. They were offering to warehouse my daughter from age 8 on, with long bus rides to and from the school and placing her in isolation rooms or classrooms where academics were not the focus. There were no therapies offered to her, but a complex point system designed to “teach her how to behave”. The staff there clearly told us through their actions and comments that these children are considered “throwaways”. Witnessing several restraints and children being dragged to the seclusion rooms myself, I knew (and her private doctors & therapists agreed) that my daughter would be significantly harmed in this place – so we refused to let her be thrown away by Georgia.

Perhaps, as some of you have suggested, we can’t afford to be humane and view these children as people worth providing their right to a free, appropriate education. But, my question to those who believe that these children (currently only 5400 according to the AJC article) are taking the funding from your AP students and therefore deserve to be warehoused and thrown away is, “where are you throwing them to?” What happens to uneducated children with disabilities who grow up with no basic education, no skills, no motivation, no abilities or belief that they are anything more than “throwaways”. The reason GNETS academic and graduation data are aggregated back into the schools the children are sent from is so it isn’t as obvious that the vast majority of these kids are going to jails or residential treatment/psych hospitals when they leave the warehouse.

Guess whose paying for these jails, treatment centers and hospitals?

My AP honors children don’t believe for one second that their little sister is a “throwaway child”. They see clearly that your life matters and you have the right to be all you can be, even if that isn’t a doctor, lawyer, engineer or other high dollar professional.

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
3:23 pm

Jeff, that is a great question. Too funny! There is a movement to pass legislation banning the use of the term ” retarded “. The logic as I understand deems the use of the word as being deragatory and abusive. I’m mean, how far can we carry political correctedness? Retarded is a medical term to describe delayed progression or morphological abnormalities. I guess I’ll have to become accustomed to buying flame ” depressant ” clothes for my kids. Until someone decides that we are being unfair to synthetic materials.

Sharon Gudger

July 27th, 2009
3:51 pm

Throw Away Children? I’ve heard it all from seen it all. I work night and day to help neurologically impaired children. This is not a severe emotional behavioral disorder, nor is it a choice children make. It is a neurological impairment and psycho ed centers from 1970 philosophy is harmful to these children provoking the very behavior described above. This is because this type placement with seclusion and restraint is the exact opposite and would provoke even typical children into this type behavior.

As a society we will be held accountable. Autism (neurological disorder) is now 1 in 94 (or if you go by CDC 1 in 150). The state of GA spends approximately $72,000 per year to put these children in, in my opinion, jails, creating worse behavior and irreparable harm. I have help many children now in private placement, at a fraction of the cost and they have none of these behaviors. Many of these children used to be in psycho ed centers and were a challenge to retrain and sadly some have been irreparably harmed, but we must do what we can because society will be responsible for their entire future.

Parents who believe these children get all the funding, taken away from their AP kids, or others, needs to understand that if the funds aren’t there for these children now, your AP child will be paying for care the rest of their lives- unless you have some plan to eliminate children with special needs before adulthood.

This is my opinion, but I don’t see the funds going to the children. I see the funds going to administrators. When these kids are placed privately at less expense, they change. Their potential to live as independently as possible rises significantly. But more importantly, the abuse stops and they begin to thrive. In my opinion the seclusion and restraint are child abuse and abuse cause severe regression in behavior. I also believe that if adults were treated this way, the perpetrator would be arrested and charged with assault.

I don’t understand how any human being can justify treating children like this. But more than that, when one is educated and realizes that these children are being educated in an safe, non abusive environment for a fraction of the cost, what is going on with Georgia wanting to spend this much money per child while they are failing miserably. We should be following the money. We should want to know how much individuals are being paid. Why are there no reading programs for children who can’t read and why are there no trainings for teachers to help them become reading specialists or learning specialists? Who is pocketing the money? I’ve paid privately for a child to learn to read, learn math, and addressed many fragile issues over the years with my private funds, not public school funds. As unfair as many believe it is to take their AP funds to teach children with special needs, I believe it unfair I had to spend a small fortune to educate my child. But I learned long ago life isn’t fair and so has my special needs child. She often felt it unfair that her peers could learn to read so easily while she struggled so. She felt it unfair when her brothers were blessed with IQ’s in the high 130’s (we paid for private school for them also). So blasting public school is not an agenda of mine, nor the AJC, in my opinion. Blasting an unregulated policy of what I believe to be daily child abuse is worthy of front page news and I have to question anyone who would turn their back on our most vulnerable citizens, going even farther to say it is not true or worse.Yet this was done in another part of history wasn’t it? So I suppose history does repeat itself.

concerned

July 27th, 2009
4:00 pm

Nope Sidelines, not soliciting services or anything else. Just someone who knows what a little belief even in difficulty can do for a child. I have experience to back what I say.
Sorry your experience in self contained programs was not rewarding.

Evil Old English Teacher

July 27th, 2009
4:10 pm

Throwaway Mom,
I empathize with your every word. I know your pain intimately and I can say is pray, love, and laugh.
I am the aunt and sister to a “throwaway child” as well. I think however, we are comparing apples to oranges here. there is a difference between Behavioral Disorders, Mildly Impaired, or Profoundly Impaired. Georgia gets bad press on all three accounts BUT I have to agree with others on several points.
1) I have NEVER seen abuse/ neglect at my school. As an educator I have a responsibility to report such abuse/neglect no matter what (even if it is at the hands of my colleagues)
2) I have NEVER been satisfied with the level of care that my sister received when she was in public school.
3) This article is poorly written and has subversive language that paints GA Sp Ed in a poor light– whether intentioned to or not.

In reference to number 1: if abuse was as widespread as this article implies, ALL teachers would be accountable for abuses taking place in their schools. I do not see how there would not be MORE cases.
In regards to number 2: this is in no way the fault of the state. It is hard coping with the fact that the person you love very much will never be able to do all the things you wanted them to do. Unfortunately, schools often have to be the messenger of this news. I know if I spent 24 hours a day with my sister, I could have helped her reach better goals than the school. Then again, at what cost? i would have had to quit school to do so. She would have needed 24/7 supervision and care to have advanced much more than she did when in school. That is an unfair burden for the state. I refuse to demand it of my fellow man. My sister is happy and healthy and knows love. That is all we need.

One final point– On the sidelines– I refer to my sister as a person with profound mental retardation. I know that is a mouthful and I’m sure most people cringe at it, but her mental capacity is slowed (at best). So that is what I say and hope that the Gods of Political Correctness do not smote me.

Actually, this goes back to JimDear’s school choice idea.Private schools do well with personalized care because they specifically hire experts to cater to the child’s needs and parents want their child to be there.

Hmmmmm….

On the sidelines

July 27th, 2009
4:17 pm

Concerned, you didn’t answer my question. Please describe how you would ” appropriately ” fund these programs. By the way, I’ve found my role to be very rewarding. However, I don’t assume that I have all the answers and that I’m in a position to be casting blame. In the classroom I take bits and pieces of what works for that particular student and do my level best to help them learn. I’ve had students( all disabilities) that were as much as 3 years behind that were able to, for the first time, advance to near grade level and perform during tests. What is more rewarding to me, is that these students thanked me for believing in them when other teachers had dismissed them. I am very proud of those students. It sounds as though you’ve adopted the ” protagonist ” in the Victim Triangle. As Dolly Parton said, ” put down the cross, someone needs to build a house”.

catlady

July 27th, 2009
4:37 pm

MCMM: Our SLP (mastered degreed) served 6 kids last year half time at our school. Pretty great job, huh? Sorry about the title. Our SLP only provides speech therapy. She says she feels “unqualified” to provide language therapy. Huh?

Jeff, in my county 98% of the developmentally delayed kids are white. The other 2% are Latino.

Knock it off

July 27th, 2009
4:59 pm

Jeff, I’m pretty sure they all live near you.

AP Teacher

July 27th, 2009
5:07 pm

Be careful Jeff – some people would consider people with Asperger’s Syndrome (like you) as “retarded”. So, you need to look in the mirror before you start talking about demographics of SPED students. In which demographic do you fall?

concerned

July 27th, 2009
5:12 pm

Sidelines: the appropriate part is not additional funding, it is better use of what they have.
Glad you are having success, hope you are still in the trenches. Sounds like the kids have an advocate in you.