I spent the weekend and Monday talking to an attorney, a school psychologist and some other people on Twitter that I trust. I am not someone that believes in lawsuits unless there is gross negligence. Like my sisters death which we won easily. I have spent 25 years of my life taking on tough situations. I have always prided myself that termination was the last step. I often tried to use these mistakes as training opportunities
During the weekend I decided that I needed to contact her school. 2 Years ago this would have been no problem. Since my own diagnosis of borderline personality though I have felt somewhat tentative as I haven't yet mastered my own self control...and this is pretty big to us.
So...for all you mindfulness lovers out there...today I sat down and petted my kitten and gave him my spiel. Unfortunately he didn't respond with much advice, just some purring and a "meow"...but it really made me feel confident. Here is the letter....for better or worse!
Good afternoon Mr. XXXX.
I wanted to write to you so that I could express some concerns my wife and I have about our daughter and the IEP/504 Process. I have copied XXXX, my daughters therapist, so that if I should somehow not represent her feelings she can respond.
Last August I heard from you and we talked about the 504 plan and you assured me the school would do their due diligence. I was somewhat disappointed when I had not heard back from you one time by Christmas. At that point it made sense to include her therapist Tracy as we had talked and she said Jordan's diagnosis alone was enough.
We went through the evaluation period with our son when he was in 6th grade. By this time of the year we had met with the School therapist, the district, the principal, teachers, even the nurse. It culminated with the actual 504 plan being completed with all of us in the same room. However we had weekly contact along the way. So we have some experience in how the process should work.
What we saw early in the school year was grades going from A's to F's to C's. All over the place. From our standpoint this wasn't that surprising. We had seen similar fluctuation with our son. But I will circle back to this later in the e-mail.
When I called you 2 weeks ago to mention XXXXX was admitted for self harm I was taken aback by your response being "We don't see that here." Now, from (her therapist) to any other professional that has seen her...school is about 80% or more of where she struggles. In addition what you may see isn't enough to determine her state of mind.
She lost her uncle in 4th grade. This was the 3rd death of a young aunt or uncle and in addition my mother had a traumatic brain injury. This had led to a diagnosis (at that time anyway) of PTSD, anxiety and depression. She would break down frequently with crying in 4th grade. The kids were merciless and would tease her to the point of tears because they thought it was funny. The result is that she developed an exterior in public where she does not easily show emotion. In public or at school. I am sure that is a defense mechanism.
Last Friday we were going through some of what was on her computer when we stumbled across the following poem, submitted 1/8/16 in English
New Year Writing
When I was younger, I wanted to be rich.
I wanted to become famous.
Now, I realize it doesn’t matter, that you can be happy without money, yet I’m not happy.
I want to be the best me I can be.
I want to stop comparing myself to others.
I want true, real happiness.
I want to beat depression.
I want to be labeled as normal, not some crazy girl who takes medication for her depression.
I want to love myself.
I want to be happy with my weight.
I want to stop my self-harm.
I want to become a therapist to help others.
I want people to perceive mental illness as a part of a person --- not some disease.
I want to achieve my goals, realistically. I know I might not have all of these come true, but I hope they could.
Because hope leads to strength and perseverance
And with those, you can conquer almost anything.
Then I can finally be happy
The teachers response was
XXXX, you are such an amazing person. I know you meet with Mrs. XXXX often--does she know about the self-harm? I have so much hope for you and know you can overcome. You are worth it. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.
This really upset my wife and I. To the point that I have had to process this for a few days before I even contacted you. This speaks to a few things...
1- This clearly shows that a teacher was aware
2- There is a state reporting requirement and from the State's website they hold teachers as accountable as the therapist
3- The answer is not to suggest my daughter be the one to follow up
4- This was clearly a cry for help
5- She was then hospitalized for this very thing
Had we been contacted in January we could have addressed this before she ended up cutting herself and having to go in patient. This is probably where our concern is the greatest. Obviously had she committed suicide or attempted it we would be having an entirely different conversation.
So where do we go from here? Here is what I think should happen...
I spent 25 years of my life taking situations like this (Well...not quite like this) and turning them into educational and/or training opportunities. Especially when I felt the heart was in the right place and I have come to feel that this holds true here. I don't think Ms. XXXX intentionally did anything wrong, her comment shows a lot of care for my daughter...and that is really neat. But it doesn't remove the overhanging issue of the failure to report someone that states to a teacher they are self harming. If you read the line and the teachers response its very clearly a cry for help for something currently happening.
Going forward...I still want her therapist as the lead person for the IEP or 504 plan. However I want to be included in any meetings as I was at Roseland. I feel its important if for no other reason than if her therapist moves, takes a new job, etc... it will be important for me to know whats going on and be the point person till a new therapist is assigned. In addition I may have some insight and/or information that Tracy doesn't.
That's really all I want. Some education and a better understanding by staff of how to handle something like this and my involvement in the meetings.
I appreciate you reading this and welcome some feedback. It would also be helpful to know if the district or the school has a written policy. I've written a few (Yuck)
It's also a really well written poem!
Michael and Michele Johnson