Son injured by bully at school; no help from administration

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jag96
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14 Feb 2014, 11:18 pm

In need of advice from fellow parents, especially anyone who may have experienced something similar:

What course of action should we take when our 10-year-old AS son has been injured at school by a bully and the school principal refuses to address the situation?
A brief rundown of what's going on:

1) DS is mainstreamed in fourth grade, with 30 minutes of "resource" time each day. This is his second year in public school. He was homeschooled from Pre-K through Grade 2, and then started public school at the beginning of Grade 3. In Grade 3, he had a full-time aide, and received OT and PT once a week. He did very well and was on the honor roll the entire year.

2) This year, the administration has pulled ALL of his supports, claiming they need to be able to "justify" continuing to give him the aide, OT and PT. His grades have been steadily dropping all year, and he is regularly having conflicts with 2 different classmates, who he claims are picking on him both verbally and physically. He also stated that one of the boys has been "humping" him, evidently for the amusement of fellow students. These problems generally occur during P.E. and/or recess. He said he has told teachers when these incidents occur, but they either ignore him or listen to his complaint but "don't do anything." He also states that there are often no supervising adults around during recess.

3) He recently came home complaining of pain in his left arm, saying that one of his bullies had knocked him to the ground and attempted to kick him in the chest, but DS raised his arms to protect himself and the kick caught him on the arm instead. He had a red mark on his forearm at that time. Two days later, the entire forearm displayed extensive bruising, which we photographed. Fortunately, the bruising was the extent of the damage.

4) When shown the picture of the injury, the principal brushed it off and claimed that "maybe he got it from falling on the floor." The principal has consistently blamed DS for every incident that has happened with these two bullies, writing him up for defending himself and taking recess privileges away from him.

5) At his recent IEP meeting, the school nurse made excuses for the lack of supervision during unstructured times (recess & P.E.), stating "Well, we have over 200 students out there and some have ADD, ADHD, and all kinds of things and we just can't watch all of them every minute."

6) The principal knows nothing about ASDs and how they impact behavior and communication, and has made it very clear that he does not care to learn. When asked directly "What do you know about Asperger's?", his response was to completely evade the question and respond, "Look, I know {DS} has some issues..." This man has treated us with barely disguised contempt every time we have spoken with him about our son.

7) The State Board of Education recently held a meeting for parents of special education students at this school, with the directive that NO school personnel were to attend. During the meeting, several other families raised concerns similar to ours, which indicates that this is a systemic problem at this school. No word yet on what (if anything) the SBE plans to do as a result of the info gathered at the meeting, however.

I have been doing a lot of research on IDEA and Section 504 over the past few days, but I can't seem to find anything that specifically addresses this type of situation. I am beginning to think that I should have called the police the day that DS came home with the injury. Does anyone know if there anything in special education law that pertains to this? Just FYI: we can't afford to hire a lawyer, but our income is above the cut-off for free legal assistance, so I can't go that route. And while we do plan to move out of the area eventually, we can't do that just now, either. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!



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15 Feb 2014, 12:17 am

You won't like my advice, but then again, most here don't either. I am an aspie. I was bullied horribly in school, worse than that. Back then, in the 70's they didnt do anything but tell you to fight back. That worked for me. Teach your son how to fight back for the love of all that is unholy ok? You fighting his battles won't do him any good. It never did me any good when my mother fought mine. Yes, when he gets in a fight he will get hurt. I can't even begin to list the injuries that my sons have had from fighting back, but guess what? They got over them. They learned something. They grew up to somewhat be men. That won't happen if Mama is always there breathing down the principals neck thinking that he might look at her kid wrong or not flog another kid for rolling his eyes at him. Yes, I downplayed it, for a reason. Because when he is our age, bully fights wont be that big a deal. But Mother making his way straight and smooth always will be.


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EmileMulder
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15 Feb 2014, 12:31 am

That "justify" argument sounds fishy to me. I would try to get it in writing from them actually. If the services that were cut were on his IEP, and then they cut them explicitly for financial reasons, you have a very clear-cut case for a lawsuit. They can't change the IEP without your signature, so you would have to agree that those services are no longer needed, and that the goals that they were meant to address have been met. If they unilaterally decided to stop following the IEP then they are in clear violation of federal law.

Regarding adequate supervision, that sounds awful. I think you could make an argument that this means your child requires additional supports (i.e. a 1-1 aid). "There are too many kids for us to enforce rules." is not an acceptable defense.

There is an unreasonable squeeze that schools are in, in the US. Federal laws mandate that they spend as much money on students as they need in order to receive a good education. But the government does not give the schools the funding that they need to meet those mandates. So they're caught between a rock and a hard place. Often they're stuck with difficult funding decisions like the one this principal made. Even so, your child has rights, and just because the principal was given an impossible burden (distributing a small amount of money among too many children), does not mean that your child should have to bear that burden.

So now it's up to you to try to negotiate in this difficult situation. I think the best approach is one that is both friendly, reasonable and knowledgeable. You want to show them that you are considering their perspectives, but also that you know your rights and will not back away from the things that your child needs. You don't want to directly threaten a lawsuit, because you still depend on these people and their good will. But you can remind them in a friendly way that you are aware of the law; when they talk about cutting OT, ask them if the IEP goals that OT was addressing have been met, or if he has consistently made no progress in OT (since those are the only criteria that they can use to justify this change). Then ask if they have data showing that. If he has made no progress in OT, then ask what other intervention strategy they intend to replace OT with - they can stop an ineffective treatment, but they are still responsible to try to achieve the goal. You can make it clear that you are not messing around, but you can do this all in a friendly manner.

Regarding the specific part of the law requiring the school to provide for your child's physical safety? I'm not sure if that's in IDEA, but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in education law (I think most recently in No Child Left Behind). Seems like the sort of right that wouldn't just be limited to kids with disabilities. I just googled this: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/ ... y-law.aspx

Good luck!


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15 Feb 2014, 8:18 am

Don't have much time in the moment but I did want to offer this. My son often stays near the playground monitors throughout recess. My son and his friends were being bullied, and the school did deal with it, but part of what his guidance counselor told them to do was the moment they saw the bully coming near them, to move over near one of the monitors. This has worked like a charm. All of the monitors are aware of the situation and when they see them come nearby, they watch carefully to ensure the other boy keeps his distance.

There was also a phrase my son used to use when he was younger. Instead of going up and telling on someone, I taught him to approach the teacher and say "Mrs. So-and-so, could you please help me? Something is happening and I am not sure what to do." Then to describe the situation. For some reason, this phrasing made the teachers more willing to help. I think because they no longer saw it as tattling or as "something else they need to deal with" but rather as an opportunity to teach based on a student's request for help.

It also prompted them to explain things to my son, which was very important, because he never picked up on social stuff the way his peers did. This was particularly helpful for him because sometimes the other kids were not picking on him at all. He was misperceiving their intentions and behavior. As a result, we have always been aware of this with my daughter (she also has a hard time discerning the intentions of others) and have worked with her to help her be able to tell the difference between bullying and non-bullying. I mean, for her, if a kid accidentally bumped into her, she perceived it as a purposeful shove. It has been very helpful for her to be able to learn to tell the difference. And it has been very helpful for each of her teachers to know that this is something that she seriously struggles with. It allows them to see certain situations as problematic earlier on and it prompts them to break things down with her so that she can learn how to navigate better.

Your school sounds deplorable. I am so sorry that you and your son must endure this. :(


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MMJMOM
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15 Feb 2014, 1:32 pm

you can go back to homeschooling and rid yourself of the horrors of the school district!

My DS is in 3rd grade and homeschooled from K on.


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jag96
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15 Feb 2014, 2:51 pm

Thanks, everybody--I appreciate you talking the time to make suggestions. I checked out the link about school safety law, and I think it might be helpful in making a case that the school is in violation of Section 504.

As far as homeschooling again: believe me, I would if I could. However, when DS started public school, I took the opportunity to go back and finish my college degree. I have two semesters to go, and I've taken out student loans to finance it. They will have to be paid back, and I can't do that on a minimum-wage salary, which will be my only option if I don't finish this degree. Additionally, DS is reaching the academic level in math and science where I won't be able to effectively teach him, due to my own limitations in these areas.

I can't wait until we can move to a different school district, but it won't be immediately due to present financial limitations. DS might have another year, or even two, in his current school, and I am very concerned about the fact that he is falling behind academically in some subjects and becoming depressed due to the bullying.

My son actually does "fight back" against his bullies, BTW, which is the problem (according to the principal). While he also has some trouble distinguishing between accidental and intentional behavior on the part of others, I don't think that is happening in this instance. The "humping" behavior, for one thing, can hardly be unintentional, and the incident that resulted in his injury was obviously done with deliberate intent. I feel that the main problem we have is the attitude of the principal--this guy simply doesn't care and views my son as the problem.



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15 Feb 2014, 3:17 pm

[quote="jag96"While he also has some trouble distinguishing between accidental and intentional behavior on the part of others, I don't think that is happening in this instance. The "humping" behavior, for one thing, can hardly be unintentional, and the incident that resulted in his injury was obviously done with deliberate intent. I feel that the main problem we have is the attitude of the principal--this guy simply doesn't care and views my son as the problem.[/quote]

I apologize if I implied that I thought what is happening to your son was just that he is unable to read other people's intentions. I agree with you...humping someone and knocking them down and kicking them do not require one to have an in-tuned ability to understand the motivations of others. Those are definitely purposeful behaviors.

And I think your whole school's attitude is the problem. And that starts with the attitude of the principal and what he allows.

Does your son have any friends? One of the things that has helped me is that my son has an equally quirky friend. I am in touch with his parents and we kind of keep a watch out on both kids together. If I hear anything, I call them, and if they hear anything they call me. It is nice to have someone on your side.


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15 Feb 2014, 3:24 pm

the humping thing could be considered sexual assault you could use that as leverage to put a fire under the school to do something. also fighting back is not that good of an idea because it can easily be turned around onto your son. it could very easily open another can of worms the school could easily force psych evaluations and all kinds of other stuff because of the IEP
does your son have a cellphone? if so most have the ability to record at least audio if not video too. have him record at least the audio of the situation having hard evidence like that works really good in your favor. also everything you send to them send it in writing through certified mail so they cant weasel out of anything.



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15 Feb 2014, 3:56 pm

Tell them if they don't act to protect your son from being assaulted, then the next time someone bothers him you will contact the police, instead. Tell them that you are keeping records of everything that occurs. Maybe get a lawyer to write the principal a vaguely unsettling letter - lawyers are good at that kind of thing.



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15 Feb 2014, 5:10 pm

I really liked the strategies InThisTogether came up with, and even if the specific situations are different, they will be useful to try in the long run.

I would also look into classes that teach kids the best ways to stand up to bullies; there are many techniques available that might help your son. Some simply verbal, and some that are about fighting back effectively. It isn't enough to just let your child fight back; you've already seen the results of that.

I assume there are no schools your son could transfer to, leaving you all stuck trying to get through it? Please take a super hard look at that, and visit other schools even if you think you could not attend. Tell your story. See what happens.

One thing that will help your son get through this rough period is feeling that he has choices. I don't know how you do that if there aren't really choices, but ... I just know that it made a world of difference to my son when I told him we could pull him out to homeschool, and then he choose to stay at school. Just making that choice empowered him to be stronger in how he handled the conflicts.


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16 Feb 2014, 8:08 am

YippySkippy wrote:
Tell them if they don't act to protect your son from being assaulted, then the next time someone bothers him you will contact the police, instead. Tell them that you are keeping records of everything that occurs. Maybe get a lawyer to write the principal a vaguely unsettling letter - lawyers are good at that kind of thing.


In the past, I would have tread to engage the administration, but given the detail provided about the response so far, I would go with a two step,response.

1. A letter to the school superintendent with a copy to the principal, detailing the problem and lack of response. I would also find out what the legal obligation of the school is and use specific language from any state anti bullying law. In New Jersey, the magic phrase is " failing to maintain a safe learning environment."

If the principal is unwilling to meet with you and discuss an action plan detailing what specific steps the school will take to protect your son, I would then go to:

2. A letter to the school superintendent and principal from an attorney. This is not a legal action but a serious indicator to the school that you are not going to go away and they will have to deal with it.

If there is no positive result from the attorney's letter, I would follow up on any future incident with a request for a meeting with the superintendent in which I would tell them I intend to use, absent any substantive response by the principal. I would not communicate with the principal about this, better they learn about for their administrative hierarchy.

If there are bruises or other injuries, file a police report..

An aphorism often used for the behavior of bureaucracies is "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Be that squeaky wheel for your son. They will be far more likely to take action if taking action to protect him seems like less of a pain than doing nothing.



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16 Feb 2014, 8:47 am

I wonder if you could somehow follow up with the State Bureau of Education. Even in the state I am in which is not especially interested in funding education, they have contacts for parents. Based on the fact that they held a meeting at your school, it sounds like a lot of parents there must have availed themselves of it in your local district.

I would call them and find out the appropriate procedure (I know it probably is in a handbook, too) and ask what the follow-up to the meeting will be as you have a desperate situation with the school) Sometimes being a greasy wheel helps, and then you will be on the list of people to update, if they are doing that. It is easy for parents of special needs kids to be isolated from the scuttlebutt, and you may get more info this way.



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17 Feb 2014, 11:25 am

This seems relevant:
http://www.isbe.state.il.us/pdf/anti-bu ... es0711.pdf

It would appear that an attempt was made to introduce more effective anti-bullying legislation, but that this failed. It seems a number of Illinois State Senators are pro-bullying (thinking this is probably the religious right hoping to protect the right to bully homosexuals, either that or there is something in the water in the Illinois Senate chambers.)

The House passed the bill:
http://www.sj-r.com/x586831428/Illinois ... llying-law

The Senate did not:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillSta ... =&Session=

The senators voting No should be held accountable.

The bad thing about a process like this is that everyone gets to claim they tried, but "the system" let them down.

Given the very weak anti-bullying laws in Illinois, I would look for expert help with this and consider home schooling.



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17 Feb 2014, 12:03 pm

OliveOilMom wrote:
You won't like my advice, but then again, most here don't either. I am an aspie. I was bullied horribly in school, worse than that. Back then, in the 70's they didnt do anything but tell you to fight back. That worked for me. Teach your son how to fight back for the love of all that is unholy ok? You fighting his battles won't do him any good. It never did me any good when my mother fought mine. Yes, when he gets in a fight he will get hurt. I can't even begin to list the injuries that my sons have had from fighting back, but guess what? They got over them. They learned something. They grew up to somewhat be men. That won't happen if Mama is always there breathing down the principals neck thinking that he might look at her kid wrong or not flog another kid for rolling his eyes at him. Yes, I downplayed it, for a reason. Because when he is our age, bully fights wont be that big a deal. But Mother making his way straight and smooth always will be.


I have to second this. I was bullied as a child, and my parents suggested self defense classes, and I didn't go. It is one of the things I truly regret in life. I do think the school tried; but the reality is there are only x number of people for y number of students. And olive oil mom is right about fighting your own battles (as much as possible.)



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17 Feb 2014, 4:17 pm

thewhitrbbit wrote:
OliveOilMom wrote:
You won't like my advice, but then again, most here don't either. I am an aspie. I was bullied horribly in school, worse than that. Back then, in the 70's they didnt do anything but tell you to fight back. That worked for me. Teach your son how to fight back for the love of all that is unholy ok? You fighting his battles won't do him any good. It never did me any good when my mother fought mine. Yes, when he gets in a fight he will get hurt. I can't even begin to list the injuries that my sons have had from fighting back, but guess what? They got over them. They learned something. They grew up to somewhat be men. That won't happen if Mama is always there breathing down the principals neck thinking that he might look at her kid wrong or not flog another kid for rolling his eyes at him. Yes, I downplayed it, for a reason. Because when he is our age, bully fights wont be that big a deal. But Mother making his way straight and smooth always will be.


I have to second this. I was bullied as a child, and my parents suggested self defense classes, and I didn't go. It is one of the things I truly regret in life. I do think the school tried; but the reality is there are only x number of people for y number of students. And olive oil mom is right about fighting your own battles (as much as possible.)


One advantage in self-defense classes is that you also learn how not to fight. And once the bullies pick on the evidence of the training, they realize they don't have a weak subject and back off.


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