When the teacher is the bully …

New client, first meeting I attended as the advocate. I always follow up a meeting with an email with the key points, especially anything we want in writing, after all, “If it is not in writing, it wasn’t said.”

Here is a key excerpt from the meeting email this week …

Nancy has an Individualized Education Program because of her diagnoses of ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, and a Specific Learning Disability in reading.

Nancy has been repeatedly subjected to punishments that consist of public humiliation, potential physical harm, infringement of her rights, disruption of her education process and denial of her FAPE. The punishments are for actions of hers that are directly caused by her disability, specifically manifestations of her ADHD. When Nancy is seemingly not paying attention in science class, Mrs. A takes Nancy’s stick away in front of the other students and puts it in the jar assuring that Nancy will not be getting a prize at the end of the day.

Key symptoms of ADHD, according to the NIH, include and are not limited to: not seeming to listen when spoken to; daydream; easily distracted; have difficulty focusing on one thing,become bored with a task after only a few minutes; have difficulty … completing a task or learning something new (here is link to NIH).

Her punishment for this manifestation, the (putting of her stick in the warning jar) serves to only aggravate her anxiety disorder causing her further difficulties in focusing, hence denying her FAPE for the rest of the day. Additionally, because Nancy’s mother failed to sign Nancy’s agenda, she was subjected to a different punishment. At the meeting it was pointed out that in fact Nancy’s mother was the one who “failed,” but Mrs. A claimed the punishment was due to Nancy failing to remind her mother.

Note that another documented symptom of ADHD is “Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments” (ibid.).

Nancy was offered the choice of sitting out of recess or doing multiple laps around the playground. The “What to Expect” document, as well as the Student Handbook, both show that recess is a right, not a privilege. It is inappropriate to take away a student’s rights. Having a student publicly humiliated by stressful physical exercise is not only archaic, but infringes on her rights. Furthermore, it denies her FAPE by removing her from the student population and escalating her anxiety, thus destroying her ability to learn for the day; all because of an action (or lack thereof) by her mother. Offering a student with multiple disabilities a no-win choice of punishments is an attempt to blame that student for the punishment enacted. Please note that the actions have the same effect on Nancy as directly outlined in the district’s own bullying policy, i.e., “public humiliation, potential physical harm, infringe on her rights.” It is our understanding that, effective immediately, Nancy will no longer be subject to such punishments when they are due directly or indirectly to her acknowledged, documented disability.

And now a public service announcement … bullying of any form does not “just go away.” And if properly reported, it won’t get worse. I know about it from many points of view. Do not ignore bullying.


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