Post-Mediation Update: Still No School In Sight For Jack

As I mentioned here the last time I posted, we had mediation with the school district last Thursday. I had to sign a paper that I wouldn’t talk about what went on inside that room. So, I guess I’ll talk a little bit about where Jack stands on getting back into school.

Super brief background in case you’ve never been here before (and in that case, see what I’m all about), our 9-year-old, low-functioning autistic son Jack is assigned to a school six miles down the street from our house that is too dangerous for him. The playground is unfenced and 86 feet away from a parking lot. He has a well-documented history of eloping (running away without reason or notice), and a two-second lapse in supervision is about all it would take for him to potentially be involved in a fatal incident. So, we’re not sending him. Call us good parents — we’re not going to put our son’s life on the line just because a few people are confident nothing’s gonna happen.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about it won’t happen to you, it’s that it will happen to you. It’s happened time and time again throughout my life. The autism thing did happen to my Jack and there’s no way I’m going to put him at risk of death happening, too. It can happen and that’s not something you take chances with. There’s a school less than a mile down the street from our house that’s fenced and safe. He attended there last year, and his sister goes there now, but the district refuses to allow him to attend.

I still don’t have a truthful, on-the-record answer as to why Jack isn’t allowed to attend his home school. It seems like it’s probably because a teacher is mad at my wife, although we’ve unsuccessfully tried to get an honest answer for more than three months now. They say it’s because we don’t want him to go there, but that’s obviously not true, because we’ve asked for him to be able to go there since September. We think the real reason is because Tiff voiced her displeasure (in an appropriate manner and forum) when eight of his 15 IEP goals were removed without our consent, including his behavior goal. We suspect that’s what caused this issue to start and then escalate, although that’s just a guess based on the runaround we’ve been through.

Tiff’s life has been destroyed — she’s a slave 24-7 to Jack, she’s had to cancel doctors appointments and surgeries … she says she feels like a prisoner. Even more than what it’s doing to her, it kills her to think about how our son — who has already been robbed of any sort of a normal life — is now being robbed of an education, too. This is a nightmare worse than anything I could have ever imagined. And when I look back and think, “What did we do wrong to get ourselves in this situation?” The answer is nothing. There’s nothing wrong with appropriately speaking up for your child during the educational process.

And way beyond that, Jack REALLY did nothing wrong. He’s as innocent as they come. But he’s the true loser in all of this. He’s just collateral damage. The people involved say they want him in school, but their actions say he’s a throwaway retard who’s a pawn in the retaliation game against Tiff. I imagine there are people smiling because they’re getting their way, but they should be ashamed of who they’re really beating up on — a 9-year-old autistic child in desperate need of an education.

Tiff and Jack.
Tiff and Jack.

I went to a workshop talking about mediation and due process last week and from what I learned, I don’t think it matters how wrong the district is. They can tell us no, no, no until the cows come home. Unless we hire a lawyer and go through due process (basically court) and hire expert witnesses, we’re at their mercy. Even if we were to win at due process, they could just appeal. We don’t have resources (I’d imagine it would cost well over $10K) to access the system, so we’re out of luck, and I would imagine that’s part of the district’s strategy.

I think we have a very difficult challenge getting him in school before the start of the 2014-15 school year, but I keep my faith that somehow, someway, things will get better.

We’ll continue to fight and do whatever we can to figure out new ways to make that happen. There’s a chance I might send out an email or two somewhere down the road and ask for ideas or maybe help sending an email or two. I set something up called Jack’s Army. CLICK HERE to join — it’s super simple. Super, super simple. PLEASE join if you haven’t already. And please forward this on via your Facebook and Twitter!

In the meantime, while we keep fighting, Tiff is working with Jack at home and doing her best. Here’s a video from yesterday:

Here’s some of his writing:

A handwriting drill.
A handwriting drill.

I’ll post more updates when I have them. I hope to have them soon. We’re not going to give up fighting to get him in school.

Have a great Wednesday. Keep praying for my special star!


  1. Paula S. Hill says

    Sam, Tiff and family,
    I homeschooled my Sawyer for a year after he was bullied and ultimately assaulted and the school did nothing. Praying for you daily, you ARE doing the right thing. Keep reaching out, there are many who can and want to help in their own way whether if financial or emotional or otherwise! Joshua 1:9

  2. Fawn says

    I am heart broken reading this. I work for a school and from what I’ve read here Jack hasn’t been given due process. Schools have to work with patents not against them. Sounds like you have a real case here. ACLU or another organization that would give you some pro bono work would be the way to go.

  3. Jen says

    Our school LOST my HF daughter when she bolted, so I don’t see how the school could tell you Jack running off is “not going to happen”. It happened to US and our kid is not severe like Jack. We have had a lot of crap happen here, too, and it took them losing her to get her a better placement. Seriously…that’s what put the ball in motion…them being scared when they couldn’t find MY KID. You are absolutely right to not send him. It CAN happen to ANY kid on the spectrum!!! We are proof of that!!!!

  4. Tiffany Felsenfeld says

    Thanks to everyone, around the country, for your undying support! We would feel so alone, without you guys!

    First off, yes, there are days when I feel like myself AND Jack, are prisoners in our own home. There are other days, however, that are full of learning successes, hugs and giggles. It’s those days, when I say to myself- you know what? He’s not in school, BUT, I KNOW that he’s safe with me and not only that, but it makes me happy to know that he’s being taught his I.E.P. goals, the way they should be taught to him-through the ABA method of teaching. A method that has been proven to be the most successful method with Jack. I’ve also been very successful in decreasing a lot of his self injurous behaviors, over the last seveal months- thanks to my in-home training by our brilliant team, Imagine. And when Jack masters a task, after working on it for so many days/weeks, I get so excited, as if I just won the Lottery!

    Today, Jack and I, are going to go on our own little “field trip.” We’re going to go on a walk through the beautiful trail that’s right behind our home. We’re going to collect things, put them in a pail and then go home and label each item, writing the words down, then saying it. Today’s gonna be a happy day. :)

    We wouldn’t be able to get through this challenging time, without our faith. We believe that God has a plan in all of this. That we were brought out here, to Colorado, for a reason. Maybe, to help other special needs children, as well as our own.

    At the end of the day, to me, Jack’s not the only one who’s losing in this. The staff is losing too because every teacher and para who’s ever worked with Jack, has told me that he’s “their favorite.” So, to me, the school who’s rejecting him, are the ones who are missing out too. Our little Jack could add so much color to their school-so they’re hurting themselves.

    That’s it! Gotta go get ready for my training session, from our wonderful BCBA, who’ll be over any minute now. Love you guys!

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