If you’ve been around here in the past, you know my wife and I are struggling like mad to get our 9-year-old severely autistic son into school. Between Facebook, Twitter, emails, texts and everything else in between, a lot of you have been asking what’s the latest status with us getting Jack into school. So, I figured it would be easiest to just write a blog with the latest and not-so-greatest. Also, if you don’t have the time to reach the bottom of this post, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE click here to join Jack’s Army!
If you’ve never been here, here’s the quick elevator pitch: I’m a father of three and a marathon runner and between running 61 full marathons in 2010 and putting on the Operation Jack Marathon every year, I’ve grossed about $180,000 in my fight against autism. Operation Jack is named after my son, Jack, who is a 9-year-old, low-functioning autistic child, still not potty trained with very limited communication. For more about my charity efforts, click here.
OK, so here’s the deal with Jack’s school. Jack elopes, which means he runs away without warning, and he’s pretty sneaky about it. He waits for the perfect opportunity and then darts. He’s a complete danger to himself, which is why he’s had a handicap parking placard for more than four years now. He doesn’t know any better, but it’s a challenge.
He was enrolled at the local school, which he attended in the spring, but we were sold on moving him to different school about six miles down the road. We didn’t know at the time that the new school has a playground that’s 86 feet from a parking lot and NOT FENCED! Some things you just take for granted, like … your kid isn’t going to be at risk of a fatal incident every time he goes to recess. We tried to get him back into the previous school, because it’s actually safe, but we’ve been denied without ever being told a truthful reason (they tell us they’re not letting Jack go there because we don’t want him to go there, even though we want him to go there and we’re asking for him to be able to go there).
So, here’s an update on what’s going on.
1. We had a lawyer. Now we have no lawyer. And we’re not going to have another lawyer
I’m not going to get into the details about the lawyer we had, but we don’t have her any more and we’re not going to be able to afford to get another one. I’m OK with fighting this fight on behalf of Jack. I feel like what’s morally right is on my side, as are the facts in this situation. I’m going head-to-head with the school district’s lawyer now and if Jack loses and is kept out of school “because they can”, well so be it. It seems like the district is using time and money to keep Jack out of school and it feels like I’m fighting a huge corporation with vast resources, but I’ll keep fighting.
2. We have mediation next Thursday
I have no idea how that’s going to go. And I know it’s non-binding, so it’s not like anybody can force the district to let Jack back in school. But I’m looking forward to being able to talk about the true issues in play without the conversation being steered by the district moderator when the conversation doesn’t fit the district’s agenda.
3. I offered a free fence to the school district. But they wouldn’t take it.
I have a friend who works at a very, very large company and they’re in the contracting business or something like that. He offered to have a fence donated at the unsafe school, so I offered that to the district. The district said they wouldn’t consider taking it until after mediation. Either they want the fence or they don’t want the fence. But to wait until after mediation to consider it obviously means that whether or not they want to consider taking a free fence will be determined by the outcome of mediation. Realistically, they’d find a way to use that free fence offer against me, which truly means they’d find a way to use it against Jack, and I’m not going to allow that to happen. I told the lawyer on December 21 that they had until December 31 and I never heard back.
4. We can’t get an IEP meeting for Jack
We can’t get a meeting for an IEP for Jack. They’ve told us all along that the IEP is never final and we can call a meeting at any time. And from everything we’ve ever been told by anybody, it’s within our federal rights to call an IEP without a time limit. Much to our surprise, when we requested an IEP to cover safety and modifications, they denied us, saying there was no new information. So, I sent them an email with five new pieces of information. And then I followed up. And I followed up. It took 12 emails in one week for the lawyer to finally write me and scold me for being hostile (maybe if it would have only taken 6 emails I would have been happier?). She also told me she would not reply to my emails any more. And still, no acknowledgement of those five new pieces of information. And no IEP.
5. I think the district simply doesn’t want Jack in school
Actions speak louder than words. They keep saying they care about Jack and want him in school. But they know full well we’re never, ever going to take him to an unsafe school. We had two options on the table — the unsafe school and a school that’s about 40 minutes away. Well, that school that’s 40 minutes away was pulled off the table. So, they tightened the vice on us by only leaving us with the unsafe school when they know (and they’ve admitted on the record) that he’ll never attend there. They don’t want to deal with him.
Also, they threatened to report us to the state if we don’t either a) bring him to the unsafe school or b) withdraw him from the district and home school him. Obviously they know A won’t happen. B would get him off their hands. I could see them retaliating against us for fighting for him by having protective custody force him to attend a school where he’s at risk of a fatal incident at every recess break. That makes sense.
The bottom line is that judging by their actions, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to have to teach Jack and they’ll use whatever morally reprehensible maneuvers they can.
And that’s pretty much where we stand. I still have faith this is all going to work out. And I believe deep, deep down inside in my heart of hearts that I’m doing the right thing by fighting for my son’s safety. But this sure isn’t easy.
Last little bit … I’M BEGGING YOU FOR HELP RIGHT NOW. Please, please, please click here and go join Jack’s Army. Super simple. Super, super simple. And PLEASE CLICK THE LINKS I HAVE ON THERE TO SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!