‘Problem’ students get a tough deal
Jessica LaVigne was nervous but confident that the team managing her son’s educational plan at Roseburg High School would tell her something she had dreamed of for more than a decade: He would be able to attend a full day of school for the first time since second grade.
Jasim McDonald, 14, was diagnosed with autism in first grade. SARAHBETH MANEY/The New York Times
During her son’s elementary school years, Ms. LaVigne received calls almost daily to pick him up hours early because he was “having a bad day.” In middle school, he only attended one hour a day. In high school, he was told he had to “earn back” two classes that were taken out of his schedule by proving he was academically and socially ready.
As she and her son Dakotah, 15, entered the school for the meet, Ms. LaVigne, 37, a banquet server at a local casino, felt her time was up. “I used to want him to go to college, but now I want him to have a normal life in society,” she had previously said. “If he’s not going to school, I don’t know how that can happen.”
Dakotah’s tumultuous educational path has been marked by a series of tactics known as informal removals, which schools covertly and sometimes illegally use to remove challenging students with disabilities from classes.
The moves — which may involve repeated layoffs in the middle of the day or the reduction of students’ education to just a few hours a week — often violate federal civil rights protections for people with disabilities.
In a report last year, the National Disability Rights Network, a national nonprofit founded by Congress more than four decades ago, found informal deportations occurring hundreds and maybe thousands of times a year as “off-the-book Suspensions” occurred.
According to the report, the deportations also included “transfers to nowhere” when students are involuntarily sent to programs that don’t exist.
The deportations largely evade scrutiny because schools are not required to report them in the same way as formal suspensions and expulsions, making them difficult to track and their impact difficult to measure.
LaRayvian Barnes filed a formal complaint alleging her son was denied an adequate education because of frequent moves. SARAHBETH MANEY
But also interviews with families, educators and experts – as well as a New York Times Scrutiny of school emails, special education records and other documents – suggest informal relocations are harmful practices, harming some of the country’s most vulnerable children. Students are academically oppressed and socially excluded. Their families often end up demoralized and in despair.
Educators say informal deportations underscore how hard they try to comply with the Disability Education Act and related laws, which began requiring schools to educate students with disabilities nearly 50 years ago. Federal funding to help schools meet the additional costs of special education has consistently fallen short of the law’s targets, leaving many without the funds they say they need.
The Department of Education warned schools over the summer that informal moves could violate federal civil rights laws. The year before, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with Lewiston Public Schools in Maine after the department found that the district had violated the civil rights of students with disabilities without “considering their individual needs or seeking assistance to meet them throughout.” day to keep at school”.
Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, said schools are often unaware of how such practices could violate students’ civil rights.
Jasim McDonald, 14, who has autism, practices shot put with teammates on March 5 last year in Sacramento, California. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
In October, federal lawmakers asked the department to specifically include informal relocation as a type of prohibited discrimination in revisions to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the landmark civil rights law for people with disabilities.
Dakotah was diagnosed as a preschooler with a chromosome 4q deletion, a rare genetic disorder that affected his vision, speech, cognitive and fine motor skills. But with minor exceptions like a nasal voice and developmental delays, he appeared like any other child.
Things started to go wrong in second grade. “His behavior gets in the way of his daily learning,” says a progress report. “He laughs, thinks things are silly and often doesn’t respond to teachers and classmates. He has more skills than he shows.”
In an interview at his grandparents’ home, Dakotah said that he stopped liking school that year. He said he spent hours away from his classmates in a “safe room” because of his outbursts, which he says happened when he was doing too hard class work unaided.
Dakotah LaVigne writes his name at home. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
“They started doing this to me,” he said as he wrapped his arms tightly around himself and squeezed, mimicking being held back. Discipline reports piled up in third grade, including one that reported Dakotah had picked up a classmate and hugged him so tightly that the classmate cried out in pain. He hopped through districts.
In middle school, he only attended classes for one hour a day and performed at kindergarten level. School officials said he bit through a classmate’s shoe, made “rude finger gestures” and otherwise behaved in ways that would have made him unsuitable for a general education classroom.
A new school
Dakotah was cautiously optimistic walking with his mother at the end of the school day at Roseburg High. If his team decides he can attend a full day, he said “it will be like going to school for the first time”.
Dakotah LaVigne, 15, outside his home in Roseburg, Oregon on October 3 last year. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
December 5th marked the start of a full day for Dakotah in Roseburg. He spent most mornings helping out in the office. But he ended up being there at the same start time as his colleagues.
But in early January, Ms. LaVigne received a familiar phone call. A principal reported that Dakotah had an altercation with his aide and an assistant principal after being called “a little boy” and was taken to a seclusion room to settle down. He was suspended from school.
Something in Ms. LaVigne finally broke down. She told the school she was coming to pick up Dakotah and he wasn’t going back. This time it was the school administrators on the other end, pleading and protesting, expressing how much they loved Dakotah and that Roseburg was where he belonged. But it was too late. Ms. LaVigne raised her son and retired from school heartbroken.
Dakotah LaVigne is getting ready for school. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
Roseburg High School principal Jill Weber declined to comment on Dakotah for privacy reasons, but said, “My staff and I care deeply about every single student that walks through our doors.”
“We do everything we can to build relationships with them, so they know that our school is a safe and supportive environment where they can grow and thrive,” she said.
Separately, county officials said shortened school days were being used sparingly, with the aim of shifting students to a full day. Last month, Dakotah started at a new school in a new county. So far he has participated a whole day without any problems.
Jessica LaVigne with her younger daughter. Ms. LaVigne struggled to balance her son’s disruptive and sometimes violent behavior at school with his easy-going nature at home. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
This week, Ms. LaVigne, who is now associated with a group of attorneys, testified before the Oregon Legislature to support a bill that would limit the use of shortened school days. It’s one of several efforts in Oregon, including a closely watched class action lawsuit, to curb or eliminate the practice. “It might not help Dakotah,” Ms. LaVigne said of her testimony. “But hopefully it will do something for kids in the future.”
Dakotah LaVigne throws a soccer ball with friends. RICARDO NAGAOKA/The New York Times
Source: Crypto News Deutsch