Monday, August 25, 2008

Now what?

It's starting to seem like things just aren't meant to be easy for the three of us :-)

I know that in the recent past I’ve indicated that we were so impressed by this school district that we felt we had a tough choice to make. After writing that post, I decided to consult with my online contacts about the nature of interpreting for preschoolers and the fact is, it’s nearly impossible to do. The crux of the issue is that it’s too abstract for children this young to understand that an interpreter is speaking for someone else. Not to mention that a young child needs to learn their primary language directly, rather than through a third-party like an interpreter. To top it off, after doing some research and emailing back and forth with an interpreter, I realized that their code of ethics expressly forbids them from teaching or even clarifying information. They are strictly there to interpret and that’s it. That obviously doesn’t work for a young child in an educational setting does it? Having this information suddenly made the decision a no brainer for us.

Honestly, this public school district has blown our minds with their level of professionalism, their competence, and their genuine desire to meet Ethan's needs. They are offering an interesting idea that they've never offered before, so Ethan would be trying and testing their concept for the first time. They want to put an aide in the room that is not only a licensed teacher, but also a licensed interpreter. It gets a little fuzzy here as we try to nail down the language describing her actual role in the classroom and even the administrator present during the IEP meeting was looking for clarification on this point. Basically, she’d be Ethan’s aide and would teach him sign language but she would also teach the other children and she would be there as a resource for his main teacher who happens to have a solid foundation for sign (on a preschooler level) but is by no means fluent. It sounds great in theory, but when you get to the nuts and bolts of the situation it becomes less and less appealing.

The law says that the IEP team must consider direct communication between teacher and student and peers. That is part of "least restrictive environment". We think the “least restrictive environment” for Ethan is to be in a deaf school where he has access to direct communication in his primary language with all the staff and students.  The public school cannot match this and we feel it's his right to have that access as a deaf child, and that the law very clearly illustrates that point. I even used the language of the law (taken from IDEA, the section on educating deaf children) while making our points during the meeting, but they disagreed with us and felt that they had all their bases covered. It takes some serious confidence to disagree with the law!

Our next step is to file an appeal, which in Ohio means writing a letter to the superintendent to get him/her to review the case and hopefully change the decision in our favor. If that fails, then we go into mediation with the district. We would likely take an advocate who knows the law as it pertains to educating deaf children. If that fails, then we go to due process and have to hire a lawyer and go to court. We’re trying to remain very optimistic that it doesn’t come to that.



slouching mom said...

Oh, H. I'm sorry this road has to be so bumpy.

But Ethan? He's so lucky to have you on his side.

leahlefler said...

Oh, my- what a stressful week for you guys! I have a feeling that if it comes to litigation, the school district will back off and allow E-boy placement at St. Rita's. The tuition at St. Rita's has to be cheaper than a lawsuit! St. Rita's might not be every child's LRE, but it is Ethan's LRE. The decision shouldn't come down to dollars and cents, but to where an impossibly adorable little boy is going to grow the best. And for now, St. Rita's looks like the best environment for him.

Lots of *hugs* and I hope things get easier soon!

jen said...

i will never understand why the systems make getting connected so difficult and yet they seem to thrive on it somehow, a weirdly perverse national joke or something.

am sorry you are navigating this particular one.

She said...

This just infuriates me. Because while all that process is happening, Ethan is growing up FAST!

Can't you go straight to the lawyer?

Oh, Hetha, I'm so very sorry that it's so damn hard.

Praying for you all. Email if you need/want to.

Kyla said...

You'll do what you have to, I know, a fight if it comes to it, but I hope it doesn't for your sake. I know it must be eating you up inside, worrying about your sweet boy's education and services. I hope this can be easy, it should be your turn for something easy.

I am Trish Marie said...

I just can't believe it. When will things quit being about numbers and money, and start being about what is most beneficial to the children. I could get on a soap box and rant, but I am going to refrain. All I have to say for now is I am really sorry.

Eileen said...

Stay strong and remember you know Ethan better than any of the people who sit on that committee. Follow the process, be very focused and firm, you have the law on your side. It seems like a no brainer to me. In my experience, districts tend to back down when they see you are serious about taking this all the way up the chain of command.

I wish it could be easier for you all!


Julie said...


Seems like you're making a good transition... from being (rightfully!) FURIOUS, to being focused. Obviously you've thought clearly about what the school district is offering and what you believe would be BEST for Ethan.

Sorry it has to be a battle. *sigh*

We are "with" you :0) Not much we can DO from across the country, but I send up a prayer for you every time I check your blog.


Mom to Toes said...

OMG, Heather! You have seriously been doing your homework!

I think you are handling this perfectly. You've taken all the frustration and funneled it into decisive action. I love it!

Like others have said... Ethan is so lucky to have you as his mom.

Loudest Mom said...

We might be facing a due process hearing right there with you :( Best of luck to you in this process.....
-Melissa and gang

Aliki2006 said...

I'm sorry about this bumpy road, but it sounds like you have all your bases covered and that you have the law firmly on your sides! I'm in awe of how thorough you've been...I'll be thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Y'all,
Great Good Luck on the schooling. We wish you the best. Fritz sez Hi. Ethan is Blessed to have such kick-ass parents.
Love, Al and Jenny

Laurie said...

Hang in there! Sounds like Ethan has a lot of cheerleaders on his side! I wish professionals would just focus on the individual instead of the money. I truly believe that the earlier you help a child, the less help they need later on. . .and they don't fall through the cracks.

You are such a great cheerleader for him. Don't give up!