As many of you are already aware of Elliott was barred from attending his school this year because he is a spectrum child. Elliott needs no special services and would also not need an IEP. However, the school is refusing to allow him to attend simply because Autism is attached to him. The real kicker is that he attended all last year and did very well. His teachers all loved him and he had tons of friends. Elliott is not socially awkward or does he have any real behavioral issues that would interfere with class.
So why refuse to allow him to come back this year? This is the question that really has me frustrated. Elliott had Aspergers all last year and no one had a problem with it. The other question I have is why would a school accept the Autism Scholarship and then not accept kids with Autism? Is it just me of does this seem counter intuitive?
I will say that this is a private, Catholic based school and so they are able to pick and choose their students. However, simply because they can legally do something, doesn’t mean they are ethically or morally in the right. Granted, not every school is equipped to handle every special needs child and honestly, we can’t expect them to. With that said, refusing to educate a child simply and solely because they fall onto the Autism Spectrum, to me, is discrimination.
I grew up in the Catholic church and had a Catholic education all the way through college. I was taught morals and ethics that, while not shaping my life, did serve as a guide. That guide is telling me just how wrong this is.
I’m simply taken aback by the fact that a Catholic school that is built around the same morals and ethics that I was taught when I was a kid would do this. However, not only did they do this but they aren’t even trying to hide what they are doing. This is excerpt of the email we received. That’s right we didn’t even value Elliott enough to make a simple phone call or tell us in person.
I have removed any identifying information from the following excerpt. I’m not sure of the direction I’m going to go in with this so I keeping the identity confidential for now. I’m being very careful to only share my first hand account here. There are many other disturbing pasts to this story but I have not personally witnessed some of them. I’m well within my rights to share my personal experience here and if I decide to take a more aggressive approach I will release more information.
“Hi Lizzie and Rob,
I received you email today, and appeciate the communication. @#*$&%^$* will be talking with you further. As we professionally examined the needs of Elliot, as we did another potential student with a high functional ability on the spectrum , we believe that we are not able to provide for the needs of these gifted students. While I would love to have more students, the ethical integrity of accepting a student that we cannot serve leaves us with very few options and compromises the integrity of the school. As I look to the future I intend to address the special needs of our potential students, however at this time we are not prepared to say to you with integrity that we could properly serve Elliot.
I know that this decision is not what you had hoped for, but it is one that we believe as an educational institution, and as the pastoral arm of the church , that to do otherwise is to compromise the integrity of both.
This letter makes no sense because Elliott DOES NOT need any special considerations. What he does need is normalcy and typical peers. Sure Elliott doesn’t like certain textures of foods and has his favorite numbers but what harm would that be? It wasn’t a problem last year at all. So why now? Not only why now but why wait until the week before school starts to tell us? I mean they actually sent us the welcome packet with the supply list and everything.
We have yet to receive a returned phone call from the principle either. That was supposed to occur this past Thursday.
To be completely honest, I don’t think they would have even told us if we hadn’t kept trying to follow up. You know, the more I think about what they have done to Elliott the angrier I get. Elliott misses his friends and can’t wait to see them again. How am I supposed to deal with that?
Lizze and I have talked about it and have decided that even if they were to allow him to attend, we no longer want him in a school that not only stereotypes and arguably discriminates against children with Autism but also turns their backs on them as well. What kind of message are they sending to the children they do allow to attend? The message they are sending is one that says “those that are different need not apply”.
What am I supposed to tell Elliott? I can’t tell him that the school he loves won’t allow him to come back this year because he’s different.
The question I have is, what now? Do I allow this to go unaddressed or to I take a stand? Even if Elliott never attends this school, what they are doing is not right. This kind of ignorance is something that cannot be allowed to grow. I have made every attempt to educate the educators about Autism and how every child is different. I have explained that not every child with Autism needs special services and Elliott is the poster child for this statement. However, my attempts have fallen on deaf ears. The school is more concerned about their appearance then they are about the mission they have been charged with.
I have been contacted by a few Autistic adults and they share my frustration. I have also heard from many special needs parents as well as other educators that share the same feelings. Should I let this go? Should I simply “turn the other cheek” and allow this to happen to another family? It’s not like my plate isn’t already full as it is. However, my son was dealt a great injustice and every single ounce of who I am wants to pick this battle and shine the light on what they are doing and how they are doing it. The other part of me doesn’t want Elliott to ever feel like there is something wrong with him and so walking away might be the best approach.
I am asking for advice and guidance here. This is something that really effects everyone in the Autism community. We have to counter this type of prejudice and help people to understand exactly what spectrum means.
Thanks for helping me out with this. I’m extremely angry and I want to do the right thing. However, the right thing to do is not entirely clear. Not to sound to cheeky but as one of my reader friends pointed out, “What would Jesus do? ”
UPDATE: My other thought is that this is related to money. I can’t cover the outrageous tuition and the school was working with us and for that I’m very grateful. However, when I met with the person in charge in July, I was assured that tuition was not a concern and neither was our ability to actively participate in the parish. I specifically asked this because these were big concerns of mine. We would love to be able to do more but with all we have going on, our ability is somewhat limited.
I was told that these were considered separate issues and have no bearing on Elliott’s ability to attend the school. They would love to have us be more active but they would never turn a child away for financial reasons.
If money was an issue, I would certainly understand. If that ended up being an obstacle then that would have been my fault. I would have understood that. However, they have clearly stated that money is not an issue. I only have their word to go on and they say money is not a problem.
Your lucky. Our Catholic school did a similar thing to our son but didn't send us such and emphathetic letter. The Friday before school was to start on Monday, I met with my son's teachers- to-be and was informed that he would only be allowed to attend for and hour an a half each day — despite the fact that I had paid full tuition.
My Catholic school gets reduced milk via the USDA food and nutrition program, so I filed a civil rights complaint. The USDA found that we met the criteria for a complaint and investigated. It is still on appeal. I could of sued, but that wasn't my point. I wanted the school to learn that they just can not reject children because of disabilities and still recieved federal funds — THAT IS ILLEGAL. Not take the federal money, or take the kids. They do have a right to charge us more, if the child needs something, that is ok with me. It is better than flat out rejection.
Best of luck –Understanding Mom in Virginia
I found your blog awhile back while searching for sensory behaviors. I have twins (who turned 3 in June) and while neither on on the spectrum…one is sensory avoiding and the other sensory seeking and shows some autistic like behavior at times (like rocking while under stress, tired, sick, uncomfortable, or having difficulty organizing). Most of the information I have found ties the sensory to the Autism as it seems to be a common link, which isn't exactly my situation. However, I have started following along to pull out nuggets.
Anyway, with that back story, on to my main point.
I have had my oldest (who will be starting K next week) in the preschool associated with our parish (Catholic) and started the twins there this summer. I have been happy with the preschool, but the learning philosophy for the preschool (play based) is very different for the elementary school (which, although not state based testing, has standardized testing numbers and I'm sure goals). For the last few years I have been looking at schools (elementary) both public and private to find the best fit for us. I ultimately came to the decision that I didn't need to choose a school now for the twins who may or may not need an IEP a few years down the road. However, in talking with the principle, others, and the inclusion counselor…it seems, at least now, they are set up to handle such needs. One of my questions to the principle was what type of child or family would not be successful in this school. I could tell the question surprised her, but I felt her answer was honest when she said that she hoped none, that we are a community and why should a family have to send one child to a different school when 2 of his/her siblings went here and was able to give some specific examples. In some of my discussions, it came up that the model as an inclusion school being used at our school (did decide to enroll in the elementary) is being set up around our diocese. All that to say, at least in some places, the Catholic Church is starting to address this issue and I was pleasantly impressed with how it is being handled (at least in theory as I have not actually needed to use the service or talked with anyone using it currently and it looks like there are some changes going into this year based on some teacher movement that I'm not sure I understand). With all those caveots, even if you don't have it in you to fight this, it maybe worth pointing out to this school that some churches/diocese that are addressing learning issues as it is part of the church and the community at large and they are in affect segmenting out a part of their church people by this stance.
I would fight. This is not right. My only other thought is that the new teacher had an issue and the school sided with the teacher. Catholic school or not, I went to catholic school and they had written at the bottom of all applications thatbthey did not discriminate against race, ethnicity or disability.
I'd ask for a meeting in person with whoever is in charge of the decision for them to defend their case. And then I'd write to, at a minimum, the school principal, the school psychologist/guidance counselor if there is one, and whatever clergyman is the highest up in the diocese (?) which controls the school (not Catholic so I'm not sure exactly how your church government works) about the moral and logical problems with what they're doing. The latter may not even realize what the school is doing and might have something to say about it.
"Turning the other cheek" in this case is only going to give them the impression that what they're doing is okay, and I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus meant by that expression. Even if you can't get them to change their minds, or don't want Elliott there anyway at this point, somebody should make them ashamed of themselves.
Push on Megan! That was EXACTLY my reaction while reading this as well. I would also contact a local news station and ask to tell them your story. Then I would let them expose the school for what they are. Going public would serve you well in a couple of ways:
1) You wouldn't have to fight the fight. You have a full plate already.
2) It would educate the public, and you are all about that!
3) It would force answers from the school or cause them to look bad, and you stated they are all about image, right?
Just remember, some times when you ask question you get answers that you may not WANT, but in this case, I would say they would be answers you definitely need.
PS- As always, my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to you and yours!
Personally, I would go to the news. I am sure some local news group would love to publish your story. But then I have realized that I am a pushy brawd and I wouldn't put up with it. And I would ask them point blank why they accept the scholarship if they don't accept people with autism?
Good luck and I hope you find somewhere that is accepting of your treasures as obviously this school is unwilling to be.
my son has features of Autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive attachment disorder and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury this past spring. we have been fighting the school and the way they treat him for three years. it is a public school. this year, there was an abuse and neglect complaint filed on his behalf by someone in social services. Why? because in response to his "behavior" they locked him in a room by himself. then had the audacity to complain when he started rifling through the desk that was in there. There is so much more, but yes, the school need to know that they can't do this to any school.
In you situation, because it is a private school, you probably don't have a lot of options. they should definitely have to give back the Autism Scholarship. Not sure what that is, but it isn't something they should get if they refuse to serve someone within that community. What would Jesus do in this situation? I bet He would welcome Elliott with open arms.
Check out my blog for more info about my boys and our school district.
My recent post it's been a while…
Thank you for sharing that Carl. I'm so sorry your son is going through that. Gavin was physically and emotionally abused in the public school system. I'm all to aware of how badly our kids are treated at times. Stay strong my friend. I wish you and your family the very best. If I can ever be of any assistance please let me know.