This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revised letter





Mary,

I understand your anger, but this is only going to turn your readers off. Instead of a diatribe to the entire school, exposing everyone's errors to everyone else, why not re write the letter in a mild and polite SHORT form, expressing concern that Bear isn't getting the message about ONE thing at a time.

I know you are about to explode with anger, but that's how the letter comes across. To the principal, just let him know that several areas at the school are not giving the students the message he is trying to give his students. Each teacher needs to know that he is using them, but it also needs to tell them how they can make a small change to get his attention and get him turned around.

Mom(You asked!)


Mom,

The problem is I’ve tried that. Over and Over. And NOTHING has really happened.

The first time, I managed to get them to start noticing that he was leaving classes and tardy a lot (not admitting it mind you, just willing to kind of do something about it). They briefly had someone escort him when he left class, but now he’s worse. He’s just coming to class late instead of leaving mid class (although he still does that), assuming he showed up at all.

The second time, I managed to get a parent teacher conference, but all that did was give his teachers info that they should have had the first month not three months before the end of the year. We didn’t address his attendance, grades, or loss of motivation.

The most recent time, I managed to get the to meet with me they agreed that there was a problem, and said they might have him escorted between classes (didn’t happen) and would give him detention (didn’t happen).

Now he has 3 days of class left. Only a week and a half until all stops because school is out. I don’t have time for one thing at a time.

FYI, he played you. Getting him the clay was fine (although he’s put it off for months – blaming it on me for not getting him what he needed - by always asking at the last minute when we couldn’t get any) However he got you to actually make his history project buffalo for him.

Looks great by the way.

Here’s the changes I made.
Better?

Mary

REVISED LETTER

RE: Bear’s Grades and Attendance

Please forgive me for being blunt, but as I look at Bear’s declining grades and spotty attendance over the last semester, send yet another e-mail, leave yet another message with the AP’s office, talk to yet another counselor or (School Behavior Program) Aide, talk to yet another teacher about projects Bear hasn’t even worked on, knowing there is nothing that anyone can/will do, especially now that there’s less than a week of class time left… I’m feeling a little “frustrated.”

I just want to say thank you all for everything (Bear's high school) has “taught” my son this year.

+ Ms. S, Why do you bother to write that late projects will not be accepted? You do realize that Bear has thoroughly learned the lesson that as long as he turns in something, anything, eventually, whether he did the work himself or not, that he will still pass? And even if he doesn’t pass there are no consequences. If we’re not going to hold him accountable, then at what point do we say that Bear is unable to handle long-term projects (he owes one in World History as well that if he fails to turn it in will take him from a 96 to failing)?

+ By the way he’s also learned that he can coast on earlier grades and that teachers will not let him fail if he’s “close” (i.e. pretty much anything above a 65).

+ This year, ROTC taught him that he can talk someone into giving him extra credit and even go back and change a grade from the previous 6 weeks from a 40 something to passing. He’s apparently about to learn that if he loses his uniform and does nothing about it that his parents will have to pay the $250 and have no way of making him pay it back (he still owes money for the neighbor’s lawnmower that he borrowed and destroyed, not to mention our lawnmower, everyone’s bikes… but that’s not your problem).

+ Last Summer he learned the lesson that we can make him go to Summer School, but we can’t make him GO to Summer School (Stony Point didn’t bother to tell us that he wasn’t showing up and even during the session he attended he couldn’t have done much or he would have gotten more than a 30something). Of course he’s also learned that it doesn’t matter if he fails Summer School or the TAKS test, he still gets promoted to the next grade. You’ll have to share the credit for teaching him that with Cedar Valley MS.

+ He’s definitely learned that school attendance is not important, tardies are no big deal, and if you don’t like a class, teacher or students you have every right to get up and walk out. If you get caught then you can hang out with and enjoy the full attention of a male person who listens and cares.

+ He learned that the worst that can happen to him is detention, and that's not so bad and probably won’t happen anyway. I was told several times he would receive some detentions that he never received. I do not appreciate that not only did this make us as his parents look stupid to Bear, but it reinforced his belief that he’d “gotten away” with something. He did get some detentions, but by the time they were given the offense(s) was forgotten (or justified in his head), and it was no longer about his choices, but was “our fault” he was in trouble (because we’d pushed for the consequence). Bear actually enjoys detention (not sure what the rules are, but I suspect that he manages to get around them). We had to pull him early from a couple of detentions because he had therapy, and he was supposed to make up the time at lunch, but he learned how to avoid that too (if he didn’t go in the cafeteria no one could make him stay there). By the way, who knows what he was doing during lunch time?

+ He learned that stealing things and taking drugs and weapons to school, are fine because no one will catch you. Well, except Mom, but that doesn’t count at school.

+ He’s also learned that adults are stupid, easily lied to and manipulated, and not to be trusted (that last part he already “knew,” but so glad we could reinforce it). Bear is in total control of his part of the big, bad world. He can even get adults to jump through hoops by accusing teachers of things like sexual harassment, and if they don’t get in trouble then it’s because they are liars who are out to get him.

The things you are teaching my son will help him get to jail much faster, and he will finally get the structure and rules he needs to feel safe, but have you considered the innocent people he will be hurting on his way there?

Let me be clear. I do not approve of what you are teaching him. I do not think he should be allowed to continue on this path until he graduates to behaviors you can’t ignore or he drops out . I believe that you have failed in your duty to provide him with an appropriate education.

Bear is not normal. He has very little conscience, and if he thinks he won’t get caught he has the potential to make lethal choices (even if it’s just not reporting that someone else has plans to blow up the school or selling someone his drugs that he doesn’t understand can be lethal in the doses he takes).

If you really think Bear is a “normal” teenage boy with a “few issues,” then you can keep telling him that, but I hope you truly understand the consequences (I know he doesn’t).

+ He’s hearing at school that not only can he move out at age 17 (less than 2 months people!), but that he can take care of himself in the real world. This is a kid who doesn’t even know what a resume is. He cannot fill out a job application. He is not capable of asking for help. How is he going to support himself at age 17, 18? Think his first priority will be making sure he takes his meds correctly for the “labels” he is convinced he doesn’t have? Go back and look at Bear’s records if you want to know what he was like when he wasn’t on the right meds. Or just multiply the way he is now by like a thousand.


+ Who’s going to help him fill those meds? Who’s going to pay for it (over $1000 a month)? What about when his Medicaid runs out? Not us. He won’t let us. He’s pushing us away so we can’t hurt him.

+ It’s reinforced to him almost every day that he’s perfectly normal, and that’s what he wants to hear. “All teens are separating from their parents at this age,” of course Bear never attached to anyone in the first place so he is not practicing what he’s learned from us, he’s falling without a parachute.


+ We won’t help him get a driver’s license. When Bear decides he deserves or needs a car and thinks he can get away with it, he’ll be “borrowing” one. He already think he “knows how to drive” (I’m thinking Rainman here). All of you who think he’s normal can pay the court fees and help him write apology notes to his victims’ families.


+ By the way, the case of Poison Oak he got when he skipped class Monday was in some places that are never exposed by my son who wears at least 3 layers at all times (he wouldn’t even let the doctor see the rash on his bellybutton let alone what he claims is under his (jeans, shorts, and boxers). Are those of you who have been teaching him that skipping class is OK ready to tell the mother of the girl he was probably with why my son won’t be the best baby daddy for her child?

+ Bear is incapable of having a healthy relationship. I know he tends to prey on girls with issues like his own (like those in most of his classes). We call them “Kleenex girls” because he goes through them like Kleenex. How many pregnant girls are you willing to counsel and support?

Bear won’t graduate high school until he’s almost 19, assuming he doesn’t drop out before then. He was doing well while he had the support of (Special Behavior School), but I’ve been told (Special Behavior School) is no longer an option. I need to hear options, because what is being done now is not working.

Please contact me when you’re ready to address this. ###.###.####.

Mary

9 comments:

jwg said...

Want to lay odds on whether you get a meaningful response? Great letter.

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Let us know how it goes. We'll be thinking of you today.

GB's Mom said...

Great letter. Hope it wakes somebody up!

Corey said...

Mary,
I think WRITING the letter is a good way to get out your frustration. Would *I*, personally, bother to send it? No. And here's why: because the school isn't going to change, no matter what, and sending the letter gives them an excuse (in their minds) to write you off as one of those moms that's always ranting and raving about "something."

The truth is, the teachers will pass Bear because they don't want him in their classes again. I imagine he is disruptive and disrespectful and a PITA, when he bothers to show up, and they don't want to deal with him. The school wants to keep passing him because of programs like No Child Left Behind, because there are consequences if they hold him back. THEY know he's not going to do summer school or make any effort.. and they know what YOU know.. that you can't MAKE a kid do what he's just not going to do.

The difference is, YOU love him and want him to have a good life.. and to them, he's just another kid.

Schools aren't equipped or trained to deal with kids like ours.. they're there to educate. Teachers get paid so little, they take HUGE amounts of crap from kids, and they have really very little authority. It's not like anyone in the school can take Bear down in a restraint. If they give him a detention, it's a punishment for the TEACHER who then has to deal with him. If he does something criminal, they can call the police.. but even that we know is a crapshoot in terms of whether anything will come of it.

I'm on YOUR side, Mary, really I am. But you and I, we live, sleep, eat and breathe RAD 24/7, and WE don't know what to do with our kids (or at least *I* don't!).. the school (like the rest of "normal" society) doesn't "get" RAD one bit, and just wants him O-U-T.

I wish I had answers for you, girl. All I have are prayers. xoxo

Melissa said...

Is there anyone higher than the superintendent? Like a school board? If so, I would send the letter that you have to the school and carbon copy is to the super and the school board. I do follow your blog and I see how many times you have contacted the school about your son. Someone needs to be held accountable for letting him slip through their fingers. As long as he is still a student there they are responsible for educating him, writing him off and ignoring him is not doing him any favors. Good luck, let us know what, if anything happens.

Struggling to Stand said...

Don't forget to also send it to the director of special education -- because that is who really should be monitoring his "progress".
I still suggest faxing as well as email, esp. to the superintendent and director of special ed.

Corey, I think many of the problems the school has are not exclusive to RAD kids. My daughter has brain injury, and the schools refused to ever do a "constant repitition of few subjects" with her. (Bear could have used that too, I bet) ... yes, I know, I'm preaching to the choir. But somehow we've got to make our voices heard. If Mary can't squeak (loudly) now, then she can't ever. Now is exactly the right time for her to make a big stink. (Too bad she doesn't know anybody in the media...)

Adrienne said...

That's awful. I'm so sorry. We've dealt with the same terrible crap, though Carter is only 7 so the stakes are not quite as high.

I think it's a great letter. Have you thought about contacting the media? People might respond to a story that made the point that while special education is expensive, so are prison cells.

Adrienne said...

Oh, also? I gave you a blog award! It's on today's post on my blog.

marythemom said...

Corey - ironically because Bear is in special ed. most of his teachers this year will be his teachers next year too. He'll have the same AP and casemanager too. They're creating a monster they'll have to deal with for 2 more years (assuming he doesn't drop out).

Generally Bear is an easy kid at school (not as sweet as Kitty), but most of his responses now are "flight" not fight. More sins of ommission instead of in your face. He stays under their radar. Today's outburst was because he was told he wouldn't be allowed to hide and do whatever he wants while no one is paying attention.

THANKS ADRIENNE I needed a pick me up today!

Mary