Tuesday, May 10, 2011

K12Online and South Carolina Virtual Charter School Leave Children with Special Needs Behind

By Gretchen Herrera, parent of a child being left behind

All I have ever wanted for my child was an education he could obtain while ensuring his safety and physical and emotional well-being. It is clear though that the No Child Left Behind legislation views children as little more than testing objects to report out on and from which to receive dollars for, making the dream I had for my child impossible. 

I have been working for years to advocate for the needs of my son. Recently when I requested to opt-out of our state’s standardized test, I was met with not only resistance, but threats. Threats that my son would be removed from South Carolina Virtual Charter school powered by K12 Online and returned to the hostile environment he escaped from should we not comply. 

My son is a type 1 diabetic as well as child with Aspergers. His medical team leader wrote this letter to the school requesting he not be tested. She explained it could have significant ramifications for his blood sugar, and how that would be detrimental to his health. She asked he be allowed to be excused from testing. Her words fell on deaf ears. I was told by the  South Carolina Virtual Charter school’s Office of Exceptional Children that the medical note wasn’t acceptable.  She stated,

“After research and contact with the State Department of Education it is my understanding that no student is excluded from state testing due to the No Child Left Behind legislation.“
When I pointed out that this was a medical reason, I was told that the doctors orders would be disregarded and instead he would be accommodated (see video here for what that could mean), not excused, from the tests.

Deeply concerned about my son’s well-being, I reached out in writing twice to the director of South Carolina Virtual Charter school who ignored my outreach.  I also called and spoke with  the counsel for the South Carolina Department of Education and was told, begrudgingly, there isn’t a state law that says my son has to test. However, I received threats from the Department.  She said if I didn’t produce my son on the day of testing and he didn’t participate, he would suffer consequences. His absences could trigger truancy through my “unlawful actions”...even though there was no law against me following his doctors orders and my instinct about what was best for my child. She explained I could NOT “opt-out” for pieces of a child’s education and how every district can instill their own penalties. Of course, I was not opting out of the education.  I was opting out of the assessments which my son, my doctors, and my instincts tell me are wrong for my child.  I was told the penalty for my doing what was best for my child was that I would no longer be allowed to have my child attend the only school he was ever safe in. She also informed me that if I didn’t make my child available for their testing, there would be a compulsory attendance issue and that I could then be held liable and may face charges...even though I assured them he would be engaging in real learning activities in alignment with his passions, talents, and interests.  

Why must I be forced to do what my doctors, my son, and I know will harm him? I want my son to have access to the joyful, useful, relevant, real, and interesting learning experience that our tax dollars pay for?  I’d happily take my tax dollars elsewhere, but unfortunately, our compulsory system of compliance doesn’t afford parents such options. I am forced to subject my son to that which will make him physically and emotionally ill if he is to get the education he he deserves. The system has failed and my child is being left behind.

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