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In this episode: Greg and Jennifer talk about the recent rejection we experienced when a Catholic school turned our children away without even testing them. Also, Greg had a unique celebrity encounter while at the Sirius/XM studios in New York.
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Greg and Jennifer:
I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this. I have one slight criticism of the show. It began to sound a bit like a complaint-fest after a while. I know you are frustrated and you should be. The situation was poorly handled by the school. However, as you said, “God’s will, not ours.” When you had all the callers coming to your defense and some of your comments added in, it just began to sound a bit negative. Actually, I think Greg was aware of this because it sounded like he would cut off a caller and move on when he sensed it. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s kind of what it seemed like. Perhaps if you could have gotten a representative of the school on your show to talk, that might have made for a better show. I doubt they would have accepted an invitation, but it couldn’t have hurt to ask. That’s is my only criticism and it’s not a huge deal.
Although I am an IT professional, I’ve been working in the education arena for most of the past 10 years. I have worked with advocacy organizations for principals and teachers where some of our chief concerns were IDEA, funding NCLB, and leadership development. I am also a parent myself whose child is starting kindergarten in September.
In defense of the school, with which I am not familiar. Most of the time, these smaller private schools simply are not equipped to handle special needs children. As a cradle Catholic, I attended Catholic school grades 1-2, and 5-12 as did my younger siblings. Our youngest brother does have a learning disability which prevented him from attending Catholic school. He did start first grade in a Catholic school, but that was it. They simply couldn’t handle his needs and the mainstream childrens’ needs at the same time. That DOES NOT excuse how your situation appears to have been handled. From your description, there doesn’t appear to have been much compassion.
I do wish to point out one thing about some advice you were given about not mentioning your childrens’ autism. I’d like to offer a comparable situation to show how this could be good advice. Often times in private schools there is a very small population of minority students. During the application process prospective students are often asked to identify their race. This is always an optional question. Many prefer to opt out of this question for fear that they will be pre-judged, pre-labeled, placed in a “special class”, etc. I personally stopped answering this question during my college application process because I wanted to be judged on my own merits, not some pre-conceived notion of what an African American male is or can/cannot do.
Often times, I hear parents say something to the effect of, “I need to tell you that my child is a special needs child, so I just want to be up front and let you know what you’ll be dealing with…” To me that is the wrong way to present the case. It’s as if the parent is pidgeon-holing or warning the school that this is a special case; that this child can’t do “normal” things or isn’t like the other kids. It’s like they’re lowering the expectations of their child before he/she sets foot in the place. Instead, it might be better to start from a position of power. After all, the school is under consideration by the parents just as the child is under consideration by the school. Interview the schools. Ask them what they can offer for special needs kids. Let them know they are not the only game in town. In other words, make them compete for your kid(s). I’m not saying this is what you did, I’m just offering up a scenario I’ve seen countless times.
It is unfortunate that you are not dealing with a diocesan school. Not sure how much recourse you have especially since your kids are not already enrolled. IDEA probably won’t be of much help with that particular school.
Thanks for all you do. I’m an old RA listener. It’s nice to be able to hear you guys again. God Bless.
Love, love, love Ken’s response and just had to say. It’s an informative and educated response (love the inclusion of IDEA and knowing that a smaller school may not be able to handle a special needs child, regardless of how well he/they’re doing in public school) and that makes me happy! Thanks Ken for posting it!
Greg & Jennifer,
Been thinking of you both on this matter. This week, our new Catholic school principal assessed our daughter before admittance for the purpose of identifying any special needs. They do this for all kids. Fortunately for us, it’s because they aim to accommodate them.
I don’t see your bringing this up early as a lowering of expectations. Quite the opposite. You’re not saying your children “can’t”, rather they “can” when their needs are met. Yours is a higher expectation.
Shannon | @shannonswenson
First of all, I would like to let you know how sorry I am that you had to go through this and how disappointing and frustrating it is for me to hear of it. I teach in an inner-city Catholic school. We do have the ability to provide a few special services; it depends on the nature and degree of the child’s needs. Some of our students also receive services outside of school. If, however, the resources we have are not sufficient to meet a particular child’s needs, we must unfortunately turn the child away. I do not know whether the school to which you applied would have been able to meet your children’s needs. Even if it had not, it is very upsetting to hear that the principal did not handle the situation with tact and compassion.
I was also upset, however, to listen to the way some of your callers seemed to be “bashing” the Catholic schools. Since becoming an educator, I have worked in public, charter, and Catholic schools. I have learned from this experience that there are good schools and bad schools, and good principals and bad principals, in all types of settings. While I respect the pain these families experienced, it is disappointing to hear that some of them seem to be judging all Catholic schools based on their negative experience with one school. We must keep in mind that each child is unique and so is each school; the important and difficult responsibility parents face is to find the school that best meets their child’s and their family’s needs, regardless of whether that school be public, charter, private, parochial, or homeschool.
Greg and Jennifer, I wish you the best in your education quest. If I had known that you were coming to New York City I would have asked my principal to invite you to visit our school. If you ever think of moving to the area, please remember that there is a little Catholic school in the South Bronx that would love to have five more students (and keep in mind, we give discounts for multiple children!).