“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, January 17, 2008

No accommodations

As I often do, I received an email from a parent today who spoke about how his daughter with a learning disability had been in Christian schools, unidentified but supported, throughout elementary school with pretty good success.  However, as she entered Junior High, also at the Christian school, she began to have difficulty keeping up.  She had to stop involvement in extracurricular activities as homework would consume her after school hours.  The man contacted the school and asked for help for his daughter.  He wondered whether she could perhaps be given a little more time on assignments or tests and quizzes, or whether perhaps less homework could be assigned.  He indicated that the school replied in the following manner...   

"One teacher, the supervisor for 3 others, stated that the school does not have a certificate of completion program there and so will not be able to accommodate or reduce what is required of her.  I don't even know what that means."

He was not asking about a "certificate of completion" only extra help so his daughter could complete the work.  No wonder he didn't know what they were talking about.  But I am dismayed by the response and the lack of desire to help this parent and his daughter.  In the public schools, a 504 plan might be the solution, however, because the school is private, many of the same regulations do not apply.  Literally, after years of participation in the Christian school, this family can be dismissed with a wave of a hand when a child begins to fall behind academically.  Elsewhere in the email it was implied by teachers that the child was not struggling academically (the implication being that the parent was not seeing the child struggle with homework every night) or that she just needed to work harder (denying the fact that the girl did indeed have a mild disability).

It would bother me much less if this were just some secular private school with who knows what set of standards they are reflecting.  But this is a school that has identified itself with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  As His agent, there is a different level of responsibility for service.  This parent is being told that Christians do not understand, do not have compassion, do not want to help and are unwilling to change to assist a young girl with a mild disability.  I wish this were not typical.  I pray that God will not allow this to happen in the future.  These who set themselves apart from the secular world of education and call themselves Christian are acting in a far from Christian manner.  In reality, in the sphere of education, the secular world is acting much more Christian than probably 95% of the Christian schools in the United States are.  But the saddest part is that they read a posting like this...

...and they don't care.



Mommy to those Special Ks said...

I have really enjoyed reading your blog today. My name is Renee, my daughter Kennedy has Down syndrome. My husband and I both went to college at CBU. I just wanted to say hello and let you know I'd be reading!

Anonymous said...

I am upset that a family had to experience the feeling that the Christian school did not care and that the attitude is that she did not try hard enough when in fact she has a disability. Unfortunately there are too many children who are enrolled in private Christian schools, and these schools do not have any extra services for children with disabilites. People pay lots of money for tuition and sometimes it seems that your child needs to be "normal" to go to a private Christian school.
Remember you have rights and can utilize services with your home school district even if you are attending a private Christian school.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog! Thanks to GL for sending me a link.

I taught for 5 years at a Christian high school not far from CBU near your church, Jeff. When I was there, we had a counseling staff that actually had a great deal of compassion for students with learning disabilities--but of course, we had no budget to provide the help they needed. We did try to accommodate students with mild disabilities and established alternative places and times for testing, etc. But we couldn't provide the special ed some needed.

I remember one student who learned well aurally but struggled with anything written. His parents didn't want to transfer him to a public school where he could have obtained the help he needed, so we limped through with him. He was actually a delightful and very talented "kid".

I felt quite a lot of frustration during those years because I actually had a significant number of kids that came through my classroom who had some level of disability, including some form of autism, but we had no real way to help them aside from internal accommodations. With class sizes of 28-30 (I taught 9th grade English), it was very difficult to give the sort of assistance needed to kids who struggled with writing and reading.

I believe some parents fear the "stigma" of their students receiving the appropriate testing and assistance--little do they seem to realize that with proper testing and classification, their children have access to extra help in some universities which would not be available to them without the testing and diagnoses.

Jeff, you can probably say more about this than I can...I admire your ministry to the disabled so much. You and Kathy are awesome!


Unknown said...

I have mentioned about these issues in my blog several times, one good example is this specific blog: Disabilities issues within Politics and Christianity Many people had ignorant assumptions about the capabilities of disabled people. I believe the laws were mostly useful for raising the level of awareness and consciousness. However, the disability rights movements are still educating people about the structural and attitudinal barriers that are still happening within the Christian community. Many churches and Christian schools often still treat people with disabilities, as 2nd or 3rd class citizens. I believe as Christians that we are to remove physical, emotional and spiritual barriers in order to bring in people who are suffering with disabilities. The only way the spiritual gifts are going to operate is love. Love is the key. God is love. He gave us two commandments. We are to love God and others. With the Holy Spirit and love, I will walk in the Spirit, Christ produces the fruit. It is Christ through the Holy Spirit produces power, love, a sound mind through us. Christ helps us. Without Christ, we are nothing. I believe that the church are commanded by God through Scriptures to train and equip people with disabilities in order to help them exercise their Godgiven gifts in building the Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Parents, keep asking. Things are slow to change.

At the ACSI So-Cal conference in November, Guy Dowd challenged Christian schools to start tackling learning disabilities and even special education. He received a thunderous ovation.

As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome and a principal of a Christian school, I know every reason why it should happen and why it doesn't. Together, we can make it happen.

Marvin J. Miller
Principal Palm View Christian - Whittier, CA