I prepared my agenda in preparation to attend the closed portion of the Board meeting on December 22, 2004. It read:
My son is a 9 yr. old classified student at….. Elementary School. The issue outstanding for review tonight by the board is the service of vision therapy being provided by the school district. It has been shown that my son’s visual processing, tracking, sequencing, ocular eye movement, has been impacting his education since he has entered the district. To follow is an overview:
1) The School Psychologist notes the following weakness’ in June of 2002 report: Visual Analysis, Visual Memory, Visual Imagery, Spatial Visualization, Visual Perception, Visual Motor Coordination, Visual Sequencing, Chunking, or Clustering Strategies.
2) October 2002 An outside behavioral consultant hired by the district noticed my son going cross eyed during academic work.
3) 10-15-02 Excerpt from Communication book from the resource room teacher: “I watched … today because he and I were talking about his pets. As we were talking his eyes crossed two (2) times.”
4) 10-30-02 I took my son to an ophthalmologist which a copy of her report was provided to the school in 2002. Dr Judith Simon M.D. states,: “In summary A has no ophthalmic problems explaining his occasional estropia. He has only minimal hyperopia, which is normal for his age and does not require any correction. I would suggest that he see a developmental behavioral optometrist for an evaluation for possible tracking or visual processing problems as an etiology of his difficulty reading.” The district failed to follow up with her request for further testing by an Developmental Behavioral Optometrist.
5) In a request from me the school had the reading specialist do an observation. In her report she states,: “It was very difficult for him to copy and order the letters to correctly spell the words. He had difficulty tracking the words and problems with the directionality and position of the letters. He transposed:
“And” to pan and reversed d with b, and p with q.”
6) Please note written requests for evaluation by Developmental Behavioral . Optometrist have been made by me since March of 2003. Finally in response to my May 5, 2004 letter that I sent requesting once again for this evaluation to be granted it was indeed granted. In addition, an independent educational evaluation was granted at the same time due to the districts proposal to reduce my son’s services for reading.
7) June 8th, 2004 in a questionnaire from Dr. Kay to my son’s teachers they state:
Reverses letters and numbers when writing, cannot finish work in a reasonable time frame, reverses letters and sounds, incorrect order of letters in words, lacks fluency and speed in reading, confuses similar letters, words, or sounds, follows with finger or pencil
8) June report from Dr. Kay states: ” He evidenced frequent b/d reversals when phonetically decoding nonsense words and often skipped words or lines when tracking /and scanning across print. Deficits in these areas are frequently found among children with physiologic vision dysfunctions. Therefore, this examiner would support his referral to a developmental optometrist.”
9) July 20, 2004 report from the developmental optometrist he notes weakness in:
Visual scanning, visual tracking, speed, correct eye dominance, visual processing, binocular vision, ocular motor pursuits were jerky, saccades. It was noted that the following symptoms related to this problem are : poor visual concentration, and difficulty to learn how to read.
10) July IEP meeting: When reviewing the developmental optometrist report I said the doctor was recommending vision therapy because it was affecting my son educationally. My son’s needs are also listed by the IEP team in the Present Levels of Performance. (I have transcribed the following off the IEP audio tape.) I was told by the Special Education Director: “That we can’t do. It is the one thing we can’t do. When asked, “How come?” The Special Education Director stated, “I was told we can’t do it. Because vision therapy you have to go to a doctor’s office for, Anytime you have to go to a doctor’s office it is considered a medical treatment.” Further along in the conversation I asked since these visual problems were affecting my son’s education could we could see if this program could be given in the school. (This was transcribed off the same IEP audiotape). The Special Education Director replied,” I’ll have to take a run back to the
superintendent’s office. He is the one who really says he does not see that we are going to pay for a person to receive a medical treatment.”
11) Presented the above information to the superintendent along with N.J. case law that an administrative law judge granted vision therapy as a service that was provided by a school.
12) Oct. 27, 2004 in a phone message from the superintendents secretary the request for vision therapy was granted by the board. ( as per Audio tape).
13) In a letter dated Oct. 28th, 2004 from the Special Education Director the vision therapy was granted and the contract was forwarded to the board for contract approval.
14) The superintendent responded to an e-mail that I wrote in writing just before he left his office on Friday, October 29, 2004 at 3:36 PM. It stated he was sorry for the delay and yes he had approved the vision therapy. The next morning he had a massive heart attack and died.
15) In a letter dated November 11th, 2004 from the Case Manager she states once again that this vision therapy contract has been forwarded to the board for approval.
16) After my following up and finding out that the board had not reviewed the contract in neither Oct. Or Nov. Meeting as per the Districts Employees had stated to me. I contacted the interim super who informed me he would put on the December agenda but would be advising the board to vote against this service as he felt it would set “precedent” in the district.
17) In a letter dated November 29th I addressed every member of the board with the attached supporting laws, N.J. Case law, and previous approval letter from the Special Education Director.
18) I have also contacted the Board of Medical Examiners for Medical Doctors and The Board of Optometrists who explained how an Optometrist is not a “Medical Doctor”. Therefore the districts only reason for denial is not valid. (A Copy of the New Jersey State Board of Optometrists Statutes and Regulations – Division of Consumer Affairs – Department of Law and Public Safety as of July 2002 is enclosed)
19) To further show the school districts are required to pay for medical services that are impacting a child’s education I have also provided the board with the laws from IDEA which state: (Excerpt) medical services, ( except medical that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.
20) I also have two rulings on medical services provided by the school.
A) U.S. Supreme Court Irving Independent School District v. Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984)
B) The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., A Minor by his mother and Next Friend, Charlene F. (Nov. 4th, 1998)
21) The reason I came to the board is because although I have attempted to resolve this with the IEP team on numerous occasions they have referred me to the Board. In my most recent IEP meeting on December 8th ( I have transcribed the following off the IEP audio tape) after I asked about the vision therapy the case manager stated, “Again this is out of hands. This is something you are working with the board on. ” I state later in the conversation, “I just don’t understand know why the board is deciding this because I thought this was an IEP decision.” I then go on to read the law regarding medical services. The learning consultant stated, ” We have no comment on that because it is beyond us, Okay? A few moments later I repeat again that I still am not understanding why the IEP team can’t make a decision to which the learning consultant stated, ” BECAUSE WE HAVE PEOPLE WHO ARE OUR SUPERIORS WHO WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO.”
(Yes, I had gotten closer to the truth, the child study team did not have the authority to make these decisions (thus the law states otherwise) and they were scared because they had people who were their superiors who they were accountable to. Hadn’t they ever heard of Pamela Settlegoode??? “Dr. Pamella Settlegoode, was an adaptive physical education teacher who advocated for her students and was retaliated against and fired. Ultimately she won one million dollars and an additional $50,000 in punitive damages against the director of special education and their assistant. The decision opened doors for other teachers who felt they could not advocate for their students and trapped in oppressive work environments. You can read more about it at:
But the truth was there were not going to be many Pamela Settlegoode’s in the world and I began to wonder who was going to be accountable to educate my son? What I was learning if I didn’t vigorously advocate for my child in this broken public education system nobody would not be held accountable, my son would never reach his potential, and he WOULD become a statistic. There was no way I was allowing that. )
I had my agenda printed with a copy for each board member in hand. It was a dark rainy night. I kissed my husband and children Good Bye. I called my mom and she wished me luck. I said to her, “If I get run off the road and die tell the Police to question the Board of Education and Administration First!” My mother said, “Are you serious?” As dramatic as it sounded (And anyone who knows me knows I am not dramatic) I was serious. That is how intimidated and scared I felt of the Board of Education and Administration. I never showed them on the outside but my insides were a mess…..
Copyrighted 2011: danadogooder and DMT