Those of you who follow me on Twitter, or know me in real life know that we have been dealing with a few situations at Nate's school that have been causing our whole family a lot of stress. I don't want to go into too much detail in such a public forum, but to preface this story I will say that the issues deal with both a lack of respect for Nate's 504 (Students with Disabilities Act) plan and two situations that have threatened his safety.
Clearly as his parents SD and I are pretty mad. We have spent the last two weeks going to doctor's appointments, doing research, writing time lines, attending numerous school meetings, talking to psychologists and State Education representatives. But the most important thing we've done through all of this is telling Nate that we have his back.
Listening to Nate tell these people “I don't feel safe in school, they (the adults) treat me like a bother, like I'm garbage”, it would be easy to just get angry. It would be easy to tell off he school administration and enroll him in private school. As in most cases, what's easy isn't what's right.
SD and I have had to sit down and talk about our goals in this. Do we want policy rewritten? Do we want to involve the police? Do we want to pursue civil action? Our conversations always come back to: We want to make sure our son feels safe. As much as a part of us wants to stick it to the man, that isn't the goal here. Being an advocate for our child means that we have to keep his needs at the foreground at all times.
There are a few things I want him to learn from this experience:
- You can fight an unjust system.
- The adults in charge aren't always right.
- That his rights are no less important because he is a child.
- That he has a right to feel safe at school.
- That knowledge is power. You have no idea how many times in the past week I had to tell school district officials what their own policies were.
- That sometimes the people in charge are manipulative and will go to great lengths to have things work in their favor. Some people will also work extraordinarily hard to be lazy.
- That surrounding yourself with a good support system is an important part of a happy life. If we hadn't already had a network of amazing physicians, psychologists and knowledgeable friends and family we would have had to go through this alone. As it is now when I don't know how to proceed, I have a whole notebook filled with people I can call.
- Most importantly he should learn that when it seems that no one else cares about him his dad and I always will.
Being a parent is the hardest thing I've ever done.