A mother's angst
Kim Solomon, a Baltimore County second-grade teacher and Brandon Solomon's mom, emailed me recently to tell me about the trouble she has experienced trying to get Brandon the special-education services he needs.
After months of trying to get appropriate services for Brandon --- who is now a 7th grader and who has a rare genetic disorder that has rendered him clinically blind --- Kim says that school officials suggested she take Brandon somewhere else to be educated. Frustrated and not wanting to lose any more time in Brandon's education, she has enrolled him at the Maryland School for the Blind, at the expense of the Baltimore County school system.
Brandon has a disorder --- methylmalonic acidemia, or cobalamin C-defect --- that makes it impossible for his body to process and metabolize proteins. Though the disorder is incurable, it is treatable and manageable. Kim also says that while Brandon is developmentally delayed, he is not severely mentally retarded. She said his reading and math skills are roughly that of a 4th grader --- in part, she says, because of months of attending Parkville Middle School without the large-print books and similar accommodations that he needed to compensate for his low vision.
Kim says that as a teacher, she knows the legal --- and moral --- obligation that teachers have to educate ALL students, not just those who are easier to teach than others.
Kim and I spoke recently about her struggle. She has sought help from the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education, which she said has told her she has a solid case against the school system, but they can only help her if she chooses to send Brandon back to a public school --- something she says she can't bring herself to do just now.
Read on to find out why Kim says she had no choice but to remove Brandon from the public school system ...
Kim agreed to let me share her correspondence on this blog in the hopes that others who are experiencing the same difficulty might want to band together. Here is the letter that Kim and her husband, Charles, wrote just before the end of the 2006-2007 school year:
My son is a 6th grade student at Parkville Middle School, in Baltimore County. He started this school year with some excitement and some trepidation. My son is a special needs child. He has Cobalamin C Defect (a very rare genetic disorder) and is visually impaired. He has an IEP - Individualized Education Program.
Almost immediately, the harassment and bullying from other students began. This includes, but is not limited to, incessant name calling, knocking his books out of his hands, kicking his books, throwing food at him in the cafeteria, hiding a soda can tab in a soft pretzel and then watching him eat it, pushing and shoving him around. I could go on and on. Is this not harassment and bullying? Is this a safe environment that is conducive to learning? Is it unreasonable to expect the school to provide a safe environment where all the students can learn to the best of their ability?
Constant contact has been made with the teachers and administrators at the school throughout the entire year. The problems don't go away. They just continue day after day after day. Parkville Middle School, what are you doing to make this situation any better? After numerous phone calls, e-mails and visits, I still can't figure that out.
The issues unfortunately aren't limited to the student body. My son has pumped up a teacher's tire while the rest of his class participated in the actual class. He has also been told to sit and watch a University of Maryland basketball game with the teacher (and be quiet so the teacher could hear the game as well), while the rest of the class participated in the actual class. Does this constitute the proper education my son should be receiving at Parkville Middle? A teacher's assistant has questioned my son's visual impairment by telling him she thinks he is making up his visual deficiencies and lying to the teachers. When he told a teacher once that he couldn't see the material, he was told by the teacher "I suggest you get your eyes fixed then". So much for taking the extra steps necessary (as required by the IEP and by law) to accommodate for my son's disability.
Is this for real? Unfortunately in this Baltimore County Public School, yes it is.