Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

There were a couple of Supreme Court decisions that may be of interest. The most recent vindicated a teenager for a strip search she had to endure in school due to a zero tolerance policy against drugs like ibuprofen. But no individual school official was held accountable, according to CNN.

In a previous Supreme Court decision, the justices ordered public school districts to reimburse private school tuition to parents of special needs children — even if their kids never attended a public school, according to the Washington Post. Still, as one special education teacher in the story noted, parents would still have to pay tuition upfront and prove they needed the services in the first place.

We had a long discussion on the ethics of using nanny cameras.

There have been a lot of recession “trend” stories in the media like families cutting up their credit cards and adult children moving back home to save money. In the latter story, we discussed “ground rules” for when adult children move in. Has the economy caused you to have an intergenerational household?

Finally, caregiving fathers are in the news. Our “tessajp” wrote a diary about how 15 percent of all U.S. combat troops are women, largely mothers with stay-at-home husbands. Also, I reviewed a book called The Daddy Shift, which profiled couples with this non-traditional, but increasingly common setup.

We were saddened about the passing of entertainment legends Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. As I mentioned in my open thread, I remember listening to Jackson’s Thriller album on a record player. Also, I had Michael’s juiced up curls, admittedly, not my finest moment. :)

While Charlie’s Angels was before my time, there were many women on our site with fond Fawcett memories — and hair!

I am leaving to the east coast this week to attend my aunt’s funeral and visit my grandmother in the hospital. (Yes, it’s been a tumultuous couple weeks.) There will be no weekly roundup in a week, but I will resume it Saturday, July 11.

Thanks all! What’s up with you?


Supreme Court on Special Education

Parents with special needs children may seek reimbursement for private school tuition even if they have never sent their kids to public schools, according to a Supreme Court ruling covered by the Washington Post.

Check it out:

By a 6 to 3 vote, the court settled an emotional and contentious issue that has divided frustrated parents and financially strapped school officials, often ending in legal battles. In writing the opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said Congress intended for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act to provide an appropriate educational experience for all children, no matter whether they had ever received special-education services from a school system.

The issue has emerged as one of the fastest-growing components of local education budgets, threatening to “seriously deplete public education funds,” according to a brief filed by the nation’s urban school districts.

Local school systems in the Washington area spend millions of dollars each year on private school reimbursement. And the D.C. public schools allocated $7.5 million of this year’s $783 million budget just for the legal costs of hearing officers or judges to decide whether the system can provide appropriate services for children with disabilities.

Some parents said a contrary decision could have forced students, especially ones whose parents could not afford private school, to spend time in an undesirable situation before getting the help they need.

A special education advocate applauded the decision and said she does not think a flood of parents will deplete public coffers for private schools. They would probably be deterred by tuition, which they would have to pay up front, and litigation to prove their children need private services, she said.

No word from cash-strapped school districts on where they will find the money to reimburse families who seek it.


Thursday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Jeremy Adam Smith aka “Daddy Dialectic” will read from his new book, The Daddy Shift at Pegasus Bookstore in downtown Berkeley on Sunday, June 14, at 5 p.m.. Hope to see you there!

Sandra Tsing-Loh wrote about the pressures on today’s mom compared to the 1950s for Slate’s new Double X online zine.

The Washington Post ran a couple stories about two jobs with low wages and high staff turnover: special education and home health care. I was surprised to read that considering all work is precious and welcome in this economy.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


In Which I Nearly Punch Out My Son’s Principal

Great diary! Thanks for posting!! – Gloria

I have a 13 year old son with Aspegers and ADD.  He is (of course) a wonderful kid, typical Asperger’s, extremely intelligent but socially inept.  The IEP team has been really good with him, no complaints there.


My experience – both as a mom and as a special ed attorney – is that the problems are usually not so much with the IEP team as with the school administration, and to some extent with the regular education teachers and their “one size fits all” rules.  When the ADD causes a screwup, the Asperger’s means it has to be handled a little differently, because an Asperger’s kid is somewhat emotionally tone deaf.  They don’t always get the analogies, the undertones, the subtext.  

My son has been having some organizational problems.  They’re part and parcel of how he is wired, i.e. the ADD.  This morning, halfway to school, unduly anxious that he would be late, he said, “oh no!  I had to bring in a new notebook for science!”  He was beside himself, because the science teacher has taken to riding him like a circus pony at every opportunity.  

Not his fault, since he had reminded me over the weekend, but I had the flu and didn’t much get off the sofa.  Not a problem.  I dropped him off so he’d be on time, scooted over to the only thing open in my town at that hour, the grocery store, and came back with a notebook.  At the school office, after the retina check and the three buzzers to get in, I asked to see him.  

“Well, no.  We can’t do that.  It’s our policy.  Why do you want to see him?”

In four years of having one or another kid in that school, this is a first.  I said, “I need to give him something.”

“Oh, well, if he forgot it, too bad.  We can’t interrupt instructional time.  We were having parents come in here 30, 40 times a day to bring their kids stuff.”  (Dear me, you’d think they were, oh…a school or something????)  

Out comes the principal, who says that she circulates during the day and drops things off.  How it is more efficient to waste an hour of the most highly paid administrator’s time dropping off notebooks, lunches and sports equipment is beyond me, but hey, obviously it’s their school, we just provide the fodder.  The kids were allowed to pick stuff up at lunch hour, but since this was for his first period class, that would be useless.  

Then came “they need to learn responsibility”.  I explained this was not his error but mine, and it would teach the kid nothing to have him take the consequences for someone else’s mistake.  (By now I was one invective away from making the analogy to Bush and Iraq, but still had enough sense not to.)  I pointed out that this teacher, in particular, has been making an issue of stuff that is common with ADD kids and as far as I was concerned she was punishing him for a manifestation of the disability, which as far as I know is still illegal.  I also promised them that next time I’d just take him back home, and he could be late, which would really interrupt the class.  I mean, what is the difference between the kid leaving the room to go to the bathroom and the kid leaving to go down to the office?  Once he’s leaving, he’s leaving.    

The upshot was that I left the thing, and skulked away.  There is no chance he will get the thing before lunchtime, and since it was a first period class, it was for nothing.  I will get another email home about how he didn’t have it, and he’ll get chewed out. And I’m mad at myself for now just saying, “you know what?  Get him down here, I’ll take him home.  He’s had a bad cold anyway.”  

What bugs me is not just the allegedly evenhanded application of a policy that makes no sense when you deal with Asperger/ADD kids.  It’s that he has organizational issues because of the ADD, and “making an example” and “teaching him responsibility” has to be done very carefully with Asperger kids because a little bit of rebuke goes a very long way.  It’s also that I felt they were challenging me as a parent.  Why didn’t I get the book in the bag before we left?  (We know that one: because I’m a bad mom.)  Why did I try to bail the kid out?  (Their version: I’m an enabler.)  

I did it my way because he’s my kid. I know how to work with him, and we’ve come a long long way.   It isn’t easy for a kid in his sneakers.  He deals with enough having Asperger’s.  He had phenomenal grades first marking period, and the second period has tanked, while complaining of nasty teacher incidents with this particular teacher.  

I guess it is time to ask for an IEP meeting, and pull four teachers out of their classes for a period so we can discuss solving the issues as a team.  Talk about interrupting their instructional flow.  It’s his first year totally mainstreamed; maybe he needs some support on some of this stuff at both ends of the process.  Oh wait.  It’s already in the IEP.  

Or I could just start ordering pizzas to be delivered to their houses at inconvenient hours.  Like I said, tiny town.