Stockholm Syndrome

Imagine respectable members of the town’s school committee and the highly regarded high school principal discussing the opening of a new classroom for students with special needs with a great name Forward. The  discussion is about how cheap it would be.  The rooms are already available, nothing new would be needed.  The tax deductible donations suffice to fill the space.  There won’t be much money for teachers, as the certified teachers are NOT envisioned.  Less pricy job coaches would do the trick. They would be transferred from high school to Forward.  No new hires!

Imagine, that this classroom opens in a building separated from the high school by more than a mile.  Imagine that the students won’t have an access to high school academic classes.  Imagine that those students won’t have an access to any new curricula materials, which nobody predicts purchasing.  Imagine that those students won’t have an access to any music, art, or sport programs offered to high school students.  Imagine that any of the students, even those with emotional and mental issues won’t have an access to school psychologist or counselor or guidance. Imagine that the closest nurse is in another school at least a  mile away.

All of that was fine with a principal and with reputable members of the school committee. None of them seemed concern with the access of special needs students  to academics,  music,  art,  a nurse, or a counselor.  The good principal of the high school towered above the members of the school committee and in a voice more appropriate for public announcements than carefully expressed proposition  kept assuring School Committee that it won’t cost much.

In this way a group of the most needy students was swept away from high school.

I know because I was there.  I came in support of opening of a new class. I knew that by law, the range of  students’ ages in one class shouldn’t exceed 4. So this class had to be created before the district was up for the state inspection.

I came to support an opening of a new classroom, but not to sweep children out of high school.  As I listened to the principal and committee members discussing the price tags, I became  sick to my stomach.  I did not believe what I was hearing or what I was not hearing.  Not one word of concern for the plight of the students or for how their dreams, ambitions, life skills, job skills, or academic skills might be affected.  Not ONE word.

For the next two years I kept hearing that the only academics in this program was reading (or listening to reading)  a morning newspaper and playing, always the same math, card game.

Three years later,  I consented to  transferring my son  from high school in the middle of the school year to this classroom which, for me, represented the travesty of education.  Why?

In his fourth year in high school, with a new teacher supported (as he told me twice over the phone) 100% by the principal my son was regressing quickly. Every week, I was called once or twice to school to pick him up.  Something strange was happening and nobody was  telling me anything.  My son was hitting himself with full force and screaming a lot.  After three good year, he was falling into abyss.  I did not know why.  I tried to learn but couldn’t. To prevent irreversible damage, I took him out of school.   I asked for  any other placement. ANY!   The  special ed director refused. I asked for permission to home school Robert. My application for homeschooling was rejected. I was told that if I attempted it, I would be sued for truancy. In those circumstances I not only  asked, I begged  to transfer my son to the Forward  Classroom the very program that, in my view,  was conceived with disregard for IDEA, and for Civil Rights.

When Robert was finally  transferred, I was relieved that my son escaped complete meltdown.  Even more, I WAS GRATEFUL. I was grateful to the principal, to the special education director, to all school committee members.  I even wrote a letter to express my immense gratitude.

I understand now, that I suffered from strange case of Stockholm Syndrome.  My son was kept hostage, so I was kept hostage, but the hostage  who also  had to play a role of a negotiator.  I did not realize that then.  I felt I won Robert’s freedom from cooperating partners not from his captors. It took me a while to realize that my son is still a prisoner, as am I. My syndrome couldn’t be more clear.

I express gratitude disproportional to the smallest gestures of teaching.  I  fight of my mood swings when I have to have contact with the school. I felt unable to even observe Robert’s classroom, as each observation confirms that my son is kept in the program that doesn’t address his basic educational needs.

I try to  heal myself by admitting my condition and diagnosing its causes. I find that the causes are related to that fatal day when the noble school committee members concerned themselves with the price of the new special education program but not with its quality and the effects  it would have on many of the children who would be forced to go there.

But isn’t that what everybody seems to be doing – discussing the price tag of special education but not its quality, appropriateness, and long lasting outcomes.

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1 Comment

  1. Beth

     /  July 19, 2013

    The school lied to you. The school committee, not the superintendent, approves homeschool plans (the superintendent can ‘recommend’ to the school committee if the plans should be approved). If the school committee denies your Ed plan the burden of responsibility is then on the school to prove why you cannot homeschool your son. Massachusetts law is homeschooler friendly. And, once you submit your Ed plan they CANNOT file truancy charges against you.

    This is my third year homeschooling my special needs daughter. The school lied to me constantly while she was in school. They never gave me the full story on why she would meltdown.

    You’re right. It all does come down to money. Our superintendent, in a televised school committee meeting, stated how they hire new teachers specifically because they are cheap. Our latest SPED director was rejected by another town because the director had no experience in MA. Of course, our town hired the director.

    It all comes down to money. The students are the ones that are hurt.


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