Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Incredible frustration with the 500 lb gorilla.

I know I've mentioned that my youngest is experiencing some ill health lately, and we have been fighting with our school district about it. I think yesterday I threw in the towel and gave up. Or at least it feels like I did.

My youngest suffers from what we're pretty sure is "chronic daily headaches" which is usually just a really bad headache but triggers into a migraine 2-3x a week. She has a headache every. single. day. without fail. She is never not in pain. We are trying various medications and treatments but thus far nothing has clicked for us to prevent this. We are on the medication carousel of experimentation.

Naturally, it's translated to some missed school. A LOT of missed school. We have 17 absent days this year and some of those are being treated as truancies by her school district. That's our fault, btw, the truancies - she didn't get doctor's notes in on time and I didn't check up to make sure she'd handed them in - now they can't go back and clear them. But beyond that, we have enough absences that a note from me is no longer considered adequate, and so we must have a doctor's excuse any time she is kept home from school. Policy dictates. Stupid policy. If we don't have the doctor's note, it's truancy and the next step is prosecution.

With no health insurance and migraines that keep her home at least once, usually twice and sometimes even three days in a week, one can imagine how all those visits to the doctor are adding up. Then add in all the days of missed work with no pay so I could take her to the doctor. We've started sending her to school with the headaches, just so she'll be marked present in homeroom. For some reason, if she's marked present at day's beginning and then sent home by the nurse, then even if she misses the rest of the day, she's not "truant." Usually she starts throwing up from the extreme pain around her first period, goes to the nurse and is back home in bed by 9:30 - but nobody is squawking about that up at the school because it means they get their ADA money so it's not counted as "missing school" in their books.

Baffling.

We're doing our best.

I've been fighting and fighting and I am tired. Yesterday I got a phone call from my kid, who was hiding in a bathroom with an illicit cell phone, in tears, because the nurse was refusing to let her phone me and kept sending her back to class. She had a migraine. Couldn't stop vomiting. We don't keep her medication at school because it knocks her out for several hours - she can't take it and go back to class. They don't want her taking it in school and then sleeping in the nurses office. Ok fine, but then let her come home, right? Seems obvious to me.

I think what irritates me the most, no, what enrages me the most is that my child was denied access to a parent. That's never okay.

Yesterday I realized that the school district is a 500 lb gorilla and I cannot win. Worst of all, my child cannot win. I can't win this fight. They have more resources, more time, and they just don't care. So fine. They win. We're out of options. I can't face prosecution. We've made so many mistakes in this process, failing to document things adequately, failing to insure that Em got those notes in - now we're 4 months from the end of the year and kind of screwed. By our own mistakes as much as by the district's stupidity. I own that, sure. Don't like it, but I own it. I've never had a chronically ill child before - it's a learning curve.

I just wanna know...

When did school administrators become more important than the parent?

Since when is a parent's word not good enough to excuse a sick child?

What in the hell is up with this bureaucratic nightmare that the public school system is becoming?

Why do they seem content to allow her to fail, as long as they get their state money? I've already been told that they are passing her on to the 9th grade even if she flunks every class due to her illness. That doesn't seem right to me. Of course I don't want her held back, but, she's going to go into the 9th grade behind and at a disadvantage and they're sort of... FINE with that.

The only people who aren't fine with it are her teachers - bless her teachers, who are working with us via email and allowing her to make up work and learn as best she can. Her marvelous teachers, who are just quietly supportive of her and trying their best to be helpful.

I've already mapped out which classes she'll need to repeat in 9th grade and she'll probably get some time at Sylvan or a similar tutoring center this summer, just so she's got some parity with her fellow freshmen in the fall.

Did I mention, I'm baffled?

It was somewhat ironic to me this week when the state supreme court upheld that homeschooling is illegal law. I'll be watching that battle with interest as it moves into appeal. Not that I want to homeschool, but with our system as broken as it is, you'd think the state would be trying to create more options for families, not less.

Back to your regularly scheduled knitting now... thanks for listening!

17 comments:

Christie said...

I used to work at an elementary school and for every parent who has a sick child, there are 4 parents who just take advantage. It's sad. We had parents who didn't bring their kids to school and instead had them working. Anyway, if your child was throwing up, there is no reason they shouldn't have called you. This may be gross, but if she were to throw up on someone's desk, I'm sure they'll let her call you right away. Have you had a talk with the principal or better yet, someone in the district office? Yes, the administrators are bullies at times, but there is always that one person who will make it all better...and to be honest, the squeeky wheel does get the grease.

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

Oh believe me, we've had talks with everyone, called meetings with her teachers, we've been trying really hard to get someone to work with us.

The vice principal is being somewhat sympathetic and helpful, but hasn't been able to get us off the truancy train - our only way to avoid prosecution at this point is to be 100% compliant with their doctor's note policy, according to her.

wondermachine said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about what your daughter and your whole family has been going through. I can't imagine the heartache.
You're in my thoughts. Wish there was something i could do, but I hope that writing about it helps at least a little bit.

sopranospinner said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your difficulties with administrators. Power corrupts, even in the smallest places. One would think they would have a policy for chronically ill children, i.e. tutoring or one overarching giant doctor's note that counts until her medication issues are solved. Unfortunately it is easier to be a hardass than to evaluate individual situations.

Ragnar said...

Argh, how frustrating. I had a friend who suffered from Migrains in highschool, and I remember her sitting through class wearing sunglasses because the light hurt her so much.

Viva la Revolution!!!!

rincaro said...

Ugh. How frustrating. The machine that is public schools is such a tangled up mess. So sorry you're having to deal with that. But I would totally go in screaming about them denying her the right to call you!

geogrrl said...

I still say take it higher. Write a nice letter to the Secretary of Education, or whoever it is that's in charge of these things in the US at the state level. You might be amazed at the results.

Regina said...

If she repeats, they don't get money for her either....so they don't flunk kids until high school. Even then, only in the worst circumstances. A child in my husbands district (he's a teacher) ended up in the same situation and they placed him in homeschool to appease the ptb. Are charter schools accepted in California? May be cheaper than Sylvan, which is good but pricey.

Best of thoughts your way.

Cass said...

That's just fucked up, and your daughter is the one suffering. I get migraines too, and what a miserable thing for her to have to deal with on top of the pain and sickness that the headaches bring. No care for the child's best interest. You are her only champion. ((((hugs)))) and strength.

Ina said...

What a horrible, horrible mess! I'm sorry Yarnpirate the youngest has been so ill. I hope an effective treatment regime for her headaches will be found soon!

Let me ask: What happens in a truancy proceeding?

Phoe said...

Oh geeze. I'm going to comment on your daughter's plight from one who's been there. For about two years I got migraines every single day as well. It cost me my job among other things. I had untold doctor's appts, an MRI, and medication up the wazoo (not one of them helped). Feverfew and gingko did help a little. The cause in my case was too much caffeine intake, fluorescent lighting (the low hum and flickering), and untold amounts of stress. The Santa Anas didn't help any either. It took several years after my removal from the causes for me to stop getting daily migraines.

I agree that the school district is being an ass and that it is really fucked.

Roxie said...

I am praying that an advocate will show up to help you. Someone organized to stand up to the system and help you get this straightened out. In the meantime, it is essential that you keep your paperwork and documentation straight. Make it top priority.

It's no surprise that the system places procedure above the needs of the kids.

Alwen said...

I don't have any magic-formula solutions for you, but as a migraineur myselfm you and your daughter have my sympathies!

Bureaucracy, yuck.

Cara said...

Hi, delurking after many moons to say that a friend's daughter had a similar problem in San Diego -- she had kidney problems that meant some days she had to pee 2 or 3 times an hour and one particular teacher ridiculed her and refused to let her leave the class, making the kidney problems much worse. The solution ended up being home schooling -- there was a program by which Megan was able to do all her coursework at home. She ended up doing better than in public school. Good luck.

if time exists said...

Headaches everyday...that's sounds familiar. Mine have never been quite as bad as your daughter's, but I feel her pain. It amazes me too that they don't want to work with you, but it's only about the money for them. I'm glad to hear her teacher's are sympathetic...they have to fight the administration even more than you do. I hope you find something to ease your daughter's pain soon!

Jess said...

Oh, that makes me so mad! HUGE hugs all around.

Mei said...

Does your school have a homebound policy? I've had several students who were unable to attend due to medical problems, and the school sent a designated teacher to their homes (work assigned by classroom teachers) to help them keep up with coursework.

I'm sorry you and your daughter are suffering. I've had migraines but nothing like you've described. You're both in my thoughts.