Bailey was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia in 1st grade. In the fall of 2014 he was further diagnosed with ASD/Asperger's, Tic Disorder and some other words I cannot spell. He is currently 12 years old and is a 7th grader (as of the opening of his web business). His ordeal started when he was barely 11 years old.
Pretty much from the start of 6th grade, Bailey started being bullied by his classmates. They called him names, cursed him and teased him horribly. Bailey would pick up on these names and repeat them over and over and he began to get into trouble and be suspended for his actions. I made bullying complaint after bullying complaint that fell on deaf ears. The school would do nothing. They told me that Bailey's issues at the school were of "his own making," etc. In February 2016 we removed him from school altogether due to the school's lack of addressing our bullying concerns. We worked with the school over a two-week period, hired an advocate to get Bailey back in school and tried to get him some normalcy that did not involve constant torment from his bullies. We returned him to school in mid-February, but it just worsened. Bailey was being bullied and was in turn acting out and getting into more trouble at school. He was called vulgar names, curse words, and told he was the most hated kid in school. He was booed as he entered classes.
On February 25, 2016 he was placed in an old conference room in isolation because they did not want him in his general education classes repeating the stuff his bullies had taught him - of course they would never admit that these things came from the bullies, but maintained that it was all Bailey and nothing was happening to him. This even after we had discovered he had purchased 18, 12, 9, etc. additional items at lunch and paying off his bullies so they would either be his friend or stop bullying him. These excessive purchases went on for more than two months prior to him being placed in isolation. The school’s response to these purchases was that he was just being generous and sharing.
From February 25, 2016 until September 7, 2016 (he had some summer programming) Bailey was subjected to being locked in an isolation room all day, every day. The school refers to it as a "redirect room." We call it an isolation room. You be the judge.
Bailey was two-man escorted like a criminal from the bus daily to this isolation room and back - he started his day in the room. The room initially had a desk and a chair for Bailey and a taped off rectangle on the floor that was "Bailey's space" should he leave his desk area. Within a few days, his desk and chair were subsequently removed due to him being "unsafe" with the desk and chair. At that point the duct taped off rectangle that was approx. 2'x4' was "his space" within the room. He was to earn points to get himself out of this room and able to go back to his general education classes. His points were earned based on not having any verbal outbursts, etc. So basically he would have to somehow overcome his disabilities in order to earn points. He did not attend his general education classes, did not go to PE, band or drama. He did not go to the lunchroom with his peers. He was not allowed to go on field trips or to assemblies. He was not allowed to take his school pictures. They even evacuated the school for a bat situation and left Bailey in the room. Bailey spent his days sitting, sleeping and eating his lunch on this dirty floor in his little rectangle.
We had ARD meeting after ARD meeting trying to free him from this hell to no avail. Disagreement ARD after disagreement ARD. Nothing. The school dug their heels in and were adamant that this isolation room was appropriate for Bailey.
Bailey tried to escape the room every day. He would wait like a cat at the door to dart out when they unlocked it to come and go. He would crawl up on a built in cabinet and remove the ceiling tiles and go up into the ceiling of the room trying to escape, etc. He was restrained day in and day out - sometimes as many as 8 times in a day, and those are just the ones they reported. Bailey reported many more. All these restraints involved him being drug back to this isolation room and him resisting because he did not want to go back in there. He received multiple injuries during this time ranging from minor scrapes and scratches on his arms and neck, to large bruises, knots and bumps on his head, torso and body, some even requiring medical attention. We reported these, yet nothing was done. The only incident report we ever received took 5 months to be sent to us and it did not even mention the majority of his injuries and of course their report said that they followed their procedures and did nothing wrong.
During this time, we saw no grades, school work or any homework at all. When I would ask about grades they would tell me they were just focusing on behavior and that education was secondary. Bailey began to withdraw and he apparently even had some suicidal ideations that we were not made aware of until the day we removed him from the school. When asked why they did not notify us they responded that they "thought" he was just joking.
On September 7, after one of the multitude of ARD meetings, I asked to see his new 7th grade isolation room. Bailey came home the first day of 7th grade telling me that his most exciting thing that day was that his isolation room had a window this year, and in the 6th grade he had no window. That made my very sad that of all the things that an exciting first day of school should bring that Bailey's most memorable thing was that he had a window. Previously, I had been denied access to see his isolation room. They would say I did not give them proper notice, etc. I was walked down to a door, they unlocked the door and inside sat my little boy, on the floor with his back against the wall, his knees up and his head and hands resting on them. The room had no desk, no chair, no books, no pens or pencils, no notebooks, nothing conducive to learning. I was overwhelmed with guilt for allowing this to happen to my child. I took Bailey and left.
I had no idea what I was going to do, I just knew what I was not going to do. I was not going to return him to that room.
I spent hours searching for a school that would be a good fit for Bailey. That's when I found Fusion Academy. I was determined to get Bailey into this special school. It is one of a kind in our area. However, the tuition is $43,200 a year. We are not rich people and we had no idea how we were going to pay for it. I ended up having to get a loan with a 5-year term in order to pay for just one semester, the fall 2016/2017 semester. So, on September 28, 2016 he started at Fusion Academy. Since that day, Bailey has had an absolute amazing recovery. He has blossomed, made friends, maintained A's and B's. He's excited about going to school, he does his work, etc. He's never been restrained or locked in any rooms. It's just amazing and we could not imagine ever sending him back to that isolation room.
We filed for a due process hearing against his public school asking for private placement at Fusion and seeking reimbursement for our current expenses and also to pay for Fusion going forward. There's this thing called FAPE, that means Free Appropriate Public Education. All children in public schools have the right to a FAPE. FAPEs are also supposed to be provided in the LRE "least restrictive environment."
There is also something called "stay put." I know this is going to be a lot of explaining but I think you need to understand fully. The "stay put" law was put into place to "protect" children. So when a parent files for a due process hearing against their child's public school, the school can't start moving the child's placement around until the litigation is resolved.
What most people don't know unless you have a child in special-ed is that if schools propose placement in their school, such as placement in an isolation room, even if the parents disagree, the school can unilaterally place your child in isolation against your will. If your child's school has placed them in isolation and you file for a due process hearing in defiance of their unilateral placement in an isolation room, the "stay put" then freezes your child in that placement until the litigation is concluded. So even though Bailey is attending Fusion Academy and flourishing, his stay put placement in the eyes of the TEA (Texas Education Agency) is an isolation room with no furniture, with him locked inside for 8 hours a day and only allowed to leave to go to the bathroom. In that room he has a 2'x4' rectangle that is "his space." If he gets out of this space, he loses points he's trying to earn to get out of this isolation room. Just so you are clear, he never earned enough points to get out. They locked our ADHD, ASD/Asperger's child in a room and IT IS NOT ILLEGAL.
At our 9-7-16 ARD meeting the school claimed that the isolation room was proper and Bailey was making progress in the room (even though he was not). Once we removed him and sent them notice that we wanted private placement and wanted them to pay for it they conceded that they could not accommodate Bailey on any of their campuses and provide FAPE in the LRE (least restrictive environment) and that the isolation room was not proper. However, they did not offer any appropriate placement.
So, for three days Keith and I sat through our due process hearing. The school again testified that the isolation room they had Bailey in is indeed not a proper placement for Bailey, however, they did not have a proper placement in place that is. We asked that he be allowed to stay at Fusion Academy because he is flourishing there. The hearing officers (judges) in these cases do not rule at the time of the conclusion of the hearing, but instead our judge has until April to make her finding. So, and get ready for this, due to the "stay put" law, and even though the district conceded that it was not proper, the isolation room remains his "stay put" until the hearing officer renders her decision in April. So basically, on January 31, 2017, our child would return to the isolation room unless we can figure out a way to keep him at Fusion Academy.
Keith and I have depleted every account, every credit card that had credit left on it, and borrowed and begged to pay for the first semester at Fusion. We can't qualify for another loan and we have no resources left to tap into. On Monday, January 30, Bailey's semester at Fusion ends. If we cannot figure out the tuition, he will either have to sit without an education until April (if the hearing officer rules in our favor) or return to the isolation room with no desk, no chair, etc. If the judge does not rule in our favor, we are at a loss. Bailey will have no place to go to school except an isolation room.
If we win this case and the judge orders them to reimburse us, the time period for us to actually be reimbursed we are told is approximately 1.5 years based on the appeals that the district will file to prolong having to pay us. Apparently the school district can even request an extension on the April decision due date and prolong the process even longer.
Bailey is the most amazing child and he has so much potential. Even with all his afflictions, he is able to do such amazing things. His IQ has been tested as high as 122, yet his public school wants to lock him away in isolation. He is so funny, intuitive, creative, outgoing, sweet, he loves animals and I could go one and on.
Bailey loves his new school and he wants to continue going. It is deeply hard for us to come to the conclusion that we cannot provide what is needed for one of our children. It's a place of despair that I hope none of you have ever or will ever have to experience.
It's hard for me to say this without tearing up, but Bailey has never been invited to a birthday party from anyone at his public school, ever. Each year I would make up these elaborate birthday invitations and send them to school with him and he would diligently hand them all out, and year after year no one from school would come. One year, like 4th grade, one little boy who was also special needs did come. His mom called me because her son too had never gotten an invitation to a birthday party from a kid at school. So he came to Bailey's party. In 5th grade, one more kid showed up at his party from school, but other than those two kids no one from school had ever shown up or invited him to a party from kindergarten through the beginning of 7th grade.
One year his teacher called me and said that she caught Bailey throwing the invitations I had sent with him in the trash. I was angry with him for doing it and questioned him about it. He said they would make fun of him and would toss the cards back at him when he handed them out, so he just through them away.
Since he started at Fusion Academy he's been invited to two parties in just 4 months. Keith and I struggle carting all the kids to their different schools in three different locations every weekday, but we decided that we would make sure he got to go to any and everything he was invited to.
Today he went to a movie party a girl from his special school is having from 3:00 - 6:30 p.m. It warms my heart to think he is there eating, laughing, socializing, and being able to be a "normal" kiddo. He deserves it.
No news yet on the TEA's decision, still waiting, but wanted to share that Bailey took top honors at Rodeo Austin last Sunday at the Gold Stirrup Horse Show. He competed in 5 classes. Of the 5 classes he won 1st place in all but one class, which he placed 2nd. He received buckles for each of the 1st place wins. Once he won 1 buckle, and on the suggestion of his trainer, Bailey gave his other 3 buckles to some 2nd place winners who did not win buckles. It was one of the most giving things I have ever witnessed him do and it brought me to tears. At the end of the show when they were announcing the high point winners of the entire show, they recognized Bailey for what he had done and to top the day off, he won the entire horse show - 1st Place All Around - it was one of the highlights of his little life so far - he tried to hide his excitement, but he was completely stoked about taking 1st Place. He won a really nice trophy too. The next day, in Bailey's way, it was back to being a kiddo, and really no idea how absolutely amazing what he accomplished the day before was. This boy is simply outstanding.
As we enter April we get closer and closer to a ruling from TEA. I can't tell you how anxious I am. A recent Supreme Court ruling regarding special education seems to look favorable for us, but you never know. Bailey was to compete in the Equestrian section of the regional Special Olympics this past weekend, however, it was canceled due to bad weather. We were completely bummed, but it turns out they knew what they were doing as we spent part of our weekend hunkered down in our hallway due to a tornado warning.
We were able to figure out a way to get Bailey through this semester. We have no idea how we are going to pay for it, but nonetheless, he still has a safe place to go to school free of bullying and torment through the end of this school year.
April 10, 2017
We received the TEA ruling today. They did determine that the school failed to provide FAPE (free appropriate public education) in the LRE (least restrictive environment). The judge ordered the district to reimburse us for our 2016/17 Fusion tuition, to provide counseling for one hour a week for the rest of the school year and to pay for the IEE (independent education evaluation) we had previously asked them to pay for yet they failed to ever do so. This all sounds great except the school has the right to file an appeal on these compensatory items which will lock all this up for a year to a year and a half. We are told they will file an appeal; the districts always file an appeal. So what we are told is a win somehow does not feel like a win.