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My middle daughter is sick again. This has been happening a lot this school year. She’s had an illness or maybe a series of illnesses that the doctors have had a hard time diagnosing. It’s been going on for two months now, and she has had four different rounds of medication. On top of everything else, on one of the days she was well she managed to dislocate her kneecap in gym. All around, it’s been a horrible start of the school year for her.

Now, suddenly, the school is talking about educational neglect because of her many absences. I know she’s missed a lot of school, and although I have turned in several doctor’s notes, there have been some days when all my interactions with the doctor happened over the phone. These consultations, while helpful, did not count as visits and are not documented for the school. Also, my daughter has a history. She suffers from generalized anxiety. This leads her to want to spend as little time at school as possible. Of course it’s not the school’s fault—or rather it’s not this particular school’s fault. We brought her to this school after a traumatic sixth grade experience at another middle school in the district. This school worked hard to help turn things around. The staff provided so much more support than the other school did. They understood when she got sick or cried in class. By the end of last year, things had improved. This year was supposed to be so much better. Then she got sick—really sick, not anxious sick—and now I am facing the possibility of being reported for educational neglect.

I must confess I resent this. I resent the added pressure as I work with the doctor to figure out what is going on with my daughter. I resent the feeling that I have to send my children to school even though they aren’t feeling well and would probably be much happier at home. I resent having to come up with a doctor’s note every time someone has stomach flu or the creeping crud because my word as a parent just isn’t good enough. When did we start reporting to the schools instead of the other way around? I resent the drugs two of my children have to take just so they can function in school. I resent having to decide between sending my daughter to a high school that quite honestly scares me at times and giving up a four-year full tuition scholarship, along with the nagging feeling that whichever road I choose I will regret it. Oh, how I resent that last one.

I am beginning to understand why so many parents with special needs choose to home school their children. According to a report by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), 40 percent of home-schooling parents reported that their child experienced some sort of learning or behavior difficulty while in school. I am cognizant that the schools can offer much to my bright, curious children that I can’t—art, theater, sports, valuable social interactions, and a pretty good education. Our school district even offers a four year scholarship to nearly any college in state to those who graduate after at least four years in the district. However, sometimes this feels like some sort of weird Darwinian experiment. You may have free college—if you manage to survive the school experience to claim it. My oldest daughter has managed it so far, but it’s been a rough ride even with an IEP to help us. This daughter doesn’t have that.

I ended up keeping her home today. She threw up her breakfast, and I just couldn’t send her to school after that. I called the doctor and set up yet another appointment for this evening. As for the threat about educational neglect—well, the schools will have to do what they have to do, and so will I. I am a mother. I am my children’s first and greatest advocate. And I have a lot of experience with saying, “No.”

(Müller, Eve. Home Schooling Students with Disabilities – A Policy Analysis. July 2004. http://www..nasdse.org)

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