It was the first time one of my best friends said, “Well, it’s not like you can expect them to give him his very own curriculum.”
I stood in silence, my stroller next to hers as we prepared to walk home, batting my lashes, blinking and stunned. I didn’t bother to tell her, “Yes I can. In fact, that’s what California law says. They have to provide curriculum for him at his level, they are obligated to under the law.”
I don’t remember when my child’s needs became exceptional, as in, an exception to the obligation the school system has to meet his educational needs. I don’t remember the first time other parents showed glaring annoyance at my child’s needs, as if by having his needs met I was asking for their kids’ needs to be ignored, or suggested I was asking too much of the school system. Or that maybe I was just asking too much of my child.
I’ve gotten used to it now, the school that promises to find a math book for my son. The teachers that say they’ll look around, but report back when pressed that there aren’t any extras for the grade level he needs. “Sorry.”
We go on Amazon.com, again, tracking down the books he needs, forking over personal dollars that are supposed to be my tax dollars. My husband and son sit at the kitchen table, dishes cleared, examining equations. He tutors him, helping him get what he needs, what the school refuses to offer. I ask the teacher about his classes. “Is he getting his classes?” the ones that will help him grow and develop. “Well, we mostly do that after school.” I am told.
Later, someone else must have complained, someone bolder than I. He left the classroom to be tutored, but I’m not sure if it was helpful. Were they trained especially to work with these types of children? The law goes ignored. They play word games, board games. “At least he’s not bored,” I console myself.
But he is bored. Some teachers are better than others. Some find things for him to do. He complains. “No one likes what I like,” he says. We press for more details. “They read different books and stuff,” he mutters.
My friend called last spring. Frustrated with the school system in Idaho not meeting her child’s needs. I listen. For months I listen. She inspires me. She is an advocate for her child. She fights the system. She wins.
I change my tune. I will be an advocate for my child.
So when the school didn’t test my second son like they promised to last year, I called the district the first week of school this year. They sent me back to the school, who then sent me back to the district. (That’s usually how these things go.)
When I asked for a testing day other than a Saturday and the lady on the other end of the phone began what sounded like the beginning of a very long and labored spiel, “You have to have a really good reason…” I unapologetically interrupted to say, “It is my understanding under the law that you must provide testing during the school day.”
That must have been a really good reason.I was accommodated immediately.
I will no longer nod when they tell me there are only three months left in the school year, implying to me without saying the truth, “It is too much trouble for me to have him start his third math book this year.” Because my gifted child has just as much right to meet his full potential at school as any other child.