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Private schools with federal funding - what can they get away with?

6 replies [Last post]
By Lori Jo on Thu, 08-16-07, 20:24

I posted this in the schools section, but am hoping for a bit more exposure. I need some advice.

DD has been at the local private school for 2 years. Her older sisters, for 4 years. They have been good about making accomodations for her, but have been unwilling to actually forbid PN's in class, etc. The teacher's have been great, except for the below described incident. The principal has never been willing to "impose" on other students (i.e. no PN in the rooms, etc.) Due to an incident last year, where dh was asked to come get dd out of class, so that the other children could enjoy the PB cookies a mother brought in, we decided to ask for an actual 504 plan.

Essentially, by law the school must do at least a 504 evaluation, because they accept USDA funding and food.

Now, we did not do it correctly, by requesting an evaluation in writing. I simply gathered several plans from members here, generated a document that covered what we were looking for and submitted it. The purpose was to get the school to look it over and then we could have a dialogue and work together to find a solution that worked for all of us.

My bad.

After a month, we recieved a phone message from the principal saying there were things in the document he just couldn't do, and while they sure do want dd there, "you know, we don't have to accept her."

After picking my jaw up off the floor, dh and I began trying to work with the school. BTW, we still have that message on the machine.

The next interaction was a phone call. I was there, listening as dh's comments went from "a PN free table, with a sign, so that it is not used after school, etc." to "What do you mean she is no longer enrolled???" And at one point, the principal saying "if you make us sign something, I'll resign."

After dh going down to the school and meeting with the principal, dd is now on "probationary" enrollment, until we sign a document with the school regarding the accomdations we all find reasonable. Now, this may be basically just what we were asking for. Maybe not.

This is NOT a 504.

Dh is convinced that if we rock the boat right now, they'll simply refuse to enroll her and that will be the end of it. Since they are a private school, they can accept or decline whomever they want. Then whether or not we want a 504 will be moot, since she won't be able to go there anyways. He wants to go along with their requests, get her officially enrolled, and then start requesting a 504. He doesn't even want to ask for any of their requests in writing, for fear of scaring them off.

I think that since dd has been there 2 years, has had NO discipline, etc, issues, and that they gladly took our "pre-registration" money last spring for her, that to dis-enroll her now would look mighty suspicious. I would really like them to put these requests in writing. Dh refuses to ask.

I am not looking for a fight, but do not want to meekly capitulate for fear of them kicking dd out.

Also, the only other schooling option for us is the "adequate" public school, which also does not do 504's for FA's. (Yes, they should, but that is another story.) We'd be starting from scratch there as well. For many reasons, despite this principal, we'd rather stay at this private school if at all possible.

So, does anyone know exactly what private schools can require us to do in regards to dd's PA? I am not QUITE ready to find a lawyer yet. This is a very small town, and this should be such a non-issue that to escalate it that far may do more harm than good.

But do we have any recourse? Is there anything that we can do regarding just getting dd in the school that does not involve catering to their whims?

Lori Jo,

Rose, 7-31-02, PA
Noah, 7-29-05
Beatrice & Georgia, 8-14-99

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By Corvallis Mom on Thu, 08-16-07, 21:46

The honest answer to your thread title is this:
[i]Whatever you'll allow. Just like public schools. And also just like public schools, some of them can be nastier than others about it.[/i]

First, I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know. (And trust me when I say I definitely understand the kind of place you live in....not good to make waves.)

1. What the school is threatening to do is illegal. They have to comply with federal law because they get federal money. Period.

2. If they won't put it [i]in writing[/i] that means that [i]THEY KNOW IT IS ILLEGAL.[/i] Is it okay with you to place your child with people who are willing to knowingly violate a federal law? Chew on that one a while-- really.

3. What are you willing to do to get your child into this school versus the public one? (Where, as you already note, the battle may be just as hard.... and still involve an attorney/advocate and/or OCR.)

4. What actions are you [i]UN-WILLING[/i] to take? (Please, please PLEEEEEEZE do [i]not[/i] post an answer to this one.... in the event that someone could read it and take unfair advantage of that knowledge... just for you and your DH to answer.) But it really sounds like you need to compromise [i]at home[/i] and figure out what this is.

It sounds from your description as though the school intends to 'get away with' whatever you'll tolerate without a fight. This is why I think your first step needs to be to find out what your tolerance [i]as a couple[/i] is for the battle ahead-- they'll play you off one another to the point of marital collapse if you don't.

Besides, if the answer is that you won't demand things in writing, well then, you're done. They won't and you'll get nothing but what they 'choose' to give you.

Personally, I certainly hope that you are correct about it just being the one administrator being awful. If it isn't, it doesn't sound like the kind of place I'd be sending my own child.

Remind yourselves that you didn't 'choose' to be parent advocates. This task was given [i]to you.[/i] Ask yourselves --[i]honestly[/i]-- how well you are advocating for [i]YOUR CHILD[/i] by either fighting assertively or by compromising and being pleasant. (Not with respect to [i]you[/i] or your feelings-- with respect to HER.)

I do many things for my own DD that I would never be comfortable doing on [i]my own behalf.[/i] I am horrifyingly pushy and uncompromising when it comes to her. Hardly recognizable, in fact. But that is what it takes to advocate well for her.

My open advice for you is the following:

[b]as a team[/b]--measure the (personal) cost of different options, define your personal Rubicon (or line in the sand, whatever), and then act decisively to do what you've resolved-- follow your plan.

Good luck.

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By hopechapel on Fri, 08-17-07, 03:56

Corvallis Mom is very smart about these things.

Perhaps, another example of ---

"Thank your Mephistopheles for he has made you clever"

I think we are all in training.

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By mumaluke on Fri, 08-17-07, 13:25

Have you contacted anyone from the DOJ yet? Have them fight the battle with you. Once a school hears that someone has contacted the DOJ or HHS they sometimes panic. You can find out who your HHS region contact is by going to [url="http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/regmail.html"]http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/regmail.html[/url] see what they have to say....


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By Lori Jo on Mon, 08-20-07, 14:20

Thanks to Corvalismom and the others for your very thoughtful response. I completely understand and agree with everything you said.

I absolutely will advocate for what keeps my child safe. I am also willing to push to make sure that it happens. Time will tell how far I will need to push. I am not going to get into specifics here at this point.

I've decided part of my problem with dh is that we communicate completely differently. Sometimes, when stepping back, I see we are saying the same thing, but in the thick of it, it seems like we're not. Add on to that that I was horribly PMS'ing (life is SO not fair), and we were at loggerheads. We've had several heated and not so heated discussions since and have an agreed upon plan.

BTW, I am going to be changing my username, in the event I need an anonymous place to come to. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

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By nosoyforme on Mon, 08-20-07, 20:11

Why not suggest the teacher have a class on learning about food allergies. They can look up information, how to stay safe etc and act out different skits on having food allergies. If everyone took a turn on pretending what it was like to have the food allergies and what it was like to shop and cook and bake for allergies etc. What the procautions would be. They could make posters and display them in the halls. Make it a class effort and a learning experience for all. Then after, everyone would be more aware of the dangers of food allergies and how to stay safe. They may change the minds of the students, teachers and parents etc.

Allergic to all soy, all nuts, peas, beans, sunflower. Started at age 40.

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By GinaC on Tue, 08-21-07, 22:33

It is sometimes helpful to repeat back to them what you are hearing.

The other thing you might do (since they wont put things in writing) is to start preparing "Letters of understanding" So after your conversation, you document what you have understood and mail it back to them--of course giving them a chance to confirm or clarify.

It shouldnt be this hard. I'm sorry for what you are going through.

Some day people will understand the dangers of this invisible condition.

Take care,

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