theebrandenburgs blogspear

This page is designed to share information about our struggle to gain equity for our unique children and their learning styles in a public education system that is designed primarily to teach a single type of learner, and which is increasingly sidelined by fiscal and philosophical issues that challenge the core of its collective existence. We are especially interested in unique learners, and the talented people who teach them, their families, and our shared value as human beings. We seek the end of discrimination, the end of seclusion, separation, and isolation, as well as an end to chemical and physical restraints that are commonly used to assault our children and our unique interpretations of the world.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Autistic Student Makes Bittersweet Return to Sierra Madre Elementary (Repost)

Autistic Student Makes Bittersweet Return to Sierra Madre Elementary

After nearly a year, Tony and Mary Brandenburg's son is returning to Sierra Madre Elementary, but the family is not without reservations.

For Tony and Mary Brandenburg, the return of their third grade son to Sierra Madre Elementary School this fall was anything but the typical end to summer vacation.
Like one in every 110 children in the county, their son suffers from autism, a condition that requires special attention and has resulted in a number of behavioral incidents during his time at the school.
Before his return in late August, their son - whose name the couple asked be withheld - had been home-schooled for nearly a year after they pulled him from class in October of 2010.
But the choice to make other arrangements for his education was anything but their own, according to the Brandenburgs. Instead, it was the result of an organized effort by a group of Sierra Madre School parents to have their son removed from the school.
Indeed, records obtained by the Brandenburgs from the California Office of Civil Rights include letters from parents asking the school district to have their son removed, citing his behavioral problems and subsequent concerns for their own children’s safety.
In fact, some parents even went so far as to approach the Sierra Madre Police Department about the Brandenburg’s son. That followed an incident in which he injured a classmate, something the Brandenburgs maintain was accidental.
No charges were ever filed, but the move was enough for the couple to feel the environment at Sierra Madre Elementary had become to hostile for their son and they withdrew him from the school.

The District's Response

The Pasadena Unified School District eventually offered to place the Brandenburg’s son in Five Acres, a private school in Pasadena that specializes in educating children with disabilities like autism.
But the Brandenburgs saw this as an attempt to pawn off the issue by paying for one student’s tuition, rather than addressing larger, systemic and more expensive problems with the district’s handling of special needs students.
PUSD did not return calls requesting comment. And the Brandenburgs, too, have had difficulties getting responses out of the school district.
"We have contacted various PUSD staff - Superintendent Gundry, Board Member Ed Honowitz, CAC, Special Ed. Dept. etc., who have all ignored us,” Mary Brandenburg told Patch.
For the Brandenburgs, it's a simple matter of the school district failing in their job to properly educate and accomodate the neeeds of all of its students.
“More than anything, we've come to realize that the whole parent vigilante scenario grew out of the fact that PUSD failed to support this child for years,” Mary said. “What the parents did was wrong, but we've come to understand that our son was a casualty of a failed system.”

Back to School

Now, the couple’s son is back at Sierra Madre Elementary in a new classroom dedicated to educating special needs children. While they would prefer a “blended inclusion” approach, where their son interacts with children in his own grade rather than being isolated, they’re taking the school’s new approach day by day.
On the eve of his first day back to school, the Brandenburg’s son asked his mother what his new class would be like and whether or not the other children would have disabilities.
 “I said yes,” Mary Brandenburg told Patch. “He said, ‘Yay! Maybe the kids will like me!’"
“I'm trying to figure out how to tell him that being in the special class is going to pin on him a label, and which may end up with him being called, ‘tard’, ‘Special Ed’, ‘dummy class’, etc. and that he can't respond with hitting, or that will get him into more trouble,” Brandenburg said.
Also See:
Related Topics: AutismEducationPasadena Unified School DistrictSierra Madre Elementary School, and Special Education

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