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Last night I shared a family story with the @DRC_AU about a relative and her autistic son.
2018 was his first year of high school. A short transition had occurred.
His NEP was not updated during this time even though it was a major transition (ie. perfect time).
Before the end of Term One the school is suspending.😡 He's disengaged in class, unsure about the work, doesn't ask questions because he feels stupid. School response for this is to send him to the withdrawal room. School policy = 7 trips to withdrawal room and it's a suspension.
All of a sudden he's clocking up suspensions.
Remember: autistic teen, beginning to get his head around a major school change. His behaviours are predominantly stuff like work refusal.
I get asked to help advocate for my relative and her son.
The school is ALREADY putting the pressure on my relative to enrol her son elsewhere. 👉
They know the right alternative program, that they reckon is the "best place" for him.…
Following one suspension they make it a CONDITION of return that the family visits an alternative setting. This is not what preparation for suspension re-entry is about. It's certainly not in the procedures. It's also not, we reckon, "on the same basis".
We suspect the NEP hasn't been updated for a while so we ask the school to do this - looking at ways it might highlight supports such as the structured teaching of social skills. Tier 2/3 stuff. Or "Reasonable adjustments". System website says NEPs should be updated twice a year.
I point this out and am told the system has many policies, but the school doesn't have time to follow them all. Unsatisfied with this response - we look at applying some political pressure to what's happening. We're concerned at the school's reductive and punitive approach.
Additionally, their strategies are about 3 decades old - NOTHING supported by research, nothing looking at a function of his behaviour, nothing preventative, nothing that attempts to TEACH. All "reason" for behaviour is viewed as child-based. Medical model stuff.
We instruct the school to stop directing us to alternative provision. We point out that it's "gatekeeping".… They deny this. They also ignore our written instruction, intent on telling us which setting is 'best' for him. (ie. not their's - so go away.) 👉
Meanwhile the political heat has built up, so the school is asked "officially" to explain why our requests (which they agreed to in April) for a NEP update and a positive behaviour plan have not yet been done. And this is where it gets interesting...
The school writes (responding to the politician) that the NEP HAS been updated and a positive behaviour plan HAS indeed been created and shared. This is surprising to us. We do some investigative work and now we're pretty sure that the last NEP last was done in 2015.
So, we're running off a three year old NEP, with no update during a major transition. His last NEP is TOTALLY out of date. He's struggling, the supports aren't relevant, and he's being repeatedly suspended. Why hasn't the school or system picked up on this?
By October the lad is forced into a part-time program against the written instructions of his mum. The school explains the reason. Apparently it's "an accommodation to avoid suspension".
Yes, they're removing him from school to prevent him from being removed from school.🥺
A big education honcho writes that suspension for this boy has occurred as a necessity "only after strategies have been exhausted". On page 17 of the system policy is states that an appropriate response to a suspension might be to... review the NEP. 🧐
But it's October 2018 now and we're STILL running on the dusty 2015 NEP relic. Nothing practical or evidence based has been done. Suspensions keep coming. Apparently there's time for suspension meetings, but not NEP meetings. The school keeps recommending alternative placement.
Then the pressure and documentation pays off. The school admits that the last NEP was 2015. (They therefore were untruthful when responding to political pressure.) The principal and the school's practice is 100% defended to the hilt by every single person from within the system.
By year's end the boy has had a hellish introduction to high school. 53 days suspended (or parts thereof). Mostly 'disengaged' behaviour. Another 3 days internally suspended. 3 days the mum is asked to 'just keep him home'. 4 days he's sent home early. 10 days = forced part-time.
Overall: 73 days! For only 5 days was schoolwork supplied by the school.
I see on the forum of the FLO @ConversationEDU article I just linked, that some people are afraid of the RC because it's "negative". What some students and families are experiencing is simply OUTRAGEOUS.
And accountability structures within/outside systems are often ineffective.
When unions suggest teachers are "at capacity", remember that time is used, as in this case 👆: (1) gatekeeping, (2) using OUTDATED practices which are inefficient and poorly informed.
The time is there, it's just misused. Teacher prep plays a part here. So do associations. So do systems and schools. Even curriculum. (Why is racism mentioned three times in the AC, but ableism not once?) Funding is important, but more HOW it's spent than the size of the bucket.
This thread is not about "one school", or "one system", or indeed one state. In fact, I think there's some really good stuff now happening in the inclusive space in SA.
But my relative's son is still disengaged. His connection to school is broken.
I spoke to her yesterday to get permission to share her story. She told me she'd given up on schooling. Her son's home during the day now (Year 9) - not at school, not being educated. He's got a part-time job though. He had to fill out a lot of paperwork to get it, but he did it.
The last time she was contacted about schooling she was offered a "behaviour learning centre". It was the only option on the table. And, yes, he's now tried alternative provision - shoe-horned into it eventually. He hated it so much he wouldn't walk into the building.
As I mentioned in the Royal Commission forum last night, alt provision can enable schools to look away.
They certainly did in this case. 👆
These educational "options" or parental "choices" often pull children with disabilities, traumatised, from out of the river.
But in the words of Desmond Tutu:
"There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in".
I am not afraid of the RC. I'm thankful that they're looking upstream.
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