Here I am, back to blogging. Why the hiatus? Partly because of how many special education students without current IEPs (Individual Education Plans) showed up on my school’s doorstep. Over 20% of our student population has an IEP and most of them are due now! Suffice to say, I’ve been too exhausted to even write when I get home, much less ponder on significant education reforms and policy. One of the two major issues I’ve seen is a lack of parental backbone. I have six special education students performing at the third grade level when they are sixteen or older who do not come to school and their parents don’t even try to get them here. Feeding them, and providing a place to sleep is not enough. Loving them into illiteracy won’t help either. Growing a parental backbone will help them.
Another issue I’ve noticed is again, one of poor parenting, and poor teacher judgment. I have students that are former gang members that are going straight and spent most of their high school careers incarcerated. They have an emotional disability due to anger issues. What they really have is a temper and was never taught strategies to calm down.
These young men both have mothers and fathers in prison. They come from neighborhoods where crime is the norm and your colors may keep you safe or cause you pain. The first teachers we all have are our parents and these parents didn’t have the skills to raise these young men to be the role models they both want to be now for their little cousins. So out-of-control, naughty, African-American little boys get penned emotionally (behaviorally) disabled and land in special education and even special programs for the mentally ill.
So how did these young men escape the cycle of poverty and crime? The usual way. They got caught and put in jail. One of the young men, I’ll call George, had a choice to either go to the Lookout Mountain juvenile facility or the Rites of Passage program at Ridge View Academy, a school and lock-up. In the beginning, he continued his behavior by not cooperating, but eventually, he saw himself at a fork in the road. He could continue the path he was on and end up in prison or make something of himself by getting a high school diploma, going to college, and making something of himself. He again, made the right choice.
Poor parenting has an enormous effect on our schools, our neighborhoods, our hospitals, our police and our selves. Children are not a toy that can be discarded when we become bored. It is hard work to raise nice, young men. I know. My husband and I raised two.
Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator at Colorado High School Charter and is a former candidate for the State Board of Education.