Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"No Child Left Behind" nearly costs local kid his life

An 8-year-old boy almost became my hood ornament ... but the reasons he ended up in front of my moving car go deeper than his decision to run into the street.

Here's the Reader's Digest version:

I was driving in Summit County yesterday morning when a young boy came out of nowhere and ran in front of my car. He had a distinct smile on his face and didn't seem to care one way or another that he nearly got his melon squashed on a residential street. The boy then continued on his "merry" way dancing in front of a few residential lawns with not a care in the world.

Seeing that no one was coming out of their home to claim this child, I feared that he was lost .. or that something was medically wrong with him .. so I called the local police telling them that a child was dancing in traffic and that another driver and I had slowed down to avoid hitting the youth.

While keeping an eye on the boy, another woman in the neighborhood called a nearby elementary school to ask them if one of their students was missing .. and sure enough they realized that "Bobby", a young man with autism, was nowhere to be found.

As the boy drifted behind some homes and into nearby woods, a few teachers and a school secretary suddenly came running between two homes with obvious fear in their eyes. I pointed up the street and they took off towards the woods. Moments later, they appeared hand-in-hand with Bobby and walked him back towards the school. They thanked me for recognizing that the boy was in trouble and getting help.

Even though the boy and the teachers turned the corner to head back to their school, I waited for the police to arrive to tell them that the boy was o-k and make sure they followed up on this. The officer who arrived immediately told me, "welcome to No Child Left Behind."

I thought he was making a joke about the kid being found, but instead he told me that he did extra jobs at local schools where kids with special needs are now being mainstreamed thanks to the ever-unpopular NCLB program.

"These kids need to be back at the Weaver School they used to have," the officer told me, "instead of placed in schools where there's not enough teachers and aids to meet their needs let alone keep an eye on them."

He went on to tell me about how the special needs teachers at some schools are overwhelmed with multiple students, and that when one or two kids have "episodes" at once, the teachers and aids can't keep an eye on all of the others. That's how kids like "Bobby" end up out of the building.

Today, I touched base with the building's principal just to make sure "Bobby" was OK. He assured me that the boy was fine and that the special needs teachers will be keeping an extra eye on him. He thanked me for getting help but realizes that had I not seen the boy, "Bobby" could have been in big trouble in those woods before anyone would have known where to look.

I don't know how often something like this happens in Summit County .. but even once is too much. If there's not enough supervision to adequately protect and control these kids, how can anyone expect them to learn?

I'm not an expert in education .. and I'm in no position to tell teachers and principals how to run their buildings .. but if a lack of special needs teachers and aids is as big a problem as it appeared Monday, then someone needs to get real loud real fast and make some real noise that gets some real attention.

Just as it took a 14-year-old with a gun to finally get the Cleveland Schools' attention that security was lagging, I hope it doesn't take an 8-year-old autistic boy getting run over to convince community leaders to help our schools handle the unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind.


Swanny said...
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Anonymous said...

my first grader attends Resnik CLC. In her class of 18 kids she has 1 with autism and 1 with MS. The child with MS requires a walker and there for gets an assistant who is with her from drop of until pick up each day to help with everyday things. The teacher is payed by the schools to help this one child. Yet the child with autism, who seems to require just as much attention as the child with MS, has to try to keep up with the teacher like the children without autism. That child struggles to have the attention span expected of the other children. It has caused that child to act out and become easily frustrated. That takes up a lot of the teachers time as well as the students. I do not agree with mainstreaming all children. There is a reason special needs teachers go through special training. Many special needs class rooms have lower teacher/student ratios too. That may have helped with the problem you ran into Monday...no pun intended.

Anne said...

This post should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. This is a major problem in every school district, in every state, and no one is focusing attention on it. NCLB is based on KERA, the Kentucky Education Reform that went into effect over a decade ago, and gutted special needs schools by requiring that all students be mainstreamed into neighborhood schools. It hurt my kids then, and is hurting countless others now.