Get my Kindergartener back in school!
Get my Kindergartener back in school!
My loving, caring, 5-year-old son was expelled from The Gathering Place for a full year. The Gathering Place (TGP) is a Public Charter School where my son was enrolled in Kindergarten. Why was he expelled? Well for being a 5-year-old innocent to the world and not knowing some of the more complicated school rules.
The first thing you must know is I did a ton of research before deciding to send both my children to this school because my daughter is extremely advanced and my son is following in her footsteps. I loved everything that I had read about the school and I knew the school's unique programs would help both my children. Since my daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, & IED along with reading at a full adult level and comprehension level, along with doing math grade levels above her peers, I wanted a school that would challenge her and let her complete her schoolwork at her own pace. When I decided on TGP, I enrolled both my children into a public school for the first time, as they were homeschooled before they were enrolled (and before the Pandemic). I had nothing but good things to say up until the day I received a call from the school a few weeks ago. Let me break things down for you:
My son was diagnosed a few weeks before the incident (9/24/21) that prompted the call to take place. He had been proscribed medication and his afternoon dose was given every day by the school nurse, so the school was aware of his new diagnosis. He was also diagnosed as a baby with Sensory Processing Disorder, which the school was also aware of.
My son hated school when he first started and had a rough start to Kindergarten. He told me he had no friends and hated school. After starting his ADHD meds, he started getting his school clothes on for the next day just after his nightly bath and would sleep in his day clothes so he could be ready in the morning for school. I knew he had finally made friends and was starting to like school. He said he loved his teachers and had made some friends.
On Friday, October 15, 2021, I was having a rough day and had an episode of my WPW (Wolff-Parkinson-White). I had an abnormal EKG and was told I should see my doctor immediately or go to the hospital if I felt worse. I started feeling worse, but I made a decision to not cancel my appointment with my son's teachers. (At TGP, the younger grade levels have two teachers in each classroom.) I met with both his teachers and the Behavioral Interventionalist. We discussed how my son had just been diagnosed with ADHD and how I was in the process of getting his services through The Center for Health Care Services. We also discussed my son's increase in his medication (10/13/21) to see if the teachers and staff were noticing any changes in his inability to sit still and focus. I also mentioned that I thought he might have ODD and IED like his sister; however, I was waiting for an official diagnosis by his soon-to-be Psychiatrist. We discussed ways I was helping at home and ways the teachers were helping him in school. We also discussed starting his 504/IEP and one of his teachers said she would get the paperwork started. I then went home and shortly after that ended up in the ER. The teachers were aware of this serious issue as there may have been some damages from the episode and I am still waiting to get seen for a full evaluation.
On Monday, October 18, I discovered a flathead screwdriver in my son's backpack. His class was currently making picture frames and since they would be using saws, hammers, and nails, he insisted he needed a screwdriver for the nails. I explained to him that the school had all the tools he would need and that I didn't want our home tools getting mixed up with TGP tools. I requested for him to take it out of his backpack and put the tool up where it goes. He complied and put the tool back where it belonged.
On Tuesday, October 19th, my children and I went to my parents' house to do some laundry and visit. We briefly discussed how my younger brother was going on a camping trip and how he had to have an inspection at his Cub Scout meeting before the event. My son had been playing downstairs where we could watch him but every now and then he was escaping and running around, his meds had worn off.
On Wednesday, October 20, I had messaged my son's teachers telling them that my son had had a rough start to the day and I apologized for him being two minutes late to school. I then went home and went to bed. The WPW episode had really worn me out and I had someone that was going to pick my children up from school, so I could sleep. When I woke up, I found a text message and a missed call from TGP. I apparently had turned down my volume on my phone and hadn't heard it ring, since the person picking up my children was already in town and had their car seats. I normally didn't get calls from the school and it wasn't a number associated with TGP, but instead was a long-distance number I did not recognize, so I didn't think anything of the missed call when I had gotten up until I saw the text message and immediately called the number back. I was told my son had brought a weapon to school and there would be a meeting the next day to discuss the issue. I was confused as I do not have any weapons in my home, specifically to protect my children from accidents, as they are both ADHD and lack impulse control!!!! I was shown a picture of a multi-tool and told that my son tried to hide the item when caught.
My son is known for hiding items he thinks might get him into trouble. For example, he had some yogurt-covered pretzels I had purchased for my children as a treat for their school lunches, I didn't care if he had them or not. What did I care about? Him eating them in the bedroom and not in the dining or kitchen area! When I discovered him, he pretended he didn't know what he was hiding or what he had. I asked him several times and he said he didn't have anything. When I finally said, "Well then how did the pretzels get into the bedroom? Did you want some pretzels? Are you hungry?" He said yes and I told him that he could have them if he went into the kitchen or dining area. He took the pretzels and went into the dining area after saying thank you.
My son and I had already had a talk just two days ago on not bringing tools to school. He knew he wasn't supposed to have tools from home. I asked him why he had taken the multi-tool to school and he said he had taken it to use on the nails and wanted to show his friends his neat tool. This was his mistake. Not anything that followed.
On Thursday, October 21 at 3:30 PM, we had a meeting with one of the Founders, the Behavioral Interventionalist, the Behavioral Therapist, and the Vice-Principal. My mother who taught for 44 years, my children's father, and I were all at the meeting. We feel that the staff of TGP didn't care about intent, age, context, or understanding when they decided to expel my child for a full year! We told them why he had brought the tool and that we had already disciplined him on our end. He was no longer to be able to bring a backpack to school or wear clothing that had pockets, as he had hidden the multi-tool in his pocket so I wouldn't find it in his backpack Wednesday morning. We told him that he could earn the right to bring a clear backpack to school before he could then earn the right to bring a backpack of his choice to school. We also explained the clothing with pockets the same way, he was going to have to earn the privilege back. Several of the staff shook their heads in agreement with my statement of our punishment for him. After my children's father, my mother, and I talked, we felt railroaded. Apparently, TPG believes in total black and white when it comes to the No Tolerance Policy. They do not feel it important to take age, context, intent, or understanding into account. The staff had already written out the paperwork for expelling my son before we ever even walked in the door. They had no intent to care about why my son brought the item, nor did they care that my son saw the multi-tool as a tool and not a weapon. When asked directly why he brought a weapon to school, my son's response was, "It's not a weapon! It's not a gun! It's a tool!" When told it was a weapon and not a tool, he said, "It isn't a weapon, it's a tool. It has "tool" in its name!"
The TGP staff expelled my 5-year-old for a full year because of the Zero Tolerance Policy in place. Interestingly enough, they allowed him to attend school on Thursday before the meeting took place. After the meeting, they did not talk to my son at all and did not tell him his fate, as they quickly exited the room after the decision. We were all still in shock. This was a punishment I could see an older kid having, not a 5-year-old. This law that was affecting my son was written back in 1994 and signed by former President Bill Clinton. I do not think Clinton intended for a 5-year-old to lose out on a whole year of schooling!
When I told my son that he was expelled and couldn't come back for a full year, he did not understand. He said, "So, I can't come back this week, but I can come back next week?" I told him, "No baby, not next week. Next year." I then had to explain what that meant by counting out the months. He then proceeded to cry and couldn't stop crying. It took several hours to calm him down due to his Sensory Processing Disorder.
Since then it has been rough for our family. Having him home has caused me to not be able to work and I failed to sign up for my classes at SNHU for the start of the October to December term. Thankfully, I have homeschooled my children before and had all the textbooks and supplies needed. I also taught for NEISD for around 5 years, so I have teaching experience.
My son, well he cries a great deal and gets very sullen to where he doesn't want to eat or do anything. This has affected my child! He is no longer the happy, go-lucky child he was prior to this expulsion. Now he is sullen, moody, and cries a great deal. At one point, we went to the park near our home and he started to play but then came back and was sulking. I asked him what was the matter and he told me, "there aren't any other children to play with." My heart broke for my child.
I am asking you to sign this petition to help get my son back into school and to remove this incident from his permanent record. Please sign and send this to as many friends and family that you can. Share away!
P.S. I also happened to have taught the 2nd Step program which was part of the 1994 No Tolerance Policy bill. I served in the US Army as a Military Police Officer and I just do not believe the crime fits the punishment. This type of punishment would never hold up in the court of law because the child doesn't even understand yet what a year actually is (how long it is time-wise)!
P.S.S. There are two other cases that have come to my attention, please feel free to share your stories with us.
1. A 3rd grader (from NEISD) brought his Cub Scout multi-tool to school and his father was called to come to pick him up. His father was given the multi-tool and the 3rd grader was allowed to return back to school the next day.
2. A staff member at my daughter's behavioral therapist office took her multi-tool to school in the 6th grade. She was sent home that day and was given in-school suspension for a few weeks (it was 2 or 3 weeks).
I will be getting these statements written and delivered to the Appeal meeting. My son's Appeal Hearing will be on November 17 and we will find out the details on November 15.
I will be sure to keep things up-to-date on this petition and I will edit to add more details and information as time goes forward. Forgive me in advance, as this is my first petition.
So, please sign to help my son get back into school and get his permanent record cleared. He wants to be a Police Officer. What are we really teaching him? I believe the school missed a major teaching moment. That's OK, I'm teaching him instead.