Daily Letters

A selection of letters received.

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June 14, 2005

The right to free education

Dear George:

I have been a republican all my life. While I would like to commend you on the great strides your administration has made with the no child left behind program, my child is being left behind. My twelve-year-old son Jarren has Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of autism. In layman’s terms, he has an above average IQ, but challenged in the area of social boundaries and expectations. When he grows up, he wants to be an astronaut, a mathematician, and a scientist.

I have been told directly by school officials that there are no schools in Orlando equipped to deal with his special needs. A special needs classroom cannot accommodate him because of his above average IQ. A classroom for children with Behavior Disorders does not work for him because he is not aggressive, and cannot handle the pressures of being with children that are.

He began the current school year at Conway Middle School. A few weeks into the school year, the counselor called a meeting to discuss Jarren’s inability do adapt to the hectic schedule there at the school. They suggested a school called Middle School Professional Academy, because of the smaller class sizes and more structured environment. I was informed that it was designed for children like Jarren that had problems adjusting to a normal school environment. What we soon found out was that these were inner city kids, and most serious emotional problems. Soon Jarren was being bullied, and has been hospitalized numerous times at South Seminole Hospital for trying to end his life and depression since his enrollment there. School officials soon informed me that they were unable to accommodate his needs, and that it had been a mistake to place him there. When I have asked of other placement options, there have been no answers, except that I should try private school. As I said, we are living on my student loans at this time; therefore, I do not have the funds for this.

As a temporary measure, I have enrolled him in Academic Christ Centered Educational Services, in Winter Park Florida. It is a private school but I teach him at home. The problem is that I am a full time student. I cannot leave him at home by himself because of his disorder. I am paying $125.00 per academic quarter, plus supplies. I can barely afford this, let alone the additional cost of daycare for a special needs daycare while I attend classes. I have applied for Social Security Disability for him to help with the costs of his education, but we are still waiting. What am I to do in the mean time? I have considered withdrawing from college, but I have received an Honors scholarship, and if I do so, I will be required to repay the money awarded me, in addition to my student loans.

I thought that in America, we have the right to free education, appropriate to each individual’s needs. I have been informed that they have thousands of children to deal with, and that they cannot restructure the educational system for one child. To them, he is a number, a complication. To me his is a little boy that has the intellectual ability to become anything he wants to be. I do not understand how anyone can say that he does not have the same rights as other children just because he is disabled. Nobody knows the answer, and nobody knows whom to seek for it. How is it that there is no place for my child? I beg of you to use your power to find the answers for me. Tell me what do, how to make these people do their job.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Lana
Age 30
Orlando, Florida

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