You Shouldn’t Have to Fight for Your Child’s Education Alone

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By Katrina Gibson

My son’s first grade teacher strongly suggested I get him tested.  I took him to the doctor and was in shock after my son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.  I didn’t even understand what this diagnosis meant for him.  I also didn’t know this would be the beginning of a fight for my son’s education.  

In my area, we have two elementary schools.  The lower school contains grades PreK-4 – 2 and the upper school contained grades 3-5.  I was nervous about my son transitioning to the upper elementary school.  I didn’t know how he would perform, but he did better than I expected.  His third grade teacher spoke highly of him.  His grades were so good that he even made the honor roll.  I was a proud parent, but everything began going downhill again when he entered fourth grade.  

His teacher reached out to me with a list of concerns.  We scheduled a conference and I met with the teacher and the principal.  In the meeting, the principal said she believed the teacher my son had the previous year in third grade gave him good grades because she was a pushover and liked him a lot.  I just found this explanation hard to believe.  It would be one thing if he barely passed, but he had A’s on his report card.  I’m sorry, but I have never seen a teacher handing out A’s like Oprah handed out cars.  If that was truly the case, I was not about to allow the school to punish my child for its shortcomings.  The principal continued to explain the teacher was known for passing students.  What was she really trying to say?  What she suggesting my child wasn’t smart?  During this meeting, I went from confused to pissed.  

Each conference afterward, I became more confused and more defeated.  They were using words I didn’t understand.  One conference was a 504 meeting.  During this particular meeting the committee of teachers and the principal decided as a group that my child should be tested for special education services.  I disagreed, but I allowed my child to be tested just to prove them wrong.

Then, I decided to call my sister-in-law who works in the education field.  After sharing my frustrations, she went over the accommodations plan with me and said I needed to find an advocate.  I didn’t know at the time how important that was, but it made a huge difference.  After researching, I found a group called Families Helping Families and worked with a lady named Laura Nettles.  After listening to my concerns, we scheduled a meeting with the school.  At this meeting, I felt so confident because I knew I had someone on my side fighting for my child.  Unbeknownst to me, Mrs. Nettles was a well known advocate.  The looks on everyone’s faces when we entered was priceless.  Mrs. Nettles went through every page of my child’s accommodations and made suggestions on which ones she felt would help my child and which ones would not.

I left that meeting empowered.  I was 100% confident that I had taken the right action by finding an advocate.  Not only did she help me navigate this conference, but she helped me learn about the education laws and she informed me of my son’s rights.

All parents should know how to find an advocate.  I would have been truly lost and still struggling without one.  Mrs. Nettle restored a hope I had lost and I don’t know if I can ever repay her for all she has done.