…When good men do nothing

On Tuesday, 16 April 2019, the state of California effectively decided that the San Mateo Foster City School District can hold my son, Geoffrey, back in preschool forever.

Geoffrey Davis - 5 year old boy on a piece of playground equipment
Geoffrey Davis at the park

This is an absurd decision.  We will challenge it – as long and as far and as long as it takes. You will lose eventually. But he has already lost his year of transitional kindergarten.

Statement made by Eleanor Lewis to the San Mateo Foster City School District on 18 April 2019.

This is my son Geoffrey. He is five years old. Under California law, he should have been enrolled in transitional kindergarten starting last August.

But, he has autism.

He is supposed to be protected against discrimination by Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act. He is supposed to have supports to help him access his education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

His parents are always supposed to have the ultimate recourse of refusing special education services and returning him to his (appropriate) general education class.

Instead, the San Mateo Foster City School District – you – with the support of the California Department of Education have manipulated these laws to deny him the ability to even enroll as a transitional kindergarten student, much less access its curricula, or be included with his peer community of children.

You could, by the same strange logic, do it again next year for kindergarten and first grade, until he “ages out” of the school district.

That you have chosen to do this is wrong. That the state has allowed it is absurd.

But, with only 2 months left in the school year… Geoffrey’s right to go to transitional kindergarten in his school district has been denied by you.

No one can get it back. Ever.

Just because he has autism.

Your choice.

Our laws are pretty good. Our systems are profoundly broken.

There is no public accountability – except you, the San Mateo Foster City School  District Board of Trustees – Audrey Ng, Kenneth Chin, Rebecca Hitchcock, Noelia Corzo, Shara Watkins.

There are no consequences for the bureaucrats who investigate themselves and find that their work was “good” – Dr. Joan Rosas and Dr. Sarah Drinkwater – except those imposed by the Board.

No one seems to have even looked to see if a mistake was made in the Special Education Deparment – not its director, Heather Logan.

Geoffrey’s placement this year was proposed as a “new idea” in the last 10 minutes of his IEP meeting during the last week of school in June last year. There was no talk of transitional kindergarten or of “keeping him back” a year …. what would be a huge discussion for anyone who doesn’t have a disability.

At the very least it should have merited an education “modification” goal in his IEP.

At most a note buried in the IEP minutes.

This is what every parent of a child with disabilities faces or dreads facing one day in the San Mateo Foster City School District.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

― Edmund Burke.

This was your choice. By commission or omission. Each and every one of you.

You can choose to do better – starting today.

  • You can investigate our special education program (Sonoma just did). There are many issues to justify it.
  • You can immediately make sure that all kids with disabilities who should be enrolled in transitional kindergarten next year ARE enrolled in transitional kindergarten next year.

You didn’t create the special education system – we all did. But you, the District staff, do run it. And you, the Board of Trustees, are supposed to oversee it, fix things that are wrong and make sure ALL children are educated.

You can choose to act to make things better. Or you can choose to do nothing.

Both have consequences for Geoffrey and all of the other children who are your responsibility.

Everyone will see your choice.

For Geoffrey, we’re going to do our best for him and his education… and you may, perhaps, be held to account for your choices

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