Blame the Children

Q: What happens when a police officer finds a 5-year-old special needs boy by himself a couple of blocks from the school house?

A:  Suspend the child.  At least, if the principal is Denise Segars-McPhatter, and the school is Early Childhood Center School 82.  What, you thought the cop did something wrong? Not this time.

From the Buffalo News:

A 5-year-old boy with special needs managed to grab his jacket and bookbag, leave his kindergarten class, get down a flight of stairs and walk out of a Buffalo elementary school undetected Tuesday.

A police officer on patrol around noon happened to spot the child nearly two blocks away in the East Side Kensington-Bailey neighborhood and returned him to Early Childhood Center School 82. Shortly afterward, the child’s mother got a call from a school staffer.

To apologize?  To beg forgiveness?  To seek the mercy and understanding of parents from those in loco parentis?  Nope. Wrong loco.

Gloria Rodriguez and her husband, Hector Ortiz, emotionally recounted their ordeal Friday. Rodriguez and Ortiz had hurried over to the school and were met by the school nurse, the teacher and the principal. But within a minute of asking questions and demanding answers, Principal Denise Segars-McPhatter waved suspension papers in front of them.

“The principal stood up,” Rodriguez said. “She said, ‘I cannot handle this. I cannot deal with this. I have to fax these papers.’ ”

After all, what is school all about if not things the make the principal’s job easier?

It appears that the principal “relented,” although it’s unclear that her decision not to suspend the boy was not the product of the fact that everyone else in the school was monumentally apologetic for the school’s colossal failure to fulfill its duty of caring properly for him, and that the principal was batshit crazy.

Both parents said they were at the school for an hour and didn’t see the principal again until they were preparing to leave. Segars-McPhatter – who had apparently spoken with district higher-ups in the meantime – told the couple she had changed her mind about suspending their son. She added that he could return to school if they could get an aide to watch him.

Parent advocate Samuel Radford III said he was shocked when he heard the story.

“You actually picked up the phone and said, ‘I’m going to suspend your child because of our irresponsibility?’ That’s just mind boggling to me,” he said. “What adult thinks that way?”

What adult? Why that would be the adult who sits in the office that says “Principal” on the door.  You know, the adult to whom the school board entrusted all that really good school power as well as the responsibility over, you know, children.

H/T Our hinterlands correspondent, Kathleen Casey

11 thoughts on “Blame the Children

  1. Dissent

    “She added that he could return to school if they could get an aide to watch him.”

    So a child’s right to a free appropriate public education is waived if a school doesn’t/can’t hire an aide, if that’s what needed? Um, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work, Buffalo.

    According to the Buffalo News article, this is special needs kid who missed the beginning of the school year because the district didn’t come up with an appropriate plan to accommodate his needs/allergies in a timely fashion. So they weren’t ready for him, didn’t want him, and initially used his walking out to exclude him even more?

    If the district doesn’t straighten this out promptly, the parents could (should?) contact the state education department Office of Civil Rights and file a complaint. And USED OCR. And the media….

    Can you tell I have zero tolerance for schools that exclude kids with disabilities because they’re not convenient to accommodate?

    Bah. Feel free to ignore my rant.

    1. SHG Post author

      It appears that the rest of the staff and hopefully district has their heads on straight, so it’s highly unlikely it will require further action. But it only takes one flaming nutjob in the right position. This doesn’t appear to be district thing, but a principal thing.

  2. John Barleycorn

    I think there is more to this story than the Buffalo News is selling.

    ~~Anything could have happened to him, Rodriguez said. She was so upset by the incident that she was physically ill that night. Her son also got little sleep Tuesday and spent much of the night crying and wrestling with bad dreams, she said.~~~

    I say! Really?

    “I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to come home, Mommy.” This little “hoodlum” is a flight risk though, that is for sure.

    Looks like the district is encouraging his folks to bring a “personal representative” to the School Board meeting on Monday. Don’t miss it!

    I blame Buffalo’s, new as of this year, mandatory incarceration dictate for the kindergarten demographic.

    But I will reserve finial judgement until the body cam footage of the warden and guards is released.

  3. Chris Ryan

    That principal is certifiable.

    The sad truth is that most parents of special needs children don’t understand their rights. I grew up with a handicapped younger sister and my father made sure he explained to me (i am 10 yrs older then she is) about the process and standing up for those that need it. I have heard similar statements by staff in the town I live in about the parents finding aides, but thankfully when they replaced our nutso principal, the new one is much smarter. Kudos to the district for at least not using some bs zero tolerance policy to back up the principal’s original goal of removing the problem child.

    1. Dissent

      Wait. You seem to think the “they” in the “if they can find an aide” refers to the parents, but it could refer to the school/district. Either way, it’s wrong, but they may not be expecting the parents to find an aide for the child.

    1. Tom

      The same could be said for the children’s parents. When it comes to liking and caring I don’t think you appreciate just how bad some of the children can be. I know every generation thinks that the generation that follows it is worse than they were, but in this case I really have to wonder. It’s not really the kids’ fault, the homes they come from are sometimes a sad state of affairs and it shows in the child. Belligerence, foul mouthed, combative, and uncaring seem the norm for many of the kids that my wife works with and these are kindergarteners!

      1. SHG Post author

        Anyone can be a parent, and some are just horrible at it. But rather than dispute TRP’s point, you prove it. Even though you realize “it’s not really the kids’ fault,” your wife blames them. If she can’t deal with the job of teaching kids from bad homes, then it’s your wife who is in the wrong job.

  4. SMartin

    This idea that the taxpayers must foot the bill for whatever a child needs…even up to an including a full time aide with benefits just to watch ONE child (i.e. $40,000 per year in some areas) is a recipe for disaster.

    Yea, the Principal is nuts and needs to go, but so does the idea that taxpayers are a bottomless source of new revenue.

    I know this doesn’t sound “compassionate.”

    Is it compassionate to force elderly onto the streets????

    1. SHG Post author

      Aside from your comment being completely off topic, providing children with FAPE doesn’t force the elderly onto the streets. Not even when you use four question marks. It’s not to say that your concern isn’t shared, but this isn’t the post to raise it and, despite there being good arguments on the issue, your argument about the elderly is a terrible one.

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