Tuesday, March 31, 2009

People Don't Think

I am having foot surgery on Thursday...why do people feel the need to tell me "what a horrible experience they had 20 years ago?"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Meeting From Hell

I'm trying to recover from a meeting that I attended in which I was verbally attacked/abused by a parent... and the administrator did absolutely nothing to stop it.

In my many years of work, I have attended meetings where the parents have disagreed with my recommendation and findings. I accept that. I understand that many of these parents have fought the school district for years in order to receive my type of services. and that although their children no longer need my services to access the curriculum, these parents are reluctant to 'let these hard-won services go'.

I believe that it is my job, as the expert in my field, to explain to parents why it's a good thing that their child has made progress and is no longer in need of my services, and to reassure these parents that I will continue to be available as a resourse to their children, their children's teachers, and to the parents themselves, even once their children are dismissed.

In the hundreds, if not thousands, of meetings that I have attended, over the years, there have been a handful of times that the parents have demanded a 'second assessment be done by another trained professional'. I have never been bothered by these demands, as I have always felt confident that additional testing, by someone else, would continue to yield the same results. In most of these cases however, the administrators, have always controlled the meeting and kept all parties maintaining a certain level of decorum...until the meeting this past Thursday (which by the way was not at one of my schools).

On Thurdsay the participants arrived at the meeting with a high level of stress, knowing from a pre-meeting the previous week, just how unreasonable this parent could be. The tension in the air was palpable. The parent had been given a copy of my report, which included the good news that the student no longer needed my services or support in order to access the curriculum. Standardized testing, classroom teacher reporting, as well as student performance were all included in my report.

The moment I started to speak, the parent questioned the validity of the tests...stating that "asking a few questions doesn't count" and that "a Social Worker with a masters degree can administer the test" (and her point would be???????) It went downhill fast from there. At that point, the administrator should have spoken to that parent and suggested that this parent allow me to finish my report, and that there would be time to discuss it when I was done. Instead the administrator did nothing and the parent continued to escalate into quite a tirade. What spewed forth from this parents mouth was nothing short of verbal abuse. This parent accused me of : being a pawn of the school district, being a liar, being incompetent, and being unethical.

At no time did the administrator attempt to stop the parent, or the meeting. I sat there frozen. My heart was pumping wildly, but I was so taken aback by what was happening that I couldn't even get up and leave. I have no idea what I actually said during the meeting, because everytime I tried to speak, the parent continued her verbal attack.

Finally, the adminstrator said that we should take a vote as to whether or not this student should continue to receive services from my department. EXCUSE ME !!!!! What the hell was she talking about...."Take a vote"????? HAD SHE LOST HER MIND ??????? You don't vote on services...either a student meets eligibility criteria...or they don't. If the parent disagrees, they can write that down in the meeting notes, and an independent review will be conducted. In my professional opinion, based on all information at my disposal, this student did not qualify. For an administrator to then ignore what I have said and decide to put it to a vote was beyond unprofessional.

Believe me when I say that I was ready to "blow a gasket"! The administrator said that she wanted to take a short recess to conference with me. We stepped out of the room and the administrator had the audacity to ask me to ignore: testing, teacher input, clinical observations and just allow the student to continue to receive services to appease the parent. EXCUSE ME!!!!! As keepers of the public's money, we are entrusted to spend that money wisely. To ask me to sign off on spending the public's money unwisely, just to appease a parent (which would mean that the money wouldn't be available for a student who DOES need the services) is unconscionable.

So I took a deep breath and told the administrator that she was acting very unprofessionally by allowing the parent to take control of the meeting, by allowing the parent to accuse me of being incompetent, a liar, and unethical, and by asking me to be unethical by recommending services just to appease a parent. The administrator's reply was "Um, you know how the parent is."

I have never in my life come across such an incompetent administrator. Maybe I've just been incredibly lucky. If I was new to the profession, I would have quit that very day. For now, my heart races when I think of attending another meeting (of which I have 31 scheduled between now and the end of April). This experience has really shaken me to my very core. I am trying to breathe in and out and remain calm...but at the moment it is a losing battle.