Hopefully I can answer your questions here but, if there is anything else you would like to ask please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Q. DCFS has already agreed to make improvements, why continue your efforts?
A. I am a strong believer in advocating for our childrens rights, disabled or not. When we decided not to pursue a complaint against DCFS we did it because we weighed our own sons rights, which we hold very dear, against the greater good of the community. Pursuing a complaint for the sake of our son would only cause delay in DCFS efforts to implement these improvements. As I researched DCFS I found that they have made considerable improvements over the last decade, but they didn’t do it without anyone watching over them.
Q. What made you suspect that your son was abused?
A. The schools director sent home a incident report when my son was taken into the office because he was refusing to cooperate with instruction. Once in the office he told her that the teacher had been mean to him. Unfortunately, rather than recognize this as possible mistreatment and investigate, the director punished him for it, placing the blame on him for speaking up. In any classroom the teacher is always the responsible party (as opposed to the kids). If a child is punished for speaking up about mistreatment it should serve as a major red flag that there is a problem.
Once we started considering the possibility that abuse had occurred several more elements started to come together. My son was refusing to go to class whereas previously he had been excited for school. His teacher was reporting misbehavior in class, but when sent to another classroom they reported that he was perfectly well behaved. It became apparent that his misbehavior was an attempt to get himself moved to a classroom where he was treated better.
When we got the initial report our son was too traumatized to provide any details. I reported my concerns to the director and requested an investigation but I have never received a response from the school indicating that any kind of investigation was ever conducted. After my son was out of the school for about a month we discussed it with him again and he was able to described some specific acts by the teacher. At that point we decided that it was necessary to get DCFS involved.
Q. What kind of abuse do you suspect?
A. From the accounts that my son has given I feel certain that physical abuse occurred. Though it took time for my son to get to a state where he could relay this information he has described to me several acts by the suspected abuser, where in the school these occurred, who else was present at the time, what was said to him and at least one account of the teacher being reprimanded by other staff in the classroom. .
Q. What happened to the teacher?
A. The teacher is still at the school, or was as of spring semester and I assume will be returning this fall. To be honest we have some sympathy for this teacher. (I know, how could we possibly feel bad for someone that may have abused our son). The school involved makes efforts specifically to attract disabled children, but they don’t provide the extra staff or training necessary to accommodate their special needs. Working with children with disabilities can be very frustrating and exhausting without the appropriate training and support. I think that the teacher was given an unfair burden so that the school could avoid the expense of appropriately staffing the classroom. There is never any excuse to abuse a child, in this case I feel that there are factors that extend a certain amount of the responsibility to the owner as well as the teacher.
Q. What school was it?
A. I am trying to give the school the opportunity to resolve some of their issues. While i believe that some of their operational issues may have contributed to the suspected abuse, disclosing their identity publicly could cause damage to their reputation that would remain long after they resolve these issues. I want them to do the right thing, address their issues and make things right. If you are concerned that your children are attending this school contact me and I will be glad to talk to you about it.
Q. Are you willing to talk to the Media about this?
A. Yes. I will gladly talk to anyone in the Media. My goal is to reach as many people as possible right now. Please contact me directly.
Q. I submitted a comment about my experience with DCFS but you haven’t published it. why?
A. Emotions run very high whenever DCFS is involved and I don’t want this to become a place to air grievances. DCFS has to follow established rules and regulations. In my sons case rules didn’t yet exist for his scenario, but DCFS has recognized their shortcomings and agreed to improve. If you feel like DCFS has mishandled your case I will do anything that I can to help you get your case investigated.
Q. How can I verify the claims you have made here or on other forums?
A. I have only put up information that is part of public record and I will gladly provide documentation and sources to validate any claims I have made. Please contact me directly.
Q. How often are you going to check on progress with DCFS?
A. I try to be reasonable in my expectations. I anticipate that it will take some time to for them to take the first steps but once progress begins I will expect a more rapid pace. I will try to check in with them about once every two to three months and i will post any new information here.
Q. At what point will you consider your goals accomplished?
A. DCFS publishes their policies and procedures on the Utah state Health and Human Services website. When i see the new policies posted I will consider my efforts completed.
Q. What will you do if DCFS doesn’t follow through on these improvements?
A. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires government entities to ensure equal access for individuals with disabilities to all programs and services, but there is a 180 day time frame from the date of violation to form a complaint. By the time the one year estimate provided by DCFS has lapsed it will be too late to form a complaint on behalf of my son. However the ADA allows for any person to form a complaint on behalf of any other person, or groups of people for which discrimination is believed to have occurred. If DCFS fails to maintain their commitment I can, at any time, form a complaint on behalf of all Utahs Disabled children. Whether they have participated in DCFS services or not they must still be assured equal access. If that becomes necessary DCFS would then be under the scrutiny of the Office Of Civil Rights to complete these improvements.
Q. How is your son? Is he O.K. after all of this?
A. So far he is doing well. He is a resilient kid and he has been able to bounce back. One of our biggest fears was that he would be distrustful of teachers. Luckily he got into a class with a teacher that is better trained in autism issues and extended to him a clear sense of inclusion.
We pursued a private school in the first place because we were scared to death that he would be bullied and mistreated at a public school. As it turned out he has been better treated in his new classroom at the public school than he ever was at the private school. At the private school he complained about bullying and teasing, and we thought that it was just going to be an unavoidable fact of life for him. Once we got him into a classroom where the teachers and staff treated him better we learned that the kids will take their cues from the adults. If the staff is mistreating a child the kids will take that as a pass to do the same. We haven’t received any reports of misbehavior from his new teacher and now that he is in a school and classroom where he feels safe and welcome he is excited to go to school again. In fact he made his first real friend in his new classroom.