Alright – so, ever since my son who has non-verbal autism was suspended for five long days by autism teacher Kelly Morris and principal Jaysen Anderson on Thursday 5:18pm, May 3rd of 2018, I have been scratching my head to figure out why and how. First of all, as I have said in both MN senate and house education committees, my son did not understand what suspension was then and does not understand it now. So why did the school district do it then? because they can. Yep, both the federal IDEA and the state law allow them.
MN Statute 121A.40 to 121A.56 is called MN Fair Dismissal Act. It is a guidance that basically follows the suspension rules under the federal law in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also known as IDEA. It basically states that a student with a disability can be suspended similar to that of a student without a disability for up to five days. It is only after the 10 days that the school district is required to see if what caused the suspension is related to their disability. This is called manifestation determination. Imagine how schools are abusing this law that was written before autism was as high as it is today before we really understood the characteristics of autism which is a behavior disorder.
If a student with a disability has any behavior that is clearly due to their disability, the school can still kick them out of their educational environment for up to five or even ten long days. This is what the Bloomington school district did to my son. His teacher knew my son very well, she knew he did not understand cause/effect. She knew he is non-verbal, yet refused to give him his communication device. She knew he is a routine-oriented kid, yet changed his routine this day. She knew I was in the parking lot waiting to pick him up, yet did not call me and let me know. Instead, she called the principal and security on him and suspended him the next day. Imagine the heartbreak and confusion my kid felt. He does not understand suspension. All he did was mand to go to school on his device the very next day and every day after that. He did not do a willful act that caused suspension; he had behavior and wanted to finish his routine which Kelly and the adults in the Bloomington school district refused to let him. This routine was to go to his locker and pick up his coat to go home. They did not know what he wanted because they did not give him his voice (communication device). Then they kicked him out of his educational environment. Imagine having a law that allows children with disabilities to be screwed with. This is exactly what both federal and state laws do. Yet, MN state legislatures have not been warm to changing and amending this cruel and wrong law.
They say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. We (parents and advocates who want change) must come up with different ways of advocating and/or voting for different legislators who will and can make the change we need to ensure kids with disabilities are not punished for their disability.
The above words do not reflect any candidate, agency, or committee.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom