An inconvenient child

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An inconvenient child

Photo by Wendi Andrews

My six-year-old son was suspended as a danger to others. His crime? A disability you could find in any classroom

Michael Graziano is a neuroscientist, novelist and composer. He is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University in New Jersey. His latest book is Consciousness and the Social Brain (2013).

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A few months ago, my son, who is in second grade, went on a field trip. As the class assembled in the parking lot, a new child joined in. He had metal leg braces and difficulty walking. Nobody quite knew how to talk to him and so he was left by himself at the edge of the crowd. But my son seemed drawn to him. As the little boy in braces began to struggle up the steps of the bus, my son went over to help and then sat beside him. Throughout the bus ride, they talked together. According to the teachers, that new little boy soon seemed like the happiest child in the group. One of the most sociable children in the class had made friends with him, and that goes a long way towards building self-esteem when you feel isolated and anxious.

I’m very proud of what my son did. He showed compassion. He was still a new pupil himself, and he had suffered bullying related to a disability of his own. The way he was treated at his previous school was so horrible that he might easily have decided to pay it back rather than forward. But kids can be amazingly smart about how to treat one another. After all, it wasn’t the children who bullied him at his old school. It was the adults.

Our son’s movement problem emerged slowly – so slowly that we didn’t notice at first. When he was five, he moved more like a three-year-old. He was happy and chatty, but he had difficulty writing, drawing, cutting, pasting, and sitting straight and still in a chair. Milk tended to spill an awful lot in his vicinity. His kindergarten teacher at his elementary school noted these difficulties, but the school decided he was in the normal range and didn’t require any extra support.

The following year, he started first grade at the same school. In November 2012, we met with the first-grade teacher, who told us that our son’s writing was a useless scribble compared with the other children’s. He was at the bottom of the class. We were taken aback. Poor writing can have an impact on reading and on math. Why hadn’t the teacher told us earlier? During math homework, our son seemed so anxious about the effort of forming each digit that he couldn’t think about the question itself. And yet, apparently, he didn’t qualify for any school occupational therapy to help with his writing.

A worse surprise followed a couple of months later (this is, among other things, a story of escalating shocks). At the start of 2013, my wife requested a meeting with the teacher to follow up on our son’s classroom progress. We were braced for bad news, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for what the teacher had to say. She brushed aside our concerns about writing and reading and math, and informed my wife that, for almost a month, since before the holiday break, our son had been ‘touching himself inappropriately’ in class.

The teacher’s description was vague. She seemed extremely uncomfortable talking about the issue. When pressed, she explained that he never put his hands in his pants. He never opened his pants. He never exposed any part of his privates. According to the description, he seemed to be rocking rhythmically in his chair, or rocking when lying on the rug during story time, and the rocking was bumping his groin area.

It happens that my wife and I are both psychologists, and this description of our son’s behaviour worried us a great deal. First, six-year-olds just don’t engage in behaviour with a sexual intent. Secondly, repetitive rocking is a classic hallmark of anxiety in children: the physical motion is self-soothing. It ought to go without saying that any child who engages in strange or extreme repetitive behaviour should get help right away. But the school did not offer help. We were told that it was our responsibility to make our son stop misbehaving.

Very worried, my wife and I got to work. Immediately after that January meeting, we found private therapy for our son. We brought him to weekly occupational therapy for his movement problems and weekly psychotherapy to help him adjust to the stresses of the classroom. The movement therapist found that he had significant muscle weakness and co-ordination difficulties. The psychotherapist diagnosed him with school-specific anxiety. He saw himself as the dummy of the class because he couldn’t even write his own name. When we brought him to school, he would cringe away from the staff and refuse to say hello. The repetitive rocking in the classroom was almost certainly a classic self-soothing strategy triggered by his anxiety about writing. The rocking movements in turn might have been affected by his co‑ordination problems.

While we were busily making arrangements to help our boy, his school embarked on a campaign of its own. Our son used to attend an after-school programme run by the YMCA, where his teachers always spoke highly of him. Without our consent, someone from the school contacted the staff of the YMCA programme to tell them about his classroom difficulties. This person apparently labelled his problem as sexualised behaviour and speculated that his parents might be abusing him. The first we heard about this was when the after-school staff told us about it.

At around the same time, somebody at the school took our son out of class and interrogated him about his family. This person apparently told him that he couldn’t let anyone know about the conversation, and indeed we found out about this second secret rendezvous only when he began to act it out in play. Unsurprisingly, the emotional conflict of being asked questions concerning something that he was, in his words, ‘not supposed to talk about’ caused him a considerable amount of distress.

The fact that the school was pursuing its suspicions in strange and secretive ways raised questions of its own. But we couldn’t help a grain of doubt. Was the school right? Was his problem simply a pattern of willful and highly inappropriate behaviour? It seems significant that nobody outside the school ever reported any of our son’s strange ‘sexual’ misbehaviour. He didn’t do it at home. He was well‑behaved at the after-school programme, at which he was said to be a delight. He had a group piano class every week and never behaved the way the school described. He had play dates with other children and was always his usual sociable, friendly self. His movement therapist and his psychotherapist never saw the misbehaviour. Nobody but the adults at the school ever saw sexually motivated behaviour in our six-year-old boy. We believe the school was looking at a childhood disability and interpreting it in a thoughtless and stigmatising way.

As I said, this is a story of escalating shocks. The next one came on 28 February 2013. The teacher emailed my wife to schedule a one-on-one meeting. At the last moment, I decided to come too, and it was lucky that I did. The meeting turned out to be an ambush.

The school principal came down to the lobby and led us to a room where we found an entire panel facing us: the learning consultant, the teacher, the nurse, the school counsellor. The principal sat us down and told us that our six-year-old son was masturbating in class. This masturbation took the form of abnormal movements as he sat by himself in his chair or on the carpet during story time. Everyone found it disturbing to look at. It was our responsibility to stop him. The principal also informed us that she had called the State of New Jersey Child Protection and Permanency services to report our family for investigation, since she suspected that our son might be the victim of sexual abuse himself.

We sat stunned. We had spent a year asking the school for help for our child and the principal’s very first response was to report us to a state agency for possible child abuse. She hadn’t talked to us first. She hadn’t attempted to gather even the most basic facts about the case – for example, that our son had a movement problem. She didn’t know that he was in private psychotherapy to help him with the stress he felt about going to school. She didn’t know that his repetitive movements in the classroom had been diagnosed as symptoms of acute classroom anxiety, and that it was probably brought on by a writing difficulty that the school was failing to address. She didn’t know any of this.

His teacher, on the other hand, was quite certain that our son didn’t have school anxiety. After all, she explained, she never saw him cry. How could he be anxious?

Last summer, the head of pediatric neurology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia diagnosed my son with apraxia, sometimes termed dyspraxia or developmental co-ordination disorder. This condition has been called ‘the hidden disability’, because it is so easily overlooked. People look at apraxia sufferers and see a clumsy child who won’t try hard enough, a child who must not be very bright because he can’t keep up in math and reading, or a disobedient child who won’t stop moving in weird ways and bumping into people. Anyone with a disability knows about stigma. The problem might be worse in apraxia because so few people can see the obstacle.

Movement disorders are not entirely new to me. I’m a professor of neuroscience myself, and I’ve worked extensively on how the brain controls movement. My wife is also a neuroscientist and has a degree in psychiatry. You might think we would be excellently qualified to pick up our son’s problems pretty early on, but in fact it took us a while to fully understand. Apraxia is a complicated disorder with many different shades and symptoms. Its signature is difficulty in co‑ordinating movements and learning new sequences of motions. Actions that come automatically to the rest of us are difficult to master. It’s easy to think that an apraxic child is simply being defiant or lazy for not tying his shoes, but a task like that can take years of hard practice to learn. It’s an exhausting and never-ending process of practising basic movement skills.

What causes it? No one really knows. The scientific literature has paid close attention to a region of the brain called the Supplementary Motor Area (SMA), which is thought to play a role in co‑ordinating complex movement sequences. Another brain area that might be related is the posterior parietal cortex, involved in spatial processing. It is not known how much of apraxia can be blamed on malfunctions of these brain areas. Another possibility is that the white matter, the cabling in the brain that connects different regions, develops incorrectly. Perhaps there are many causes and many types of apraxia.

An apraxic child might wiggle and shift in his seat, and if you didn’t know better he might look hyperactive or inattentive

To add to the confusion, there are the so-called ‘co-morbidities’, or additional disorders. The condition is often accompanied by attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The line between those two can be extremely difficult to spot. An apraxic child might wiggle and shift in his seat, and if you didn’t know better he might look hyperactive or inattentive. He might also feel stressed if he can’t perform in the classroom, which is likely to manifest as hyperactivity and inattention.

There are more puzzling associations, too. Children with apraxia also have an elevated risk of autism, dyslexia, and sensory processing disorders. Why these deficits tend to come together, nobody knows. Our son has some sensory processing issues, especially sensing his body in space. Thankfully for him, that seems to be the only extra problem on his plate.

There is, of course, no cure for apraxia, but if it is noticed early and handled responsibly, schools can help to manage it with occupational and physical therapy. Systematic daily exercises, overseen by experts, can help to develop strength, co‑ordination, writing and many other skills. An apraxic child might never become Joshua Bell on the violin, but he can learn to manage quite well. The biggest challenge of childhood apraxia might be the stigma that so commonly comes with it, rather than the disorder itself.

Childhood apraxia is now a part of my family and my work. My interest in it is understandable. But why should you pay any attention? Simply put, because apraxia is extremely common. It is also probably under-diagnosed. One in 15 or 20 children are estimated to have it, which is about one in every classroom. If you work with children, some of them probably have it, whether or not anyone has noticed yet. And the way you respond to them will have an enormous influence on the trajectory of their lives.

After the surprise meeting with the school principal, we waited for a state investigator to inspect our home for signs of child abuse. A formal state investigation puts a family under incredible stress. Parents are left at the mercy of their worst fears. Children can get taken away. Schools are, of course, entirely within their rights to call an investigation at their own discretion, but it seems to me that this step should not be taken lightly. At that surprise meeting, we faced a roomful of people talking nonsense about the supposed sex acts of a six-year-old. Nobody in the system was telling them to slow down or to talk to the parents before triggering an investigation. No one seemed to know anything about child behaviour, certainly not enough to make the diagnoses they were making. A horrible idea had taken hold of them and they were running with it. We felt utterly powerless.

Our son’s psychotherapist wrote a letter to the school to tell them about his classroom anxiety. Our son’s pediatrician also wrote a letter to the school telling them that he saw no medical evidence of any abuse. These experts asked the school to intervene with a step-by-step behavioural plan to help our son’s classroom difficulties. Under federal law, he was entitled to what’s called a 504 plan, in reference to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is meant to ensure that disabled children have full access to education, but the school refused.

In frustration, we went over the head of the school to ask the district administration for what is called a Child Study Team, or CST. A study team convenes, tests the child, and arrives at recommendations. That type of evaluation takes up to 90 days. We were very happy that the district was willing to set this process in motion. However, we also thought our son needed immediate help for his anxiety in the classroom.

On 21 March  2013, at 10 am, the New Jersey inspector visited the school to tell the principal that our family had been cleared. No abuse was taking place in our home. The school’s response, to our astonishment, was to suspend our son.

Instead of accusing us of abusing our son, she now accused our son of sexually assaulting other children

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. When a child’s home is under state investigation, he cannot legally be suspended from school because that would force him into a potentially abusive family life. Once the family is cleared, the school is free to exclude the child. For the month that we were officially under investigation, our son remained in school. Within two hours of the inspector informing the principal that our family was cleared, she abruptly changed tack. Instead of accusing us of abusing our son, she now accused our son of sexually assaulting other children. The principal called me at work shortly after lunch that day and told me to collect my son.

We received a formal suspension letter a short while later. It contained only a vague account of what our son had done. It neglected to mention that we had the right to protest the decision at a hearing, and it gave no end-date to the suspension. The nearest thing to a ray of hope it contained was the claim that re-admission would require clearance from a child psychiatrist. Here was something we could work with. As soon as we could, we took our son to a psychiatrist, a well-respected one who had practised in the Princeton area for 30 years and who worked extensively with the school district.

The psychiatrist quickly discovered just what had been going on immediately before our son was pulled from the lunchroom. Apparently, he had been playing zombies. He was not alone: it was a common game among the first-graders. During the game, our son had embraced another child. That’s the only clear description we ever received of our son’s ‘bad behaviour’. As the psychiatrist laconically wrote: ‘I never regarded this conduct as sexually predatory as apparently school staff do.’ He cleared our son and recommended that he be readmitted to school. But the principal refused.

My wife said to me: ‘I feel like I’m in the wrong movie.’ The school was manufacturing a sex scandal around our six-year-old son. He didn’t know what was going on except that he was excluded from his friends in school. He thought he was being punished for breaking the rules, but of course he didn’t know what the rules were, because there weren’t any.

Throughout the suspension, we kept trying to meet the district and work with them toward a resolution. We were especially eager to move forward with the CST evaluation that we had requested. However, when the district sent us a formal letter outlining its plans for the study, it emerged that the team they had appointed included no physical therapist, no occupational therapist, and nobody who could assess or help our son with his movement disability. On the other hand, it did include the principal who had kicked him out of school in the first place.

This seemed like a bad sign.

The district insisted that they would not consider letting our son back to school until the CST had met. This condition, which was unambiguous and made in writing, also turned out to be illegal: parents have a legal right to refuse a CST without retribution from the school. Our son’s constitutional right of education had been denied. As a last resort, we took the district to court.

In the court documentation, the district accused our son of being ‘sexually assaultive’ and us of being ‘unco‑operative with the process.’ The principal’s written testimony included a set of classroom notes about our child to show how he wilfully misbehaved. Strangely enough, the school had given us an alternative version of this document about a month earlier, which we still had. The notes are attributed to a young classroom aide and detail her observations of our son in class over a period of two days (19 and 20 February 2013). The version that was submitted to court as sworn testimony offers a noticeably different account, including several additional sentences that make our son’s conduct sound wilful and sexual. It looks to me very much as though somebody in the district was willing to lie in court and falsify documents in order to damage a child.

According to the written testimony of the principal, the psychiatrist supported her claim that our son was sexually assaultive and a danger to others. Fortunately, we were able to show this testimony to the psychiatrist himself. When he read it, he was so disturbed that he wrote a letter rebutting it, specifically noting that he thought our child was not sexually assaultive, not a danger to others, and should never have been suspended from school.

It was two very tense days before the judge gave a written ruling. She ruled against the school in every respect. She noted that no expert on the part of the district had adequately evaluated our son. Several outside experts had made clear diagnoses and recommendations, but the school ignored them. The school provided no help or intervention for a child in distress, choosing instead to illegally suspend him. The school had not shown that our son was a danger to anybody. For his own psychological health, the judge ordered our son to be sent to a different school in the district. The district was to provide a formal 504 plan to help him with his classroom difficulties.

It felt like we were caught in a machine that had no guilt about telling lies, no inhibitions about destroying children and families

Looking back, the most charitable interpretation I can put on the whole experience is that maybe when large bureaucracies start moving in one direction, they reach a point when they can no longer resist their own momentum. Someone at the school made a bad judgment about our son, the system clanked into motion and from then on there was no stopping it. It certainly felt like we were caught in a machine that had no guilt about telling lies, no inhibitions about destroying children and families. And as far as we could see, there was no reason for any of it other than carelessness and arrogance and, in the end, self-protection. It served no function except, perhaps, to save the district some money on movement therapy. When the judge asked what could possibly justify the open-ended suspension of a first-grader from school, the district declared that our son presented ‘a danger to others’ – including a danger to the adults at the school. By this stage, our son was six years and eight months old.

It is only fair to point out that we also encountered several true heroes who cared about children and tried hard to help our son. We were particularly impressed by the staff at his new school, who made it their business to give our son a warm and supportive experience. In May 2013, on the order of the court, our son was enrolled in Riverside elementary school in Princeton, New Jersey. From his first day at the new school, the teachers, the principal and the psychologist reported to us that he was a delight to have – funny, sociable, kind, gentle, and eager to do well. He loved turtles, platypuses, and Harry Potter. He made friends easily. His behaviour was not disruptive to the classroom. Nothing he did was a danger to himself or to anyone else. Nobody ever saw any ‘sexual’ misbehaviour. He was, however, observed to rock in anxiety in his chair when he was tasked with a writing assignment. The psychologist was able to help by talking to him and by instituting a reward system for good class work. Within a few days, the rocking stopped.

I wish I could say that the move to the new school magically solved everything. But that is not the case. A year later, he still has lingering trust issues with school and teachers, and significant anxiety in the classroom. It takes a long time to recover from stigma and rejection. That’s why children’s disabilities ought to be handled with great care and compassion. My wife and I have degrees in neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology. We have the means and the leverage to go to experts and to the courts. But even with all that leverage, we still barely saved our son from a system that couldn’t grasp the disability it was dealing with. How many families and children get ground up by that system? If our experience is any guide, parents should be vigilant, and if something doesn’t seem right, always stand up for your child.

Read more essays on education, general psychology and neurodiversity


  • Miki

    I certainly hope that those "educators" that so poorly served an innocent 6 year old are no longer able to practice in any school system. They obviously are in the wrong profession and should never have opted to work with children.

    • Michael Graziano

      Alas, they are all still in the system. Every one of them.

      • Spencer

        Many school systems have become institutions of abuse, but the only ones who can tell are the ones who nobody listens to: the children. I am extremely sorry for your experience. You should tell us which school so we can send angry letters.

        • Michael Graziano

          The editors at Aeon preferred that I not mention the specific school. I understand their preference. Really, the problem wasn't limited to the school anyway. It involved many layers in the Princeton Regional school district. And of course, beyond my school district, the problem is present all over the country. Silent disabilities are ignored and stigmatized.

        • Katie_E1988

          I do not think the anger is the answer - they need more and more be educated. Especially when they are educating others.

          • nutz40

            Those that can Do, those that cannot Do, Teach. Many are looking for more skills but as teacher colleges tend to get low performers and group thinkers where is the modeling behaviors leading to emulation and transcending?

          • Geraint

            Well, it seems one institution dropped the ball with this child, but I don't think it warrants tarnishing all teachers with your derogatory comment, Nutz40.

          • nutz40

            USA spends more money than anywhere else and gets worse results. QED Theory of learning i was taught in 60's started with the tenet that the pupil learned best with agape and respect and the role of discounting bad behaviors yet the role of appropriate consequences with persistence. Here many places power games predominate and everybody loses.Only conclusion as a body the teaching profession is failing. I will allow that the narcissogenic family structure is a major contributor, and many places have poverty of resources including modelling behaviors.

          • imsorry

            Many of the people involved in this horror story were not teachers, but rather other administrators or school staff. Believe it or not, some teachers are working harder than hard to fight for services and early interventions for kids showing mild to moderate needs BEFORE it escalates, and our voices are ignored. Some of us graduated summa cum laude from elite colleges (just to clear that up...). This is a problem with the system and with what, clearly, is a complete disregard for understanding and supporting the development of young children.

          • nutz40

            Thank you, one additional problem is that the talented and sensitive tend to get burned out and leave. Others are not aware of the variations in the developmental process and others think they are child psychiatrists and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Many are good to excellent but stulified by an almost malign system.

          • Gina Pera

            Yes, imsorry, many teachers are trying to do just that, and they are encountering narcissistic parents who can't imagine anything being "wrong" with their child. As a result, they blame the teacher for "pathologizing" childhood. Teachers cannot win, it seems.

          • Ellen K

            This is sadly true. There is a student I have had who has many issues, including being on the spectrum and not knowing it. As a result, the student attributes her behavior to "being ADHD" and since the parents have not bothered to teach her anything in regards to how to act in public in her 17 years, she acts out in destructive and sometimes dangerous ways. This student was placed in a class where welding, soldering and power tools are used. It's poor placement but the parents insisted she be in an art class because "that's her passion." She is no longer in my classes because I caught them claiming that artwork done by an outside teacher was her own original work. They didn't like that. Now this same student, who has problems navigating the halls, has been taught by her parents to drive and given a car. Next year as a senior she is going to be allowed to drive it to school-a trip of 3 miles through many school zones. The parents are wealthy, one is an attorney and nobody can tell them anything without fear of a lawsuit. That she is going to hurt herself or others doesn't seem to matter. And we've been told that we cannot mention that she is unable to do something for fear of a write up. This is what teachers too often deal with.

          • Meredith

            Your comment is ignorant and offensive. Not all teachers would fail in the "real world." Shame on you for perpetuating such a stereotype.

          • 1Pokey4

            There is a very disturbing trend of contempt, and even hostility, directed towards teachers these days.

          • Tom Billings

            Actually, it is hostility and contempt towards large parts of academia, which are too often perceived as having contempt and hostility for those without a college degree, or at times, grad school. In particular this is perceived as common in Humanities and Social Science disciplines. Until recently STEM disciplines were set aside from that, as only tolerating what the staff and faculty majorities did and said.

            Teachers in K-12 bear the brunt of that reflected malice, because they remain the portion of academia most intimately in contact with the rest of society. That basic state is magnified by parental reactions to problems individual children may have that parents are anxious about. That teachers often cannot undo what administrators decree does little to help their relations with parents.

          • Sam_Sonite

            "Teachers in K-12 bear the brunt of that reflected malice, because they remain the portion of academia most intimately in contact with the rest of society."

            Right, "Ivory Towers" are real things that academics literally live in and no one can enter unless they prove themselves with a PhD.

          • Tom Billings

            Indeed, it is surprising to me how thoroughly the class bigotry of academia separates its denizens from the rest of society. Note I say this as an Aspie, ...not exactly the life of the party, myself. I rarely have a discussion about campus when a put down of those who never got a degree does not take place. I cannot count how many times at elections someone reflecting academic views has blurted out some version of that old saw about a conversation overheard after Nixon's second election, by a staffer at the WSJ, in the conversation of 2 other WSJ staffers, ..."I can't understand how the man got elected, ..I don't know *anybody* who voted for him!"

            School teachers cannot insulate themselves, from either children or their parents. I've sat and listened to frustrated friends about the way parents treat them on one side and administrators on the other. Not pretty with many.

          • Ellen K

            True. The reason that academia at the college level supports high stakes testing is because many of the professors in various state colleges write parts of the tests. I know this because a very good friend of mine, a wonderful AP Chemistry teacher who has elevated more kids to a 5 on their AP tests than any other in our state, tried to have as is doctoral dissertation the topic "High Stakes Testing Do not Predict College Outcomes." it was rejected because the Ed school and various other departments at the university are paid to contribute to to the creation of state testing.

          • Sam_Sonite

            I suspect there is much more to your friend's story than either you or he is disclosing as that topic is a question frequently asked in Ed schools. If that was the exact title, I would expect it to be rejected because it makes an all encompassing statement with an assumed conclusion predicated on the assumption that the tests are designed to predict college readiness. I have looked at many of these tests and none I have viewed seem to even approach college preparedness.

          • Button

            Bravo to these loving, persistent parents!

          • Rosie’s Mom

            "Those that can Do, those that cannot Do, Teach." Please, please banish that expression. It demeans teachers, even the best of them. There are many excellent teachers, who teach because they love it and do it well, even though they could get a higher-paying, more prestigious job elsewhere. Are there bad teachers? Yes. But there are bad doctors, scientists, lawyers, engineers, and corporate executives too -- people who were assumed they could, but they can't.

          • nutz40

            First we delineate the problem. Poor educational attainment in general for a nation with all the advantages of this one. Then we look at the problems causing this then we shame the poor practitioners, then we retrain those that can be retrained. Persistent poor performance is a multi-system failure partly political and economic in the same way that the Plymouth Plantation almost failed , socialism and communitarianism are recipes for failure everywhere. they are the models for the present union set up. Pay teachers based on performance and give any needed retraining. I know it is difficult with multivariables to assess performance but it has to be done or the country will continue to fail.

          • LocomotiveBreath

            ... and those who can't teach administrate. Which administrators are the real villains of this piece.

            I'm an engineer BTW. Bad engineers tend to get weeded out because there's an objective standard of performance and failure is punished. I've also been an academic. In that area, not so much.

          • Alex Njoo

            I think the maxim should read " Those that can Do, those that care, Teach"

          • Teresa

            That is a direct result of the fact that teachers get low pay and are rewarded for passing numbers on achievement tests instead of being allowed to teach. The best and brightest go into the corporate world instead.

          • sixerfixer1976

            Horse-pucky, teachers are underpaid. You can stop perpetuating that myth, too.

          • n4zhg

            Educated? Half of them are there because they couldn't hack a real college degree. We need to ditch the Prussian System (the sole purpose of which is to turn out Good Germans) and require that anyone teaching children in a subject should have a Bachelor's Degree in that subject. Clear out the riff-raff masquerading as "educators".

          • Glen MacNicol

            Although I agree these educators were ignorant, narrow minded and unhelpful, be cautious of accusing them of not having appropriate degrees. First, a BA or MA do not guarantee smarts in psychology or sociology, and secondly, most all school systems require now require an MA as well as certification. This situation was handled wrongly from start to finish, and I wish his parents the very best.

          • Ellen K

            Actually, you're wrong. Many teachers hold advanced degrees in education. When teachers get an IEP we are seldom told the nature of the student's issues. And believe me we've gotten some wildly disruptive IEP's. In one class of thirty a student who was bipolar and Downs' Syndrome was allowed to sing out loud when she was happy or jump up and touch the top of the door. While that may work in a self-contained classroom, the push toward mainstreaming most if not all special education students is creating a situation where in order to handle the needs of special needs students, regular and advanced students are left to their own devices. Some of the questionable placements I have witnessed include putting a child who cannot write, read or move into an American Sign Language class, putting a student who could not speak into an AP Studio art class and putting a student so drugged up on medication because of his repeated attacks on teachers that it was almost impossible to communicate with him and he had to have a full time aid in case he "acted out." I have also had a child who was and is dyslexic and who struggled throughout school, frequently blamed for things he did not do. There has to be a balance. We have to realize that not every child is destined for college. Nor should every child be in a regular school setting. There are many wonderful schools such as the Winston School and Shelton Schools in DFW area that speak to specific issues students and parents need to learn to handle. There are also many public schools that commit time, personnel and money to providing services far beyond what the average student ever receives. I think sometimes parents expect regular ed classroom teachers to be mind readers. Most of these teachers chose to teach regular classes to the average range of students. To blame them for not automatically know what a child with a rare condition may need is a matter of training, not vengence.

          • el_guero2000

            You blame the student and not the Educators ...

            Our broken Progressive education indoctrination system is the problem.


          • Ellen K

            I blame a system where administrators are more concerned about politics and public image over what is going on in the classroom

          • Doug Doakes

            Never miss an opportunity to demean Germans. Why didn't you somehow work in the holocaust?

          • AnneG

            Katie, won't work. There are no consequences for them for their behavior which is malfeasance, violating public trust and lying and perjury, and, worse, child abuse. These are soulless people with no morals or ethics.

        • Debbie Mccormack

          I know there are schools that don't have the same views as this school did. But still that poor boy had to suffer needlessly.Educating the teachers is the only way to prevent this from happening to another child.

          • Troll Feeder


            Well, sort of no.

            If you plan to educate the other teachers AND administrators by firing everyone involved in this affair, then OK. Otherwise, no.

            only education these people need is to learn that they will be held
            strictly, severely, and -- most importantly -- personally accountable
            for their malfeasance.

      • ReformedTrombonist

        Was it not demonstrated in court that they had lied? If so, how did they stay out of jail?

      • Princess

        There is a lot of criticism of, "helicopter parents," both by school systems (obviously) but even by psychologists. But when your child is little and helpless, you need to keep those propellers spinning. Ask your child every day how things went. Check out the parent grapevine. Observe your child in class; volunteer in the class. If both parents work, one of you can take half a day off once a month. Be proactive. Some female teachers do not understand little boys. There was a book written many years back, "The Secret War Against Boys."

        I don't understand how with your combined education neither parent was aware the child had handwriting or motor skill issues? You didn't notice he was anxious about school and perhaps told you he didn't want to go? I knew a woman who quit her practice as a psychiatrist to homeschool her autistic son. It depends where your priorities lie.

        • princeless

          Are you high? Did you read the article? They did realize and they did do something - that's one of the main points(!) of the piece on which you are commenting.

          I knew a woman who quit her practice… yeah, right. I have a cousin who's best friend makes bank working from home… troll.

          • Princess

            Yes, they did do something...after things spiraled out of control. And they still wanted to return the child to the horrible environment. I knew this female psychiatrist personally, although she was not a close friend. Her autistic child who didn't speak is now a community college student. He grew by leaps and bounds once she decided to educate him herself. We spoke because I was homeschooling a child with Aspergers (who had far fewer challenges than her son did) and she was very helpful as her training and culling of research helped her plan her son's successful therapy and education.

            He currently does have some social deficits; but if you initiate, he will respond politely and carry on a conversation. People do make serious sacrifices for the well-being of their children. However, I assume many wouldn't do the same for their own children, and would justify this selfishness, convincing themselves that the child is doing fine. I also spoke with a single mother of a special needs child at my local Regional Center, who quit her job and went on government assistance so she could care for her child that no daycare wanted to deal with. I mentioned that she could have legally required the daycare centers to not discriminate against her child, but she decided she didn't want him to be in a place where he wasn't loved and accepted.

      • WhereDidMyLibertyGo?

        You must understand this mentality is run amok. It is not just schools -- law enforcement's mentality of "zero tolerance" and 100% suspicion of everyone, everything is the standard bureaucratic model as well.

        In a way, you are fortunate. Learning this lesson now, with relatively minor consequences, will prepare you for what lies ahead as American society continues its disintegration.

        What amazes me is that this took place near Princeton! One can only tremble at the tyranny lurking behind the school gates in less enlightened, less privileged areas where blue collar and rural parents haven't a prayer of combating a school district gone mad.

        In particular, their ease in accusing your poor son of being a "sex offender" is terrifying on the face of it.

        Yes, this was a blessing in disguise. I hope you can avoid further dealings with the paranoid police state but I'm afraid this is a taste of things to come.

        • Princess

          Perhaps in a rural area there might be more common sense? It is these highly educated idiots that believe in stuff like Munchausen's by proxy, Satanic Ritual Abuse and don't get normal boy behavior.

          • tippedturtle

            Wow, so far from reality or unable to read. You just belied your understanding of the article with your last sentence. The whole point is that there is no normal! Ask an Aspie and the chance is high that they see the average population as neuro typical and at a loss. The success of all our children is based on acceptance by all of us.

      • Madelyngrace

        What can we do to change that fact? They need to be fired and banned from working with children and families.

      • Phoenix

        I experienced panic and post traumatic stress while reading this. Our story didn't quite escalate as yours did but we were against a 'system' and they had strength in number. Our story had a parallel - after questioning the teacher, passively at first, about what was happening in my son's classroom and at school during the day to cause his change in behavior (special needs, transitioned to middle school) and getting vague answers, and culminating in my child being injured, I consulted help and called everyone I could find with an official phone number, sending emails, too. In the end, even though I temporarily 'won', the dominoes had begun to fall and the writing was on the wall. The retaliation in suspension was similar to your story. Similarly, we moved to a new school and the staff was warm and receptive, helping my child to overcome the ptsd. My child received a special award at the year end ceremony reflecting how he had prevailed. Since leaving that school, I've heard similar stories from other parents and from some staff. What people will do to save their jobs is very scary.

    • robertmeerdahl

      they probably got promoted, unfortunately

    • LT

      I say write to the Board of Education - chairman if you disagree:

      • saddened

        The president of the board has promised to back this principal and give her the job permanently, not sure a letter will help

    • gearbox123

      Are you kidding? They probably all got promoted. People in government fail upward, and education, tragically, is part of government now.

    • geokstr

      Perhaps the teachers and school officials suspected that the parents were Republicans that didn't vote for Obama, and the politics of personal destruction were set in motion.

  • bigsur123

    Would be fabulous if you were able to name the school and the administrators involved in this so they can receive at a minimum the public shaming they deserve. Alas I am sure you were advised against this by counsel, typical of the U.S. and NJ specifically. All I can say is home schooling given you are your wife's education levels and then extra curricular activities for social skill development seems much more the path to me than another shot in that school system!

    • lane538

      As a parent this kind of thing drives me crazy.

      • LT

        I do believe that an independent, formal investigation needs to be conducted and authorized by the school board on this matter.

        Otherwise, I believe that this principal is going to get away with lying and treating other children and families in this manner.

        • n4zhg

          Agreed. The principal should have been charged with perjury.

        • Flarn Buckholter

          That is useless. Like a school board is going to do anything but gloss over the issue and give all the admins a raise....
          Making stupidity in public service a criminally liable act will fix everything.

      • JusticeRocks

        You do realize that anytime someone clicks on that link from this page, the school page (or at least its computer host) receives word of where the click came from? So many clicks, so many readers, so much attention! When did you receive an apology?

      • anonymous

        website suggests that there is a YWCA but no YMCA program at that school...? The other 2 elementary schools other than Riverside seem to have YMCA...?

        • Linda Norton

          It may be that the YMCA has an after-school program and transports the kids to the local Y. The school would not be a part of the program other than making sure the right students get onto the YMCA bus. At least, that is what happens in my neck of the woods.

    • LocomotiveBreath

      If you don't try to get the bad people out of the system then they'll turn around and do it to someone else's child and maybe those parents won't have the resources to fight back. Finish the job!

    • OffToSeeHim

      There are four elementary schools in Princeton (the article says he was moved to another school in the district.) He was moved to Riverside, so that wasn't it. I guarantee you there's no way this happened at Littlebrook. That leaves you with Johnson Park or Community Park, and let's just say that although given the income level of the parents you might think JP would be the obvious culprit, it probably wasn't there either. This has a CP stink all over it. Thank God in a few years their child will be in John Witherspoon, which used to be a pest-hole for these borderline special needs students but under the new (or, not so new now, I guess - four or five years) principal will offer this child many advantages.

  • NP

    I do hope that you are pursuing other legal redresses against the former school administrators and faculty.

    and why not publicly name the school?

  • Warm Ginger

    A great article. When young, my husband was either bullied by the teachers at his school or ignored as he was "one of the thick ones" (he is far from stupid). Through sheer dogged determination he made it to university as a mature student, where an eagle-eyed lab assistant spotted the signs of dyspraxia (her son has it). After testing, he received support such as a scribe to write for him during exams. His handwriting is still almost impossible to read, but he's now a damn fine physics teacher and sees many of the coping strategies he'd developed pre-diagnosis as real character strengths.

  • Victoria JW Meyers

    The only reason you were able to finally circumvent the "machine" is because you had the resources to do so. Your degrees gave you the expertise you needed and your professional jobs likely gave you the income level needed to fight. You also likely had access to and mutual respect by way of association with resources who most could never have at their disposal. I have been caught in this machine and only got out of it by my wits and tenacity and love for my children. I did it largely on my own and as soon as I could I took my kids out of the public schools and kept them safe the only way I could. I encourage my kids not to have children because its not safe. You are not likely to be allowed to raise your children, your way and with your own values whi

    • April Esquire

      I agree, to some extent. As soon as I realized that my son is highly gifted, I let him finish his kindergarten year and pulled him out of the system. Homeschooling allows him to be who he is without being a threat to anyone or be held back by anyone "because he's not old enough to learn that yet." When people ask me how I can stand to homeschool my sons, I have to hold my tongue to NOT reply, "How can you send your kids to public school where they are at the mercy of teachers and administrators?"

    • orbicularioculi

      Absolutely dreadful that you advised your children NOT to have children. Despite your terrible time with the public school/s that was not a wise thing to do.

    • Grantman

      Pardon me. You encourage your kids not to have kids? That is so wrong on so many levels. Good heavens. How myopic. Children are blessings and if they are blessed to have them and run into situations that are difficult as yours was, I would hope that they would have the same tenacity as you displayed to protect theirs. Sheesh!

  • Veronica

    I feel so angry at the treatment of this child by those who are supposed to be the experts, who we trust with our children, all day 5 days a week - this crowd are a total disgrace to their profession and I would really like their names to be splashed all over the media so that they can reap what they have sewn !!!!
    This sounds like a small minded, spiteful, scared bunch of people with NO principles !!

  • SharonH

    Michael, thank you so much for telling the story that many parents are afraid to tell, and for standing up for your child against the school. As a preschool movement educator in an affluent area, I identified several children over the years who were clearly behind in specific motors skills that could improve with help, only to learn that the kindergarten evaluators would classify them as normal to avoid having to provide (pay for) assistance. Schools in affluent areas would also assume that parents had the means to pay for private therapy for occupational or cognitive problems. A Child Protective Services worker once told me that he often got bogus reports from schools that didn't want to spend the money to help the child, and another one confirmed it. That was 10 years ago. Apparently, nothing has changed. When society is concerned that overburdened case workers don't have enough time to deal with the blatantly horrific cases, such abuse of the child protection system is appalling.

  • Penny

    What an extraordinary story, and unfortunately all too believable. I might suggest that the author look into brain-plasticity-based therapies, such as neurofeedback or Integrated Listening, to help his child's brain reorganize.

  • Throwaway

    I also grew up with mild dyspraxia in the American school system. On top of that was left handed, had bad vision, and tongue tied. I struggled with hand coordinating, sports, speech and other movement related expectations but I never understood why. One of the symptoms I dealt with the most was the fact that it took so much effort to form words with my mouth that I often spoke without thinking.

    The treatment strategy was to bully me into behaving "normally" but never to explain what was happening to me, develop a record or plan (I was expected to play ball sports - HAH - almost every year and almost every year I had to explain to the teacher that it wasn't going to happen), or otherwise adjust for my disorder. Meanwhile if you had ADD or dyslexia you got no end of accommodations and special treatment.

    I only recently learned that in the UK this is a far more common thing. If you said, in the UK, "I have dyspraxia, sorry, I can't play tennis" everyone would understand immediately, no blame or accusations of laziness.

  • Warren Fried

    As the President and Founder of Dyspraxia USA and also a person living with the disorder its my lives mission to make sure an American Society has understanding, support and acceptance for this common impairment with very poor awareness.

  • JenJen10

    I never knew the name for it, but I believe my mother may have apraxia.

    When I was young, mama used to break a dish just about every day, my father had to buy new ones with every grocery order. I knew there was something wrong with her but we were never told it had a name (I wonder when the condition was diagnosed & the name invented). Mama said that when she was young, her father told her "Everything you do, you go at it with either a sling or a jerk.", so she was this way all her life.

    Actually, like your son, this is just one more thing to add to the list of problems my mother has. Her IQ is not very high, I tried to do my own evaluation based on general criteria I studied in several college education classes & I came up with a possible IQ of about 75; she has a very low emotional quotient too, and she's asexual. She was never able to ride a bicycle, or to drive a car, she never graduated from high school. She has discalculia, the inability to do math; her math level consists of addition & subtraction. She can write, but it's jerky.

    A neighbor also had apraxia, I remember his parents telling me that he was clumsy, but it wasn't until I saw him in action that I realized what they meant. He, like my mother, also had multiple problems. He was impulsive, he had no sense of proportion or limitations, he never knew how far to go in anything so he always went either too far or not far enough. We played ball with his nephew & he had trouble catching the ball, and at one point he ran into a clothesline, cutting his face. He rode his father's bike once by himself & ended up in the hospital with a broken shoulder, some people working on a road saw him speeding down a hill too fast & he went off the road into a ditch & knocked himself unconscious.

    I've always wished that I could've gotten an expert examination of my mother, I wanted to know what was wrong. She told me once that she hated tests, she never did well on them. Her cousin told me that mama had a learning disability in school, I wish she'd been properly evaluated, it would've saved her & her family some heartaches.

  • david

    There are big holes here. Both 504 and IDEA (Special Education) provide procedures to challenge school decisions and ensure a child receives a free, appropriate education. No complaint to the state education agency that is responsible for enforcing IDEA? No 504 complaint to the US Office of Civil Rights? No due process hearing or state-provided mediation? It's hard for me to believe all the facts are here.

    • Michael Graziano

      All the key facts are presented. We did file a 504 complaint. As noted in the article, we went to state court for emergent relief. The judge ruled that the school had violated our son's right to a 504 plan. The judge also ordered that our son had to be admitted to a different school in the district, because the previous one had provided a stigmatizing environment. But to get to that point was a long and horrendous journey for my son and for us. When schools harm children and ignore disabilities, the fix is not easy or quick, no matter what agencies might be available to complain to. It is a Kafkaesque system. And many families don't have the benefit of a knowledge of education law, and are harmed and squeezed out of the system.

      • Gina Pera

        Why such an obsession with law, Michael, when it is your son's health (including brain health) at stake? This makes absolutely no sense. No sense at all.

        Take steps to meet your child's needs, beyond talk therapy. Your child has a physical issue, not a psychological one.

        Facing facts and meeting this challenge head on will get you a lot farther than ranting against the school, the system, the law, bad teachers, abusive school personnel, etc. Those are all distractions.

    • nicknatmom

      No holes... very similar to the fight we had to fight as well.

    • justtechit

      Keep in mind that you're reading a year's worth of experiences in a 20 minute story. Impossible to capture ALL the details or stress that a family experiences. My family is in the middle of a VERY similar struggle here in the Pacific Northwest. It is so stressful and COSTLY to fight a school district. Every morning is filled with stress because we're not sure what the school district will say in the afternoon. We have filed complaints but it doesn't get solved overnight. Days pass before a brief acknowledgement email, and then another few weeks before a denial email. Simply waiting is incredibly stressful, and nothing is solved during this time. My kid simply struggles in a bad environment. Like Michael's story, my kid has no issues in other places, playdates, and is cleared by pediatrician and psychotherapist.

      • Gina Pera

        What is a "bad environment"?

        A child has to focus and self-regulate motivation, attention, and emotion in a classroom. It's not the same in playdates and other places.

        • justtechit

          Gina-very true. Sorry, I shortened my story too much. My kid did very well last year in the same school in the same special needs classroom. This year, however, a turnover in staff resulted in a very bad environment. A few staff members have zero special needs experience and for whatever reason, they are working with my child. We have complained and gone through all the processes, but the school delays reacting and denies any wrongdoing. My kid goes to other classroom environments on the weekends, has intensive therapies (which require attention) during the week, and attended summer school with success. A simple turnover in staff has resulted in disaster this year. Also, nearly every other parent in my kids classroom have also complained (to varying degrees), but the school district has not been responsive to them either. My case is one of those where a few bad apples have spoiled the whole bunch...which has caused enormous amounts of stress, time, and money on my family. This has been an ongoing battle since September. Unfortunately, it's not feasible for me to type out dozens of emails and hundreds of pages of IEPs that our lawyer indicates was illegal, and share with you. Again, impossible to condense months of details into a simple story. Fighting for a kids education is not simple nor brief. BTW, we have an open case with the local police (regarding a school matter I haven't explained), but that again takes time...

          • Gina Pera

            I'm sorry you're having such a hard time. Actually, it sounds like a nightmare. As if raising children today isn't challenging enough.

            My point (and I should have been clearer) is that when it comes to ADHD, many parents are confused because their child might do very well at home and the rest of life. School, however, can tax their executive functions to the breaking point.

            By contrast, some kids with ADHD do better in school than at home or in social situations. The structure helps them with self-regulation; it's the unstructured time that is hard to bear.

            My comment wasn't so much directed to you but in the context of this story, which to me has so many red flags.

            Best of luck to you in sorting out these issues...

    • Gina Pera

      Yes, very, very big holes.

      • artmama


        The holes are that the parents did not share what they did to fight. I feel this was done to point out how the problems of the system.

        Were there FAPE violations early on, yes. Did the parent know that, no. Where there other things the parents could have done, we don't know because they did not share that side. None of that changes the fact that the special education system in publics school is far from perfect. In fact many parents with means choose to move to another town rather then do what this story describes. They choose to move rather then prove the school can not meet their child's needs. There is a problem when moving to another district is the better option then working within the existing system.

        I am in a good public school that cares but the burden is still on me. I have to request services. I have to be on top and constantly manage and watch. Many in the schools are not educated about special needs and don't understand. Did you know that in NJ the Director of Special Education does not need a special ed degree? That is a big hole.

        I think we all can agree that awareness needs to be spread. Awareness about special needs and awareness about special education laws.

        • Gina Pera

          No, actually. The holes, as I see them, are two parents being clueless as to their child's challenges far before first grade and then going on a martyrdom crusade, when the real victim is this child. Why should it take a first-grade teacher to navigate the multitudinous neurophysiological manifestations of whatever was going on with this child? That is preposterous when the parents have the resources and access to do a better job than any school.

          No, this story has too many problems. I am shocked that more readers don't see them.

          1. Failing to recognize the child's problems, by TWO so-called neuroscientists, by first grade.

          2. Insisting on, as many parents whose own ADHD creates denial about their child's problems, that it's all the school's fault, that their child is just a happy-go-lucky sweet kid. Yes, but what about the crushing anxiety when trying to write and the other problems? If you have to get your answer from a pediatric neurologist (and I have significant reservations about the resulting diagnosis), then how on earth could you expect the school to recognize and solve that problem? I'm sorry, but that's just beyond the pale.

          3. Writing a very public story with such details about a child who cannot give permission for this to be plastered all over the Internet for posterity.

          4. The ridiculously sensationalized headline "How apraxia got my son suspended from school."

          Externalizing blame is a problem among adults who have neurocognitive problems of their own. I hope the parents of this boy do a little soul-searching. He might be a in a school now that accommodates his problems, but guess what? Some day he's going to grow up and the world will not be so accommodating. Neither will, in just a few years, middle-school and older children.

          If there are neurocognitive issues that could merit treatment, such as in the case of ADHD (which is associated with motor apraxia), then I hope like heck that they are treated. It is virtually impossible to turn back the clock, once developmental milestones are missed and a poor self-concept is entrenched. Why not take advantage of knowledge now?

  • Jonny

    As a former Special Ed. student and student psychologist. This is appalling on several levels. There are public schools with very good Special Ed. facilities, but even still it can be a challenge. My initial services were only obtained because my Grandfather was an administrator in a neighboring town and knew what i was entitled to. This is why we need more mental health education. People need to realize the signs that something is wrong and act accordingly. I am so sorry that you had to deal with this experience, and wish the best for your son.

  • Francine

    I so empathize with your family. My sons, seven years apart, were unable to "write" legibly and had brief and unhappy school careers. They are quite grown now, and both are successful adults whatever that means. I always say that the happiest day of my life was the day my younger son graduated high school--out of an alternative "bad kids" school of course.

  • davidual

    With no connections, and no money their lives would have been totally chewed up and spat out. I cannot even begin to to describe the hurt and anguish in my and my son's life at the hands of school districts, and the psychology "professionals". Too many people will read this story and realize, some for the first time, of the two Americas in which we all inhabit.

  • efirefly

    My experience is that you can get the child to recognize that things are different and better, but they relate everything to that past experience for many years, if not forever. I have seen adults who do the same thing with a traumatic situation. Is there anything (articles, protocols, etc.) that recommends steps to get children or adults past this type of trauma or helps them integrate it as one experience, but not the total sum of their experiences?

  • unknown

    I too had a similar letter sent home regarding the "danger to himself and others" at age 6…seemingly the same school, wonder if it was the same teacher. Thankfully I had a private OT and psychiatrist on board already because I refused to wait to get help for my son. The only reason I was able to save my family from this same outcome was the wonderful child psychologist who is no longer with said school and the benefit of an MD involved after the very first meeting…..,so sad for this little boy it can take years to rebuild trust and self esteem….thankfully we got an IEP and all the help we need but WHY OH WHY do the schools blame it on the parents and these innocent children….I believe any childs behavior can be traced back to their environment and this first grade was a bad environment as was first grade for my son...

    • Patrick

      If you want to share details, please email . No more children should suffer.

    • Michael Graziano

      If you had the same problem in the same district, please, please send an email to the new Superintendent, who should know about these repeat problems. No first-grader should be excluded for being a danger to others. Children with school difficulties need to be helped with a professional intervention plan, not kicked out. That is a brutal approach to excluding "inconvenient" children.

      • unknown

        Micheal I will write to the superindent..maybe the new regime will do better. I am also going to look into a change of school for us to I never considered that option . I still see the teacher in the hall and I quickly feel my blood pressure rising when I remember that experience.

        • Michael Graziano

          His email address is easy to find on the district web site. We will meet with him soon. If he gets emails from other parents like you in reaction to this article, saying that they had similar experiences from the same school, with the teachers named specifically, and if he gets those letters in the next day or two, that may help him to understand the situation when he talks to us. So thank you! We must all come out of the shadows.

    • parent

      that wonderful psychologist left that school because she could no longer tolerate how children were being treated under the new principal. She gave up tenure, her salary, her benefits, her career. i know many others are thinking of following suit. Kids these days are stressed, sometimes that is the parents fault. sometimes it is due to a condition of the child, and the school needs to prove they are doing all they can, anyone can research how to adapt the environment to help students who are stressed at school. They just have to care about children more than their career.

  • Dolores Joy

    You know after reading that I would say it seems to me that the child was just humping his pants. Not that common but not uncommon either, and considered a normal part of exploration and development, even at age 6 like he was. Apraxia was defined correctly as a motor planning issue but in my opinion they are stretching the definition and scope of apraxia way too far to over-analyze a behavior found in typically developing children. The "wiggling in the seat" that is sometimes found in apraxic children is not at all the same as what they were all describing here. I think it would have been way more on target to call it a sensory seeking type of behavior that can occur with normal development, as in it feels good to the child, so the child continues. It's not even sexualized, it's more like normal, exploratory pre-sexual behavior. I think someone should have explained to that poor kid, what you are doing is normal, feels good, but there is a time and place and that place is not at school. But no, as a pedi OT and mother of an apraxic child I would say this is very highly unlikely.

    Apart from apraxia, my daughter also has complex motor stereotypy, a neurological disorder resulting in stereotyped movements that meet certain criteria, and we are used to people posting videos of their kids in our groups asking if it looks like CMS to us....well one lady posted a video of her 2 or 3 yr old girl gyrating her hips back and fourth rhythmically while sitting on the floor...all serious too....and the mom says in the video "Are you rocking your dolly?" and the kid goes "uh-yep" as she is licking her lips. A few of us took it on to help her and were like "your child is humping, it's normal, and highly unlikely that it's cms but you can ask...but be prepared."

    • LT

      re-read the article. maybe missed the part where he said he didn't do the movement at home? Regardless, this whole thing was handled poorly on the part of the school.

      The bottom line: the principal claimed that the psychiatrist stated that the child was "sexually assaultive and a danger to others," but that very psychiatrist rebutted her testimony. So it is clear that the principal made the accusation up! Now why is this principal still working there??

      • Gina Pera

        The fact that the child didn't do the same behavior at home means nothing. Plenty of kids with ADHD, for example, behave differently at home or in public than they do in school -- sometimes better behavior at school and sometimes better behavior at home. It depends on what they are attempting to deal with.

  • Fincy Loasher

    What a nightmare. Imagine if this happened to a child whose parents weren't well-educated with high enough income to work with all the experts. Such disgraceful conduct from the school and principal.

  • eljeffster

    I read this with great interest. The author noted the power of Child Protective Services (or equivalent). In approximately 20 states, a "secret" hearing can be held after CPS takes a child in which there is representation for CPS, a "child" representative but the parents or a parents lawyer are not allowed. These hearings can determine whether a child goes back to the parents. See for a local news report about CPS corruption in Kentucky.

  • Emran

    This child is only 6 years old and I think he has no mistake. The main culprit is the school system. I hope there should be some more efficient school system for these type of children

  • Linda Q

    This is a shocking, all to common story of educators and administrators overstepping their bounds on the one hand and being shockingly ignorant on the other.

  • Maria

    Will you be attempting to put in complaints against the individuals and the school district in question? I know in the UK we have whistle blowing policies and procedures that come into place once this sort of thing has been exposed.

  • damageddude

    As soon as you wrote YMCA aftercare I suspected you were in NJ.

    Our son has Aspergers and has had his IEP since pre-school (when we first noticed something was off with him). Fortunately we were in a wonderful elementary school (about 20 miles east of Princeton) with a pro-active principal who knows his students and never had a real problem with his teachers or school administrators. The child study team, while very nice, professional etc, we had to struggle with. (Actually it is now that he is in middle school that we are having more important issues with the child study team, we want him to go to college (or at least be prepared for it), they keep lowering expectations, but that is another story)

    One thing my wife and I have discovered through this whole process is how the schools try their best to deny parents or students their rights. It is not meanness or ignorance per se, it is that a child needing something extra costs money. My wife and I are attorneys, and were able to not only read the applicable laws etc., but were able to understand them (I think his team looked at us as ambushers). We know what services our son is entitled to and didn't let the school system bully us. It was as we were going through the process that we realized that there are many parents who don't understand the system at all and their children don't get the assistance they are entitled to as their parents don't have the knowledge or resources needed to help their child. Our wife and I are seriously considering working in this field when we retire and don't need to make as much money.

    That said, the key is with the school staff. If the principal is ignorant, so will his or her staff. Sadly, we know this first hand from parents from other districts whose children attend our son's social group. But we have also heard that a change at the top also makes a difference, even if it is just a principal learning what he/she was doing was wrong.

    On another note, the child teams are petrified of being sued. When my wife and I went to one of our earliest IEP meetings, the staff handed us a booklet that explained what IEP/ 504 plans and our rights etc, When they warned us the code might be a little difficult to understand, my wife mentioned that wouldn't be a problem as we are attorneys. The looks on their faces were rather amusing as one of them said meekly "Oh, you're lawyers?" After that we never had major issues.

  • Anthony Lawton
  • MTNR833

    Though all the details are not the same, the feeling that overwhelmed me reading your story are the same I dealt with first hand attempting to advocate for my son who also has an apraxia diagnosis and other comorbid disorders. I too got caught in the "machine". It has been a long journey., thankfully with many positive outcomes - only because I left the system. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps me know I am not alone.

  • Rose

    Thank you for sharing this candid account, Dr. Graziano. Unfortunately, I have heard many stories like yours while working at the Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center (PEAL) in Pittsburgh, Pa, ( The PEAL Center, comprised of a tiny staff of only 15 people, is dedicated to helping families of children with disabilities ensure their rights in the classroom and professional spheres. The advisers at the center are parents themselves and have navigated the tricky school systems. I recently moved to Princeton, N.J., so I am unsure of the state offerings. Does such a non-profit exist like this in N.J.? How can we spread the word about groups like these and their influence over school systems? Happy to help out if possible.

  • Susan Pratt

    As a special education professional of 30 years in both public schools and now in higher education I was horrified to read of Michael's family's experiences. The story had violations of state and federal law written all over it, from their very first encounter with the school. Unfortunately, no one tells parents what these laws are. I have served as an advocate for families "at the table" in those intimidating meetings and I am certain that in at least a few cases the children involved would not have been given what they needed and were legally entitled to had I not been there as a watchdog over the process. My advice to parents: educate yourself within an inch of your lives and then be an annoying and very sqeaky wheel. Do NOT take what the school officials say at face value; their interest is ultimately financial. If you need to, hire a special education advocate to come to the meetings with you so as to ask the right questions and to read between the lines of the school's words (for a $100 investment it is well worth it). The special education system is an out-of-control behemoth that not even the most knowledgeable and conscientious professionals can manage anymore. I am really very sorry, on behalf of all educators, that this happened to their son. Most of us really do work very hard to provide children with the very best care and education. As for nutz40: Go ahead and fish all you want today, and be gluttonous all by your greedy little self - for one day. I've chosen to teach others how to fish so as to feed themselves and others for a lifetime. I'd put my choice up against yours, anyday.
    P.S. Go for the IEP (Individual Education Plan). He is entitled to more than a 504 Plan but it is cheaper so that's likely why the school pushed it.

    • Princess

      The squeaky wheel works for everything; family member in hospital, nursing home, health problem etc.

  • LT

    to the author -- if you could go back in time, what would you do differently? For example, when you started movement therapy and psychological therapy for his anxiety, I am sure with the aim to keep things private and handle things on your own, do you wish you had contacted the school sooner, to inform them that there was some significant challenges going on with your son that is related to the rocking? Maybe gotten the ball rolling sooner with a 504 and insisted that an eval. be done? As a mom with a son with dyspraxia, I just want to say that I am grateful that you shared your story. It also scares the hell out of me as to how much unyielding power these public schools have on families . Shame on that district for being such jerks to you and your family. I really hope there is some recourse on your part . Really, they all should be fired -- including the principal. But that would never happen. Such cowards.

    • Michael Graziano

      Good questions. The purpose of the private therapy was not to avoid working with the school. We went to private therapy because the school explicitly told us, when we asked, that our son did not qualify for school occupational therapy. The outside experts we saw wrote to the school asking them to help our son, and those requests were denied. Our pediatrician asked the school in writing to implement a 504 plan but that request was ignored. It was only through a court order that the district began the 504 plan. If we had to do it over again, armed with present knowledge, we would have hired private movement therapy much earlier, at the age of 3 or 4, and begun an early intervention to teach him key motor skills.

      • LT

        OK - thanks for the reply. They clearly dropped the ball and thought they could get away with it.

      • LT

        Also, Michael -- do you know if the school board is aware of what happened to you? This is much, much more than an ordinary due process complaint.

      • Gina Pera

        Why private "movement therapy?" What evidence do we have that works? Did you ever consider ADHD, which is highly associated with "dyspraxia"?

  • mhenner

    Why are you keeping the name of the school, and of the principal a secret? Shame them in the open.

  • Jake

    I had a lot of problems in school, in fact some of this child's writing issues seem very familiar to me and I have some sensory agnosia as well, it eventually came to a point where they allowed me to type all of my written work because it was so horrible, I'm 30 and I still write like chicken scratch and I can't use cursive at all.

    All of the excuses were the same, I was blamed, my Mom was blamed. Thankfully my Mom was like you guys and didn't take any of the BS but I feel that in the long run the school system horribly failed me and it left me with severe anxiety that I've been fighting for nearly the whole of my 30 years.

    They tried to have me taken away and they tried to say the cat scratches on my arms were the marks of physical abuse. At one point they tried to guilt me into coming to school more even though the anxiety left me physically ill in the mornings and has caused me to suffer from anxiety based insomnia for 17 years give or take. They told me that I was in school less than the girl with cancer. It's sickening now to think about it that they used another child's illness to try and invalidate how I was feeling and what I was going through.

    I have to stop writing this as it's making me very angry especially since none of it was ever resolved and to my understanding the system hasn't changed at all.

  • Ravi Wells

    It felt like we were caught in a machine that had no guilt about telling lies, no inhibitions about destroying children and families

    I do not want to be flip or insensitive - but as 2 highly educated professionals and adults who i have a hard time believing are so ignorant of this screwed up world - why did you not consider that "the system" is wholly unable in any way to accommodate anything outside their narrow blinder-focus? and why have you not at any moment in this - certainly before it took such a horrible turn - considered home-schooling your obviously bright child that had no business trying to deal with such a rigid, defunct and insensitive system? you repeatedly refer to the patchwork of laws that "guarantee' education and equal rights to your affected child, but you do it with such unabashed innocence (i resist saying ignorance) of the clear fact that these systems are politically motivated patchworks never designed or capable of true humane solutions to the real difficulties of children that don't fit the one-size-fits-all mold of industrially designed education.

    home schooling would allow you to design his education without ANY of the stress he obviously has deeply ingrained in his conscious perception of this prison he gets sent to ever day - and i make no hyperbole here - he IS experiencing prison each and every time he "must" attend this nightmare place for him.

    Check out the story of Andre Stern if you have any doubts as to the validity of home schooling and what kind of amazing individuals it can produce.

    • Patrick

      And yet, simply by changing schools, all of the problems they reported at the first school vanished. It's a shame that it took a court order, but this is in fact an indication that there is nothing intrinsic about the school system that makes it hostile to a child with apraxia. In fact, it appears that their child is now being treated in a supportive and kind way within the same school system that you completely dismiss here. By making a big fuss so that this doesn't happen to another child, we can help move the system closer to what it should be.

      Also, I think it is hilariously out of touch to blithely suggest that the parents should simply completely rearrange their lives, potentially giving up one of their careers, in order to homeschool their child, especially when it is actually clear from this article that this is unnecessary -- though from browsing your other comments, this type of smug condescension appears to be your stock in trade.

      • Ravi Wells

        gosh - thanks for the personal attack and using unrelated trolling to try to discredit my comments with your arrogant judgement of my other opinions.-

        now on to your inaccuracies - the problems for their child have NOT vanished (did you finish the article???) - and why do we parents have kids anyway? to be all smug about our fertility - "wow - i'm a real man/woman" and then blithely hand them over to horribly inefficient, insensitive and unavoidably bureaucratic state systems and go back to our rounds of golf at the country club? (or our oh-so-important careers, hobbies, girlfriends/boyfriends, social clubs etc etc)

        yes - i DO expect parents to at least considered rearranging their lives for the good of their children - notice i did not say sacrifice - i said rearrange - my partner an i did - just for those reasons - to be in touch and present with our child throughout her childhood, to have and take total responsibility for her upbringing, education and the quality of her free will and creative mind. We chose not only a different country and specific part of that land, but many other factors - cause we are - OMG - a FAMILY that considers each of it's members and what is best for each of them--

        do you have any frikkin idea that there are parents (and not religious fanatics) so devoted to the idea of a free childs mind not indoctrinated by the system that they go to jail for their right to homeschool? (happening in germany...)

        seems your stock and trade is to, with utter ignorance, degrade what others take great pains to accomplish as "hilariously out of touch" -

        gosh again - what horrible suggestions i have made--

      • Gina Pera

        Actually, no, the problems didn't vanish. Read the story. He now attributes his son's problems to "trauma" from the last school.

  • Catherine

    What a horrible and distressing experience. I have a child with Apraxia and cannot imagine having to suffer the stresses of that on top of the day-to-day stress of the disorder itself.
    I do have one issue I'd like to understand better. You state: "[The principal] hadn’t talked to us first. She hadn’t attempted to gather even the
    most basic facts about the case – for example, that our son had a
    movement problem. She didn’t know that he was in private psychotherapy
    to help him with the stress he felt about going to school. She didn’t
    know that his repetitive movements in the classroom had been diagnosed
    as symptoms of acute classroom anxiety, and that it was probably brought
    on by a writing difficulty that the school was failing to address. She
    didn’t know any of this."
    Well, why hadn't she known this (without having to initiate an investigation)? I mean, had you relayed this information to the school, as you became aware of it, but it simply hadn't been passed on to her? Or had you not proactively kept the school informed? If the latter, then it seems to me that you dropped the ball too. Absolutely she should have done some basic inquiry/investigation, but so should you have let the school know what was going on with your son well before that point.
    I keep my daughter's school very up-to-date on anything pertaining to her health & well-being (probably overly so, haha). I feel that it helps them to understand her better and to react appropriately to her. I can understand a desire for privacy, but with children like ours I think secrecy does them a disservice. Perhaps in your child's case it wouldn't have made a difference to how things played out; they certainly sound a bit deranged there! But for the future, you might consider rethinking how and when you share important information with your child's school.
    I am so glad your son is in a better place now and I hope you never again have an experience like this. Respectfully, Catherine

    • Michael Graziano

      Thank you for asking! We kept the school informed of everything at every step. For example, the motor difficulties had been noted and brought to the attention of the Principal in the previous year. When the school refused to provide occupational therapy, we went to private therapy and informed the teacher. The school was informed of all our efforts, and indeed all the outside experts wrote letters to the school. Yet the advice of all outside experts was ignored. A frustrating experience.

      • Catherine

        Thanks for your reply. Deplorable behavior by that school. Glad you no longer have to deal with them! I hope your son continues to thrive in his new school. All the best.

  • Danielle Faith

    When I first saw that this was over 3,900 words I honestly did not want to read it. I'm used to short, easy to read and to the point argumentative articles on the internet. I just want to say, that read was incredible. I'm glad I started reading and that I read the entire thing. It is horrible the way education is set up for those with disabilities. There is absolutely no access. I am a recent graduate from college. I suffer from a severe physical illness that even required a feeding tube. I failed my last class to graduation due to a hospitalization and there was nothing I could do to "fix" it except force myself in my weakest state to go back for the following Fall term. The bureaucracy of education and all the redtape is irritating and disgusting. Education is no longer about learning, it about political agendas and working the system. It is so sad.

  • Deb Waddell

    This is an excellent article. I applaud you and your wife for being able to deal with this in a calm and effective manner. To not explode in anger to the assumptions and accusations being made against a six year old and you as parents took a lot of willpower.
    You are very blessed to have the financial means to see this through and get your child the help he needs.

  • Dale J. Kidd

    The truly disturbing thing, in my estimation, is this: the Grazianos were fortunate enough to be financially secure. They were able to afford the private psychologists and a good lawyer. What happens when this scenario is played out by our so-called "educators" against families without the financial resources to fight back? (And I can assure you, it happens with disturbing regularity...)

  • Raymond McIntyre

    I can only sympathise. All three of my boys are dyspraxic. We have been taken to the Children and Youth anf Family service, accused of neglect, failure to provide a caring home. Our first social worker would not talk to me at all only to my wife. A CYF psychologist based an hour and a half away from us, diagnosed our marriage as dysfunctional, myself as manipulative and my wife as submissive and enabling all without the need of actually meeting and talking with us. We were taken to the family court and the charges dropped when the social worker was reassigned and we got a new one. I must also add our lawyer was about as useful as teats on a bull.

    All because my sons are dyspraxic. We have had great and unexpected help on this journey, people who knew us and wrote (unknown to us) letters of support. a friend who turned out to be a social work instructor and who wrote one of the most damning letters about our social worker it has ever been my pleasure to read.

  • Bjarne-Kjell Otervik

    stuff like this isn't as much the fault of the system or bureaucracy as it's on idiots and sociopaths in power.

    can only hope they get fired and go work somewhere they can't hurt kids and families

  • Marc D. Stewart

    I want to thank you for teaching me about something important, as a parent this knowledge is invaluable. My wife and I have always been PIA's when we felt that something wasn't right in regards to his education, and to stand up for our child when a situation arose. A teacher in pre-k told us she thought our oldest child had ADD and we consulted professionals, armed ourselves with information, and showed the school that regardless of our young age we were not pleased with a teacher handing out medical opinions and even go so far as to suggest that "maybe ritalin would help". I admire your strength and will and I wish you and your family nothing but the best

  • skanik

    I don't know what is more dumbfounding - the lack of compassion by the school

    or your failure to recognise that your son had learning difficulties. [ I remember

    reading last year an article about a young Medical Student who had a rare type

    of stroke - in - of all places - a teaching hospital ward that specialised in treating

    strokes. For over an hour no one recognised she was having a stroke even though

    her behavior was very odd.]

    I would be very interested in why you did not identify your son's problems

    sooner. [ I understand growing up with a child blinds a parent to what is going on.]

    As for Apraxia - the problem is turning any learned behavior into sub-conscious

    behavior. Learning to tie your shoelaces step by step and then doing so with

    fluidity and then without even looking is a major achievement. The following might


    Get large paper and pencils and pens and let him print/write large letters.

    Find a ball bigger than a baseball but smaller than a basketball to learn how to catch.

    Play simple coordination games with him where there is no sense of competition

    but of only fun.

    Take him swimming - the water supporting his muscles may allow him to

    relax enough to just move his body as he feels and that freedom may relax

    his over-stressed mind enough to allow him to learn smoother and more fluent


    Find a way he can help children who struggle more than he does.

    • LesleyPezley

      I don't think you comprehend the difficulty of understanding/diagnosing and treating a child with multiple disabilities. Also, many of these children (mine included) are exceptionally bright, making the diagnosis even harder as they can often compensate to a point.

      We have a team of professionals who have helped us over the years. And guess what? NONE of them completely agrees on diagnoses.

    • Layla Emerson

      well im glad your not a professional. And u obviously know nothing about Apraxia. Go google it and catch up with the rest of us. thanks

    • skanik


      I have no doubt that diagnosing any disability can be difficult.

      However, it is interesting to understand why the parents in this case

      did not realise earlier the difficulties their son had.

      I don't think anyone is a "Professional" when it comes to understanding

      the human mind/brain. I am an old man now but I remember the struggle

      in the 60's in trying to challenge the standard orthodoxy about

      Schizophrenia - that it was not so much psychological but biological.

      Layla Emerson,

      Apraxia has a variety of forms.

      I worked with children who had it during my training.

      All schools need to be brought up to date on all types of disabilities

      so this does not happen to any other child.

  • Belinda

    I've been there, the narrative slightly different, but similar lack of knowledge, and entailing punitive parent blaming misperceptions. Thankfully, as a psychotherapist working with "2e" folks, I listened to myself, pulled him out of the same district where you had your experience, and found an alternative setting where the educators actually think critically and examine the facts thoughtfully. Something is very wrong with how educators are trained in our country...

  • echophenom

    I knew after the first few paragraphs that the writer's son has dyspraxia. His description of his son's problems remind me so much of my own. The problems I suffered from as a kid and the ones I deal with now.

    My difficulties were noted by teachers, but no one thought to label them with a clinical diagnosis. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have unfolded if someone had taken the time to give me some specialized attention. For years I hated myself for not being "good enough", thinking that my poor coordination was the result of personal laziness. Worse, I tried to keep up a twin sister who was "normal"--whom everyone constantly compared me against. I think a lot of the self-esteem issues I've dealt with in adulthood are the result of a lifetime of physical awkwardness.

    I'm glad children are receiving the early intervention they need. Perhaps they will grow up to be happier and more optimistic than their older counterparts.

  • Rossella Rosin

    What an horrible experience! I don't live in the US so as a foreigner I can't fully understand one marginal thing - why didn't you change school immediately? why insisting on sending your son to THAT school? Is there a law in the US that forces parents to send their children to certain schools? Here in Italy we can choose whatever school we want, and in other countries I know it's the same. Homeschooling would also be a better option than leaving a child in such hands. Is it possible that in the 'land of freedom' this be not allowed?

    • Michael Graziano

      Rossella, you are right, the public schools in the US are zoned. You go to the school in your zone. In our case, a court finally ordered that we be allowed to send our son to the school in a neighboring zone. There are other options such as home schooling, but this can take kids out of normal social experience, and is difficult if both parents work.

      • artmama

        Yes they are zoned but you can get out zone placement when you prove that your zoned school can not meet the needs of your child as Michael did. Parents do have options. It is unfortunate that the burden is on the parents to prove that the school is not meeting the needs of the child.

      • ProudRiversideParent

        Since your child did not have an obvious disability, it took some time to get a CST together to determine the intervention. In most cases, your child would have ended up at Riverside school. Our daughter was diagnosed with Autism and was enrolled in Riverside even though we were in Littlebrook's zone. Good luck to you and the little one. He's in the right place now. Can't exaggerate how good Riverside school's staff and community is.

        • Michael Graziano

          I have to second that. Riverside has been an outstanding school for us. The people in it care about children and communicate well with parents. This school saved us.

      • LesleyPezley

        Yes, homeschooling is hard. But you know what? It's the right choice for a lot of kids in this situation. It's very hard. I know. But my child is more important than money.

      • Misty

        As a homeschooling parent, I have to take issue with your comment that homeschooling can take kids out of normal social experience. If anything, school is what does that. In school, children are forced into groups based off age, not based off mutual interests, work, etc. They have limited interaction with those outside of their age group, in fact are often separated from other ages due to different playgrounds for different grades, different recesses, different lunch times, etc. Homeschooling children are able to interact with the community much more than their "schooled" counterparts. Please don't automatically attempt to paint homeschooling as being outside of a social norm.

      • Rits

        The "normal" social experience at schools teaches children they have a choice: bully or be bullied. That's been my experience and observation as a student and then an educator at a number of schools in a number of States. The socialization "problems" faced by homeschoolers are more imagined than real, and, what with the abuse this poor boy has taken at the hands of the *adults*, his social experience thus far with the public school strikes me as neither normal nor positive. You can be sure that the other kids will have picked up on the adults' dislike and acted upon it.

      • Princess

        That is crap that homeschooling takes children out of, "normal social experience." I don't know what propaganda you have been listening to. A homeschooled child (and there are many options for how you go about this) has access to more social and learning experiences, and you can choose ones that are positive and enriching for your child. That is, unless you believe you shouldn't protect your special needs child from the "real world," of bullying and perhaps teacher misunderstanding and frustration.

    • GJ

      That is correct. In the US, most school districts place students in schools based solely on where they live. And you can be prosecuted if you fudge that information (giving a relative's address instead of the child's own) to get them into a school you would prefer. It is a system badly in need of reform.

      We finally chose to homeschool our children after several years dealing with an administration nearly as obstructionist as the one described in the article and their inability to work with our disabled (hypotonic cerebral palsy) son.

      • Rossella Rosin

        I do suggest americans should reform this system for the sake of their own children. Some mild form of competition does good even in this field - schools do need to build up a reputation, and parents do need to choose what's best for their kids, without being forced to deal with institutions and people they don't like.

  • Leopold31

    Wow, Mike, that's quite a story. My daughter's issues were different, and she was never suspended, but I too am jaded about the whole process of getting help for a child with disabilities.

    Our school suggested a child psychiatrist for our daughter. That was an exercise in frustration. The school said they would find and pay for this evaluation. Problem is. They couldn't find one in our state. We couldn't find one either. A neighboring state had three that we could identify. None were accepting new patients.

    We had some testing done outside the school. We never heard back. After repeated calls, they finally sent us a report in the mail. We took it to a meeting at the school, and they asked us if anyone who did the testing explained the report to us. No one had. The school coordinator was just shaking his head and took some time to explain what was in the report. I can't fault the school. They cared and they tried. But it always seemed like trying to push water up hill.

    In the meantime, life goes on. Another day goes by. Another week. Another month. Another year. And all the time you know that there is something that should be done, but you just don't know what. If you could quit work and concentrate on just that one issue, but you can't.

    I'm left wondering how many other parents have the same issue. They don't know what to do. Every effort produces minimal or no results. And their children don't get the help they need.

  • Granite Sentry

    Unfortunately, schools -- especially but not exclusively in and around larger cities -- have been collecting points for inflexible bureaucrats, tinpot dictators and other forms of tyrannical idiots for decades now. When we try to rein them in they either retaliate against the children or simply disappear behind an impenetrable shield created by the teachers' union and the school administration working in a devil's compact to fend off community control.

    • Michael Graziano

      "disappear behind an impenetrable shield"
      Yes, that has been our experience.

  • utterly confused…

    I'm having a really hard time seeing the teeth behind most of these statements. You are telling me that from the time after the first meeting to the time of the second meeting with the school, there was ZERO communication with you and the school trying to help your son?? I bet there was, but I bet this was conveniently left out of the article just to make the school sound more vindictive and the author to be the hero.

    And why didn't you try to work with the school first and not immediately go to an outside source?? I bet the school would have tried their hardest to work with you and give you ideas on how they can help, but you didn't listen. When you did go to an outside source, did you or the outside source notify the school of what you were doing so that they could assist with this?? I guess that was also conveniently left out as well.

    When you first was notified in kindergarten about your son's difficulties, what did you as parents do with him over the summer between K and 1st to help him?? I bet nothing.

    It is a shame that many schools get a bad rap because a lot of the facts were left out or skewed. Calling your son's handwriting 'useless scribble' was probably changing the teacher's words into something to make it sound 100x worse. Educators get a bad rap these days, and piling on them with articles like this without stating everything is just plain sad.

    There are a lot of time gaps in this article and a lot vagueness to your statements, I just can't stand behind anything you are saying as the whole truth.

    • Michael Graziano

      We tried hard to work with this school with regards to my son. We went to outside sources only when the school told us point blank that our son, despite his difficulties, did not qualify for school help. The school never engaged any appropriate expert to formulate a help plan or an intervention plan. And when the outside experts asked, in writing, for the school to help and to change its stigmatizing approach, the school did not. We have an extensive email and documentation record to show this, including public records from the court, and Aeon has an extensive fact-checking process. Our intent is not to give all schools a bad rap. As I stated in the article, we did encounter heroes in the school system. But the people who harmed our son acted persistently in ways that were perverse, arrogant, incompetent, and abusive. Our son still suffers the consequences.

      • utterly

        But you failed to answer my other question:

        What did you do with your son during the time between K and 1st grade to help him, KNOWING he was having a problem?

        Also, why didn't you take a proactive stance with your son? If you knew he was having issues in Kindergarten, why didn't you, right at the beginning of the school year, come to the teacher and go over the issues your son had developed in Kindergarten and what you were doing to help, or come up with a plan together to help him?

        Don't you think that if you WERE doing things in the summer to help your son's developmental issues, that when the school year began, and the teacher knew about your progressions, that the teacher would have assisted you in his transitions from summer to school?? I think all of this would have been avoided completely.

        It seems like there is a lot of finger pointing and blame being spread around and a lot of it comes from 'after the fact' ideals. You knew about the problems your son was having prior to entering first grade, but it doesn't state ANYWHERE in your article about what YOU did to help him post-K to 1st grade with his skills.

        The fact that both you and your wife (mentioned numerous times in the article by the way) are neurologists and psychologists, and seeing the issues your child was having, wouldn't you have immediately tried to help him as soon as you learned about this?? Why wait almost 5+ months, only to find out that the problem got worse, and to be in shock about it? It kinda looks like your trying to put the blame on someone.

        • Patrick

          I have kids at the same school. You might find it shocking but there is a total lack of communication with parents. The author's story is much more tragic but is similar to the experiences that others have had.

          It doesn't help the schools to defend bad incidents like this one. Public schools will only survive when schools tackle these issues instead of denying them.

        • LT

          OK - clearly you take issues, as a teacher, that the parent didn't act further in helping the child before 1st grade. I get that, and I believe that the author has addressed that point several times. But YOU MISS THE POINT OF THIS ARTICLE. This story is not about skill deficits. This was about a disgusting narrative that the school district decided to orchestrate (i.e that the 6 year old child was sexually deviant) instead of recognize a disability that was brought to their attention SEVERAL TIMES. I guess you believe that the principal was in the right by MAKING UP quotes from a psychologist that stated the 6 year old was a danger to other children and staff. And I guess, making horrible stuff up about a child in order to get them kicked out is ok (after child protective services cleared them) in the Princeton School district because a parent failed to get them handwriting help between K and 1st grade as well. Shame on you. I hope you, your family or friend ever have to endure what this family has had to go through.

          • utterly

            You are missing the point of MY post..

            I was asking why the parents weren't more proactive with their child upon hearing about his issues from kindergarten and worked with him BEFORE entering 1st grade. Don't you think they would have AVOIDED ALL OF THIS!!

            If I was told that my child was showing signs of some skill deficiencies, I would have taken them to see someone right away to help them, and taken the proper course of actions. In the article, the author makes no mention of immediate help upon initial diagnosis, and doesn't take their son to see anyone until almost 5-6 months later, not UNTIL all of this has happened.

            That is why I am having a hard time believing all the facts are here.

          • Ucantmakethisup

            Seriously ? Children develop at different times, yes there are "milestones", but they are not pin pointed to a month.
            It probably wasn't a concern between K-1. It may have been keep an eye on it situation.

            My son, had a lot of issues. Guess what he was diagnosed with? A very high IQ...these PG kids have a whole different set of issues (emotionally). He was given a 1/2 dozen diagnoses by teachers/ administrators ...Ha ! imagine their faces in this "elite" private school that advertised an advanced curriculum couldn't stop an 8 yo child from complete boredom. They hated it when he corrected them, and then found several errors in the textbooks they used.

            I had to resort to homeschooling, now I have a happy thriving kid with his issues resolving. He is extremely social and has many outside activities. He is involved organizations for kids like himself. Now he doesn't think he is as weird as they tried to make him feel. He knows he's different, but different is OK !
            He is now in 8th grade taking HS and AP classes...Happy !!

            If I had listened and believed their concerns, my son would be a medicated outcast. Sometimes things have to be waited out to see what is really happening. What happened in the authors case is criminal. The admin/teachers involved should be fired.

            I feel the same as the author...WHAT IF we did not have the financial resources, and the knowledge of medicine (MD) to KNOW what they were saying was a crock ? How many of those with less resources end up with the stigma, and their families just left in shambles?
            This is why the people involved should be removed. Shame on everyone for looking the other way at these administrators and teaches.

          • tomdperk

            "If I was told that my child was showing signs of some skill deficiencies,"

            They weren't told that. They were told their son was a sexual deviant and to control him.

            "That is why I am having a hard time believing all the facts are here."

            You are dismissing the facts in black and white here yourself.

        • nutz40

          Utterly are you still getting a pension form the gestapo? The problem with being a reasoned person like Graziano is they project and believe that initially reason will fix all. You seem the antithesis to this.

  • Ravi Wells

    Michael - i was not being aggressive or impudent -

    why do you not consider that the "system" is not able to adequately - with the necessary sensitivity - handle your child and consider homeschooling??

    • Michael Graziano

      Ravi, thank you for the question. We thought hard about it, believe me! But however foolish it sounds, I do believe in public education. It can be excellent. The people can be excellent. And children gain from being in a large complex social group every day. But it can also have problems, and these problems seem to compound for children with disabilities, especially "silent" or easily misunderstood disabilities. To me, the solution is not pulling out, disengaging, and leaving everyone else to their fate, but instead speaking out and raising awareness of these issues.

      • artmama

        I would like the options parents have to fight the system to be added to the discussion. When did you hire a lawyer? Where there private FBA's done. Let others learn how you fought this. Educate others about SPAN and the resources out there.

        • Michael Graziano

          We went to a lawyer quite late in the process. When the school suspended our son indefinitely and refused to let him back, we finally went to a lawyer. THE primary reason I am giving this story to the public is to make parents aware of these issues so they can do better than we did. We spent too much time trusting the school, or thinking that if we could only talk to the right person in the system we could straighten the problem out, or thinking that if we could get outside experts to tell the school where it had taken a wrong turn it would correct itself. We thought that the school system knew what it was doing and we didn't understand our rights thoroughly enough. When we finally consulted a lawyer, we found out that the behavior of the school appeared to be in egregious and repeated violation of education law. That's why the most important goal of publishing this story is to raise awareness. Awareness about dyspraxia, which is hard to see at first, awareness about stigma, which is also hard to see at first, awareness about the rights of children and parents, which most people don't entirely know.

          • artmama

            In the spirit of raising awareness on the rights of sn children I'll repost: SPAN This agency provides many services, one being free advocates. It also has free classes (in person and downloadable) on NJ laws and writes law. NJ also has chapter 14. This is 75 extra laws that improve upon FAPE.
            NJ also requires that every school have a PAC (Parent Advisory Council) for parents of classified children. This is a great way to find out about the services in your specific school.

          • Gina Pera

            The school has no medical experts. I know of virtually no educated parents, certainly no neuroscientists, who would leave it in the school's hands to identify their child's brain-based problems.

          • artmama

            Gina, if there was knowledge of the law, the parent may have been able requested an independent evaluation from a medical expert to diagnose. The school also has to follow the doctors advise in those situations. FAPE was violated many times in this story and a lawyer was added late in the game.

            This is a cautionary tale that illustrates why parents must be educated about their child's rights. A big problem with the system is that the the burden lies on the parent to enforce the law and that a child must fail in the zoned school to be able to move to a more appropriate placement. A lot of damage can be done while proving this, some families find it easier to move towns then fight. Michael is brave to share his story.

          • Gina Pera

            Thank you, artmama. Yes, I realize that it shouldn't be up to the parent to enforce the law.

            At the same time, I've known many parents of children with ADHD+ who live in "denial" of their children's problems (and often their own), specifically that their treatment sometimes lies beyond the realm of educational strategies. These parents do their children a great disservice by seeking the opinions only of occupational therapists, audiologists, learning specialists, and the like, because too often these specialists miss the central challenge: ADHD or other brain-basede issues requiring physical/medical strategies, not behavioral ones.

            Some parents of children with ADHD know when their medication is wearing off because their handwriting degrades to indecipherability. Yet, some parents refuse to seek medical interventions for their children with similar challenges, somehow expecting the school to compensate for such a profound (but possibly treatable) handicap.

            I understand that parents are confronted with varying opinions from many self-proclaimed specialists and that it's hard to synthesize all the opinions into an effective strategy, especially when the parents' ADHD goes unacknowledged and they themselves have trouble with Executive Functions. But sometimes they'll bend over so far backward to avoid acknowledging ADHD or the need for medication, it's nonsensical -- and definitely to the child's detriment.

      • Ravi Wells

        i get your "belief" - but your child is clearly in the "silent" group and you and your wife certainly have the ability to organize a very different education (unlike many less financially fortunate non-professional families) - you are not there to "save" the public school system - you are there to do what is best for your child! -

        have you ever heard of John Taylor Gatto? if not - google him up and see the kind of system you want to "save" - it is truly NOT worth saving - better to come up with something new - a better way to approach education altogether -

        if you want a conventional-unconventional segway opinion - go you tube Sir Ken Robinson's RSA animate piece on "Changing Education" - is is not homeschooling specific but speaks DIRECTLY to your experience with the "system" and how utterly wrong it is for most children and the voracity of our educational system in general.

      • teacher

        I applaud your effort to improve the public school system, rather than "leave everyone else to their fate" most parents do not have the skills, time and opportunity to homeschool or private school. And, as you've seen at Riverside, there are great teachers and occasionally, great administrators!

  • nicknatmom

    This is heartbreaking. We went through similar situations because the school didn't understand apraxia. There was no talk of sexual misconduct but an ambush insisting that my son was the problem. His anxiety was so bad that he ended up in the ER with what we thought was appendicitis and turned out to be an anxiety attack. We ripped him out of that school and put him in private where he is thriving. Good for you for fighting the fight and keeping that school accountable.

  • Ann H

    Something is missing from this story. I have children in this school system and from
    their experiences, and those of their friends, I have a very different outlook
    on how this district treats their students. I am a very involved parent, and from
    the activities my children are involved in, I have met parents from all of the
    Princeton schools. Some have moved here specifically because of Princeton’s
    reputation as a great school district that provides services that can’t be found
    in other districts.
    I feel Princeton goes above and beyond what they are required to provide. They
    have programs during the school day, after the school day, and during the summer
    to help those that need it. There does not seem to be any discrimination with the
    selection of those chosen. They include the rich, the poor and the disabled; there are white students, minorities and those that can’t speak English. Our taxes are high because of this. So my question is, why would they pick on this particular child/family to save money?

    • Michael Graziano

      We ask ourselves the same question all the time. Something slipped horribly. The main theme of my article is how easy it is for the system to slip when a disability is involved, and especially for a disability like dyspraxia that is easy to misunderstand and is often stigmatized. I would love to raise awareness of this issue, for all school districts and not just my own. But it is difficult to raise awareness of an issue that is so assiduously denied or ignored. Indeed, that attitude itself may be the crux of the problem -- keeping the inconvenient child out of sight and out of mind.

  • Debbie Mccormack

    I know or have a sense of how those parents felt. My daughter and my older son were pushed to quit school because they were different. They both are afflicted with aspergers syndrome. The school had no clue and neither did I. It was not diagnosed until much later. They were both in their late 20's when it was diagnosed. The teachers were down right mean to them and had no wonder as to why they behaved the way they did. My youngest quit later and finished school with night classes with high honors. My daughter did the same and went into home health care. My oldest never got over it and ended up with head injuries from trusting the wrong people. He cannot comprehend and repeats himself in conversations. He is very docile, from the injuries. He will never be the same. He holds the school responsible for what happened,

  • Bob Totans

    Among the many loyal, trustworthy and dedicated teachers, there is a mix of too loyal, unscrupulous and not so honest school personnel, including psychologists and administrators, who play the system. The school district's pockets run deep with legal costs paid by the taxpayers. The burden rests on the parents, many who face financial ruin in taking on a school district. As are the children, these parents are often alone in their battle and often find little or no resolve in the end. The undying love and devotion for their children is what gives them the strength and courage to carry on and, if necessary, to do it all over again.

  • Jessie

    It doesn't surprise me at all to read that you're in New Jersey. When I was a teenager, I lived in NJ, and the school system caused me so much stress and emotional trauma that I still have trust issues and problems interacting with other people. My mother fought tirelessly for me and told the school how to help, but they refused and kept saying I was the problem. In the end, my mother took me out of school for my own health and well-being, and it wound up being the best decision she could've made.

    Schools need to listen to the parents more. They know what's best for their own children.

  • Bobo

    This article reminds me too much of my own experience as a parent. A schools' failure to understand and assist with a child's differences happens in private schools as well. My own child, a favored student until she began to be anxious at school and we had some ideas about why, went through the mill, and as her parent, I don't think I will ever fully recover from those years. In our case, the school failed to recognize the sort of trouble the child was having; it was clear to us that a child who becomes mute at school but is a normal chatterbox everywhere else is having a problem with school, specifically.

    The school consistently made it out to be a problem caused by our family. My husband and I are professionals in education and psychology, and while we never made anything of that, I believe the school felt threatened by it, closed ranks, and before we were through, our child had been dismissed from the school. Not because of her, but because of her parents. In our efforts to get the school to understand her, to offer them the insight about her that we thought would be useful to them, we so alienated the school that we were given the boot.

    The story goes on, and on, but I was naive about private schools; instead of more individualizing, we were essentially told, "This is our school, and we don't have to do what you want us to." In fairness, there were some wonderful teachers whose hands were tied because they lacked the autonomy they needed to do the right thing. Anyway, families must be alert everywhere to people whose interests do not coincide with theirs even when they are supposed to.

  • Mary G.

    Our only option was to withdraw my child from public school and educate her at home (where she thrived). The school system couldn't care less about kids who don't fit into their pre-selected pigeon holes.

  • Jaye Sudar

    As a school board member in Colorado, I am horrified by what the school and district chose to do. I believe that their reasoning was more along the lines of CYA, and that they did not wish to admit that they were in the wrong. The bullies were in charge there, and that is wrong.

  • Wang

    I almost cried when I read your article -- we just went through similar stressful process dealing with our school (WWP district) for our 2nd grade son’s suspension. I feel school has no compassion on "trouble” high functioning disability kids, even though those problems come from the kids' developmental disability.

    May I ask the name of the CHOP doctor who gave diagnosis to your son? Did you go to Philly or the office on Alexander Rd? My son has issues of gross motor, fine motor, speech, social and behavior. Would like to get opinion from an expert. Thanks!

    • Michael Graziano

      The CHOP was the one in Philly, and the doctor was the head of pediatric neurology there. I won't give the name, just to avoid spreading names in a public forum, but I am sure you can track down the doctor. If you make an appointment there, I believe it is a matter of some chance which particular doctor you end up seeing. I hope this is helpful.

      • wang

        Thank you very much.

  • rk

    I wonder if you should file a complaint with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights? They investigate denial of free appropriate public education/504 plan issues.

  • Mai Page

    Why in the world would you keep sending your son to a school that was abusing him? You brought this on your child. He should have been removed immeadately from an envirnoment that was causing this anexity and abuse. Shame on you for putting your child through all of this. Sounds like you value your careers more than your child.

    • Patrick

      Mai, I think you're working through some issues of your own here. Just like the school was making assumptions that weren't true.

      I don't think anyone realized the severity of what was wrong at the school until the suspension happened. And I don't know why you think this has anything to do with a two-career family.

      • Mai Page

        That came from the author's own comments, the two incomes. Why would anyone in their right mind petiton the court to put a child back in a school that has treated them this way. Mind blowing. And then he puts the child's story on the internet so it can follow him the rest of this poor child's life. Poor decision making on the parents part. I think the title applies to the parents just as much as the school. The 504 wasn't filed until the child was suspened and the parents actually had to take care of him. Accusing me of having issues is just a strawman. What the school did was rotten, what the parents have done is worse.

        • Princess

          I mostly agree. However, there is a tendency among some naive individuals to trust, 'the system." And people don't see what they don't want to see, including the fact that they don't want to deal with it. I can imagine that the parents were so wrapped up in their careers (the problem isn't the careers, but where the heart is) they brushed away signs that something was wrong. You're right, something doesn't add up here.

          • Knickers

            Princess and Mai Page, you two have to be trolling because the judgment and criticism can't possibly be a reflection of a real human being's thoughts. Surely, you both have never made a mistake or have missed something because of life's stresses. You are way too perfect for that!

          • Princess

            I don't know the other person, but not trolling at all; someone had a link to this article in their status or I wouldn't have known about it.

            Not perfect myself at all, but things just don't add up. I am well aware of how the system works (badly) for some people. I also know of those who justify putting themselves before their children, and closing their eyes to abuse. The father even stated his son is still having trouble with trust issues even though he is currently treated well in his new school. But they aren't going to do anything about this. Did either parent ever take time off to volunteer in the classroom to observe how the child is doing, rather than take the word of staff? It would probably make the child feel more secure also.

            BTW, I am a real human being with a child with special needs, who will be going off to college in the fall. I am no expert in child development and took only the required science classes which I never enjoyed. But I decided to educate myself and act as my child's advocate.

          • Knickers

            Dear Princess,

            You are holier than thou. It is evident that when there are two sides to a coin, you are always on the side that is "right". How could you not with that critical/judgmental eye of yours? Reading the article and knowing only the short version of this story, you must know everything; what happened, how people felt, the dialogs and looks that were exchanged, that the parents were aware that they could observe the classroom but were too busy to do so, everything to make a good call as to what would've been the best thing to do in this situation during the situation. I rest my case here, you are right and you will always be right.

            Everyone Else is a Bad Parent

          • Princess


            I am surprised you know me so well from my posts. You haven't shared anything about your own story or why you feel this way. But what you say causes me to suspect you are one of those neglectful parents and mine and another poster's comments touched a nerve, so you call people who express themselves trolls?

            Kickers, turn your criticism around for a minute: You are holier than thou. Your side seems to be right, and you haven't really explained your side. You are right and you will always be right. And no wonder, perhaps your kids are messed up and don't want to have anything to do with you. But of course it isn't your fault. You are good, and anyone who would sacrifice themselves for their child's well-being is bad. A bit twisted?

            Let me repeat that feature articles are often composites and add fiction for interest. Considering the missing dates, times, names and titles, this makes it more likely. I know many wonderful parents, and many selfish ones too. Maybe you want to consider going back on your meds?

          • Knickers

            Your response was quite weak and I wasn't planning on responding but socio-emotional ignorance in conjunction with bigotry is really a pet peeve of mine. I don't have children but I have worked with special needs children and their families in 4 different countries of all different backgrounds, rich and poor. If I were as critical as you are of parents I'd be terribly ineffective at improving the lives of others. In life, I believe in the old saying, "do not judge others until you've walked a mile in their shoes", I however, do judge those who judge others.

          • Princess

            Okay, some background for such fierce anger explains things a bit. The persons involved in the story are obviously upper middle class. And while I am well aware that all sorts of awful stuff goes on with the school systems, especially in regard to the special needs community, the author hasn't provided any evidence that his feature is not a mixture of truth and fiction, or even if it is truly his own experience, rather than a composite story about others. Moral outrage is all the rage.

            They say people who don't have children consider themselves the perfect parents. Certainly persons of a lower socio-economic background have different challenges. But to claim that a person of a lower socio-economic background is incapable of a high level of morality is one of the worst forms of bigotry. And you are judging others in unqualified acceptance of the narrative given, and attack on any who take issue with it.

            Nobody can say they have walked a mile in the shoes of another; but let's just say I have walked a similar mile in similar shoes, but perhaps taken a different path. I don't criticize those I know who are struggling in this way, but I attempt to encourage them to gather information, gather support and make informed and honest choices, thinking of the long-term consequences and not ignoring dangerous warning signs because dealing with them would pose social and economic conflicts.

            Let me tell a story that I am sure you will find reason to criticize in some way. Several years ago I was approached by a lady who homeschooled her 5-year-old daughter. Since I had middle school kids, she asked if I could recommend materials for homeschooling an 11-year-old, as her step-son who they had joint custody of was begging to be homeschooled. "Begging," sounded ominous, so I asked, "Is he being bullied?" She told me he was, and she had even observed it at a school event. I asked if he could possibly have Aspergers, and mentioned certain traits. She said that sounded exactly like him, but the mother didn't want to discuss it, and the mother's attitude toward the bullying was, "boys will be boys." Her husband (his father) had a difficult relationship with his ex-wife and didn't want to do anything to make things worse. She felt, as a step-mother, she had no standing, and certainly didn't want to upset her husband. But you have a child who can't speak up for himself, and kids who are bullied commit suicide. This was a serious situation. And as the step-mother, she absolutely had standing to march into the principal's office and demand the school implement a plan to stop the bullying immediately, begin a paper trail and leave not so subtle hints that there would be legal issues if the school didn't follow through. If I lived nearby, I would have volunteered to go with her. I recommended some books about bullying to give to her husband and the mother. She said, "We are praying about it." (that the mother would agree to the homeschooling) Well, there's a time to pray and then there is a time to act. Yes, I knew this step-mother had a gentle, quiet, disliking conflict sort of personality, but sometimes you have to step up to the plate and act outside your normal areas.

    • MaiWord!

      Seriously? "You brought this on your child."

      You should "immeadately" stop commenting (and appearing in) public, because you are an idiot.

  • Ann Hillson

    OMG! Parents, quit blaming the school system for everything and take on some of the responsibility! If this school was so negligent, then there would have been many prior complaints. And if everyone was afraid to complain, which is ridiculous to assume, now that it is out in the open, if this was true, people would be coming out of the woodwork with their own stories! Many people are complaining, but they're not from this school!

    • Jonathan S. Corchnoy, Esquire

      That is what many think. Unfortunately, this story is all too common. That is why my legal practice rapidly became overwhelmed with such cases after I just "did a favor for a friend" and just got his child what he was promised in the IEP.

      When teachers try to help, often administrators - concerned either about their budget or having to deal with "yet another problem child" - pressure the teacher to "shut-up". You should sit in on some of my cross-examinations of school officials in Due Process hearings. The lying is not only prevalent, but often with little understanding that lying under oath is a crime.

      And when brought to the attention of "the authorities" who could do something about that, they think that I (and others) are exaggerating - that no school official could be that bad. If you think that , think of the overwhelming participation of school administrators cheating on the state educational testing in Atlanta. Or the video posted of the teacher going at the student in a NJ classroom. The problem is so prevalent that it is chasing everyone who is really good, or wants to improve things, out of education (and has been for some time).

      I will be the first to admit that I only see the "wrecks", not the schools that are doing it right. Unfortunately, these "wrecks" seem to be in every community where I practice and in rich schools as well as poor ones. Ironically, I have an easier time getting appropriate services for students in poor districts than rich ones. The rich ones - it seems - would rather pay their lawyers than educate all of their students.

      As for taking responsibility, these parents got their child the proper help at their own expense when it was the school district's responsibility to do so. When it became clear to everyone that the school wasn't doing its job, what was their response?

      • Gina Pera

        When did schools become psycho-neurological intake centers?

    • heeds

      How exactly is this blaming the school system for everything? This district clearly violated the law and you want to know where the other cases are? How many kids need to be hurt before you'd be willing to admit there's a problem? They submitted false or altered documents to a court. They lied. The school's job is to help and educate kids. Not go off on a witch hunt.

      Also, children's records are confidential. There probably are plenty of prior complaints, they're just not a part of the public record.

  • Shana

    Thank you for sharing your story. My family is still recovering (7 years later) from a somewhat similar situation that was no where near as serious as yours. I am relieved that you found a school setting that is supportive for your son, as we finally did. It made a world of difference, although my son is still dealing with fallout from that year (also 1st grade).

  • Princeton undergrad ’12

    Thank you for this. I worked with students immediately after graduating with a liberal-arts degree last year and so often felt that I didn't have the support or training to help students effectively. I would not do that again, because children are far too precious to be left up to people who don't know what they're doing. Articles like this just reinforce my belief that teaching is a massive, complex skillset that requires a TON of training, hard work, and humility to do well. It's not something people should enter into lightly. And the truly competent educators deserve all the admiration in the world. For everyone else: more professional development, practice, coaching, and training - and continued support once they're actually teaching. And a salary high enough to allow people to go through all the additional years of training and practice I'm proposing (like high medical salaries making it possible for people to spend years in med school and residencies).

  • mary

    thank you for sharing this Mr. Graziano. I am so sorry your son and you and your wife have to deal with such ignorance.

  • Momof4

    In a way I can empathize with this family. We are having a hard time with our private school, and my eldest son in a way is a bit like your son in some areas, especially had writing. But we have a school that is going to the opposite extreme. Refused requests for interventions prior to requesting an IEP/504 plan. Now that the evaluation has been done, they are trying to force us into a special scholarship that will give them more money. Anyone in the school who is on an IEP they are trying to force onto this scholarship, and trying to get more and more students at the school onto IEPs, so they can get more money. But their idea of providing services is to provide a one on one tutor 5-10 hours a week (no speech therapy, no occupational therapy, no physical therapy).

  • Gina Pera

    I can't help but be reminded of the McMartin Preschool case, where trumped-up "repressed memories" of sexual abuse created a sensationalistic nationally focused court trial, with devastating consequences to all involved.

    As much as I feel for you, your wife, and son, I can't help but wonder if you might be missing some forests for the trees. All these auxiliary diagnoses -- apraxia, sensory processing disorder, difficulty with handwriting, etc. -- are common to ADHD, which can be the central issue in understanding and treating these issues and more.

    Yes, there are various specialists who treat each condition, but often without a unifying theory. In other words, they each have their hand on one piece of the elephant, missing the big picture.

    I just wonder why neuroscientists seem to be approaching their child's challenges purely in a "talk therapy" manner when it seems clear that neurobiology is involved. How do you know your child isn't still having difficulties not due to trauma from whatever happened at the last school but due to brain-based symptoms?

    I wish you all the best.

    • Michael Graziano

      Our child was diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist. He has motor apraxia.

      • Gina Pera

        Michael - The fact that your child was diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist means little in the scheme of things.

        What are this neurologist's qualifications and, more to the point, his or her "belief systems" and ability to ask the right questions? Is this pediatric neurologist an expert in ADHD? Because these kinds of subspecialties do matter.

        One pediatric neurologist is creating quite a stir among the anti-psychiatry wingnuttery by claiming that "ADHD Does Not Exist":

        You would not believe all the disparate diagnoses parents of children with ADHD receive before they finally receive ADHD. It isn't as easy as you think to get an accurate diagnosis.

        • MichaelZWilliamson

          Do you have credentials in the field? Have you examined the patient in question? Otherwise, you're bringing your own biases to bear.

          • Gina Pera

            Yes, I do have credentials in the field.

            And, no, it's not my biases that I bring to the question but very comprehensive knowledge about these complex disorders.

            I also well know that parents typically do not understand that disparate professionals will have disparate names for the same conditions but that some professionals' opinions are more valid than others, especially when they are more aware of effective treatments.

            Moreover, I know the patterns involved in parents' denial systems and intellectual biases -- and the risk to their children's future.

          • Tom Butler

            Your credentials in the field is using your communications degree to write a book and being an unpaid advocate for ADHD. I'm sure that's the credentials a neuroscientist and psychologist was asking about.

          • Gina Pera

            Oh, am I supposed to be offended by that, Tom? lol!

            I am so not intimidated by pompous people bearing acronyms.

            If I were, I wouldn't have persevered these last 15 years fending off nonsense from PhDs and MDs who don't bother (or don't know how) to read the published literature or clinical guides, especially those outside their narrow disciplines.

            I wouldn't have persevered in being an advocate helping people left completely confused and bereft by school "systems" and mental health "systems." Because there is nothing systematic about either.

            And I wouldn't have persevered in writing not one book (four national awards and still a top seller on Amazon after five years, translated into Turkish and Spanish thus far) but also a professional clinical guide (Routledge, in press) and also contributing to the "gold standard" manual on ADHD (Guilford, in press).

            My knowledge and reputation are what matters. And, I will stake my well-substantiated knowledge in this area against anyone here, including two "neuroscientists" (itself a squishy term that tells us very little about the person's training and knowledge; a neuroscientist who is not also a biologist would seem to indicate a person with severe knowledge gaps).

            You can take or leave the information I offer, based on the best information from highly respected experts and great familiarity with the literature, but I have an excellent track record. And, oh, I have private clients, too.

          • Gina Pera

            And your point is what, Tom? That I used my education to good effect? My journalism teachers would be glad to hear that, given how hard they worked to train us how to cover all subjects, including science.

            Apparently, even with a Bacehlor's degree I am more knowledgeable in recognizing the signs of a neurocognitive condition in play than two "neuroscientists" -- an extremely fuzzy term these days that often involves little background in molecular biology.

            The leading ADHD experts have endorsed my book on ADHD, Routledge Pres asked me to write another book on Adult ADHD, and the preeminent research scientist in the field asked me to write the chapter on ADHD and couple therapy for his upcoming revision of the "gold standard" clinical guide.

            The fact remains, I have provided Mr. Graziano published literature that points to a trial of stimulant medication as being possibly beneficial to his child. Yet, he refuses to even consider it, why? Because, like many in liberal enclaves, he appears tone-deaf to the frailties of the human brain and would rather stick to a bias than open his mind.

            The very idea, of even refusing to try it. But it's his child he will have to answer to one day. I just like to provide a more balanced picture on the science.

          • Gina Pera

            If this child's "neuroscientist" parents had used their degrees as well as I have, they might have seen that something was up with their child long before first grade. They might also be willing to consider the medical evidence that neurostimulants might help their child. Instead, they seem more intent on excoriating teachers while at the same time expecting them to be neuropsychiatric intake workers.

  • Gina Pera

    Here is a potentially useful study on Motor Incoordination Response to Methylphenidate in children with ADHD.

    Michael -- Of course I cannot say that your child has ADHD, but it sure sounds like what you describe dances all around it:

    "The following year, he started first grade at the same school. In
    November 2012, we met with the first-grade teacher, who told us that our
    son’s writing was a useless scribble compared with the other
    children’s. He was at the bottom of the class. We were taken aback. Poor
    writing can have an impact on reading and on math. Why hadn’t the
    teacher told us earlier? During math homework, our son seemed so anxious
    about the effort of forming each digit that he couldn’t think about the
    question itself. And yet, apparently, he didn’t qualify for any school
    occupational therapy to help with his writing."

    Please know that sometimes parents who themselves have ADHD fail to "connect the dots" around their child's behavior. I would venture to say, having lived around many scientists, that sometimes "head in the air" scientists can be very disconnected from daily life.

    Not every parent who has a problem with a child's school has ADHD, of course. But I've heard so many "not quite right" sounding complaints from parents whose ADHD has long gone unrecognized, blaming the schools unfairly for their child's neurobiological challenges.

    Please consult experts with actual knowledge of the brain and stop messing around with the "talky talk" therapists. Your child's future just might depend on it.

    • Michael Graziano

      Thank you for the very thoughtful suggestions. One of the difficulties we encountered was people who diagnose too eagerly without the proper expertise or proper study of the child involved. That is how you end up with "diagnoses" that don't fit the child, ranging anywhere from ADHD (which may lead to inappropriate drug regimens) to "sexual assaulter" as our school called it. Our son has since been studied thoroughly by people with the correct expertise. They are all in agreement. He has been examined in class, out of class, and in a range of contexts. And the dyspraxia diagnosis is the correct one. Many children with dyspraxia are hastily and incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD and given medication that causes further harm, while not getting the specialized physical therapy they actually need. One of the lessons I hope our story can teach is to avoid throwing around these diagnoses casually. Some children actually do have ADHD, some don't, but it is important not to diagnosis casually.

      • Gina Pera

        No one is suggesting a casual diagnosis. The fact that you would respond with such indicates to me foundational skepticism about ADHD as a valid diagnosis. Perhaps you've been reading too many NYTimes op-ed pieces? :-)

        I know as well as anyone that the diagnosis the child receives depends on the expert whose opinion is sought, and that can be highly circumscribed by the parents' prejudices. I know dozens of parents who refused to have their children see anyone but occupational therapists for "sensory processing disorder" for years, before finally throwing in the towel and admitting yes, it's ADHD, and yes, we wish we'd admitted that earlier in our child's life.

        Perhaps your degree in psychology lends a bias to behavioral and other strategies. I'm still not sure how both you and your wife (both neuroscientists, you keep saying) could have missed so many earlier clues. I just find it hard to believe the clues weren't present. So, I would wonder what else is being missed now.

        I know it is very trendy now in non-hard-science academia and other "progressive" circles to dismiss ADHD as overdiagnosed and to cast sideways glances at the neurostimulants. It is almost seen as position of intellectual pride rather than more correctly of foolhardy arrogance, putting at risk children's ability to meet developmental milestones and avoid internalized feelings of failure.

        Of course, I cannot and would not diagnose your child. But if it were my child presenting with such difficulties, I'd want to be 100 percent sure that it was not ADHD and that it was not at least in part amenable to stimulants. Because otherwise, learning this much later in his life would leave me griefstricken for the needless suffering and potentially lost opportunities.

        Parents today must make difficult decisions. But they should do it with the best information possible.

        Best to you and your family

      • Gina Pera

        "A year later, he still has lingering trust issues with school and
        teachers, and significant anxiety in the classroom. It takes a long time
        to recover from stigma and rejection."

        On what do you base this? How do you know he has "trust issues" and that his "significant anxiety" stems from stigma and rejection? This seems like quite a stretch of attribution.

  • Blue

    Something very similar happen to us in Alameda California,

  • Margaret

    Your article made me lose my appetite for the day! I'm deeply sorry for what you and your little guy had to go through. It's absolutely sickening... I'm currently enrolled in a master's counseling program and I shared the article on my Facebook page to increase awareness. Keeping my fingers crossed for your son to fully recover for this horrible experience!

  • Evelyn D.

    You are not alone its happened to me and many other families in New Jersey. I still cannot stand to hear a phone ring it was just that painful of an experience to go through for me and my family. My son and daughter are on the autism spectrum and they were so misunderstood by the district that should have known how to work with our special needs population. My son and daughter were not the first or only children with autism that they ever encountered. I just don't get it..

  • Layla Emerson

    Those people in the first school should NOT EVER work with children EVER. They obviously dont give 2 flips about a childs education or well being. America needs to do something about our poor school systems how anyone off the streets can be a teacher. I have a son with apraxia, and we haven't started school yet, but i hope he finds a great school that can understand his needs. I'm so sorry this happened to your child and your family. TBH u should sue them for the emotional distress they obviously have put your child through, and with the money, u can put it toward his college education. God Bless!

  • Glenna

    I'm so very sorry for your family's experiences, and I wish that yours were isolated. We pulled our son from grade 2 and participate in an "Alternative Learning Environment" -- publicly-funded schooling where the learning occurs at home or in another environment. My son went from being "below grade level in all subjects" (according to his bully of a 2nd grade teacher) to well above grade level in reading math and sciences (he's technically in 4th grade, but is working on 7th grade math and middle school biology), and solidly on grade level in grammar and writing. On three days a week, he attends co-op classes that he gets to choose, and is far better socialized than he would have been in a traditional school.
    I hope that your son will continue to do well in his new school!

  • Char

    I was one of those kids that was labeled a disruption in class because I had a hard time sitting still and when upset I rocked also. I still do. Most of the time I do not even notice that I am rocking until someone says something about it. I had some teachers that seemed to hate me and punished me by either making fun of me in class, sending me out in the hall where the principal would paddle me, or paddle me themselves. So I learned to wiggle my toes so I would not get in so much trouble. I went through a lot of shoes, my wiggling tore the toes out of my shoes. I got sick a lot in school. I was labeled as being "High Strung" Eventually I just stopped letting my teachers get close to me. I never raised my hand so they would not notice me. I had trouble with certain subjects and still do. I think if the teachers had been patient and tried to help me understand maybe I would have done better. I was a wiz at reading and math, as long as the way to answer the problems was explained to me. I am just glad that your son finally got help and could shine as the good kid he is.

  • April Esquire

    I am a 39-year-old woman who was bullied in school not by the other students, who appreciated my giftedness and the help I was able to provide them with school, but by the teachers, who saw me as a brat who wouldn't just sit still and listen to what they were saying (and which I already knew, from at least three years before). I lived in constant anxiety every other year when the teacher hated me and worked far, far ahead of my grade level the every other year I had a teacher who loved my willingness to learn and go deep. I can still remember being hauled in front of the class and called smarty-pants or told to explain some college-age concept "since you're so smart."

    It never leaves you, this bullying. I still have a hard time to this day wondering what new people will think of me. I wish my parents had stood up for me like you did for your son. Bravo for fighting the bullies and winning.

  • judyt57

    I had one child that had severe school anxiety AND (undiagnosed) Lyme Disease. Teachers and administrators refused to honor the 504 plan he had in place because he seemed "fine" to them. He ended up dropping out and getting a GED. As did my daughter, who got the flu, missed 2 weeks of school and was given only 2 weeks, while still sick, to catch up all her homework plus keep current. She also dropped out and got a GED instead. And this from "one of the best school systems in the country." They can cope with kids that have no issues, but don't cope at all with anything out of the ordinary.

  • Dennis Scheil

    As a parent who encountered similar treatment at the hands of the CP administration, this article sent chills down my spine. The lies, distortions, "ambush" meetings, callous disregard for the child, ignoring the advice of professional therapists ... wow. Brought back memories. We had one member of the "Child Study Team" diagnose our son as having difficulties reading without ever having met him. This is the boy who taught himself to read at the age of two. Draw your own conclusions. We were denied moving our son to another school, but perhaps some legal representation might have changed their minds. Thank you Michael Graziano for writing this article.

    • Michael Graziano

      Dennis, thank you for posting! We think there is a chance to help and do some good here, because a new superintendent has just come in and we think he may be a caring person. If you feel moved to, send him an email noting that you had similar experiences. The more people who report these issues, the more likely they are to be addressed.

  • Jennifer McGarry

    This moved me to tears. We faced a situation that was similar, the details were very different but the trajectory, the way we trusted that the school would figure it out but they never did, they way we worked so hard to cooperate with the school, to enlist the help of professionals at every turn and the way it seemed like no matter what we did it only helped our son outside of school, nothing changed for him in school.. When I read this line I couldn't stop crying: . "Looking back, the most charitable interpretation I can put on the whole experience is that maybe when large bureaucracies start moving in one direction, they reach a point when they can no longer resist their own momentum." That is exactly what I felt happened to us, but I've never been able to name it like that. Once my son was labelled as the problem, once the school determined that he was being teased but that he 'brought it on himself' they couldn't very well reverse track, even when it was glaringly obvious that this was not the case. So they continued to punish him, they continued to push the blame onto him and they continued to exacerbate the damage and annihilate his trust in schools. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  • tclayton26

    Thanks for sharing. Well-written and a story that definitely needed to be told. It's a story of institutions taking priority over people...David Simon would love it. So glad y'all didn't give up and got your son out of that horrible school.

  • katecopsey

    How dreadfully sad for your whole family. Alas it is not that uncommon. In the early yrs of our son's education he had difficulties in many areas. He was diagnosed as ADHD on the grounds of a teacher, a school system psychologist and a page of 20 questions to be answered by the parents. We suggested Aspergers and were told 'Asperger's is autism and autistic children can't learn - he is so its not that' . As educated parents facing the table of 'helpers' it is daunting to say the least and I applaud you for staying with it to a decent resolution. And yes, he was diagnosed with Aspergers (externally from the school system); I did fight and won an IEP albeit we were in the local Catholic school. Parents need to do what is right for the kids.

    • Gina Pera

      It's tricky, though, Kate. ADHD has many traveling companions, including Asperger's. And even without the Asperger's component, ADHD can present with AS-like qualities to the untrained eye -- or to the clinician who wants to see AS and not ADHD.

      Parents have it very hard in trying to sort through all the "stove-pipe" specialists and finding a consensus of opinion.

  • mdicarlo

    Thank you for sharing this...

  • Sabine Kastner

    I am Michael’s wife, and I am writing to thank you for your warm, compassionate and supportive comments. When we lived in a world that had turned Kafkaesque and appeared to lack any empathy or human emotion for the struggles of a young and vulnerable child with a disability, we sometimes lost perspective and came to think that this is how the world is and how people are, and that it is just us who think that it’s
    wrong. Your support has shown to us that the world is still a good place, and it’s full of warm and compassionate people. Michael and I have been touched
    by your stories and thoughts – thank you for sharing. The hundreds of emails and comments that we received give us a lot of positive energy in our continuing journey to raise awareness for dyspraxia, to stand up against stigma and to make our world a
    better place for all children.

  • seattle mom

    I've waited a couple days to absorb this article because we have traveled a similar road. Let me say first that my son was never accused or thought to have a sexual behavior, but I believe this is only because he was first misdiagnosed as having a seizure disorder, and this medical diagnosis provided him with a definite medical condition that allowed staff to explain away his rocking, hand clasping at waist level. He seemed to react to sounds and busy activity by rocking and clasping hands. He had some coordination issues. But walking down a hallway he would look like any other child. Reading your article brought all of the total parent frustration memories back. My son is now 27 and a very well adjusted, caring individual who has a career to be proud of and a truer sense of compassion. He posted your article on his facebook site and it is where I read it. I haven't thought about those years of elementary school in a long time. We were bombarded as parents that we hadn't correctly taught him to use scissors, so we were to drill. His handwriting wasn't clear enough, obviously we were not spending enough time on that. I cannot tell you how many wasted hours we spent trying to improve his writing. But the worse, the very worse was the continual lectures I got on shoe tying. As parents we were apparently total failures because he couldn't tie his shoes and staff was never allowed to tie them. It wasn't until we were able to see a pediatric neurologist when when my son was six who correctly diagnosed him with a sensory disorder and told me forget the laces, just buy shoes without laces. What a moment when I realized, tying shoes isn't a mandatory step in childhood, we could skip it. And the miracle of velcro appeared! He entered occupational therapy, we had swimming and aikido lessons for years to teach him body in space awareness. But education felt like a battle from year to year. Our pediatric neurologist suggested a laptop to encourage writing. The school district refused to provide one and we bought our own, I cannot stress what technology can do to level the educational field for these kids. It was all the more ironic that in a few years all students in our district were issued laptops. One of the worse moments for me was attending the first of the year conference with his new sixth grade teacher. By now I thought I had the art of informing the staff about sensory disorders down to an art. This teacher who upon hearing his diagnosis asked the principal in my presence, if she had to count his test scores in her state testing results. My son tested very well, and that year when the testing ended, he was near the top of the class. But, her assumption was because he had a sensory disorder, his test scores would be low. Middle school and high school were at times as difficult, but he had begun to form a sense of himself beyond the diagnosis. He was writing software and had a byline in a computer magazine. And one of my proudest moments was watching him play violin beautifully, because I knew how much more difficult it was for him with his finger and hand weakness. i want to let you know though that at a point when he was in college, after all of the effort he had a heart to heart with me about it all. He told me that although he knew I always had the best intentions, whenever I went to the school to intervene on his behalf it always made the situation worse. I had to really think about this from his point of view. And I came to realize that my work on his behalf to make sure he was provided an environment that was appropriate for his learning, all meant unwanted attention to him. Staff might assume he was either difficult, lazy or looking for excuses. I spent a good while mulling it over and I came to the acceptance that was his experience and as much as I understood what he meant, I would have done the same thing all over again if I had to. It is the institution that failed and disappointed us so many times. My son might never play professional basketball, or pitch in a baseball game but he is a fine man who has grown up with the disorder and thrived as a software engineer. My advice to parents who are in this place today, amid all of the negativity, look for the child's strengths and run with it. It will over ride most negativity that the school systems and others launch at them. I was told by his pediatric neurologist, that my son would handle adulthood fine, childhood might be difficult. And when discussing how to deal with ridicule he told my pre teen son, he said there are two ways to win a race, one is to win the race, the other is to trip someone in front of you. Some people are trippers.

  • Alex Njoo

    This is the result when learning institutions become "cost centres". Human endeavours are implemented by people who want to do the "right thing" for the system. And not for the duty of care towards their fellow humans. We see this happening every day, from the basic task of garbage removals to the noble profession of teaching.

  • Brenda Starr

    I was so glad to be drawn into your article. I saw this very same behavior in my friends son numerous years ago. Being educated enough in psychiatry to be dangerous to my own mind she came to me with that same behavior. She was concerned that he seemed to be masturbating or touching himself. I dumped all my ideas in her lap on how to help, with no success. Between the two of us there never seemed to be an answer. The child is no a young man with no certain traits of his past. He was a wild child, but the home setting created part of that. Of course there is no law against a child being mildly overly active.

    Today I learned something new and in my book, that is great.

  • Regina

    Wow. This almost word for word described what went on between my daughter's and myself. Hauntingly familiar. In the end, I decided homeschooling was the best choice for our family. I was able to have outside therapy, observed, and continued in the home. My child is thriving now.

  • Henna Marii Delosantos Pedro

    I know there are schools that don't have the same views as this school did. But still that poor boy had to suffer needlessly.Educating the teachers is the only way to prevent this from happening to another child.

    Henna Marie D. Pedro

  • isochronous

    What was the original school he attended, so that others can be warned of potential problems down the line?

    • JollyGreenChemist

      Yes, the staff at this school need to publicly named and shamed.

  • Heather Risdon

    I am feeling conflicted about this whole thing. I am thrilled that you were able to get your son the help he needed. I am even more thrilled that these children who are getting ground up by the cogs of the machine have gained another advocate. But when are we going to step back here and question why schools fail so many kids?

    If 1 in 15-20 kids has this motor problem, 1 in 10 have ADHD, 1 in 50 have autism spectrum disorder, and up to "1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions", then maybe we are fooling ourselves to think all these kids should be sitting quietly in a classroom for 6 hours a day!!* Why isn't it clear yet that we have a huge problem?

    And what about the kids who don't qualify for these plans but just don't thrive in school? Why does the ADHD kid qualify for help, but my son just gets a bunch of yellows (from the stop light approach to behavior control) and shuffled to the next grade. Even though my son was an early reader and a year ahead in math, he was made to feel stupid when kids in other countries the same age (that test better than we do) are playing Lego, house and tag?

    I just couldn't fight it. But even if I wanted to, I couldn't stand to see the joy sucked out of my son a little more each day. So after K, I chose to homeschool. And 85% of the kids in my homeschool co-ops and Meetup groups are boys with stories like these. A handful of them have a diagnosed disability, but most of them just didn't thrive in school. Kids don't all learn at the same pace and in the same way. They shouldn't be made to feel less-than with grades, labels, and artificial milestones. If the average child can read chapter books by 8 years old, that means that 49% of children are NOT reading chapter books at 8 years old. Why make almost half of all kids feel stupid, slow, or lazy??! This is insanity and it has to stop.

    My son would rather write code than write stories. That's fine with me. Maybe he will never love to write -- so what? Maybe he will be the next Steve Jobs instead of Stephen King. There's room for all these kids, but we won't benefit from their passions if we keep crushing them all into the same mold.

    If you have never seen Ken Robinson's talk on Changing Education Paradigms, please do:


  • Joshua Avery Sears

    Interesting article. More interesting are the comments in response to the article. While reading the article, I can't help but have an emotional response to sympathize for the child and what he went through, and to be angry at the machine that was the school district that put him through this experience. However, I am quite uninformed of the situation still, having only read 1 short article on one point of view, and each of these commentators below are non-more informed than I am. And yet what follows my post is a very LENGTHY response of anonymous person battering anonymous person where claims of education, moral authority, respect, expertise, etc. etc. are being thrown against each other in the most un-thoughtful ways possible.

    The story we just all read was a story to gain awareness and to have people respond in a manor of compassion... and yet here people are with 167 comments in this thread making claims of their own, unnecessary assertions, and jumping to all sorts of conclusions... next thing you know another anonymous comment is responding out of pure hate/anger/aggression.

    Come on internet, lighten up. We're all people and we don't dream of talking to people like this in real life, if you do you'd get a fist in the face (if this was perhaps earlier than 1950), or at least you'd get publicly humiliated or ignored in most social circles. People seem so eager to feed off controversy and state their two cents of thought that is sort of irrelevant (so it ironically appears that by posting now, I fit into that category...).

    • pabarge

      Dear Joshua,
      Grow a pair and fight back against the oppressors.

    • lewy14

      Obvious troll. Not falling for it.

    • DaisyD

      Lighten up yourself. Doesn't anyone feel for this child? His father the "neuroscientist" apparently has no time to do the simplest monitoring of his son's skills such as writing. But he has time to write this post and play the victim, all the while letting the world know that this boy has this problem? Does this strike no one else as a horrible boundary invasion? What is wrong with today's parents?

  • Rits

    I cannot fathom why they worked so hard to keep him in a system that is *obviously* damaging him. The school was *hurting* their child. Repeatedly. This district continually played games and even stooped to trying to take their son away through CPS. What would possess a family to continue to use the public system under circumstances like this? Court?? Good grief. Homeschool or private school!!

    • Joseph Shmeau

      Ditto. A horrible experience for the parents and I appreciate Mr. Graziano making the effort to write about it, but you have to wonder if the parents have some kind of learning disability themselves. Yes, home school, private school, and also Catholic school. While there may be some issues with the latter, they at least treat the parents like human beings.

      • DaisyD

        You make a good point, Joseph. I have had the same thought about the parents. How would they not know their child cannot write? Something is very wrong here. Are we the only two who see some glaring issues? Everyone else is piling on the "bad, bad school" wagon. It feels like vigilantes on the loose.

  • Susan Johnson

    Just ... wow. I have a degree in history, and my husband has a degree in math, so we're not psychologists. But I would think that one of these college-educated psychologists might know how to read and do elementary math, and be able to work through a workbook with a child at home. It's not rocket science.

    We homeschool, because it's pretty awesome, and we work through a curriculum, and we get together with other kids a whole lot, and we don't have to answer to a bunch of bureaucrats who don't matter.

  • George Gamble

    Don't make excuses for the people who worked for the district and were responsible for these acts. In fact, they should be shamed by name. This bullying by unqualified school officials is all too common and is swept under the rug. The officials who took part in this will simply repeat it with other children who, unfortunately, may not have the parents with the background to protect the children properly..

  • Notjack

    My guess is that these parents vote a straight democratic ticket and support the teachers unions. Fuck them. They voted for the abuse their child suffered.

    • tomdperk

      If they "vote a straight democratic ticket and support the teachers unions", you are justified in your opinion.

    • pabarge

      At first this comment shocked me. And then I realized that @Notjack is right.

      The road back from insanity begins with the first step: stop voting for Democrats.

    • notjackass

      1) make completely unfounded guess
      2) express harsh, profane, judgmental opinion
      Nice... Jackass.

  • JollyGreenChemist

    This article is really one long argument in favor of charter schools and homeschooling. The school in question thought they were the only game in town and acted accordingly. Give parents true options, where the funding follows the parents' choice, and public schools will begin to address the needs of the students rather than the needs of the school bureaucracy.

  • docscience

    The education mills accept the lowest score entrants of any major college curriculum. From those mostly inferior students, they produce a mostly inferior product.

    And that inferior product, incompetent yet highly credentialed teachers and administrators run public education.

    Is there any wonder we see incompetence and arrogance on this scale?

    The wisdom of allowing idiots and ideologues to run public education is once again called into question.

  • Flight Er Doc

    Sending a child to public school is parental malpractice.

  • AD_Rtr_OS

    They (the school) reached a conclusion, and then built a case to support it.
    Welcome to the Court of the Queen of Hearts: Sentence First, Trial Later.
    And, Yes Michael, that is what large inept bureaucracies do to justify their existence.

  • Billy

    This article does not entirely pass the smell test. Maybe we have two overly self-important (how many times do we need to be told they are neuroscientists?), chest-puffing (why say, "an apraxic child might never become Joshua Bell on the violin, ...."?) parents who insist on blaming others for the results of placing their careers and social activities (after all, we can't miss those Joshua Bell concerts, can we?) above the needs of their child.

    • cargosquid

      Blaming others?

      A school system abuses a child, lies in court, and stonewalls an investigation, and you're blaming the parents?

  • jdb1972

    Legalized abuse of a child. If the story is correct (name the school, the teacher, and the principal), these people ought to be in jail. Unfortunately, in the screwed-up world of government schools, they probably didn't even get a mild reprimand.

  • vepxistqaosani

    In the 15 person-years our daughters spend in the central New Jersey school system -- though, admittedly, not so toney a system as Princeton -- we encounted one competent teacher and not a single competent administrator. So, after my wife spent a year as a substitute and learned what the schools were like from the inside, we finally moved to home schooling.

    One daughter was the youngest person ever accepted to the accelerated program at FIT in NY, and is currently enjoying a high-paying career in fashion; the younger made the dean's list at TCNJ and was accepted at Rutgers before deciding that further education was a lousy investment.

    As Glenn Reynolds says, and as we learned a bit late, enrolling your child in public schools is, at minimum, parental malpractice and, more likely, out-and-out child abuse.

    The possession of a degree in Education should be an absolute disqualification for any involvement in any child's education.

  • AnneG

    I'm just a nurse and a mom with grown kids. I learned several things along the way that your story seems to reflect. First, schools' main reason for being is not to educate children but to provide comfortable employment for many people, teachers and administrators. Second, it is way easier to blame the family and stigmatize a kid than to honestly evaluate, assess and work with a child, any child, and to push them off on someone else than to inconvenience staff. The best teachers and administrators never do this, the worst do it routinely. With good teachers even in a situation where they cannot get along with the parents, they will find a way forward for the child's best interests. We label way too many children with way too many disabilities. Apraxia does exist but a lot of "disabilities" are preferred because it is a lot easier to babysit a bunch of drugged zombies than to deal with squirmy small children who cannot sit still for as long as the teacher would like.
    I hope we learn very soon that education is not collecting facts but forming a cohesive way to think that involves social, moral and academic development for the good of the individual and society. I think it would be great if you did pursue legal channels against some of these people who are preying on children. I am sure your son is not the only one.

  • Cheapseats42

    Sending children to public schools is parental malpractice.

    • Michael Becker

      No, it's child abuse.

    • mumblety

      Can you stop posting this? This is the second time I've seen it from you and it's absolutely ridiculous. The author of this article points out that it's quite lucky that they had the means to fight this system. MANY PARENTS DO NOT. Many parents lack the financial means to send their children to private school or to homeschool them. What you're posting is absolute nonsense that does nothing to contribute to this conversation.

      • jetty

        Actually, Cheapseats contributes to this conversation in a very poignant way. You, on the other hand, seem to be defending a flawed and corrupt system. I can only guess that you are a liberal Obama supporter.

        • mumblety

          You sincerely believe that a parent sending his/her child to a public school is guilty of "parental malpractice" or "child abuse"?

          • Cheapseats42

            I believe the system is broken and that education of students is no better than a second tier priority for public schools. They are unaccountable and untilwe empower parents to take back control, these things and worse will continue and the perpetrators will never be held accountable.

          • jetty

            Are you defending liberal public schools out of tribalism?

      • Cheapseats42

        No. Public education is a disaster in this country. Its primary purpose for existence is the enrichment of teachers unions and their unwavering support for the Dem pols who protect them from accountability. We spend more for education than any other country by far and get less and less to show for it every year. Give parents vouchers and empower them to make schools compete for them. Do that and disasters like this won't happen. Continue to shield public schools from accountability and you will get even more of this.

        Note, not a single teacher or administrator that terrorized this family has lost their job. That is absolutely inexcusable. Yet we continue to subsidize failure and terrorizing innocent families.

  • Mr_Miyagi

    "Throughout the suspension, we kept trying to meet the district and work with them toward a resolution. We were especially eager to move forward with the CST evaluation that we had requested."

    Sounds to me as if you were being much too co-operative and far too passive in the face of the hostility of the school administration. Had it been my child, I would have had my attorney on the case almost from the get-go. You were being a nice docile Lab; what you needed to be was a snarling pit bull.

  • Cheapseats42

    If the system were just, the "educators" would have been fired and held personally responsible for reimbursing all of your legal fees and damages to your son for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

  • Cheapseats42

    Sending children to public school borders on parental malpractice.

  • Cheapseats42

    No doubt their union will defend their criminal activity.

  • paternovem

    There also is no such thing as a "constitutional right of education".

    The public school system is significantly flawed. Get your children out of there if you can.

    • Zimba Zumba

      Our education system is primarily about training conformity and obedience.

  • Ari Agnon

    In the end, nobody in the bureaucracy will be held accountable, as usual. Nobody will lose their job. And nobody will go to jail. It's always like that. We are living at the mercy of the bureaucracies. They have unlimited money and resources, with little accountability.

  • Daniel Schwartz

    Thank you for going public with this horrifying story.

    I suggest that, to the extent that the law and your consciences permit you, that you expose these educational charlatans -- by name. What is the name of the school? What is the name of the principal? Who are the teachers and assistants who slandered your son -- and you -- and did their level best to make him unwelcome in HIS school, for reasons yet unknown?

    Other parents need to know what goes on in that school... by name.

    • JohnYuma

      We used to hang people who behaved like this. It was a pretty effective deterrent...

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: The Cancerous Bureaucracy

    It's not just in this school It's metastisizing throughout government bureaucracies everywhere.


    [Be Prepared.....whenever you talk to government officials.]

  • Zimba Zumba

    Contributing to your sons anxiety was the unnecessary evaluation of his slow development with the basic skills. At grade one I couldn't count beyond about 5 or 6 and could even begin to write anything legible, for heaven sake the kid is only 5. As my school career lagged further and further behind many of my school colleagues no one really made a big fuss about it. At 10 I could barely write my own name. I even had a very severe stammer to boot and was much shorter than my class mates. None of this this really bothered me very much because of my parents and the schools attitude.

    My parents payed no attention to any of this and said I probably would grow out of it, it was really a non issue. My parents were right, at 15 all of a sudden my brain clicked into action and 10yrs later I had a Ph.D. and was a university professor. I am still rather short but can talk flawlessly forever about anything, and unfortunately frequently do. I sometimes catch my 89yr old mom smiling to herself when I am going full steam

    My story is perhaps extreme but many of my similarly "developmentally delayed" colleagues also went onto to tremendous success. The reasons we have an education system in the first place are complex, but unfortunately it is becoming less and less concerned with the children themselves. Adults need to lighten up and let kids be kids, it will produced more balanced adults and stop the appalling nonsense your son and family had to endure. Your story mad me angry and sad, thank god the court sided with you in the end.

  • JimB Control.Your.Medical.Care. Whoopee!

  • jetty

    Liberal public schools are going the way of Detroit. My wife and I have already fled, and we will never allow our children to step foot in a public school. Good luck to the rest of you.

  • DoctorOfLove

    Where does the Constitution mention a "right to education"?

    • willbest

      state constitution.

  • jenny2

    Boy, can I relate. Been there. Public schools are toxic to children and the whole system should be scrapped. It is never about the children. Only the law or threat of the law works with these educational/bureaucratic

    cretins. I thank God every day my children are no longer in school. It was a daily struggle. My heart goes out to all parents who have to fight everyday to ensure their children get a good education without them being damaged in the process.

  • MadBuilder

    Unfortunately it seems that nobody is taking action to see that those school staff who perpetuated this injustice are punished up to and including personal reparations and loss of employment. What will protect the next family that is subjected this sort of treatment? A family that perhaps is to afraid of "the authorities" to fight back?

    As I saw someone say earlier today: "Is sending your kids to public school an act of child abuse or parental malpractice these days?"

  • ThewlynO

    the behavior of "administrators" in our educational system is despicable - they are not nurturers, they are not leaders, they are simply people who don't give a rats a$$ about your child, then want all kids doped up and submissive in class, all nice little robots who do what they are told and express little individualism - and, apparently, god forbid your child have any special needs, they show zero interest nor ability to comprehend the situation and provide sincere and positive guidance - i have been talking with my wife seriously about homeschooling our 6 year old after this school year, i'm not convinced public schools are worth it...

    and i'm a teacher...

    • ThewlynO

      oh, and the parents in this article should SUE the living shite outta that school district so they could have enough money to home school that little boy for the rest of his days...

  • kurt9

    I am a bit too drunk to read through this with a fine toothed comb. However, what I did read and digested makes very clear that every observation I have had over the past 20 years is very clear: Bureaucracy is inherently dysfunctional. The larger the bureaucracy, the most dysfunctional it is. Bureaucracy is inherent to all large scale social institutions. The larger the institution, the more bureaucratic it is. This appears to be a law of human nature. Given this reality, the corollary is obvious. Any world view that is based on the necessity of large scale social institutions is really a belief in the efficacy of bureaucracy and is, therefor, a non-starter.

  • DaisyD

    You've got to be kidding me. This father writes that "November 2012, we met with the first-grade teacher, who told us that our
    son’s writing was a useless scribble compared with the other

    So these parents had never seen their son write at home? Despite problems pointed out in kindergarten, they didn't monitor their child's progress for themselves and instead farmed all of his physical and mental welfare to the school? This sounds like serious blame-shifting from parents who are out to lunch. Perhaps the kindergarten teacher was afraid to tell these parents anything was "wrong" with their child. Look at how they react.

    I am sorry but, the view from here is that if this father put as much attention into his child at home as he does to writing blog posts with exaggerated headlines, the child would probably be better off.

  • sj4iy

    My son started preschool at 24 months, and he was diagnosed with a speech delay at 18 months. He had been in therapy for 6 months at that point, and the preschool class was 2 hours one day a week. After each class the first 4 weeks, the teacher would give me a negative report of his behavior. After the 4th class, she took me aside and 'hinted' to me that she thought he might have autism. When she described his behavior in the class, it sounded nothing like his behavior at home or anywhere else he had been. I was upset that this teacher was taking it on herself to 'diagnose' my son, so I talked with his developmental therapist and she started going there every week to help him adjust to the class. The teacher had never taught preschoolers of any age before, and my son was the youngest child in the class. It turned out that his speech delay was causing him frustration because he couldn't tell anyone what he wanted and he wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing, so he acted out. After 6 months of the therapist working with him in class, he's caught up socially with the other children, and he's beginning to catch up verbally, as well. He looks forward to going to school every week, and he's even made some friends.

    While my experience was nowhere near as harrowing as the author's, I've learned that children with all sorts of disabilities, be they mild or severe, are often misunderstood and can get left behind very easily in classroom situations. We were lucky that we were able to catch our child's delay early, but that was because there is a history of it with the males in our family, and I was mindful of this when he was growing up. Most parents often don't know that there's anything at all until their child starts school, and problems start to mount. Parents are often struggling just to get their child the treatment they need, and it's even more difficult and often impossible for low-income parents to get the help they need when their children have disabilities. We have set up long term plans and goals for my son so that, even if he still needs therapy 3 years down the road, we know what to do, but there are many parents that don't have a clue where to even start. Early Intervention and preschool programs often help children without any costs to the family, and screening is free.

  • Jean Rice

    This is so much like my son's experience in school. From the time he was 3 until the fifth grade, the schools were uncertain about his diagnosis. They knew he had problems with language, and with interpersonal interactions, but they didn't know what. Their gross mismanagement based on what each teacher *thought* the problem was - including moderate mental retardation and ADHD - resulted in him learning new and *interesting* new behaviors based on their reactions to his frustration.

    When his problems escalated in the 6th grade, the school finally gave in to our demands to get a proper, professional evaluation, they got back a detailed report and a definitive diagnosis; Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of mild autism. The 17-page report included a detailed educational plan, which the school accepted, and proceeded to ignore. They said that they had been doing this forever, and knew better how do handle my son.

    The next year, 7th grade, we moved to another school district, and brought that 17-page report with us. We made sure they had it in their hands long before any school records (and the teachers' reports with biased information) and his new school implemented the plan. By the time both districts got their act together and transferred and reviewed all of my son's records, he was quietly being successful in the classroom, and almost all of his "behaviors" disappeared.

    The year my son graduated high school (with a regular diploma, not a completion certificate) the middle school that refused to implement the plan was shut down.

  • Mark Dietzler

    Note to everyone reading these comments: This family is so mentally conditioned that they never even considered taking their child out of this outright hostile school system and homeschooling him themselves.
    If this were me and my family, I would have been sending poster board sized notes to everyone involved with this travesty. The content of these notes?
    Not fit to print here.

    He needs to name names, and we need to publicize them as much as we can, so that these obviously unfit to hold a job as dog catcher school administrators are publicly shunned everywhere they go.
    They need to be fired, with loss of pension, and permanently barred from working in any school, anywhere, for the rest of their lives. The retribution needs to be Old Testament Biblical, so as to serve as an example to others.

    • keith12345

      Not all parents have the time, skill, or discipline to home-school their children. Homeschooling is not a viable option for all people. Not to mention the social stigma that surrounds home-schooling.

  • mirt

    1. Names! You lament bureaucracy, so do something about it. At least , a link to the court decision. Principal, all these teachers afraid of a six-year old are unqualified to work with children.
    2. Your son was traumatised , why not to seek damages?

  • KingofHeroes

    Things havn't changed much at all since the 80s. Schools prefer to get rid of problem students than try to help them.

  • Chris Bray

    Disappointed that this post doesn't give the names of the school officials and the school.

    • willbest

      You know how you can look up sex offenders on google maps. There really needs to be one of those but for public service workers that abuse their power.

  • curmudgeoninchief

    You've got a situation where two professionals with psychological training place their only son in public school, don't supervise his education, and then have to rescue him from the "process" that all public schools have to some extent. Only because they had access to outside professional help and the resources to go to Court did they save their kid. And they end up moving him to a different school, which seems more supportive, which was an early option. Home schooling was never considered because neither parent would give up his/her career to participate in their "disabled" son's life.

    Note that the author is familiar with every trendy diagnosis for childhood learning difficulties that exists. These difficulties could have been easily overcome if one parent stayed home with the child in early years and worked patiently with him. But that was never possible.

    Public school response: inadequate and unflinchingly hostile, especially after they were challenged. Parental response: unreasonably self-justifying and defensive. This was an avoidable problem that nobody wanted to avoid until it became really inconvenient.

    • Patricia Williams

      Exactly! I was as outraged over the way the parents handled this as I was with how the school did. I would have removed my child from that school so fast it we would have been in next week before they knew we were gone. I homeschool my son because there are so many of these school horror stories out there about how they treat children who are outside their perfect bubble of the norm. My son has Tourette Syndrome. We are blessed that it's a mild case and the specialist believes he will outgrow it. But one of his tic's is that he pats people he likes on the head. We've been working with him on "personal boundaries" and better ways to react (shaking hands instead of head patting) but he's only 6. The main reason think we've had limited success is because the action of shaking hands and patting someone are similar. But sometimes he still head pats, especially with little kids. Sometimes after meeting several new people and not being able to pat them on the head he will start patting my husband or I on our head. It's one of the few tic's that he can control to any degree. Thankfully all the kids in his home school group and cub scouts have been very supportive of him. Not all kids are. His local school didn't seem very supportive when I discussed his needs with them, so I am making sure all his needs are met. Sure it's hard to make ends meet at a teach at home mom, but my son deserves me to give him 100%.

  • 66

    Princeton NJ. The heart and soul of liberalism. The elites are more biased than us good ole boys.

  • Joan Of Argghh!

    That someone would allow their child to go one more day into an institution that neither cared for him more than their own necks, nor could be forced to treat him humanely (monstrous!) breaks this mother's heart.

    The lessons this family is teaching him is, "let's work with the system, the system is good. Okay, the system is confused. Yes, but mommy has important work to do helping other people. Yes, actually, the system is acting like they're bullies and we'll stand up to them. But we're trusting another system to save you from them, son! We have the money and means and time to spend on preparing our case, drive you to other helpers, doctors, write letters, and still leave you to the tender mercies of the system we're gonna beat! We'll force this public system take care of you as they should! "

    Sadly, and I mean no disrespect, but I do mean this: this family loves their son very much and I'm sure he feels that love and affirmation in the very best way they've been taught to show it. There is no condemnation here because I sense that they know no other way of approach. But he's going to process every bit of that as a way to relate to his world. Hopefully, he'll also be afforded the intelligence and job market that his parents enjoy so that he, too can dwell in a comfortable fog of elite "education" and fight "the system" when necessary, all the while convincing his Liberal friends that Big Government is key to world peace and education.

    But yes, at least they wonder how the little people survive what they propagate. So, there's that.

    • Joan Of Argghh!

      All the unvetted, unchallenged, stupidly unqualified special snowflakes who've been under the impression that a certificate to teach is proof of their specialness and expertise actually take umbrage that "outsiders" (what they call parents) could even imagine the rigors of their mental prowess and presume to know more they do. TENURE is killing our nation.

  • Tomy T

    Your son may have been abbused, but his Consitutional rights were not violated. You do not have a right to be educated. Our country would be alot better if people didn't think that they have a right to welfare. Education is welfare. A free market education system would be far superior to what we have today. More people would be educated at a higher level, and a cheaper cost, in much more innovative ways. Because people believe they have a RIGHT to education, we are stuck in this expensive, ineffective, archaic, one-size-fits all, education system.

    • Joan Of Argghh!

      Tomy, these people are educated. They don't know any better.

      • willbest

        You are forgetting there is more than one constitution. State constitutions confer this right in many, if not all states.

        • Joan Of Argghh!

          Oh, my comments weren't directed at the state's constitutionality, they were directed at the kernel of his observation: public education is a welfare program. A redistribution of working class wealth into the hands of dumb-downed "educators" who couldn't get a job in retail. And elites think their special snowflakes deserve the very best at the hands of such. Insert caveat here that not all public school teachers are idiots. But I'd be right more than I'd be wrong.

    • willbest

      state constitution

  • placitas

    I'm finding it hard to believe that these parents fought to keep their son in such a hostile and corrupt environment. Why were they so invested in negotiating with the increasingly typical public school rot over the welfare of their kid? They aren't heroes in this epic.

    I'm guessing that as typical Princeton lefties they invested their heart and soul into the benevolence of big government public education. I'm sure they feel very virtuous remaining in the systemic rot of our public schools.

    • Crouchback

      Because the school system was supposed to work for them and they wanted to make damn sure it did. Because there are plenty of people who can't afford the option of private schools and when these parents fight these battles they helped ought everyone. Because if the school gets smacked around for breaking the rules may be they'll think twice the next time. Because they didn't want official record of their son as a sex offender - that never really goes away. Not to mention that private education for disabled children is extremely expensive and hard to come by. And if this represents systemic rot, it's been going on for a long time. You can find stories like this going back generations. Time was they flat out didn't educate kids with disabilities.

  • Joseph Pickett

    So many people in NJ want a big government like this with lots of power 'to take care of us.' Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. The guy is right - a bureaucracy has its own momentum and purpose. At some point sometimes, the bureaucracy is just justifying its own existence - it's a big hammer looking for a nail.

  • SGT Ted

    One of the uncomfortable truths not admitted to in this article is that the people who were doing this to a boy child and allowing it to happen, to include concocting a pack of ass covering lies in a court of law, were all women.

  • Jake

    You should have mentioned the name and location of the abusive school and the names of the abusive teachers and administrators. Such things will never end until the perpetrators are publicly identified.

  • Joanne Kyouji Cacciatore

    I am so sorry for what your precious boy and your family has endured at the hand of overzealous, ignorant "educators." Stunning abuse of power. Sadly, I see this often in research and practice.

  • MannieP

    It is obvious that the way to defend yourself against this is to attack the educators and other so-called professionals with a series of lawsuits. They take you seriously, then,

    And teach your children that school is not their friend. It is a place of danger for children. It is a place to get their minds corrupted with Anti-American propaganda. Teach your children to trust nothing about the education system. Take the education they give you, but only believe the "hard" stuff like mathematics and physics. Parrot the rest back, but never believe it. Give nothing back to the system. Treat them as if they were enemy captors interrogating you as a POW. Be subtle as snakes. Know that the teacher is a cop who wants to destroy you; a tyrant who wants to enslave you. A predator who wants to abuse you. A spy who wants to denounce you.

    Sorry about that, good teachers, but you have the responsibility to harangue, harass, and if necessary, terrorize the Liberal Vermin out of the system. Otherwise, you're part of the problem, too. No prisoners. No quarter.

    Μολὼν λαβέ

  • MostlyRetired

    Tomy T (and other "constitutionalists"): NJ citizens have a Constitutional right (under the NJ constitution) to a "thorough and efficient" education. Period. The problem is accessing that right without vast funds for legal fees and outside experts.

    We gave up, pulled our kid from the Princeton schools and online-schooled him. He has similar (but much milder) issues to those described in the article, which we managed through occupational and speech therapy - entirely at our expense. We could either spend money to address the problem or to fight the system; the decision was easy for us. Our son is now enrolled in a well-regarded college on a very good scholarship.

    Thank you, Dr. Graziano, for sharing your story. I hope your son continues to do well, and since you have proven you have lawyers and know how to use them the district will, perhaps, cooperate.

  • njoriole

    Tar. Feathers.

  • theBuckWheat

    As smart and well credentialed as the authors are, they must be useful idiots about big government. Such people can never imagine that government could ever run amok, could ever be incompetent, petty and vindictive. The problem with government is not that it employes imperfect humans, it is that when we give a private function, like the education of our own precious children, up to government, there is no choice about how they do the job. We find that we are forced to comply with well-meaning bureaucrats. Peacefully declining one of their demands is a crime that will be met with the credible threat of deadly force. In this case, there was a risk that the child might be taken from the home and place in a state-run foster care system.

    How have a free people been smooth-talked into giving up their private affairs and personal liberty, for crap like we see in this article? How could otherwise intelligent and well-informed people have possibly done such a thing? It is beyond comprehension.

    Homeschooling yet?

  • lgnoranceisNOTbliss .

    I must remind you guys... You're all in for a lot more shock if you continue to ignore the elephant in the room: the public school system in the United States today is not about education. As someone in my early 20's, who went through it, I can attest. Your son didn't go through what he went through because of stigma. He suffered because these public schools are heartless, ANTIsocial, idoctrination prisons. Their sole purpose is to produce mindless slaves for the state. It is infested with politics, hateful ideology, psychotics, group think and mind numbing curriculum like common core. Your child will not benefit from the holiest of holies; social interaction, in these hellholes. His social interactions will be filled with morally absent discourse and brainwashing. He will hate humanity, you, and the entire universe. He will likely end up as a basement dweller, trying to cope with the wasteland that would be his mind - with drugs, booze, and video games.

    It's definitely not helping things that he has two brainwashed parents. It's time to come to terms with reality and ditch the psychobabble that is going to destroy your family. You guys have a long difficult road ahead of you , but ignorance will make it that much longer and more difficult. Your path now splits in this dark and murky environment... Which way will you choose. May I give you a flashlight? I suggest you watch the documentaries IndoctriNATION, and Agenda: Grinding America Down for an introduction in this reality we face if you so choose that path. I must warn though, it is bitter medicine.

  • Carleesha

    This family should have been awarded a monetary settlement. The district should have at the very least, paid their doctor bills during the time he was being tortured by them.

    • willbest

      I also think that the principal should have lost his job.

  • keith12345

    "In November 2012, we met with the first-grade teacher, who told us that
    our son’s writing was a useless scribble compared with the other
    children’s. He was at the bottom of the class. We were taken aback. Poor
    writing can have an impact on reading and on math. Why hadn’t the
    teacher told us earlier"

    Wow. Sounds like a couple of really hands-off parents here if they were shocked to learn their son couldn't write his name in 1st grade. Do these parents spend any time at all with their kid? Are they involved at all in trying to teach him things? Typical drop them off at school and forget about them attitude of many parents today. It's really negligent parenting (and not the teacher's fault) if you don't even know that your kid can't write his name in 1st grade.

    • willbest

      As a parent you know what your son does, but you don't always know how that relates to what other kids are capable of.

      Me personally, I think the 3Rs will get hit extensively in elementary school and focus more of my time with my children on hands on stuff and explaining why things are.

  • Princess

    With all of your combined degrees you should have been able to discern that this school was a poor environment for your son and the staff, especially his own teacher that he would spend so much time with, was not supportive. How could you have allowed your son to spend every day with a person who obviously disliked and felt uncomfortable around him?

    Why didn't you immediately remove your child from harm's way? You certainly have the income to place your child in the private school of your choice. It IS child abuse to keep a child in a situation where they are being bullied either by other children, or in your case, adults. I don't know if you were too busy with your important careers or just so trusting of "the system."

    • willbest

      You are of course aware that most private schools kick their special needs children out into the public school system. I also didn't read anything in this article about having the money to pay for whatever private school they want.

      • Princess

        The author mentions that both he and his wife are very high level professionals. There are schools for children with Aspergers/autism, but I don't know if this is the child's need. If they live in a large city, considering he doesn't have very extreme issues, it is likely they could have found a private school. And homeschooling is always an option, despite change that would need to be made.

        Something doesn't add up here, that such high level of education parents were unaware their child couldn't write properly until the teacher told them? They didn't know their child was unhappy at school and kept him in this negative environment?

        I noticed delays with my younger child before he was two, and of course got pegged as a neurotic mother. But we began working with him both at home and with professionals. If my child ever reported that a child, teacher or staff person mistreated them, it would be the last time.

  • AlecJ

    Yet imagine a poor family with no resources or time respond to every demand of the school. Their child may have been destroyed for life.

    School choice is the only fair answer. Let people choose the school for their child, lest they be ruined by the repugnant personal motives of ugly school administrators and ignorant bureaucrats.

    Im glad this family was able to find justice in the courts. Its a dangerous shame that the safety and well being of their child came down to the opinion of one person, though. If the judge happened to be bias in the wrong direction, who knows how this story ends.

    This situation is unfortunately exemplary of the country as a whole. Administrative bureaucrats have extreme power over our lives. Fighting them is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. The machine is set up against us and momentum drives it more often than a fair or just outcome.

  • ridesdressage

    Public schools employ 85% women who are committed feminists. They are incapable and unable to handle their own messed up lives and emotions let alone that of a disabled child. Home School - I homeschooled my son - the best thing I ever did. HA HA feminist - one boy you did not get a hold of who turned into a man.

  • wildwood15

    And let's just imagine what a political machine is doing to health care. Just imagine.

  • Tony

    A horrible story -- and yet it still does not question the underlying evils that grant to the schools such power in the first place. They are these: school teachers must be reminded again and again that they are the employees of the PARENTS, and not the state. School officials must be reminded again and again that their job is to run a SCHOOL, and not to be social workers, psychologists, and political operatives; they are not qualified to be any of these things. Everyone involved in schools must be reminded that children are human beings, and one is not going to be exactly like another. Boys in general are not like girls in general. It does appear that this boy was punished for being boyish. The school system is irreparable, I'm afraid.

  • Eagle35

    I'm not going to mince any words since I have experience in working with children who lack supports for any challenges they have towards learning (whether it be dyslexia, ADHD, autistic, or any general obstacle beyond their control) so:

    These poor, pathetic excuses for educators (the teachers, principle, staff, etc) need to be sued harshly. Dragged by the stems of their hair straight to court and every penny to their names wiped out.

    Followed by the loss of their jobs and licenses, never to work in the education system again.

    Looking at what your family and son endured I...I don't have the proper words to describe it. And if I did, I'd be banned for foul language.

    It boggles the mind how they were so nonchalant about hitting every point in the book:

    Point #1 - Disability Discrimination. Your son had sever problems in learning and rather than work with you to get the supports he needs, they neglect him and ascribe apathy and laziness to his inability in keeping up with the class.

    Point #2 - Sexual Intent Where There Is None. Your son was rocking back and forth because he was stressed and anxious on a regular basis due to said neglect of his needs But since these educators somehow had sex on the mind when observing this behavior, they project sexual intent on to a SIX YEAR OLD CHILD! I mean, this boy was STRESSED OUT! These idiots failed to make the connection or they just didn't give a damn. Maybe even both.

    Point #3 - False Accusations of Sexual Abuse. They raked you and your wife through the coils, under a microscope, then poked and prodded into your personal life all because some person with a penchant for crying wolf exercised it on your family based on the aforementioned sexual intent they ascribed to his behavior.

    Who the hell are these people? I mean, did they get dropped from a fifty-story building as children themselves with sever damage to their brains or something? Because anyone would've realized "Oh my god, this is uncalled for. These accusations and assumptions are unfounded and push major boundaries." Yet, they went ahead anyway.

    I'm sorry if this is too strong, but these people don't deserve the PHDs and Fancy Degrees they likely fished out of cereal boxes.

    I understand teachers are under duress, education is underfunded and many good mentors get the shaft. These THINGS, though (they revoke every right to be called human beings after what they did), are not even in the same league as decent, upstanding educators. Hell, they're even an insult to decent, upstanding educators.

    I'm so grateful that your son's new school is getting it right at last. Even though the experience has garnered him additional issues that you're dealing with, in the end you finally got the supports you needed.

    But I disagree with this:

    "Someone at the school made a bad judgment about our son, the system
    clanked into motion and from then on there was no stopping it."

    Falsely accusing you of sexual abuse, looking at your son's expressions of stress and anxiety as sexual in nature with no evidence supporting the accusation is not bad judgement. It's litigious character defamation of the highest degree especially with a little boy under the cross-hairs. False accusations like that, the damage they do lingers. Many have been falsely accused and, even when cleared, their lives are never the same again.

    Other than that, I fully extend my empathy for what you and your son was slapped with in the old school and wish him greater prospects in his new life.

  • urrrborrr

    I recall engaging in pseudo-masturbatory behaviors in Kindergarten. Literally "humping the rug" as the teacher "vaguely" describes, and the Princeton professor promptly declares impossible in his erudition. So while I'm inclined to view the teacher and administrators as puritanical cranks, I'm also inclined to see the initial reports the teacher gave as probably wholly accurate. I engaged in prepubescent pseudo-masturbation for years. It was harmless. I quickly recognized boundaries with it and confined it to my room (works on a bed laying your penis against the flats of your hands.) In Kindergarten I didn't have boundaries yet. I humped rugs at playtime (with my pants on, which actually helps)...which probably looked really disturbing--and it's exactly what the teacher describes.

    I have no conditions I'm aware of. Embarrassing as it may be in light of the article title, "Apraxia" may have nothing whatsoever to do with this. Kid doesn't need therapy (for the behavior) anymore than anybody masturbating needs it. He probably just needed a sense of boundaries, which the puritanical teacher and disbelieving parents neglected to instill at any point.

  • TexasRedbud

    The guilt should be named. Any concerned parent should be on guard for the idiots that run that school.

  • David Alexander

    What an astonishing, infuriating administration. You've infinitely more patience than I'd have managed. I'd have raised holy hell right from the get-go at the panel ambush. There's nothing school bureaucracy fears more than an educated, pissed off parent. I think one of the perils of academia is that you get used to dealing reasonable, intelligent, good-spirited people. Step outside the walls and the relative percentage of those who lack one or more of those attributes skyrockets. The assumption that they're acting in your interests can result in a delay of much-needed offense.

    Anyway, I'm glad you ultimately resolved things to your favor. I'd be tempted to name names above. As of now, there appear to be no repercussions at all to the responsible parties. A little public shame might make them think twice with the next kid.

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    This case sounds eerily familiar. My daughter with Down syndrome developed school anxiety when she was put into a classroom with an autism program using Applied Behavioral Analysis. For two and a half years, I consulted experts up and down the East Coast, from Harvard to Cornell for evaluations explaining that my daughter's sensory processing disorder and learning style made this sort of environment repulsive to her and that she needed an outplacement in a more appropriate program, which I had located. Meanwhile I consulted with various behaviorists to try and encourage Christina to attend school, to no avail. We arrive there late every day. Yet the school blamed me for her dislike of school. They were convinced their program though not appropriate, was not the problem.

    Despite numerous meetings and the end of the story came with their second referral to Department of Children and Families where I was accused of parental neglect. DCF investigated both times closed the case for being unfounded and recommended I complain to the state of Connecticut. And I am homeschooling my daughter accessing all the sensory processing Occupational Therapy and speech therapy I was denied in my school district. Christina is much happier and is talking more and stimming less. We found a behavioral intervention program with the help of DCF with a man who understands children and has already bonded with her. I am very optimistic we will help Christina flourish by attending her needs.
    I wish you similar success.

  • MissyK

    I wish I could say this was overblown and couldn't be untrue, but I've seen similar craziness from our local school (in Maryland). They dig their teeth in and you simply cannot convince them to rethink whatever it was that they initially decided to believe. My child also has dyspraxia, and we've spent the past year trying to get her the services she needs. Fortunately, she's not reached a high level of anxiety. Unfortunately, the school just thinks she can't learn, which means that they don't teach her as if she CAN learn, thus she DOESN'T learn at school. It's horrid. I'm so glad you were able to move your son and save his education. And I'm so proud of him for reaching out to the new boy.

  • Dennis Scheil

    Just a heads-up to those of you who have asked to identify the school. Any comment containing any hint of the name of the school has been deleted. This is very troubling to me as a parent of two children who used to attend the Voldemort School-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. My daughter was in the same grade, but different classroom. My son received very similar mistreatment at the hands of the Voldemort staff. For those who have commented directly or indirectly that what the author wrote cannot be true, I can only respond that you do not know the school, the school district or the parties involved. You simply do not know. You might therefore want to refrain from spurious and uninformed conjecture.

    • MostlyRetired

      We "locals" can make a rather good guess about the real name of Chez Voldemort, of course, hints or not. Unfortunately, this kind of bureaucratic malfeasance can happen anywhere, although our district seems to be more insular and self-congratulatory than most. Parents really should be aware that things can go horribly wrong at school and that, in such case, they can expect to be stonewalled by the powers that be.

  • DavidShellenberger

    Don't send kids to government schools.

  • rejmom

    We have a son that is dyspraxic and has processing issues that mimic dyslexia and add. He is delightful and kind, nurturing and fun, sweet and sensitive, smart and attentive. My husband and I both have doctorate level degrees. However, when it came to knowing what was best for our son, the administrators at our local school district, discounted us as uneducated people that could not possibly know what is best for their son. They proposed putting our bright kid into a class where they warehouse the kids that they intend to move along through the system, without much hope for progress. We fought for him to receive the proper services/education and were met with hostility at every turn. We loved the teachers, the therapists, the principals, etc. Those people had their hearts in the right place but had hands that were tied by the administrators.

    On the other hand, the administrative people, including evaluators, were dismissive, disruptive, hostile, dogmatic, inflexible, amongst other things. We ended up in what is essentially court for school districts. They did to us what they do to most parents who have kids with different educational needs, they took the federal funding that is supposed to be for kids like our son and clutched it in their tight fists. They misled us about the program they were putting him into. When we observed it and pulled him out, we were told that we had signed the agreement to this educational plan and that we couldn't get out of it or modify it without going through all the arduous legal proceedings that are set in place. It ended up costing us quite a bit in attorney/advocate fees. We ended up discovering that our school district pressures parents into signing these educational plans with false promises, then uses all legal tactics available to them to deny the children the services they need. We learned that there are school districts that actually have learned that it is more cost-effective to work with the parents, even using funding towards non public schools that specialize in services that the school system does not offer.

    It is completely maddening to have to deal with these types of people & this type of system, especially when you already are having to advocate for you child in every area of his life. Getting these kids the help they need is also very expensive and strains most parents' finances beyond measure. I am so sorry that this family went through this. We totally understand how hard it was for you to fight and the frustration of knowing that if you, with your increased knowledge/resources, could be treated like this, just imagine how others are bullied.

  • Kelsey

    This is terrible and It sound like the administration went too far. Your child is thriving now that he has a diagnosis and is receiving help and not necessarily because he was in a toxic school environment. You said that he did not qualify for services. Did you have the school do a full team educational evaluation in Kindergarten and they said he was fine? If he couldn't even write his name going to first grade I would think that would be a huge red flag for both you and the school. If they didn't provide services as you mentioned why would you not have received outside help for him. You must have known something wasn't right based on the fact you said he was like a 3 year old at age 5. The public schools also offer basic services for handwriting that only needs parental agreement and not a special Ed diagnosis. Did you not agree to this or was your request declined declined by the school? I also wondered why you didn't share with the administration that you already had your child in therapy. It sounds like you are angry about their actions (and I agree they were terrible and extreme) but you did not share any of this with the teacher or principal? Obviously if you missed this and you are trained to look out for these things how can the school be responsible. The school was not right in the extreme measures they took but something does not add up. I am curious as this is a very alarming story for parents to hear and I think you need to share all the details as it seems some large parts are missing.

    • Michael Graziano

      Thank you for the comments. Yes, you are right, the story is much longer than can fit into this format. Perhaps I will write the whole thing one day. To answer your specific questions, I am no expert on child development, and it took a long time to realize that something was really wrong. That was a growing realization for us. The school told us that there was nothing to worry about and no need for occupational therapy, and we believed that assessment far too long. Eventually we began private therapy because the teacher continued to tell us that school-based therapy was not available for us. We decided the school was wrong and tried private therapy. The private therapists were, frankly, horrified that the school had not helped such a glaringly obvious case. We did indeed keep the teacher appraised of everything we did privately. We hid nothing from the school. But internal confusion on the part of the school left some of the administrators without full information. The people who decided to report us to child protective services seemed not to have bothered to gather the relevant information on the child or the family. What we have learned, from the response to this article, is that our experience is common. Not all schools, not all teachers and administrators, but some can easily stigmatize children and act with great arrogance and cause harm. But if parents push back hard enough, it does make a difference.

      • MostlyRetired

        Thank you, Dr. Graziano, for your article and for your reply to this commenter. Our experience was that it is very difficult for the experts to tell the difference between "developmental delays" and more permanent issues in the first-grade age group. We fell into the "developmental delay" trap for a while, both because it was a comforting diagnosis and because both our insurance and the State refused to pay for therapy to address a mere "delay." We eventually learned better and paid tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for the necessary speech and physical therapy. Our son, now in college, eventually did catch up (he was perhaps 18 months behind his age-group peers in affect and ability in elementary school), although he is still clumsy and has a speech difference. We found the local public school district (the same one you are in) to be unhelpful but not full-on vicious.

  • Ronda

    I'm so sorry to hear of your experience! It makes me so sad. It seems that your son would be very resilient, given his nice personality and gift of empathy. I hope you all heal and recover from this experience, and that you are able to assist others in turn, who would benefit from your kindness and compassion. It looks like your son has already done this, by befriending the child with the disability that you spoke of. What wonderful leadership! Blessings to all of you!

  • sectioned and grining

    While I do experience some form of sympathy for what has been endured, I also do find it very funny that the two parents are active in the neuroscience / psychiatry field. They have simply been experiencing what it means to be defamed as a danger to someone else. They have experienced the self justifications of bureaucracies. People that have been sectionned on psychiatric allegations endure the same.

    To the average psychiatrist, the parents could be seen as acute paranoiacs. Food for thought...

    • varados sucuri

      Which average psychiatrists? You? If not you, how many? Three? Two-thousand? Food for thought...

  • Kay H.

    IMHO, most public school teachers are just bright enough to pass teacher training in a 3rd class college. An IQ of, say...,115 max. There are a LOT of things they can't understand and many more that they choose not to understand, bless their little upward bound, lower middle class hearts. And I'm a retired public school teacher.

  • Carol

    I just retired from teaching after a long career in counseling as well. I worked specifically in Special Education classrooms and one-to-one assigned students. Your child's experiences are an example of the type of treatment many and I mean many families have to cope with. My first words to anyone who tells me they are "trying" to get help for their disabled child are: You need to know the law and you better be ready to stand up and fight for his or her rights!" Our education system in the our country is flawed and filled with discrimination against kids with disabilities, racial discrimination in addition to a continuation of employment of inadequately trained teachers who need to be retired now! One boy with Asperger's story has been a "success" story only because his family and I worked together to fight all the blocks put in our way. He will graduate from high school this May 2014! I am a fighter but of course didn't put that on my application when I originally requested an interview for employment. Our school systems don't want "fighters" who know the laws, both federal and state guidelines to reduce discrimination against children with disabilities or other challenges to their learning. Your story is repeated daily across this country. I support it being printed on the front page of every newspaper across the U.S.A.

  • Madelyngrace

    My heart goes out to you and your family. I am outraged at what occurred and beyond outraged that these ' school employees' are STILL allowed to keep their job!!! Heinous!

  • Madelyngrace

    Can you name the school where this all occurred?

    • Michael Graziano

      My understanding is that the editors of Aeon have decided to keep the names out of the article, and I fully support their decision, since the main purpose of the article is to highlight a larger issue rather than just a specific case. If you would like more information that is published in the public domain, and therefore fair game for anyone, here is a link to public access information directly relevant to our case:

  • shatcher

    I agree that this particular district did not meet this child's needs in any way. However, I am astonished at the amount of hate directed toward teachers in these comments. I am a teacher, but I am not a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, nor am I any kind of clinical therapist. Yet, you seem to assume that I should have all these skills - and more - to be effective. I am trained to teach, not to diagnose or otherwise treat problems outside of basic learning issues. Dealing with apraxia, autism, etc. is the parents' job. I know this because I have two children, one who is apraxic and one who is autistic. I was the one who educated myself enough to champion their cause at school. If my children had a medical issue, it would be my job to find the medical help that they need. When children have psychological issues, it is still up to the parents to find the appropriate help. You can't just rely on the school system to figure it out for you. They won't - and that should be common sense.

    • kid’s friend

      Children with disabilities need support in their school life - otherwise, they drown. These parents obviously found all the help they could to support their child. But the schools have a major mission in special education - if they fail, they can ruin the lives of children, and they do it everyday. And yes, the parents know more about the disabilities of their children than the schools. But the schools need to listen, IF and only IF they care for children This school did obviously not. It's horrific that these same educators can go on every day without legal implications. Why do we (as parents) tolerate such child abuse in the name of a school system that has lost its mission? Why is it that children with special needs are criminalized rather than helped? Parents and educators will need to come together to help children with special needs - it is a very complex issue, as you undoubtedly know being a teacher and having children with special needs yourself. It isn't helpful to take just one perspective.

    • PhattElvis

      You have the situation exactly backwards. The problem wasn't that the parents expected the teacher to be "a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, [or] ... any kind of clinical therapist...." Rather, it was the teacher and principle who so arrogantly made utterly defamatory, shocking pronouncements and diagnoses while absolutely refusing to admit that they lacked the qualifications of "a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, [or] ... any kind of clinical therapist...."

  • Keith Kostecka

    Sue the school and district it is in. Do anything to ruin the lives of all the staff at that school.

  • Evelyn

    My heart really goes out to this child but I also see so many things from both sides. I think the school should issue a statement as I feel the parents are obviously not concerned regarding the privacy of the child displaying the events to a media outlet. Based on the link (that the author added in the comments detailing more information) I see a different side to this story. I can see how the child's actions were looked at inappropriately coupled with his self stimulating behaviors. When other children were involved (and I don't think he did anything terribly appalling) I understand the school needs to take a deeper look. While I think it was handled wrong they also have other children to protect. You never know what type of things children are subjected to without a parents knowledge or when they are in after school/sports programs. Is their really a nice way to look into potential misconduct? The school definitely failed him in terms of receiving services and I am so confused how that happened as it's not just a simple conversation. I wonder if they really followed all the steps or just accepted a simple "no he doesn't need services" based on one persons opinion. My main question is what are they really trying to serve sharing all of this information. The child is still within the district and the district bounces staff members and child study team members. Aside from the teacher and principal these people could possibly still interact with the child. Is the public anger a cautionary tale? Are they trying to bring down the school? Are they angry with the district and if so why do they continue to have the child in it? It seems to me since they did not remove the staff the district clearly supported them. I really feel for the child because as awful as this was for him to privately endure he now publicly has to.

    • LT

      "Is there a nice way to look into misconduct?"
      Yes, Evelyn. As the link that the author provided, which gives more insight to the situation, the district could have done a better job handling this entire situation (not misconduct by a 6 year old), as reference by THE JUDGE who ruled in their favor. As THE JUDGE stated many of the behaviors that the child "inflicted" on others, according to THE JUDGE, could have been misinterpreted and was just horseplay with his peers. Interesting that there was no signed affidavits by the people who witnessed the inappropriate behavior on the school. Also, THE JUDGE ruled that the district failed to get the child the help he needed. Re-read the link. Now getting to your other question. Why is this family sharing this story when a child and family's privacy is at risk and puts them potentially at odds with the district that the child is currently enrolled? Because, Evelyn, this crap happens all the time with school districts and they think that they can get away with inflicting this kind of pain and damage to families -- without stopping and thinking twice in what is the best interests of the child. And that's what's called the beauty of social media today. This story should send a message to school districts around the country, that if you want to pull a power play and create fictional story about a child that is so ridiculous -- guess what? It just may get out. And you will look like fools. This author should be commended for being courageous in for getting this story out. Why? Because it serves a greater purpose than worrying about how the school will now "view"his child now that he's shared it. Even so, the author HAS stated that he enjoys a good relationship with the new school and has every intention of continuing on that path. And no, of course no one will get fired from the school district. What planet do you live on? Between tenure and unions, nothing will ever happen to anyone who inflicted this kind of garbage on this family. Re-read the story. I think you are worrying about the wrong things.

  • Angela

    As a mother of a 6 year old child with verbal and global apraxia as well as severe life threatening food allergies, I can say that most people have no idea what apraxia is, and they are even more cavalier with the notion of severe life threatening food allergies. Our daughter's disabilities are "invisible" to everyone, and often even family forgets the difficulties that she has with movements and speech, the inability to eat what others eat, and they take for granted the ease of recalling names, places, the ability to do a task each day, and many other things that people do effortlessly. Thank you for telling your story, because apraxia awareness needs to come to light.

  • Flarn Buckholter

    Why are we not sending morons to jail? Civil actions to ruin their lives are the only way that bureaucrats will ever learn to stop being stupid.
    The entire panel of idiots at the district should be sued in civil court for slander and defamation, endangering a child's welfare and have PERSONAL judgements rendered so that their own inflated paychecks will be at risk.
    When someone suffers nothing from doing wrong, that's all that person will do.


    Sorry you had to go through that... I know what you went through as my child was also in the middle of a crazy bunch of comments from teachers and staff members who do not know what they are talking about. My child is still having trouble with his anxiety and we are trying to get him out of so many issues produced by his teachers, especially the one from last year. I know how frustrating it is to be a parent that is fighting for his/her child and the staff members and administrators of the school just do not support you but go against your child as if it were his/her fault.

  • Mary

    Thank you for this article. My son was bullied in school after being diagnosed with scleroderma and developing scars on his face. The school was no help. He had to be home schooled for a year due to the trauma. He then went to a new school and excelled academically. He still suffered from social anxiety, school anxiety, and PTSD. When he went away to college things got so much worse. The university refused 504 accommodations. Anxiety does fluctuate and when he had a relapse the school refused to believe there was anything wrong stating he had done things before so he had to do them. This was despite doctor's letters and requests for accommodations. This has been the most difficult year. He is set to graduate summa cum laude. He has the highest GPA but the school used different criteria to choose the student representative (formerly valedictorian). We did file with OCR but have little faith at this point that they will do anything as the person on our case actually said maybe he should not be in school. I wrote an letter of complaint about this lawyer asking for a new office but that was denied. I sake for a new team and that was denied as well. The supervisor is now overseeing things but has failed to let us know what to send to be reviewed after he said he would.

    Hopefully your son will be My son is 25 and the university has him on a roller coaster and he is close to a collapse. First the won't do accommodations then they say they will then stop, then say it was an oversight, then change their mind... And so on. With one week left he fears they will try to lower his grades if he does not do a presentation which he is not supposed to have to do with the written accommodations they gave him. It's hard to believe educated professionals can act this way. Shameful.

  • Mary

    Michael Graziano, who did you see at CHOP? We had a very similar school experience with my child, minus the "sex scandal" and suspension/expulsion. However, my son had a complete breakdown and has an anxiety disorder as a result of the horrible experience he had in kindergarten. My son has Ehlers Danlos and his CHOP geneticist told me, and put in her report, that DCD/dyspraxia is very often co-morbid. He has all of the symptoms of dyspraxia and I have suspected it for years now but NO ONE seems to know about the disorder! I want someone who really knows about the disorder to assess him. The geneticist has referred me to neuropsychology department at CHOP but from the bios of the doctors of that department I am not confident they are familiar enough with DCD/Dyspraxia/Apraxia. I am thinking perhaps we should see who your son saw.! Sounds like that doctor knows about DCD/Apraxia/Dyspraxia. So, who is the "head of pediatric neurology at CHOP?" I can't figure it out by googling, it seems. I have found the Chief of Neurology at CHOP, is that the same?

    • Michael Graziano

      Mary, I'd love to help. May be better to email me or my wife (Sabine Kastner) directly. Our contact info can be found through the Princeton University web site. You are right -- dyspraxia is not well understood in the US and it's difficult to find people with good expertise. In our experience, occupational therapists have the most first-hand knowledge. In the UK, the condition is better understood and diagnosed.

      • Mary

        Thank you Michael. I will do that.

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  • PhattElvis

    The principal and teacher from the first school protested too much. Why was their initial, kneejerk reaction to cast a sexual interpretation over a 6-year-old's rocking movements? And why did they so obstinately cling to this damaging, slanderous, and, indeed, utterly perverse perspective? They were the perverts, projecting onto a six-year-old fantasies of "sexual assaultiveness." Who on earth slut-shames a 6-year-old?!?!

  • Lois

    This story is disturbing on so many levels but I can see it happening in my son's old school, which has behaved so unprofessionally to us and other families with special needs children. He is currently in first grade and a neurologist first threw the term "dyspraxia" at us when he was 4. But she never made an official diagnosis. In Kindergarten he had similar issues...couldn't color, couldn't use the glue bottle properly, messy handwriting, etc. His gross motor skills and speech also were behind, but he was 2-3 years advanced in reading and math which complicated the situation. He wasn't a big enough academic "problem" for them to feel the need to intervene in any way. The kids who get help tend to get specific interventions for reading and math since it's a Title 1 school. I kept bringing up concerns and even mentioned the dyspraxia diagnosis but was always dismissed, saying he didn't qualify for any services other than what was on his speech IEP which he brought in from preschool. And even that they wanted to take away. After he had a traumatic brain injury I had him evaluated again with a neuropsychologist, and he was finally diagnosed with DCD officially as well as the brain injury. I had a 10 page report, plus private OT and PT reports that I took into his school, with specific recommendations (like OT). The school continued to tell me he would never qualify for anything, and that as his mom, it's my job to deal with his fine motor issues at home. I was given a list of exercises to do with him myself. They told me he could continue using his pencil grip in class and everything would be great. I asked what would happen if he got to 3rd or 4th grade and still couldn't write, and was told that he could type then. Still no writing therapies would be offered apparently. I called the State and the district special ed administration, and at that point the school began cooperating, agreed to evaluate him (finally!), and wrote him a "physically impaired" IEP. They had been unaware (or deliberately obtuse) that this special ed category even existed. My experience is that hardly anyone in the school system (in general) even knows what DCD is and they don't seem to care enough to learn about it or figure out what they need to do to provide services or accommodations. Luckily with therapies he has gotten privately, and the little he gets in school since the IEP was put into effect, my child has done well. He just turned 7 and is riding a 2-wheel bike, and is about to be exited (for now, at least) from private therapies.

  • Stacey Bruno

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  • Bonnie Young Laing

    The response to your son is shameful, but all too common. I believe there is a crisis in education with people, who are ignorant and otherwise uninformed about basic educational best practice, child development and human relations forming an all too large segment of educators. My family has faced similar challenges.

  • Jeffrey Daniel Martinez Martin

    Well, I'm from Mexico, but, as I can see around here, most of the teachers that works on kindergardens are not really prepared for that. Maybe they could have some kind of a title in something, so they can teach that asignature, like english, for example, or spanish, but what they seem to actually do it's just to hold the kids for a while, so the parents can do their stuff like work, or, in case, like most of the mothers actually do, have a confortable social life... I have a daughter, and I just acomplished the age majority, wich is 18. My girlfriend, wich is actually an english teacher, didn't finished the highschool, but she have been and still is able to work in kindergardens. She always complain about her co-workers and their negligence at simple issues, such as bad behaviours (fights, problems at learning) and others not so simples neither common (words that are not socialy suposed to be used by childs of 3-6 years old because of the meaning that they contain and the childrens are not capable to fully understand, and that's not only between their classmates, but with adults, such as teachers and fathers).

    Yup, I think it is a matter of those who are supposed to teach, and, mostly, of the parents... Also, that this is plausible because of the system, the so called (at Mexico) "palancas", wich is similar to say "contacts", that creates a leeway for all those unprepared, but mostly, unconscious persons that held the responsibility of helping to create the future of a social tissue...

    What amazes me the most, is that it seems to happen on the other side, at the United States, and, maybe, because of that, this kind of misunderstandings affects so many people. Now, that's just a thought. But think about the consequences. This is not an issue that concerns just to a country. This maybe global.

  • ed.

    I m so sorry for this. Human nature...teachers are just people..nothing more. Human. They pick favorites. Its sad and Disgusts me when a child's life and shaping their future..its so important... . my child is in 3rd grade...30 children in her class.. just like any profession. .some teachers are good and some are bad. Narcissism or not intelligent..or if you are lucky enough as wonderful compassionate intelligent teacher.... I wish we could interview our children's teachers before they get assigned to them.. every child is an individual and the teachers just make their own decisions at will..maybe with their own up bringing etc. Maybe they were the bullies in class when little themselves...uhhg what to do to give our children a wonderful school experience. who knows.

    • sabelmouse

      humans who are given to much power.

  • Betsy

    I have 2 young children under the age of five. I'm always amazed when I read these articles at how someone can write something like "we met with the first-grade teacher, who told us that our son’s writing was a useless scribble compared with the other children’s". You had to meet with the teacher to see that???... Are you involved with your child's life at all, or are you just constantly typing away at the computer all day and night writing these horrible articles. Any parent that is even semi- responsible knows how his child is stacking up to the other kids in class at all times. Your child plays and learns with these other children all day. Their homework goes in the same pile as the other kids. You can see how your child stacks up ever single day if you would just look and take the time to notice. Hey author, get involved, be a parent, and stop blaming "educators".

    • AlexCristo

      Wow. Talk about taking a preciously - and presumptuous - narrow view in the ordeal depicted here.

  • exemplary1

    Why do these variety of articles always blame the school and teachers for not understanding my child? Last time I checked, schools were no longer a priority for our society. We get what we pay for, or what we will accept. I read articles like this and think who in their right mind would go into education?

  • Aya

    This is very sad and disturbing, in some ways not surprising. It is a shame the way the school systems are so impersonal and unable to get to know children and their families. It seems much of this could have been avoided with better communication. On another note, I think it is dangerous to play the victim as parents. You also have great power in the life of your child. I can't help but wonder how available you are to your child? Like how many hours a day do you spend building relationship with your child? Two working parents is incredibly stressful for a child. I think it's important to see the important role you play. Parents everywhere need to own the power of parenting, be involved advocates, and practice emotional presence to themselves and their children. Lastly, I think it is strange the way we are diagnosing children as a way to address the lack of needs being met. Children are deep, incredible beings and teachers to us, as parents. We need to treat them as such, drop our agendas, and begin to get to know them, really.

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    (3) You want to be promoted in your office.

    (4) You want women/men to run after you.

    (5) If you want a child.

    (6) You want to be rich.

    (7) You want to tie your husband/wife to be

    yours forever.

    - you can contact hem via: email

  • eselpee

    I came to this site after listening to the author on BrainScience Podcast. I was a school-based SLP in Vermont in an excellent school. I moved to Phoenix where I was fired from schools for advocating for children (I was a contract employee, easy to fire). This article was upsetting, but rang true to my experience. Parents do need to advocate for their children.

    I was fired from one school for the 2nd mandated reporting of physical abuse of a nonverbal student by the same para. The first report was made by me and a long-term substitute never saw her again). My second report made sure that the chain of command including the classroom teacher, principal, special education director, and superintendent were aware. I was fired. A colleague called me several months later to say the next SLP (3rd adult report) resulted in the para's dismissal. The chain of command remained in place.

  • Jennifer

    Thank so VERY much for this. My son was diagnosed with Apraxia at 3. I thought it was just speech. He could not say what he wanted to say, he didn't know how. At 4 we tried to get him in Pre-K, only the 16 most in need would get in. We got him tested. EVERY test he was delayed. We thought it was because of his seizures as a kid. The speech too. His speech got better with therapy so I thought no more Apraxia. As he has gotten older, now 14, we have been noticing some "behavior" issues. After reading your article and explanation his issues make sense. He does pretty good in school it was more the "why can't he understand what I tell him the first time, he is 14". This also explains his developmental delays in his first 2 years. He didn't walk till 14 months. He also gets super stressed when he feels frustrated when he can't get it. Thank you, so very much for your posting. Sorry you went through this but you were able to learn from it, I was able to learn from it and hopefully others will too. I already shared with my husband, in laws, and son and we all had a llightbulb go off in our heads. Sorry the school officials are not learning.

  • Miguel DeLeon

    Although Princeton is a beacon of enlightenment, there are a lot of hicks in New Jersey. I hope the superintendent has reassigned that principal to a desk job in the bowels of the District Office, where there is no student or parental contact.

  • Shirley0401

    In my experience, many of the same people who attack protections that are in place for people complying with employer mandates are also the same people who attack those who "didn't do enough" (usually followed "and should be held accountable").
    The story relayed in the article is guy-wrenching and a clear example of a system that isn't functioning correctly. But most school employees are "mandated reporters," and are told repeatedly that failure to report anything that *could* be a sign of abuse is punishable by disciplinary action, termination, and/or legal action. The whole point is that they refer their observations to DSS (or whatever agency their state has in place) and they let the professionals take it from there.

  • chris

    This sort of story reaffirms my decision not to have kids. It just seems so complicated these days. When I was at school we just got on with it - there were no "movement therapists", psychotherapists etc. I'm not from the US, but I really think things have gone too far in your country. If your child can't learn just accept it - you can't label every kid who doesn't like school "disabled" or needing special help. This kind of thinking is bankrupting the public school system and with it the economies of advanced countries.

  • Fabian

    Good luck to you. And as you mentioned you have all the credentials necessary to deal with such a situation but imagine an overworked single mom or a construction worker in the same situation... The kid would be destroyed and the parent(s) with him/her.
    The State is a freaking concept.

  • LeslieFish

    The Graziano family should hire a good lawyer and sue that school -- teachers, administrators and all -- for their back teeth, and trumpet the story all over the media.

    Beyond that, the whole American public school system needs a complete overhaul. No one should be hired as a teacher unless s/he has at least a Bachelor's degree in the subject s/he is going to teach, and s/he must pass a college-graduate level examination in that subject to get a teaching license and be hired. "Education" should be taught only as a graduate course, and the existing "schools of education" need to be thoroughly investigated for competence. We should examine the school system of Finnland, which is rated the best in the world, and adopt their techniques. Any degree in "education" must require courses in not only Child Psychology but also enough Neurology to recognize early neurological problems in children. Everyone concerned with their children's education should also read "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America" so as to recognize school corruption and incompetence when they see it.

    Of course, none of these changes will happen without a lot of concerned parents cracking the whip to make them happen -- and the most effective whip to use right now is the well-applied lawsuit. Therefore, get a lawyer and sue, sue, sue. It's your civic duty!

    --Leslie <

  • Mikey John

    The school was abusing the six year old. Not the parents.

  • Pamela Taylor

    As a dyslexia remediation specialist, and as the director of a clinic and a school for children with dyslexia, a mother of three kids with dyslexia, and as someone with dyslexia, I unfortunately know this story well. We have children come to us completely traumatized from bullying and abuse stemming from institutional deficiencies and ignorance--despite well-meaning and talented teachers and administrators. In my field, it seems to be more and more commonplace to recommend homeschooling as the first step in healthy remediation. Our schools are wholly unequipped to compassionately and effectively deal with the vast spectrum of human differences. Instead of being forthcoming about the limitations of our educational systems, we pathologize--and even criminalize--children and their parents.

  • Lygeia

    The school was attempting to evade responsibility for creating this child's school-related anxiety.

    So, of course, they attempted to deflect the harm they were creating by falsely accusing the parents. Business as usual.

    Thank God these parent were so well educated and capable that they saw right through it.

  • Alan Person

    I wonder if anyone got the real lesson behind this, that labelling a child as having an behavioral illness is totally useless when a little TLC and caring would have solved it.

    What this does reveal is that psychiatrists within the school system have even less validity than their DSM-IV book of odd doctrines and dogmas (despite that his parents were similarly trained). At some point parents are going to have to stand up and have that approach to mental health tossed out as just another false doctrine created by a false science that repeatedly has shown all the caring of the Inquisition.

  • Matthiew K. Miller

    When you don’t pay educators you’ll never find the educated,
    the core of any business is to understand your product and what you need to do
    to be successful and a Country whose core values are not protected nourished
    and guided for success won’t find any.

  • el_guero2000

    Welcome to the Progressive way of life.

    They are destroying US from within.


  • Estelle

    Please don't be charitable; it just doesn't help. Those of us who have dealt with this type of situation need to stand and shout together. My son's lawyer returned my 5k retainer, after the school folded when, after 1 year of advocating for my child I brought in the 'big guns'. Our school system ended up paying over 100k a year for a therapeutic day school- and the largest percentage of that was for transportation. This was the result when the principal not only refused to give my son a classroom aide, something even his teacher felt necessary, but also refused to transfer him to one of the other 5 elementary schools in our town. He ended up at a school about 1 1/2 hours away.

  • Estelle

    The first thing a parent in this situation needs to do is read the ADA, and in particular the IDEA ( Indviduals with didabilities education act). Fundamentally, federal law requires that any child with a disability ( and it can be NOS- not otherwise specified), has a federal legal right to an education in the least restrictive environment. Schools lose fedaral fubdibg when they violate tbe ADA, notwithstanding the principals who treat their schools as their own personal fiefdom.