Monday, September 17, 2007

Always More to Learn

Teachers have to go to all sorts of training workshops. We're always learning new things and trying to stay relevant. Mostly. Sometimes we just go to the workshops because we have to have a certain number of Continuing Education credits to keep our licenses active.

Last week I went to a workshop on confidentiality. Specifically, it was a workshop for educators about what constitutes student records, who can have access to those records, release of information stuff and disclosure.

It was interesting from the standpoint of a teacher and also from the perspective of a parent of children with a chronic medical condition who are also public school students.

I've been a strong advocate for parents rights in terms of what a school district must to do accommodate a child with specific health care needs. As a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students, I advocated on behalf of parents and students to get school districts to have movies that are close captioned, TTD's (telecommunication devices for the Deaf), interpreters at all school functions, and interpreters for Deaf parents of hearing students.

As a parent of children who may or may not be considered "OHI" (Other Health Impaired), it's been important to teach other parents what they can and should ask of their school districts.

In terms of Hemophilia, many of us with children who are school age are very lucky. The vast majority of our kids don't need much in the way of accommodations. However, there is always a very real chance that one of our kids WILL need some sort of accommodation at some point. For example, a child with a knee bleed may need help getting to and from class. A child with a wrist bleed may need a note taker in class. A child with a more severe bleed may need to have a home bound tutor come to the house so that the child does not fall behind in his/her coursework.

All of these things are directly related to the child's medical condition and the impact of the condition (the school might like to use the word 'disability' or 'handicap') on the child's ability to learn.

We should not forget that our children have the right to a free and appropriate public education under the law. An appropriate education for a child with a bleeding disorder may mean something different during times of a bleed.

What does this have to do with the workshop? Well, first, it was conducted by an Attorney who also has a child with some interesting health issues. This attorney is VERY well versed in educational law and really knows her stuff.

She really impressed upon me how important it is to "know your stuff" in terms of what a school district is and is not obligated to provide. I also got to thinking how it's been very rare for me to talk to another parent of an "involved" child who has the advantage of being very well informed of educational law.

Did you know that emails between parents/schools are part of permanent school record? How about HIV status? Hepatitis status? Did you know that in the year 2007, school staff still try to access this information? I wonder what my boys' schools would think if they knew the boys have had routine HIV and Hepatitis tests. Would they jump to conclusions and assume that there is something to worry about there?

What about the fact that my kid told his principal that he hated hemophilia - and then the principal assumed that the statement meant that my son was depressed? Did that go down on some record somewhere??? Who DOESN'T hate hemophilia? Duh. We hate the disorder...the disorder isn't the child...and I'm very comfortable that my kids know the difference.

Anyway. I'm really glad that I met this Attorney. And I'm certain I'll be contacting her again to ask if I can pick her brain about a few other things. And if I meet someone in the community who needs some help in this area, I know exactly who I will call.

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