Updated: Nov 9
By Mollie W.
You know something is up when the school district's Superintendent attends your daughter’s IEP meeting.
Mikayla is my daughter’s name. And among her many hopes and dreams, she thought she might want a career in childcare or caring for people suffering from dementia like her uncle. In pursuit of that goal, she and her IEP Team decided a good place to start was with a Child Growth and Development class, part of a career and tech education program her sophomore year.
In 2012 I was asked to attend an IEP meeting, only two weeks into the school year. I asked around and discovered the school had pulled her out of the class. Apparently, the school had received a memo from NH Department of Education (DOE) about students with disabilities attending CTE classes. Six other students had also been pulled from their classes.
I was infuriated to say the least. I did as much digging as I could and went to the meeting armed with a plan, for I knew they had violated Mikayla’s rights in several ways.
I wanted two simple things: 1) their help in approaching the state to see why the memo was sent and 2) in lieu of the child growth and development class, the hiring of a private sign language teacher for Mikayla.
Together, our Superintendent, the Principal, and the Special Education Director met, and I met with the then NH Deputy Commissioner for DOE, a meeting that felt adversarial. The Deputy Commissioner insisted the complaint process for student rights violations start at the school level. Even when pressed by the Superintendent, the Deputy Commissioner wouldn’t discuss the memo or the rationale for NH DOE’s stance. I made it clear that we wanted to understand, not litigate, that the school wasn’t the one instituting the rules outlined in the memo.
About 15 minutes into the meeting, frustrated, I stood up, announced the meeting was over and that I would be pursuing this further. I drove right to the NH Disabilities Rights Center and told them my story.
Having also contacted then NH Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office, I asked to be connected with the Federal DOE Department that handled CTE programming. I scoured the internet for any telephone numbers I could find.
When I called, a woman said she would look into it and get back to me. A week later she called back and told me that her colleague had mentioned my situation in a meeting because Senator Ayotte’s office had called her too. They assured me that the memo had been misinterpreted.
While this whole process took a year and a half, the NH State’s Attorney General finally issued a clarification on the memo.
From the outside, “clarification” might seem insignificant, but Mikayla would take that Child Growth and Development class and do well. And she went on to take more CTE Health Sciences classes. And she joined the Family Community and Careers Leaders of America (FCCLA) club and her team went on to the national competition where Mikayla won a gold medal for her presentation on dementia.
In 2016 Mikayla earned her high school diploma. And that, dear reader, is a huge deal. Not just for her—it has opened doors for students throughout the Granite State.
There certainly is more than one way around, over, and under those obstacles in the way of family success. Family Voice is an important vehicle in the journey to the vision we have for ourselves and our children.
Have a STORY of YOUR OWN? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear how you used YOUR VOICE to meet your family’s needs.