Monday, May 19, 2008

This Autism Situation

In today's Courier Journal (Louisville, KY), is a follow up to the story of Matthew Montgomery, his mother Jeanie, and an Oldham County school. During a single fall semester, Matthew was placed in a small time out room (or closet, depending on whom you ask) nearly eighty times. Sometimes he was locked in. Sometimes he came home from school with cuts and bruises. In one case he was taken to a hospital where doctors suspected abuse. This is called education.
Mrs. Montgomery, quite understandably, decided to homeschool her son. The school has been clear: Matthew is to return to classes immediately. On May 8, Jeanie received a written warning, a final notice that she and her husband will face legal action unless they comply.
Could the problem be that the Montgomerys have not followed the correct procedures? No, that's not it...
From the Courier Journal:
To receive home services, state law requires a signed physician's statement that the child's condition "prevents or renders inadvisable attendance at school."
Montgomery said she has provided two such letters from Matthew's pediatricians, the last one asking for more time for an independent psychological examination of the child. A March 28 letter from Dr. Jeff Wampler, with All Children Pediatrics, cited Matthew's autism and other health issues, including allergies and gastrointestinal problems, as a reason for requesting temporary homebound services.
On an application the school requested, Wampler also cited investigation for abuse at school."In a follow-up letter to Oldham school officials on May 1, Dr. Jeffrey Burton said he believes Matthew may be suffering from fear and stress over his experiences at school and requested time for a psychologist's evaluation.
"I would encourage you to allow Matthew's parents more time and latitude before you start any type of legal proceeding," Burton wrote. But Coorssen said the school system does not believe the physicians' letters adequately detailed Matthew's medical problems.
"Those are just blanket statements you can get from anybody," she said.
Now, I'm not an expert in this area, far from it. But it would seem logical that recurring bruises and abrasions, isolation for extended periods of time, these sorts of things in themselves are the "conditions" clearly making this young man's attendance at the school "inadvisable." Logic, though, has no place in the paper factory. (Please read this post at Ed's Autism Page. It's important.)
The lessons Matthew has learned from his school are not the kind that need more reinforcement. There will be plenty more chances for him to learn about cruelty, incompetence and intolerence.
"These are not easy cases, believe me," said Fendley (the county attorney in charge of truancy cases). "This autism situation is going to be a difficult one."


  1. School was hell for me, too. Starting in 6th grade, I started failing several classes over anxiety in dealing with certain teachers. At the same time, I was always placed in AP classes and in the gifted program.

    I asked many times to move to home schooling or an alternative program and was always denied. The school system sucks for those of us with autism, and many others without as well.

    (disclaimer- I wasn't diagnosed until I was 27)

  2. Wait . . . doesn't *anybody* have the right to homeschool their kids if they follow mandated curricula, even if their reasons are just plain that they don't want their kids going to public school? I don't know much about this area either, but I'm aware of a good number of people who homeschool their kids, not because of any physical conditions or even particular religious convictions, but just because they wanna.

    I believe the school is trying to divert attention from its own criminal liability by suggesting the Montgomerys are somehow criminal themselves.

  3. I find it just incredible that they would ask for a letter from a doctor, and then, receiving that, to say it isn't good enough! Is this a school or a prison? Whatever the Montgomerys know or don't know about teaching writing and math, how can the kid possibly learn any less than he would locked in a room alone?

  4. Evonne wrote:

    I believe the school is trying to divert attention from its own criminal liability by suggesting the Montgomerys are somehow criminal themselves.

    I believe you're absolutely right.

    According to the Kentucky Department of Education, families may homeschool their children if they notify the local school superintendent in writing and follow state requirements as to the curriculum, length of school term, etc.

  5. Probably what's going on here is that the parents do not want to homeschool, but are instead asking that the child receive tutoring and other services at home through the school district, and that is why the district is making such a stink about it -- they don't want to spend the money.

  6. That makes sense. And if that's the case, well . . . I could see the Montgomerys catching hell for trying to explore other options from here on out. "Wait, I thought you said the reason you want your kid out is because he's *autistic*. Now you're making all these other crazy allegations, changing your reasons? Which is it? Clearly, you must be trying to pull something so you can get special treatment."

  7. Locking kids in closets can't really help anyone learn. It sounds like this was the type of punishment they were often giving kids.

    Thanks also for the link Bev.

  8. I'm in grade 11, and I take my courses online at AMDEC. It's working out great, there are some other online schools out there, but AMDEC has everything - even a school newspaper.

    You can communicate with teachers by e-mailing them, and chats are held where you can talk directly to your teacher and fellow students without annoying eye contact. It's great.

    For all you parents who are at the end of your rope, AMDEC and online schooling really works.

  9. This story makes me sick. I am so glad we live in Indiana where the homeschool laws are very easy. At the same time it is a shame that our schools here are not good at all for children with special needs, in my opinion.

  10. This post was disturbing...any idea if they've contacted Home School Legal Defense Agency? They specialize in just this type of thing. (


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