Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 | The kindergartner kicked and bit his classmates. He ran around the room, screaming and hitting. His teacher, Melissa Wood, struggled to subdue him and get through the daily lessons at Sandburg Elementary.
Educators believed a form of autism might underlie his behaviors and Wood wanted to get a trained assistant to help him. Her principal agreed. But proving to their superiors at San Diego Unified that the boy needed extra attention took months of paperwork and documentation while the tantrums and violence continued.
“I had parents getting in my face and yelling at me,” Wood said. One mother came to the classroom with a camera to photograph the assaults, and later pulled her child from the school. “I tried to tell them I was doing the best I could.”
Months later the school district agreed that an aide was needed. With a trained assistant regularly at his side, the boy has calmed down and class is no longer an ordeal.
But the episode has alarmed Sandburg Elementary teachers who are trying to include more and more students with disabilities in mainstream classes, a sea change that echoes the wider reforms planned for San Diego Unified over the next two and a half years. Their successes and concerns are a microcosm of what awaits the school district as it embarks on a massive reform of special education that has thus far remained abstract to many educators on the ground.
Including students with disabilities in ordinary classes has been a challenging but largely positive transition at the Mira Mesa school, which has a handful of students diagnosed as “emotionally disturbed,” many of them from a nearby facility for abused and neglected youth. Sandburg eliminated a separate, smaller classroom for students with disabilities and instead placed them in typical classrooms alongside their non-disabled peers.
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I am Spencer Garcia, the same person in this article. There are many lies in the beginning of this article. In the beginning, it claims that I am a kindergartner, at the time this article was written, I was in fourth grade, and when this picture was taken, I was in the third grade. In all of elementary school and middle school, I had never had a teacher named Melissa Wood. If there are any questions, contact me either by email or phone.