An Open Letter to Dr. David M. Steiner, Commissioner of Education, New York State Education Department By MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick

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STEINER_David Dr. David M. Steiner

Education Department

89 Washington Avenue

Albany, NY  12234

Dear Dr. Steiner: 

I am writing today to share with you the experience we recently had at the IEP meeting held for our profoundly autistic (non-verbal/still in diapers/functioning at a one-to-two-year-old level) ten-year-old son.



Back in December 2010, the Mount Vernon City School District (MVCSD) held a “dinner” for all parents of special education students currently in out-of-district placements.  The main thrust of this meeting was that out-of-district placements were meant to be temporary and that there would be a movement to shift children back to the district.  They are doing this under the guise of stressing LRE (least restrictive environment) and that, if these children have less supports, they will “pull themselves up” by their bootstraps.  It was clear to most that the district is motivated, in this regard, not by the best interests of the children in question but by financial imperatives. 

Our son, Aidan, has been a student at the Hawthorne Country Day School in Hawthorne, NY since the age of five.  We visited the two “programs” they had for autistic children within the district but it was our feeling, and the opinion of his teachers at the Fred S. Keller School (Yonkers, NY) that Aidan was far too low-functioning to progress in such settings.  Therefore, he was, at age five, admitted to the Hawthorne Country Day School.   

Our son’s IEP meeting was held yesterday.  While we arrived early, we were kept waiting over seventy minutes, with nary an apology or an explanation for the delay from Ms. Kim Smith.  This is typical of MVCSD personnel….you are kept waiting months for evaluations to be done, they do not answer the telephone when you call, you leave messages and they do not possess the basic courtesy to return telephone calls, respond to emails, or respond to letters.  I do not know whether this is due to poor upbringing or not, but I find it patently unacceptable.

It has, in the past, taken, on average, six or seven emails, followed by four or five faxes, followed by two or three letters, followed by multiple telephone calls to get one thing accomplished.  We have put up with this obnoxious bureaucracy and the lack of courtesy exhibited by MVCSD personnel patiently for the five years our son’s services have been under the aegis of the Mount Vernon CSD Special Education Department.

Almost immediately, Ms. Smith started in on how we should consider a placement within the district, that our son’s current placement was meant to be temporary, and that there were two programs (at Traphagen Elementary School and at the Lincoln Annex) that would be appropriate for our son.  I explained that I had visited these programs and that they were not appropriate placements for our son. My husband enquired as regards whether or not there was any information available, either in printed form or on the MVCSD website, on these programs, and she said, in a quite abrupt and rude manner, that, no, there was not, and that we would have to visit them in order to find out about them.  Ms. Smith also persisted in calling our son a “fifth-grader” even though he has always been in an ungraded classroom.  In addition, it was made apparent that his need for an extended-year program would be questioned. 

Her manner towards us was extremely rude and belligerent.  When we protested, in a reasonable and measured manner, that these were not appropriate placements for our son, since he is non-verbal, still in diapers, and bites (himself and others) she kept referring, as she said, to the “law” that it was the “law” that he be in what she considered to be the LRE (least restrictive environment), namely, an in-district program which would be more cost-effective for the district. 

Placement in a mainstream elementary school, even in a classroom designated for special education students, would be a disaster for our son.  He is a bolter, has no sense of danger, and needs constant one-to-one supervision.  He is not toilet trained and cannot independently execute any “self-care” such as washing or dressing and undressing himself.  This has been borne out in our day to day experience of him these past ten years and has been documented thoroughly in countless evaluations and reports, including those of his paediatric neurologist, Dr. Yitzchak Frank (our son takes Abilify in order to reduce the number and extremity of his violent outbursts), at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. 

I have already contacted the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to express my extreme displeasure at what seems to be going on here in the City of Mount Vernon School District.  While I understand that they have budgetary concerns, I would suggest that they do not try to balance their budget on the backs of special needs students such as my son.

As far as “the law” goes, we are more than prepared to secure the services of any number of lawyers and advocacy organizations to fight the City of Mount Vernon School District on this issue.  Ms. Smith may parrot “the law, the law” and stab her finger, in a belligerent manner, at a photocopy as often as she wishes, but the most appropriate placement for the child is paramount.  It may mean that, in the end, the superintendent’s pension is not quite as large, but I think most parents of special needs children would not find that highly problematic.

Yours sincerely,

MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick

cc:  Robert Astorino, Westchester County Executive
       Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
       Rep. Eliot Engel
       Sen. Kristin Gillibrand
       Sen. Charles E. Schumer
       Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein
       Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow
       U.S. Secretary for Education, Arne Duncan

MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick and her family reside in the City of Mount Vernon, NY.

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eHeziAn Open Letter to Dr. David M. Steiner, Commissioner of Education, New York State Education Department By MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick

Comments 4

  1. This is a disgrace and bad management. Fire the Superintendent and anyone who get’s paid on the taxpayers dime that is rude and belligerent. This sounds exactly like some of the stories I have heard from some of the Yonkers schools. It’s time to let these bastards know who pays their wages.

  2. TO BE HAPPY…
    YOU WERE BETTER OFF KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT…YOUR SUCH A HEARTLESS IDIOT, WHO HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY RIGHTS AIDAN HAS BY LAW,
    TO MARYANN…
    YOU ARE AIDAN’S BIGGEST ADVOCATE, DONT EVER GIVE UP ON HIM AND FIGHT THEM TILL YOUR BLUE IN THE FACE.
    I HAVE 2 SON’S ON THE SPECTRUM AND I KNOW WHAT YOUR GOING THRU. THE YONKERS SCHOOL DISTRICT WAS VERY UNDERSTANDING TO OUR SON’S NEEDS AND I PRAISE THEIR IEP DEPT.
    THE KELLER SCHOOL HAS DONE WONDER’S WITH MY SON’S,AND WITH THE EXTRA THERAPY I PAID FOR MY OLDER SON, HE HAS BEEN TAKEN OFF THE SPECTRUM AND HIS NOW MAINSTREAMED.
    MY YOUNGER 1 IS STILL AT KELLER MAKING SMALL STRIDES BECAUSE HE HIS STILL NOT SPEAKING,BUT I PRAY AND ADVOCATE FOR HIM AND EVERY A.S.D CHILD THAT A CURE WILL BE POSSIBLE.
    TAKE CARE AND STAY STRONG.
    A PROUD FATHER OF A…..A.S.D CHILD

  3. Sure thing. Lets spend a half a million dollars a year on essentially babysittinr a ten year old biter, bolter in diapers who has the control of an angry infant. This is not schooling. This is parents looking to have the state, coounty, local municipality pretend that their child can be schooled. Face facts. They just don’t want to keep him home all day and don’t want him in an “institution so we taxpayers will pay another several million dollars on top of the millions lready spent to “educate” this unable to be educated child. Sad, but it shouldn’t be an unlimited financial burden on everyone else.

    1. To the Circus Clown that posted that asinine comment about MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick child,

      Your a biggot among other derogatory words not appropriate for this website! Where do you get off becoming such a critic toward someone else’s child?! Apparently you don’t have any regard for human life nor any decency about your own self to post such a cheap comment like this! First and foremost according to your comment, seemingly is your concern is about Tax Dollars will be wasted on a severely disabled child. Well, how ignorant are you than? You must realize that whether this particular child is in a mental institution staring at a blank wall for 24 hours a day or in an APPROPRIATE School Placement working toward reducing the effects of his disability is still tax money being spent regardless! Your not the debtee (Autistic Parent) that has to keep her mortgage paid, car paid, etc. in order for her and her son to survive! This mother is thinking in advance of the long-term effects of what her child will eventually be condemned into if she can’t get the appropriate Educational and Clinical Placement to provide these supports that her son more importantly is in dire need of! With a severe developmental disability such as Autism Spectrum Disorder you can not say that you know it fully or understand it fully until you live with it! So don’t you even become just another lousy American Hypocrite that wants to exploit America’s most medically fragile and vulnerable! Don’t you again dare throw your cheap 2 sense in again unless you have something positive to say that’s going to actually worth it for us other tax payers to take our time out to read.

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