To be clear Bird is doing fine in middle school my issue is with the admin so below are some letters I have emailed today to the school board, his school, special ed director and many more.

Hello Mrs. Meier, Mrs. Wilkerson, Mr. Moon, Ms. McLaughlin, Mr. Meier’s , Mr. Spears, Kevin and Mom,

I have met most of you numerous times and would like to call on you for help.

My son now 12 is at Robinson Middle School in 7th grade and his name is Dillon (he is the really cute kid on the front of the POAC-NoVA tri-fold if visual are useful).  Dillon has autism as a medical label and learning disabled as his educational label.  We had his label changed 4 years ago because we anticipated a problem in middle school and sure enough we have had one despite that change.  To be clear Dillon passes his SOL’s and failed one by 6 points had maybe will get 2 -C’s on his report cards each year and has never ever had a behavioral issue at school.  NIH has him listed as recovered from autism as he no longer meets the DSM4 but this is moot, all of our children should be given a fair chance legally if not ethically!

I will use bullet points to highlight the last few months for brevity and to remove some of the shock and anger of what is occurring.  I feel like I live in another county might be the best way to really share with you the overriding feel of what is happening at Robinson Middle School.  To be clear my typically developing son and daughter are extremely happy at Robinson which actually vexes me more because for them Robinson has been a great experience where things are run beautifully and they are treated with respect in honors classes.  Further, Dillon’s special ed teachers sans the Basic Skills class are response, vested and seem to have high expectations for him!

  • while touring Robinson MS with Mrs. Taweel, Mr. Berquist (both at Robinson) and Dr. Ritter (from Laurel Ridge our base school that my son attended) we were told not less than 15 times that our son belonged in a self contained classroom.  we were also informed he did not belong in honors classes.  they had no idea what Dillon’s IEP said, his grades, SOL score, if he had a BIP nothing about him.  This is a legal issue and IDEA would tell you that LRE is his right!
  • during the IEP in front of many witnesses we were told that my son belonged in a self contained classroom to wit Dr. Ritter asked WHY he would now need to go into a self contained classroom when he has not been in one since he was in PAC 7 years prior!  This is an IDEA/ Least Restrictive Environment issue and incredibly egregious!  Again, IDEA and LRE
  • Dillon attends a class offered at Robinson over the summer for 2 days that specifically listed academics to prepare him for the school year and important information on his school day.  He is given NO academics work and does not by the second week of school have an idea what Raise is a critical class twice a week where he could get help with school work…this issue comes up later.
  • I get a call the day before school started from Mrs. Taweel asking me to what classes Dillon is taking specifically the one that was already written into the IEP and was a no less than 30 minute discussion during the IEP that Mrs. Taweel attended!
  • All 3 of my middle schoolers come home from the first day and second days of school with syllabus, contact information for teachers etc and Dillon is the only child missing information on classes most worrisome is the class that is supposed to help him with all of his other classes this being Basic Skills.
  • Dillon’s first assignment after 5 days of taking the 1.5 hour Basic Skills class is to write and apology letter!  He is not working and IEP goal, getting ready for the 8th grade writing essay, receiving help in any of his other classes or working on thank you letter which would actually be useful but he needs to work on apologizing!  I almost wrote the Washington Post.
  • I email Mrs. Taweel  that I am confused as Basic Skills was listed as a class that would help Dillon get organized at Robinson but that his sister and I had to explain Raise to him on day 8 of school and that I am upset that he is asked to write an apology letter as the single academic not staring at the walls thing in 2 weeks.
  • Mrs. Taweel does not respond.
  • I attend the back to school night at Robinson 2 days ago and while at the Basic Skills classroom with Mrs. Ortega and 5 other horrified parents we are told by Mrs. Taweel that the teacher for this class is actually a long term sub for roughly 12 weeks and he does not have a special education degree and there is (this is the second week of school) no curriculum or syllabus.  When parents ask about this lack of special education degree in the resource room we are told that Mrs. Taweel will pop in sometimes to help the kids and that another special ed teacher on her breaks might come in to help.  The issue is further pushed and Mr. Berquist informs us that NOBODY wants to sub for special ed not even the gen ed teachers!  Parents were agape and some of us discussed this after class.  The overriding feel was that we wanted our kids out of the class the under riding feel is that this man Mr. Berquist does not believe people want to educate our children.  Mrs. Taweel did take a moment to chastise the parents about,”One parent does really not understanding what the Basic Skills class is all about.” She says this before mentioning the lack of syllabus or agenda that might have helped us understand and which most classes gave out or posted on blackboard week 1.
  • I write Mrs. Taweel another email and request a change of class for Dillon out of Basic Skills and into something worth his time.
  • Mrs. Taweel for the second day in a row does not respond.
  • I receive an email from Ms. Waigand sharing that she is now Dillon’s case worker and offering to be of service.  I email her back stating issues.
  • Ms. Waigand actually emails me back and offers to speak to me via phone later today
  • This morning I spoke with Principal Shawn Spear who directly oversees the 7th grade sub school under Principal Meier’s less than 1 hour after emailing him.  He is incredibly courteous and listens to my rant but seems to have zero ability to affect change the special ed dept.

So, if this is in fact the FPCS that people rave about that my kids have thus far been well educated in (even my son with autism prior to Robinson) WHY are so many IDEA and ethical issues coming up?

Having spoken to more than a dozen parents with 7th and 8th graders in the last week the theme of special ed at Robinson with regards to the Admin ONLY is incredibly low expectations and actual IDEA breaking LRE issues.

Please let me know where to go from here?  Is this monitoring and compliance or who should I speak to so that this NEVER happens to another child again.  My son will do okay at Robinson even if he is not given a the respect his brother and sister are given by the admin because I am who I am but what about ALL of the other parents and kids with disabilities!  They are the crux of my issue and I want this resolved before this happens to another child.

On a personal note should Mr. Berquist get to see this email I would like someone to tell him that Dillon has actually been in 2 weddings for 2 different FCPS teachers in the last 5 years and one was over this past summer.  He was not AT the wedding he was IN the wedding party and many people want to educate our children just not at the middle school at Robinson in the special ed dept for some reason according to him.

With Hope,
Shannon McGrail
PIP-VA Graduate 2006

POAC- NOVA BOD 2005-2010

Creator and Director PVBIA Beginner 2006-2010

Creator and Director PVBIA Advance BCBA at GMU through POAC-NoVA 2007-2010 (not my finest work sadly)

Former LD Student who made a difference in the lives of others not unlike so many people with learning disabilities

Ohhhh and Founder Creator RVFD Mass Casualty Unit 1993-Present (being used by MD FEMA Team 1)




——– Original Message ——–

Subject: basic skills
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 11:11:18 -0400
From: Shannon McGrail <Shannon@McGrail.com>
To: Taweel, Lisa J. <LJTaweel@fcps.edu>, kevin@mcgrail.com <kevin@mcgrail.com>, Sally West McGrail <sally@mcgrail.com>
Hi Mrs. Taweel,

I think we started off on the wrong foot long before the school year 
started with the overriding push on your part to have our son be placed 
in a self contained classroom which is a placement he has not had since 
he was 4 and non-verbal; I remember Dr. Ritter's shock at your 
suggestion and query as to why this was needed to start in middle school 
when compliance and academic achievement were never an issue in the 
past, I just pray Dillon is the only person you have pushed this towards 
who did not need it as this is really anti-IDEA and Least Restrictive 
Environment.  The initial lack of hope for his continued success (he has 
always been an excellent student and his lowest grade ever was a C which 
was the minority on his report card by a lot) really has stuck with me 
and I am sorry if my tone comes off as terse but my children are my 
life's work and Dillon is a worthy person as are all children.

My intent is that Dillon will get the education he needs to be 
successful from people who actually believe he will be success as this 
has been the case for now more than 9 years.  My intent is also to 
foster within the LD dept of Robinson a feeling that these kids have 
tremendous potential and are worth investing in and not as some in the 
distant past would have regarded them as difficult to educate or 
non-educated able.  Unfortunately, last night I truly felt the 
preparation made for my son and that statements made by some of the LD 
Admin staff left me believing this will be a harder road for Dillon than 
it should be so I truly hope change is on the way and soon.  Dillon's 
diagnosis was to live in a mental institute by the age of 8 according to 
his Ped Neurologist which today looks preposterous and he has long since 
met academically every milestone or surpassed it at barely 12 years old, 
we did not hold him back but despite the August birthday or then he 
would have really blown away the other kids academically and but sadly 
with his larger frame won't allow his language to catch up to his brain.

First, I am pretty dissatisfied with the Basic Skills class Dillon is 
taking which seemed from my speaking to a few other parents to be the 
general consensus but I will let them speak for themselves and I am sure 
they will.  The lack of an LD teacher in an LD class with your 
mentioning that potentially yourself or maybe another LD teacher on her 
break might be able to come help did not reassure anyone and 12 weeks is 
a really long time to have any of these kids in a room designed to meet 
their special needs without a special ed teacher when ALL of the other 
classes these kids take have one by law!   I heard last year started the 
same for kids in Basic Skills but that this changed a few weeks later 
which is unfair to the kids.

Wow, hearing you could not find anyone who wanted to sub in LD and was 
insulting said by Mr. Berquists with no bones about it.  I care that 
this was said out loud to the parents of these kids as it shows a great 
lack of of empathy. It was inappropriate at best.  I know SO MANY 
special ed teachers having run my own autism program for FCPS teachers 
and parents and that this is not a statement I believe to be true for 
all middle schools but is for ours!

I have heard today from a few friends with 8th graders at Robinson that 
their is a teacher for this class who actually has a syllabus and she in 
fact a Special Ed teacher who is successful with the kids in that class! 
Good to know other classes are starting off well for the kids who were 
robbed of several weeks of education last year with a teacher is left 
for mental health issues and knowing that similar has happened in the 
past I would have thought provisions would be made to ensure it not 
happen twice.

I found it insulting as did the others when you explained their was no 
syllabus for the Basic Skill class as the parents were given one last 
year and this year in the other class and there is a curriculum that 
should be taught.  Not one teacher last night in any of my 3 kids 
classes gave us a day by day plan (except history) so your response to 
the question Mrs. Ortega asked seemed to really smack of things not 
going well for our kids because we were only expecting to get a monthly 
breakdown or similar and nothing of the kind was made available to us.

Long and short of it is that Dillon will either be changes electives or 
in a class with a competent teacher.  I got home fairly late last night 
after speaking to other parents and did not get to ask Dillon if his 
preference would be to take a class he actually enjoys or take a class 
with the same name as the class he is in but which could potentially 
help.  Dillon has a learning disability and as such requires a Special 
Ed teacher to break certain elements of his classwork down this 
additional education is required according to IDEA.

more info on that here- http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/tchr.hq.require.htm

As you have not addressed the apology letter the children were required 
to write as their first academic assignment which according to many is 
totally inappropriate and speaks volumes about the teacher not the child 
writing it  I am not sure what to do about this particular issue. That 
being said for now my suggestion is with the hopes that  future LD 
students might be working on Thank You letters or Essay letters or 
anything in their IEP (which you mentioned repeatedly last night as 
being the core of the class) and NOT an apology letter which is to quote 
only on friend,"Such subliminal messaging--teaching LD kids to write 
apology letters. If they're going to do that, it should be in a 
"manners" class with ALL kids--thank you, apology."

With Hope,
Shannon McGrail
PIP Graduate 2006
Creator and Director PVBIA 2006-2010
Former LD Student who made a difference in the lives of others not 
unlike so many people with learning disabilities
Ohhhh and Founder Creator RVFD Mass Casualty Unit 1993-Present (being 
used by MD FEMA Team 1)

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