On 10/15/2004 my daughter took an overdose of her own prescription antidepressant and ADHD medications in addition to her brother’s Adderall BEFORE going to school in an attempt to commit suicide. My daughter’s treatment for depression and ADHD was well known to the school and her teachers later admitted noticing a change in her mood and a large decline in her grades (from A’s to F’s in a 3 week period) in the weeks preceding this incident.
My daughter told a friend what she had done and the nurse was notified. She was transported by ambulance to a local hospital. I was called and arrived at the emergency room as my daughter was being unloaded from the ambulance. I was told by the hospital staff to wait in the waiting room. Before I had seen her or spoken to a medical professional, a school administrator came out of the area where my daughter was being treated and proceeded to tell me in this public waiting room what medications Nicole had taken, what treatment the doctors and nurses were providing, my daughter’s intention was suicide and “unfortunately, this would be a mandatory OAC (DAEP) placement”. While she was still in the ER I went to the school and requested an appeal. I was not notified of the official charge, being under the influence of a dangerous drug “Adderall”, until several days later.
She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and during her hospital stay I was forced to handle the business of how my daughter was going to be disciplined (because she certainly had to be punished for becoming so depressed that she wanted to end her own life). My appeal hearing was scheduled on 10/20/2004, the day my daughter was released from the hospital. I picked her up from the hospital and drove straight to our appeal hearing. I informed the hearing officer that I would be providing letters from her pediatrician and her psychiatrist disagreeing with DAEP placement. I provided these letters on 10/22/2004. Her treating psychiatrist noted that placement in an alternative school setting would be “counter-productive” to her treatment. I called the hearing officer every day and was told every day that he would have an answer the following day. The decision to uphold the DAEP placement was not given to me until 11/04/2004, after I retained an attorney to force administration to make a decision. On the advice of my attorney, I then requested that my daughter be evaluated under IDEA. This evaluation was completed and on 11/19/2004 I was informed by the ARD committee that my daughter qualified for special education services under the category of a severe emotional disturbance and it was determined that her “crime” was in fact a result of her disability. She was returned to her home campus on 11/29/2004.
Of note, KISD should have identified and evaluated my daughter as a student with a disability prior to her suicide attempt and without me having to involve an attorney. If KISD was truly concerned about the welfare of the students entrusted in their care and had fulfilled their obligations this incident might have never happened.
My daughter was removed from her classroom, alienated from her friends, provided an inferior education and was sent the message that she was bad and had to be punished for a disability which she had no control over. While at the DAEP she was subjected to sexual harassment and was threatened and verbally assaulted in a very sexual manner by another student. The very things that she reported led to her decision to end her own life (problems with friends, academic difficulties, etc) were worsened by this placement. This placement has been academically devastating to her. She lost her Spanish III credit because this was not offered at the DAEP, she is still trying to make up her incompletes and catch back up to the level of her AP classes. From an academic standpoint she learned absolutely nothing while she was at the DAEP. Her history teacher at the DAEP read an entire test with the answers the day before the same test was to be administered. My daughter scored a 110 on this test. After receiving this kind of “spoon feeding” for 5 weeks she was expected to return to her main campus and perform according to their standards.
My daughter was charged and disciplined under Texas Education Code Chapter 37.006 which states under section 2C “sells, gives, or delivers to another person, possesses, uses or is under the influence of any amount of (ii) a dangerous drug as defined by Chapter 483 of the Texas Health & Safety Code.
While technically this charge was accurate this situation points out a serious problem in the way the current laws are written and brainlessly enforced. Something is seriously wrong with a system that allows a child with a known mental illness, who in a desperate cry for help makes the decision to end her own life, to be disciplined under the same law written to deal with recreational drug use and distribution. My daughter needed treatment, not punishment. These laws must be humanized to prevent overzealous administrators from handing out “one size fits all” discipline without first considering intent, disabilities and opinions of trained medical practitioners. Parents are held accountable for the actions of our children, we should be allowed to participate in the decision making process that disciplines our children. When a gross miscarriage of justice is dealt to our children and they are subject to such abuses of power as my daughter was we should have some recourse.
The school maintained they were looking out for my daughter’s best interest and they, not her parents or her physicians, were better qualified to determine what punishment would best benefit her. I can with the utmost confidence say, she did not benefit in any way from this experience. In fact, her treatment was hindered and her well being was damaged as a result of Katy Independent School District’s zero tolerance policies.