Sunday, February 06, 2011

Jamillah Salahuddin Battles for Son

Brooklyn mom's battle to educate her learning-disabled son continue six years after it began
February 06, 2011
Jamillah Salahuddin and her son Shadeed
                  Abdul-Qawy read in their Brooklyn kitchen.
Jamillah Salahuddin and her son Shadeed Abdul-Qawy read in their Brooklyn kitchen.
For 20 years, Jamillah Salahuddin has worked as a public school teacher East New York - but the system she has served so loyally let her down when it came to her own child.
Salahuddin spent six years fighting to win adequate services for her learning-disabled son in the city's public schools - and her struggle is still not over.
"I've nearly killed myself trying to get the Department of Education to give my son proper support," said Salahuddin, 45, who teaches at Public School 202 in East New York.
Last month, Salahuddin won a judgment against the Education Department that will allow her to send her son Shadeed Abdul-Qawy, 11, to suitable public school or even a private school on the city's dime because public schools in her district failed to address his needs.
But after four weeks of searching, the single mother of two hasn't been able to find an open private school seat for her son, who has dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
"I just want his suffering to end," said Salahuddin, who has spent more than $20,000 and countless hours trying to get adequate services for Shadeed.
It has been a long journey.
Shadeed has had problems in school since he began kindergarten at Excellence Charter School in Bedford-Suyvesant. "He was a puzzle piece that didn't fit in, no matter how hard we forced it," said Salahuddin.
The boy acted out and was suspended for fighting, so Salahuddin took him out of the charter school.
She tried to place him in schools outside her district known for successful special education programs, such as The Children's School in Park Slope, but Education Department officials told her Shadeed must attend a school in District 19.
So Salahuddin enrolled him at Public School 273. The school didn't provide occupational therapy or a full-time special education teacher for the boy, and by the time he was in fifth grade, his reading and math skills were three years behind.
"It's a classic case of a child falling behind because he's not getting the tutoring he needs," said Patricia Connelly, a special education consultant who encouraged Salahuddin to sue the Education Department to get her son placed at a school with better services.
Salahuddin hired a lawyer, and last month won a ruling that found the Education Department's educational program for Shadeed "fails to address the student's serious deficits."
The ruling recommended that instead of attending school in East New York, Shadeed be admitted to one of two middle schools with better services - Middle School 51 or MS 447. Both are District 15 schools in Brownstone Brooklyn.
"The only schools with adequate services for my son are in rich neighborhoods," said Salahuddin. "It's outrageous."
Salahuddin lobbied the two schools to admit Shadeed, but on Wednesday, officials told her both are at full enrollment and her son was again denied a seat.
Salahuddin's lawyer, Neal Rosenberg, said that if the veteran teacher were better connected, "a phone call would've been made and space would have been made for him."
Now Salahuddin is searching for a seat for the boy at a private school. She has yet to find a program that has room, and even if she does, she may first have to pay the tuition herself and then ask the city to reimburse her.
Education Department officials said they are trying to find Shadeed a seat in a suitable school. "We are working with Ms. Salahuddin to find a special-education program that will meet her son's individual needs," said Education Department spokeswoman Deidrea Miller.

No comments: