In the classroom, Anthony’s teachers wouldn’t always see him. Some days he would be there, and some days he wouldn't. His school administration knew he was homeless, and dismissed his struggles in the classroom as a result of his home life. When Anthony started high school, he started missing more class time. He fell behind. He ran into trouble with the law. His school was aware of the trauma that impacted him outside of class, and of his struggles in the classroom. They could have stepped in and assessed him. Anthony needed a comprehensive education that dealt with both his trauma at home and his Specific Learning Disability. Instead he got neither. He was transferred to a Community Day School.
From the school’s website: “Students are referred to the Community Day School (CDS) program for various reasons. Many of our students have been referred to CDS through suspension/expulsion, probation, poor attendance, and other at-risk behavior. It is the goal of the CDS staff that our students return to their home school with the skills necessary to be successful productive members of their community.” When he came to class each day, Anthony was handed a thick packet of lessons. His classroom had 15 other students, and on their desks were 15 other packets. The packets were the school’s version of individual instruction, designed to give Anthony those successful skills the website speaks of. With 15 students learning 15 different subjects, the instructor had little chance to help him. Anthony felt anything but successful.
Anthony wanted to learn. He was trying his best in class, but it wasn’t enough. Learning Rights advocated on his behalf at an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, where the District decides what services and school work best for him. An assessment, something he should have received half a decade ago, concluded that he had a Specific Learning Disability. It was the cause of his difficulties in the classroom, and without any support, his home life was exacerbating it. He was finally found eligible for special education in March 2018, at the age of 18. Two months later, other kids his age would be graduating high school. But not Anthony.
His District finally acknowledged that he needed a different program, but refused to offer counseling or additional resource support. He was transferred to a comprehensive high school and enrolled in an independent study program, but was quickly overwhelmed. His new school was difficult; specifically designed to challenge him. After years of packets, and without the counseling or support he needed, it was too much. He stopped going to school, and was threatened with expulsion. Instead of finding a program that met his needs, or providing support to ensure that Anthony felt comfortable getting the education he was yearning for, the school threatened him. “If he won’t put in the work, we won’t,” they said.
More than anything, Anthony wants a tutor – someone, anyone, who can give him the attention he needs, support him in his studies, and be patient with him as he learns. After he graduates, Anthony wants to join the army. He previously enrolled in the LA Cadet Program. He loves the saxophone and wants to join the school band, but is barred because of his attendance issues. Instead, he is enrolled in a WorkAbility program, teaching him job skills after-school. He tells us that he is eager to start working. He wants to contribute to his family – he sees his mom working long hours to keep the family afloat, and he wants to help.
He’ll be in a classroom again this fall. Learning Rights’ advocacy has kept him enrolled in school, so he’ll get another year, another chance to get the services he needs, another opportunity to learn the skills that would improve his life, and his family’s lives. Learning Rights is still advocating for more services and supports to make the most of this year of school. This time, we want his teachers to see him every day.