Part III: The aftermath
By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
Karen Maples spent several days in Chittenden prison for refusing to turn her son over to SRS custody. In an unusual decision, Judge Kupersmith decided to place Karen under house arrest, asserting that her presence in jail would obviously not facilitate the return of her son.
At the time of her release, Karen had no idea where her son teenage son was staying. He is now a fugitive.
Karen is being fined $100.00 for each day that passes while her son remains in hiding. Having lost her job because of this terrible disruption, she now stands to lose the home and land she fought to provide for her family. Prior to her arrest, she was only $250.00 away from paying off the last of her land.
Her family has been torn apart. Her finances are in shambles. Her record is forever tarnished.
Because she disagreed with the school district's findings that her son needed 2 per cent of his total class time devoted towards "special education." I repeat, 2 per cent of his total class time.
I discussed the details of this case with a friend. She has a master's degree in education and has spent the last 20 years specifically in special education. While she understood why the administrators insisted on pressing the IEP, a legal document under federal law, she was appalled at how events unfolded and horrified that they pursued this case to the point of throwing the mother in jail. In her professional opinion, such a nominal course requirement was peripheral, at best.
Then again, this comes from a woman who spent 20 years fighting drug-using or abusive parents, kids with arrest records that would frighten most adults, and young people so full of anger and despair they were destructive and suicidal.
What Karen and Trevor needed was a friend, an ally, someone they could trust within the school system. What they saw were adversaries at every turn. Without resources or powerful connections, perhaps the administrators didn't feel a need a take her seriously.
In the end, no one was served. Not the school district, not the Maples family, and certainly not Trevor.
There are literally thousands of fabulous teachers working slavish hours for pitiful pay all across the United States. They must answer to the students, the parents, the Administration, and the State. In a desperate attempt to combat all of society's ills, they are not just teachers, but babysitters, guidance counselors, and part-time parents. I have stood on the other side of a teacher's desk; it is a demanding, draining, and challenging job filled with minor victories and memorable rewards.
I do not condemn these brave souls. I applaud them.
Nevertheless, I do condemn a system that puts the needs of itself first, and runs roughshod over the teachers, the parents, and the students in the process. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal summarized the problem succinctly: "The story of Karen and Trevor is a notable one, if only because it dramatizes to what extent bureaucrats will go to preserve turf. ... Whatever Ms. Maple's alleged mistakes, that Vermont authorities would respond by throwing her in jail speaks only to their own increasing desperation."
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