Letter From a Teacher

Sub: Chris Burgess - A System's Failure
Date: 10/24/2006 10:40:44 AM Pacific Standard Time

    I first met Chris as a student at the Jacob's Ed. Center and saw him stand
up to another kid twice his size. He was very slight and very small compared to
the other boy, but I could tell that this kid had the heart of a lion ...he was not
going to back down, so not knowing either, I intervened and Chris walked
away. He was not the "typical" student for the setting, given most students were
of high school age at that time. I asked him where he was supposed to be and
he took me to his classroom. It was considered a center for Behaviorally
Challenged Children, offering "therapeutic" interventions. It was not long after
our first meeting that I kept hearing his name associated with all kinds of
behavior issues. So what was happening with this child, I asked myself?
    I made it a special point to see him everyday to see how things were going.
His response...always negative...nothing was going right for him in school, at
home, or in the community. He felt as if "everybody was after him" no matter
how hard he tried to be good. I could tell just through our conversations, that
he was very bright, yet extremely bored because he wasn't being challenged;
one who would standout because of doing wrong rather than right; one who
was screaming for help. The placement at Jacob's was just the end straw for
him...he hated it because he couldn't be with his friends, or participate in sports,
especially basketball, his favorite. One day, after yet another disciplinary
action, I asked Chris what he really, really liked to do, or what he thought he did
well. I had 5 positive responses in a heartbeat ...go camping, go fishing, work
on the computer, work on the Nature Trail at Grant School, but the really
SPECIAL highlight of his life was being part of the Tai Kwan Do Dojo at Eureka
Mall. There it WAS! This was the carrot I had been looking for..the key to
getting Chris to "think" about his benavior, to make positive choices , and to
regain control of his actions. So I "cut" a deal with him with help from the Dojo
Master, about just how he could earn the tuition needed to resume his
lessons through gaining control of his behavior...after all, it was his choice. He
made it in three weeks! He was so PROUD of himself !!
    Were these questions ever asked by Educators whose job is to provide a
free and appropriate education for all students...did anyone even care? I think
not...instead they criminalized his behavior....shifted the responsibility to the
Courts to take control....and used the Foster Care system rather dealing with it
themselves. I don't know how many times Chris at 9 - 10 yr. old was sent to
Juvenile Hall for his infractions that year, but I do know that he spent at least 3
months in there awaiting foster placement. We never got to go fishing because
of it and I lost contact.

    I am so very sorry Chris.