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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

BRYAN TELESKY'S PARENTS say he's had nothing but trouble after being taken out of his home school, Sullivan West.

They send him to school - under protest

By Jeanne Sager
KENOZA LAKE — April 1, 2008 — Just how much power do parents have in education?
Diane and Jay Telesky will be sending son Bryan to school today – under protest.
“We don’t know what else to do, we can’t afford to get in trouble,” Diane said yesterday.
Before Easter vacation began, Bryan had been hiding in the family’s Kenoza Lake home for six days.
While his parents made repeated requests for a private tutor, he spent school days at home.
Telesky hasn’t actually attended a class in his home school district in nearly a year.
He’s been going to BOCES – a vo-tech program in the mornings in Liberty, then onto a bus and over to Monticello for his general studies.
Diane and Jay have had enough. The Teleskys told Sullivan West last year that they didn’t want their son attending BOCES in Monticello.
September came, and Bryan got his directions – Liberty in the mornings, Monticello in the afternoons.
Although they let him go, the Teleskys didn’t give up. As recently as January 10, the couple sent a letter to Dr. Joanne Lane, Sullivan West’s assistant superintendent for pupil and personnel services, asking for their son to be pulled from afternoons at BOCES.
The Teleskys moved to Kenoza Lake four years ago to get their children out of Monticello.
The two eldest of their five children were troubled, Diane said, and she vowed she was going to keep her three young boys from following the same path.
“My oldest two dropped out of school, and I swore up and down, I’m not letting that happen to them,” she explained.
Until last year, everything was going well.
Bryan, at 16 her baby, was classified as “learning disabled” by the district and placed in a special class in Lake Huntington.
He made friends. He fit in.
Then the district disbanded the class, Diane said. They told her there weren’t enough students to make it cost-effective to continue.
With Bryan entering 10th grade, the district suggested he take up the CORE program, part of BOCES vocational offerings in Liberty.
The Teleskys agreed – on the condition that he board the bus returning to Lake Huntington at the end of the morning to take classes with his peers.
Since September, Diane said she’s been sending Bryan off with a lump in her throat.
The bus ride between the two BOCES campuses has been nothing but trouble, with Bryan telling his parents he’s been getting abused both verbally and physically by other students.
He’s come home with headaches from being punched in the head, and the family once filed a complaint with the New York State Police over a beating on the bus.
On March 12, a student boarded the bus in Liberty with a pile of rocks. En route to Monticello, he started chucking them at other kids – including Bryan.
Scared and hurt, he decided to report the incident to a counselor at BOCES’ St. John Street Education Center.
What ensued is an incident that Monticello Police have investigated, but haven’t been able to solve.
It’s essentially a he-said, he-said incident, according to Police Chief Doug Solomon.
Diane describes her son – at 5-foot-5 – as a toothpick. He’s usually on the receiving end of threats.
But staff at St. John Street claim Bryan picked up a computer monitor and got aggressive when they asked him to hand over the cell phone he was using to call his parents.
Multiple adults told police he had to be restrained.
Bryan admitted he was using the cell phone without permission – he’d already called Diane and was attempting to call Jay.
But rather than asking nicely, Bryan said his counselor backed him up against a wall and was threatening him.
He picked up the monitor because he was scared, he said.
Meanwhile the other staff member in the room called for help. Two more men came in, and along with his counselor, Bryan said they held him down.
“The one guy held my feet, the other guy held my hands, and the other guy went in my pocket,” Bryan explained.
He showed his parents scratches and bruises on his left arm, and the Teleskys went to police.
When they took their son to the pediatrician, the doctor found more bruises and scratches on his right arm.
To make matters worse, the Teleskys said they’ve been told Bryan’s counselor at BOCES will remain the same.
“How can I send him to a school where he’s afraid for his life?” Diane asked. “And now at this meeting they tell me he still has to see this counselor that left marks on him?”
BOCES Spokeswoman Donna Karkos said she can’t comment on the situation because it deals directly with personnel and a student – both of which are protected under confidentiality laws.
Lane couldn’t speak about Bryan’s case either.
But she could speak in general about a parent’s power to determine the course of their child’s education.
When a student is “classified” as Bryan has been, a team of educators gets involved – the committee on special education (CSE).
An individualized education program (commonly known as an IEP) is created, and the district develops a method to meet the student’s personal needs.
BOCES comes into play often in special education because small districts don’t have the funding to create a program for just a few students.
“It would behoove a district to keep all its students in district because BOCES is expensive,” Lane noted. “We send students to BOCES when we don’t have the programs in-district to address their individual needs.”
If a parent expresses their concerns with a BOCES placement, it’s up to the CSE to look into the matter.
Their chief concern, Lane said, is that the child is “progressing in a safe, stable environment.”
“[The parents] need to have a rationale for why a student would be pulled out of a program when they’re making progress,” she explained. If the CSE agrees there are other issues, they’ll speak with BOCES and explore other options.
In Bryan’s case, Diane said the district has offered to allow him to take his afternoon classes in the Liberty Central School District – but she said that defeats the purpose of having moved out to rural Sullivan West.
So what’s next?
The Teleskys contend their son isn’t being sent into a “safe, stable environment.”
They’re working with a child advocate, and they’ll be petitioning the state department of education for an impartial hearing.
If it’s approved, the state will send a third party down to hear from both the CSE and the Teleskys and make the final decision.
Still unable to speak to the Telesky case, Lane said decisions on CSE matters have to follow the protocol – even if it results in an impartial hearing.
They can’t change placement simply because a parent makes a request.
“The regulations are there, and we follow the regulations,” Lane explained.
So Bryan will board a bus today for BOCES in Liberty, board another for BOCES in Monticello and another tonight to return home to Kenoza Lake.
“I’m scared to send him,” Diane said, “but what choice do I have?”

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