Dear Governor Jindal:
While your presidential campaign is taking a powder, your state of Louisiana burns. As is with your failing run to the White House, the ‘Pelican State’ ranks 38th in U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2015; ranks 48th in public education by American Legislative Exchange Council (www.alec.org), which also rates Louisiana with a ‘C’ on “Homeschool Regulation Burden” and an uplifting ‘D+’ in academic state standards; and ranks “near the bottom” of Politico’s 2nd annual State of the States of the Union report, measuring 14 economic indicators across all 50 states.
Bravo! What will you do for an encore?
Beyond your name being headlined in articles coming up only twice in the top ten searches of www.politico.com, a political magazine you should care about if you hold serious presidential aspirations, you have torched a red hole in the state’s budget close to a billion dollars, as revealed by The Times Picayune, Bobby Jindal’s Shipwrecked Presidential Campaign: Robert Mann.
I would be splitting hairs if I focused only on your (poor) conservative record and (so-called) fiscal acumen. This letter is about Louisiana’s special education in general and autism in particular. As the neurological disorder sits today in your state, autism incidence grows at a staggering rate of 258 percent—that kind of growth must make you envious from an economic vista—according to health statistics compiled by www.statemaster.com. When combined with your failing education standards, it makes a visitor to your state, like me, and those who makeup the close to five million people who live in Louisiana, wonder if you are cut out for the job of being governor, let alone be the next president. Well, are you?
In mid August, there was a bullying incident that took place in Acadia Parish School. Now this incident wasn’t your normal war of words, knockdown fight filmed for YouTube between teenagers. No, the bullying was done by the school’s administration—thus condoned by Louisiana Board of Education—against a six-year-old autistic child named Xavier Gresham. If you don’t know how children with autism behave, then you haven’t been to school lately. Many suffer social deficits, speech and learning delays and, yes, have considerable behavioral issues.
In brief, because of the boy’s behavior, the school administrator threatened the parents with “suspension” if they couldn’t get him under control. Poor little, misunderstood Xavier has been accused, of all things, being “disruptive” in class. Well, that sounds par for the course for normal kids, not just children on the autism spectrum. How do you deal with disruption, governor?
According to the article, Andrea Gautreaux, a social worker for the school system, stated: "We use the state criteria to start looking at what interventions are available and start helping that student as a team, identifying what their needs are and what direction we need to take."
That’s funny, because according to the state’s propaganda website ‘Louisiana Believes,’ on Students with Disabilities it proudly claims:
“Students will disabilities may need additional support to achieve their academic potential. Disabilities include physical, medical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social and learning disabilities.”
“To receive support through special education and related services, a student must be evaluated to determine eligibility for those services. To learn more about the evaluation process, please visit Pupil Appraisal.”
How wonderful and proactive in planning. Except, in the state’s Dept. of Education Guide, Louisiana’s Educational of Rights with Disabilities (September 2013), on “behavior” under ‘Special Circumstances’ section, it reads:
“School personnel may remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability, if the student:
- 1. “Carries or possesses a weapon at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of the LDOE or the LEA;
- 2. “Knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs, or sells or solicits the sale of a controlled substance, while at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of the LDOE or a LEA; or
- 3. “Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of the LDOE or a LEA.”
Not to nitpick, Governor Jindal, but Numbers 1-3 doesn’t seem to apply to a six-year-old child, let alone a six-year-old autistic boy. What do you think? Did little Xavier “carry a weapon” to earn his threat of suspension? Did poor little Xavier “knowingly posses illegal drugs?” Now that would be a stretch, don’t you think? Especially the “knowingly” part, since the more than two million U.S. children on the autism spectrum are so disconnected from knowing the flow, routines, and daily activities that their normal peers, who can speak, write, and socially engage. Did poor little, misunderstood Xavier “inflict serious bodily injury” on a classmate? That doesn’t seem likely either, as many children on the spectrum tend to injure themselves, giving a new definition to rock n’ roll’s “headbanger.”
The only thing I am unsure of, and maybe you can help me out here, is how many federal and state violations did Acadia Parish School system break in its trampling of Xavier Gresham’s rights: Human, American, civil, child, and people with disabilities? How many autistic and other children with special needs are being mistreated in the same bullying fashion in the Pelican State? Are they even being educated?
I did read that Louisiana does have laws, rules, and regulations in place to prevent bullying in the state’s public schools. Naturally, both Acadia Parish School and your media relations office—firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com—didn’t respond to emails to comment and enlighten the American people on this bullying issue.
As I suspect with Xavier’s plight, the “bullying” incident was neither an oversight by Acadia Parish School administration nor an anomaly across the state, because in speaking to more than one mother of autistic children in Louisiana, several of them from poor communities and of African-American heritage, have complained that Louisiana has been treating their children with disabilities as second class citizens, while not providing the full services required by law to educate the growing population of special education children.
So I have a Call to Action. Can you help me set up an online petition? I would like to secure signatures to have your state’s education department investigated for violating the rights of Xavier, while at the same time—since you are politically connected—you can point out the federal agencies that might help in that investigation.
I am sure, you as a flag-waving American and believer in human rights, would do this small favor for me, while uphold your state’s motto “Union, Justice and Confidence”—for all, I assume. I look forward to your timely response.
James O. Grundvig
Concerned Citizen and Visitor to Louisiana
New York, NY
James is a father of a 15-year-old autistic son, diagnosed with the regressive form of autism PDD-NOS. He is a freelance investigative journalist writing initially about his son's journey on the spectrum, and then branching out to other government spawned crises, like the 2010 runaway BP Oil Spill. James has published in the Huffington Post, Financial Times Foreign Direct Investment magazine, Epoch Times, and Law.com. among other media outlets. Hot on the trail of the Danish fugitive Poul Thorsen, James will be publishing a book (Skyhorse Publishing) later this year, Master Manipulator: The Scientist Who Seduced the CDC.
 IBID, pg. 25