Adam Lanza, as described in the excellent, heartbreaking report from the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), sounds all too similar to kids with whom I have worked as an advocate.
Unfortunately, I was introduced to these kids only because their school districts were working so hard to not provide needed (and federally mandated) special education services.
The OCA report indicates that the Newtown school district did not take necessary steps to help Adam Lanza, even though for years staff were aware that there was something very wrong. Sad to say, many teachers in many school districts report that, in an attempt to save money, District administrators discourage them from seeking special education support for children who need it.
Did this happen in Newtown?
My concern is that there was so much “blame the mother” in the OCA report. But it’s not uncommon for parents of children with disabilities to go into survival mode, just trying to manage the immediate needs of the child; and from the report, it seems likely Adam Lanza’s mother had her own unaddressed psychiatric needs.
Even if we assume the best, that the District didn’t provide services only because “the mom wouldn’t let us help,” the District should have provided parent counseling and training about the student’s disabilities, as required by federal law.
Would this have changed the outcome? No one can say. But certainly it would have reduced the risk.
Diane Willcutts is director of Education Advocacy LLC in West Hartford.