Dear PoPville – How Do I Get My Granddaughter Out of This School?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Sanjay Suchak

“Dear PoPville,

My granddaughter (11 years of age) is enrolled in the new McKinley Middle School this school year, who previously attended Garrison Elementary School. We had great expectations as it related to the school and their goals. However, after my child was enrolled and started at the school, we immediately began to see major changes in her behavior. Followed with daily phone calls about her behavior being out of control. Being a realistic grandmother, I took the complaints at face value since she was leaving an elementary where her mother works as a Special Education Aid, her other two siblings also attender that school. Therefore, I felt anxiety may be a major issue for her. However, I later found out that she was being bullied by a group of girls that she was afraid of. As previously mentioned, with each phone call we addressed their concerns of her being disrespectful, walking out of her classroom, not completing classroom assignments, talking back. None of which we have seen at home or at her previous school. This lead the family to start a pop-in policy at the school. This popping in resulting in me personally observing this group of girls that my granddaughter had attached herself too. Please keep in mind, with ever teacher meeting, every phone call, all the teachers would say, they see more in my granddaughter and they know she is not like this group of girls. She stand out amongst them, etc.

After frequent visits, and entire days of going from classroom to classroom, I came to realize that this group of girls were totally out of control. I then understood why my granddaughters was acting out. Immediately, we took her to counseling at Kaiser only to find out that she was in fact afraid of them and felt since they never got in trouble that it was easier to hang with them to avoid being harassed. This is what I noticed in the classrooms

1. The teachers needed at least 30 minutes or more to get the classrooms under control so they could teach.

2. They would put the same kids name of the board to call their parents and never put the names of these girls on the board.

3. I actually asked a teacher why aren’t you putting their names on the board to call their parents. Didn’t happen that day. Upon previous visits the same girls going to the same things.

4. This group of girls curse, disruptive, and tauting to other students in the classroom and they are allowed to remain with this behavior.

5. My daughter talked to the Assistant Principle and asked if my granddaughter could be switched from the A/B days to B/A days to get her away from this group of girls with no success. She is still on the A/B Days.

6. She eventually got into a fight with one of the girls after being taunted. It was proven that she did not start the fight, but was in fact defending herself. She received a 5 day suspension for the fight. I personally called and so did her mother to get the missing class assignments so she would not be behind in her class work and only two teachers responded. I went back up to the school and asked the Assistant Principal and Administrator where was her work, and today we still have not received the work.

7. On one of the days I visited the school, her Science Teacher said to me, that my granddaughter was sort of setting and staring off into space. I asked her did she ask her what was wrong and she responded, :no I did not”. I asked her why not? She said she was just setting there not bothering anybody so she left her alone. I then said, you didn’t think it was important enough to ask her what was wrong and she said the next time I see her doing that I will ask. That day in particular she was bullied so until she said, Grandma I was just tired. Now Science is her favorite subject. Every year at Garrison she and her two sisters entered the Science Fair contest and won First and Second Places annually. So why now there is no interest in Science is beyond my comprehension. It was Science and Math hat moved us to select McKinley and the close proximity to our home.

8. Another incident is that she even lost her student ID or this group took it. She is not sure, but she was denied lunch because she did not have her ID. Not on one occasion but numerous ones. How can you deny a child food when you know they are a current student. Her attempt to get a new ID has failed. However, someone was kind enough to tell her her number so she committed that to memory. Thank God.

9. The other matter is this, I have went to every Public Charter School possible, Washington Latin, Basic, Haney, DC Prep. I have called Francis, Hardy, to see if I can get her enrolled this school year and all was met with no success due to the schools being full at this time. Yes, I looked at the best schools, why shouldn’t she have a chance to get back on track within a school that has shown they care about the children they serve!

PoPville, I need help in getting her out of this school. With all the visits to the school, daily popping in, teachers conferences, meetings with the assistant principles, I just received in the mail last week a notice that she was failing her classes. How can this be, when we have reached out to every teacher, and asked them to give her the work she needs, change her schedule, to assist us with this matter with no results? Now they tell us that she is failing how? Is my body looking to see if she is ok? Is anybody concerned about her needs. How can she be failing when we are there everyday at the school?

Additionally, we have called the Superintendent’s Office and lodged complaints about this matter weeks ago, and as of today we have not heard back from anyone at all. Even on today, November 5th, I received a call from Ms. Melanie Cobb, In-School Suspension Counselor at McKinley who has a great concern for the kids, to tell me that my grandchild is with this group again and has been missing from several classes. My question is how long has she been missing with this group? Where was she? Why wasn’t anybody watching out for her? How can they all be allowed to roam the school and no one knows where she is? Who is protecting her? She is only 11 years old. Do the teachers care at all? Where is the supervision?”

30 Comment

  • Sad but true. A good girl turns “bad”, simply because it easier than to deal with abuse from other children. She’s lucky she has a grandmother like you. My advice? Get her out of DCPS or into another school in the District by any means possible. Even if that means breaking the rules.
    The abuse that is happening now will follow her the rest of her life. Get her out by any means necessary.

  • She is incredibly fortunate to have you looking our for her. I second the above commenter – by any means possible GET HER OUT. You can stop this now or make it a lot harder for yourself later.

  • houseintherear

    This is really tough (and absolutely NOT limited to DCPS, by the way).

    As a teacher, I can tell you that students are not usually allowed to make up work they miss when they are suspended… at least that answers one of your questions.

    If I were in your shoes and had the ability, I would take her out of school immediately and enroll your home as a “home school” space and yourself or another capable adult as the “home school teacher.” Get her out of that situation immediately. Then fight the system with all the effort you can possibly put forth… not on the phone or via email, but in person at any DCPS office that will let you enter. It sometimes takes quite a bit of time for changes to happen, but if you make a true stink about your situation then something will eventually happen.

    • houseintherear

      I also feel I must say that teachers have very, VERY little control over dealing with these situations. Many (if not most) of our students are constantly sleep deprived, hungry, or dealing with issues at home, and it is a truly difficult task to figure out who needs the teacher’s personal help at any given time… please take your issue to the administrators and their bosses, as they have more control over possible changes for the future.

  • If you’re not getting any satisfaction with the school board, kick your complaint up the food chain until you do. If no one on the school board will help, send it to the City council, the Mayor, etc.

    • agreed! 7 on your side! expose what’s going on… also, since these schools seem like ward 5, contact Kenyan McDuffie… he’s DC born and raised and grew up in the public school system. I really think he may be of help… he’s a solid dude who wants what’s best… i can’t wait until I can vote him into a DC Mayoral position

  • So sorry to hear about your situation. I am not sure whether your granddaughter’s exact situation would fall under the umbrella of cases that the Children’s Law Center takes on but they have a Legal Helpline you can call — Helpline can be reached at 202-467-4900 option 3. You can also check out their website at They offer certain assistance to families trying to get educational access for children, so they MIGHT be able to provide some assistance or at least point you in a direction of someone who could help from a legal perspective. Good luck.

  • I’ll third the recommendation to bring these issues to the attention of everyone you can at the school, and to also contact DCPS administrators and your city council rep, the mayor’s office, etc. The more noise you make, the more likely someone is going to step up to help. And make sure that her mom/your daughter has you listed as someone with whom the school can discuss your granddaughter’s grades, behavior, etc.–I don’t know precisely how that works in DCPS but in general, schools can only release information to certain people. Get your daughter to put you on that list if you’re not already.

    Also, you may want to call your pediatrician to see if they can refer you to an organization that might be able to help. Children’s Law Center in DC does a lot of education-related pro bono work, but you need to get a referral from a pediatrician first–you can’t just call them and ask for help. CLC does special education work but there might be others that can help with these types of behavioral/social issues.

    The DCPS website used to have a list of currently available seats; only the pre-k/k link seems to be working right now but they should be able to tell you what schools have seats if you call. Similarly, the DC charter school board has a list at–it says it was last updated on Oct. 7 but I suspect it may not be current given you said you’d already called Basis.

    I’m sorry this is so hard for you and your granddaughter right now and I hope you can figure this out. You’re doing a great job and she’s lucky to have someone who cares so much. Keep at it and don’t stop until it’s fixed!

  • Something similar happened to my wife in Oakland when she was a kid. Her parents took her out immediately and put her in private school. Not an option for everyone, but it certainly made a big difference in her educational and personal outcomes….

  • I know it isn’t even close to legal, but I have known many, many parents who “moved” on paper to a different school district at the midterm Christmas break to get their kid out of School A and into School B. They may have used a friend or relative’s address to register the kid, or some of them actually physically moved to a different apartment (don’t know if that’s an option for you here). I also knew a family once that rented a studio apartment in a better district, turned on all the utilities, used the lease and the utility bills to get the kid enrolled, and then sublet the apartment to someone else so it didn’t cost them as much. If you have any friends or relatives in Montgomery, Arlington, or Alexandria, I’d see if they would let you use their address. I would NEVER send my kid to DCPS Middle or High School, not even for a day. They are ALL awful. Garrison, however, is a *wonderful* elementary school!
    The absolute number one key thing is that you pull her out of the school. Either she will suffer enough that it has a lasting impact on her socially well beyond the year or it will distract her enough to put her behind academically, or both, and either can take years to overcome at that age.
    If all else fails, call a news crew out to talk about it. The school might need some staff turnover here, and some bad press might get it.
    Also, @POPville, tweet this story to Kaya Henderson!! Please!!

    • Yeah, I always wondered about the apartment rental thing. I’m surprised more people don’t do that in areas, like Cleveland Park or Van Ness where rentals are relatively inexpensive, that are inbound for better schools.

      • +1. I don’t have kids (and have no plans to have any), but if I did, I would be seriously tempted to do this.

    • +1 — Please get this story out to Kaya via twitter. It will be very difficult for her to ignore.

    • Absolutely not true that all DCPS middle and high schools are terrible. My children have attended Deal , Wilson, and School Without Walls. All are excellent, and there are others too (Banneker for example).

      • As a DCPS middle school teacher, I take umbrage at that ignorant and generalized comment about the state of our schools. There are a number of schools – mine included – that are beating the District average in reading and math scores, have wonderful after school events and programs, and have a low suspension rate.

        Please, OP, ignore the statements claiming that DCPS is awful or that you need to go to MoCo in order to get a good education. I know we have space at our school (in Northeast, not too far from McKinley) and I can personally put in a word for you and your granddaughter if you’d like. I can’t promise anything, but I can promise to try.

        • austindc

          By definition, wouldn’t about half of schools beat the District average?

          • austindc

            Wait, I just thought about that. I guess if you have a couple of high performing outlier schools and the rest are terrible, then only a handful of schools would beat the average because the mean is skewed. Let’s use the median instead.

          • No. Average means the total divided by n. Hence, outliers can really throw off the average. You’re thinking of median.

  • 1. Call the DCPS Critical Response Team at (202) 478-5738. They’re there until 5:30 each weekday.

    2. It is after Count Day, so most schools (especially charters) aren’t interested in taking new kids, since they won’t get paid any extra for having an additional student. You might not be able to get into a school with better test scores, but if your kid is well behaved and has good test scores they might be interested (if they have 50 kids in the grade and your kid is going to test proficient, their proficiency rate will go up about 2%, which is a big gain!)

    3. I don’t know much about Jefferson Academy (in SW) but the principal seems really nice when I’ve seen her at community meetings, it’s near a metro station, and the kids seem to be doing well on the DC CAS. I’m sure there are nice kids and mean kids there (middle schoolers can be so horrible!) but it seems they’re trying to make it a nice atmosphere.

    4. Look into private schools. Might not work this year but it could for next year. They do give scholarships and want to increase diversity…she’d probably have to apply for a bunch before finding one that worked academically and financially. DC also has a voucher program that might be able to pay some of it. She may find she is very behind at any one she gets in to, but it sounds like she’s a hard worker and could catch up. This could also provide an incentive for her to buckle down, focus, and get great grades this year so she has the best chance possible to go to some really awesome school (maybe show her some web sites of private schools so she can see how nice they would be?)

    • also have you called the Howard Middle School of Math and Science (MS^2)? A coworker’s son goes there and really likes it. I’m not sure they’re looking for more students this year but if not it could work for next year (I realize you need a solution now though).

      • +1 on Howard Middle. Call and ask for the Admissions Coordinator, Ricardo Perez. Good school, strong academics.

  • Does anyone else here want to find that bully group and totally give them a “talking to”? I know that’s not rational, nor adult, but this kind of thing pisses me off… someone here has some connections… help this woman help her grandchild…

    • Thats what I would do if I had a child in this situation. It probably would backfire, but these gals would get a talking to. Only because it wiuld make me feel better. And crazy godfather would be my name.
      I would have ways of making children listen.
      In all seriousness, if i didn’t give the gals a talking to, I would pull her out and get real loud.

  • gotryit

    That is heartwrenching. Especially as the father of a future 11 year old girl in DCPS. These problems NEED to be addressed if DCPS is going to grow. Otherwise, the middle class people that can afford to will move, or find a way into private / parochial schools.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @DCPublicSchools tweets:

    “We’re looking into it now and will work toward a happy resolution.”

    • Wow, POP, look at the power of this blog that you have created! In the past two days you have gotten DC govt to fix a confusing parking sign that has been ignored for the past year, and more importantly, to finally help a parent/student who couldn’t get their attention despite what sounds like great efforts. I love your blog for keeping up on the latest restaurant and neighborhood buzz but it’s pretty inspiring that you have also created a platform that can affect real change in our city. Bravo!

  • Kudos to M. Cobb for showing concern for the student…….

  • Depending on the type of bullying and harassment that is occurring – if it is gender or sex based – it may be covered under Title IX, which provides you with more legal support in forcing the school to do something:

  • make it a petition. It will go through the roof. If you dont know, someone on this board can probably show you. I also second the idea of checking out private schools, including catholic schools in the area. Do anything to get your granddaughter out!

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