Education Choice Tears Down Barriers

The Malliard family story of overcoming bullying, accommodating their children’s special needs, and searching for safety and flexibility.

August 11, 2023 | By: Sharon Sedlar

When we become parents, we envision the growth of our families filled with birthday parties, play dates, field trips, and school friends for children and adults alike. But it doesn’t go that way for all families. Life can throw curveballs at you, short-circuiting your plans and undermining the picturesque vision.

Take for instance the Malliard family. From the time their children were born, they’ve had their challenges from the medical community, and then later from the education community. Despite these obstacles, the Malliard family continues to weather the storm, thanks to options available to them within our currently permissible system of educational choice.

For the last 16 years, the Malliard family has sought diagnosis and relief for their children’s complicated medical issues, involving constant series of treatments and surgeries for their two children, Bella and Skyler. The children’s conditions have routinely required days of hospital stays and frequent extensive travel to see teams of doctors and specialists.

Homebound services, therapies, alternative transportation, and Individualized Education Plan accommodation were frequently disputed between the Malliards and their local district school. The Malliards “did all the things they were supposed to do,” including attending meetings with administrators, doctors, and evaluators, but disputes continued. Therapists and advocates were also involved in the ever-changing disagreement, mentally and emotionally exhausting the entire family. They felt as if for “every step forward with the school, then it was 4 steps backward…floating in an ocean with no sign of rescue”.

Many IEP meetings ended with tears and frustration. Some had good outcomes but were short-lived. Two specific occasions stood out to the Malliards; one incident that caused their son to be nonverbal for 4 days, and another when their daughter’s head was kicked on the school bus. Sadly, the Malliards say that these situations were “nothing new”, as their children were subjected to similar difficulties as far back as kindergarten, when Skyler had his glasses broken while riding the school bus.

Due to bullying, Bella’s anxiety grew to be so debilitating she was placed on homebound instruction, a situation compounded by disagreements with the school district during the Milliard’s pursuit of continued therapy. Meanwhile, Skyler had become fearful and untrusting of the school staff -a child who no longer loved school, and only went due to legal compulsion.

During the summer of what would have led into Skyler’s 7th-grade year and Bella’s 4th-grade year, the Malliards started looking for options. Seeing a commercial for Commonwealth Charter Academy piqued their interest, and after further research, they enrolled their children.

The move to CCA for their children was eye-opening. For instance, when the children first exited district education, they were testing 2-3 grades behind grade level (despite Skyler earning straight A grades and being Presidential Award winner at his previous school). Currently, both children are at grade level.

The Malliards feel that communication with the school is exemplary, and the IEP adoption and re-evaluation process is very well done. They are thrilled that their children can now learn at home – each one having very different needs and learning styles.

For those not keeping track, this story spans 7 grades for Skyler – from kindergarten to the start of 7th grade.  This family’s story is representative of many others, putting forth every effort to remain in their assigned school and work within the confines of the current, dysfunctional education system. They realize years later that it simply wasn’t where their children were meant to be; that another option is necessary for that child to become a future functional, ethical and caring member of society.  In some cases, that educational option is a necessary refuge for that child to survive physically or mentally. We must continue to work on breaking down the barriers by creating and offering quality, individualized programming for our children. Giving our children the best possible chance in life starts with truly unbounded education.

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