Kierah & her proud father, Brett

 

Brett & Kierah Phillips

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Brett Phillips

 

Brett's Story

It has been very hard to get help for my daughter, Kierah, ever since she "aged out" of the school system at the age of 22. It was hard enough getting ANY HELP from the government or school system prior to her becoming 22, but after a child gets to that age it's like the "whole system" wants to forget that she even exists at all! My daughter's learning disabilities, severe emotional problems, and her mistreatment at the hands of family members, culminated in her attempting suicide. Unfortunately, the family turmoil from my own childhood has caused me NOT to see warning signs of some of my daughter's problems, and that only added more stress to my daughter, along with my wife. Thankfully, my wife, who had already been through much of what my daughter and I had gone through, (even on a grander scale), had much insight into these problems. It wasn't until I was in my late 30's & early 40's before I began to come to terms with my troubled past, which had a great impact on my daughter. Now if we could just get the help for our daughter that she so desperately needs, it would be of great benefit to her, along with the little bit of help that she does receive from Lee County Mental Health, (which in and of itself has been a big help). Wouldn't it be nice if the politicians spent the same amount of our money on their constituents as they do on their wars?!

Thank you for listening! I know that ALL of you fathers have stories similar to this, or worse. Thankfully, I believe and know there is indeed a GOD who cares! If there wasn't, none of us in my family would even be here today. Again, thank you everyone for listening, and especially - "Thank you Heavenly Father".

 

~ Brett Phillips

"Rules Work Against A Progressing Lehigh Acres Student"

Author: Sam Cook

The News Press - Fort Myers, Florida

February 24, 2010

Kierah Phillips disproves the theory you're never too old to learn.

Phillips of Lehigh Acres is a late bloomer, a learning disabilities-challenged student blossoming under an adept tutor.

Yet despite significant progress with tutor, Joe Stump, Kierah is no longer a student in the Lee County School District.

She's too old.

When she turned 22 on Dec 19th, Kierah aged out of the district's exceptional student education hospital homebound program. Her birthday was five weeks before the semester ended.

"We are following the law," says Carl Brunick, executive director of student services and ESE. "When students turn 22, they can finish the semester. That's it. It's federal, state and district policy."

Kierah and her parents, Brett & Mitzi Phillips, asked the school board to extend her education another semester.

"I'm formally requesting an extension, which would allow me to continue on with my specialized tutoring until June," Kierah writes in a Jan. 25 email.

She says the past seven months with Stump tutoring, "My grade levels have increased by at least four grades in reading and language arts." The district denied her request Jan. 26.

Mitzi Phillips received this email from Abby Ross, an aide of Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, whose district includes part of Lee: "Our direction has been that 'students age 18 through 21, who have not received a standard diploma may continue until their 22nd birthday, or at the discretion of the school district, through the semester or the end of the school year in which they turn 22.' ... Most districts seem to sever FAPE (free appropriate public education) at the end of the semester, or the end of the school year, in which the student turns age 22."

Ross didn't return telephone calls Tuesday.

Mitzi Phillips, who says Stump tutored her daughter four hours a week, believes the district should use its "discretion" and extend her daughter's education, that is, tutoring, through the school year.

Stump, who teaches ESE at Lehigh Senior High and tutors on the side, says the district doesn't allow him to speak to the media.

Ron Davis, principal at East Lee County High, says Kierah took an art class at his school and excelled.

"I enjoyed her art," says Davis, who hung one of Kierah's paintings at the school. "She could be a very talented artist."

Davis says taxpayers pay until a certain age, but services end at 22.

Brunick says Kierah is not close to graduating.

"If she was a credit or a half-credit short of graduation, that would be a consideration."

Brunick says, "But I can't think of a case in Lee County where we (made an exception)."

Brunick says the best plan is to enroll Kierah in vocational rehabilitation or adult education.

"I don't want to sound pessimistic, but that would be the best long-term benefit for the child," he says.

But Mitzi Phillips says her daughter is depressed and needs therapy. She is not ready for a class with other students, but thrives on one-on-one attention.

Yet without district funding, the Phillipses can't pay Stump's fee.

"He's very good at what he does. That's his special gift.," Mitzi Phillips says. "Kierah made progress with Mr. Stump that we didn't think was possible."

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