Monday, August 8, 2011


I keep looking for happy stories yet it is impossible to ignore the horrors that are happening daily in front of our eyes. 

There is really no other way to put it: So much suffering in the world; this case is particularly heartbreak­ing.

You remember the issue of bullying that became the media and public feeding frenzy concern earlier in the year with endless daily reports of the abuse of youngsters by classmates, and even bullying of college students. 

As with so many things in the short memory span of our public to stay focused on important life issues, it faded from the public mind, and the jaded, hype seeking media, as fast as it had appeared, seemingly someone waved a magic wand and the problems of bullying, scapegoating had suddenly been wiped off the face of the earth.

Guess what? Surprise, the issue of bullying just lost the interest of the public, never got resolved, remaining as painful and cruel to those who continue to struggle every day with these experiences. 

In the meantime the public and media went onto bigger and more "exciting" horrific stories that reflect the disintegration of our modern civilization, as detailed in several of my previous Blog posts.

This particular mother in my Blog post today, found these struggles too much to bear. Obviously she was suffering from deep emotional problems, but I can't help but feel this is in some way also related to current economic troubles in our Country. 

Education for people with special needs has always been challengin­g and I'm sure it is even more so today with funding being cut for so many programs. Lately, there have been so many stories of desperate people taking desperate measures. It is very sad that it has come to this.

According the Americans with Disabilities Act, School Districts ARE required to pay for the private education of students with disabiliti­es, if the School District cannot adequately address a child's educationa­l needs. Of course school districts fight tooth and nail to avoid doing this, whether they can adequately educate a child, or not.

They do this because it is expensive to pay for a student to attend special schools that are designed specifically to give children with special needs the education, attention that they medically require.

School Districts, in effect, lose their funding for that child, if they send them to these special schools. You would be very surprised to learn what school districts are required by law to do and how they avoid what is in the best interest of these children, simply to preserve the funding that they get for that student and not paying the extra funds for the specialized education that these children are mandated by Law to receive.

The depth of emotions that parents have for their children is something that all loving mothers and fathers understand. We always want the very best for our children. When it comes to disabled special needs children, the emotions of their parents is unexplainable to parents of "normal " children.

In many of the cases of learning disabled children, the word autistic and other labels are used to cover the wide spectrum of these disorders, as they are too diverse to categorize them with any one word, other than "special". 

When Parents learns their child is being bullied, whether they have special needs children or not, we become a bear in the woods, protecting our  precious child.

This is a tragic story of a mother who snapped under the pressure and struggle of what was happening to her child. As a highly trained Psychiatrist, and a loving mother, what she did is unforgivable, unbelievable, and yet it happened. 

Another unanswered tragedy of WHY??? 

Margaret Jensvold, Maryland Mom Who Killed Son Ben Barnhard, Agonized Over School Costs
By ERIC TUCKER   08/ 8/11 03:34 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON -- Ben Barnhard had reason to be optimistic this summer: The 13-year-old shed more than 100 pounds at a rigorous weight-loss academy, a proud achievement for a boy who had endured classmates' taunts about his obesity and who had sought solace in the quiet of his bedroom, with his pet black cat and the intricate origami designs he created.

But one month before school was to start for the special-needs teen, his mother, psychiatrist Margaret Jensvold, shot him in the head, then killed herself. Officers found their bodies Tuesday in the bedrooms of their home in Kensington, Md., an upper-middle class Washington suburb.

Jensvold also offered an explanation for taking her son's life. Police also found a note. "School – can't deal with school system," the letter began, Jensvold's sister, Susan Slaughter, told The Associated Press. And later: "Debt is bleeding me. Strangled by debt."

Although family members said they were stunned by the killings, they also said Jensvold had become increasingly strained by financial pressure and by anguished fights with the county public school system over the special-needs education of her son, who had an autism spectrum disorder.

They said the school district – apparently believing it could adequately educate Ben – had refused to cover tuition costs for the boy to attend a private school for special-needs students. Jensvold didn't have the money herself and didn't want to return her son to public school, where relatives said she felt harshly judged and marginalized and where Ben had struggled.

"It was a huge stress," Slaughter said. "It's very hard being a single parent under any circumstances, but to have a high-needs child is overwhelming. And then to have him inappropriately placed in the school, and have the school fighting with her, was really traumatic."

Special needs education is an emotionally freighted issue, perhaps especially so in Montgomery County – an affluent region where parents tend to be actively engaged in education and where schools are consistently rated among the country's best. 

School district spokeswoman Lesli Maxwell said that privacy laws prevented her from discussing the particulars of Barnhard's case, but that the district offered vast options for its 17,000 special-education students and will refer students for private schooling when it can't meet their needs.
Jensvold, a Johns Hopkins-educated psychiatrist specializing in women's health, was passionate and determined. She made news in 1990 by filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the National Institute of Mental Health, where she was a medical staff fellow. A judge ultimately ruled against her, calling her version of events an "illusion." She later had her own private practice but most recently was working at Kaiser Permanente.

She also was a protective mother, constantly fighting with Montgomery County schools over how best to accommodate her son. He was her world, said her divorce lawyer, Robert Baum."She came with an album of pictures of her in a very warm and endearing type of situation," he said. "Her arms around him playing outside, amusement parks, all the types of things you'd love to see of parents dealing with their kids."

Ben was an active infant – his family nicknamed him "ATB," or All-Terrain Baby – but became increasingly withdrawn and isolated, and relatives said as a child he developed an autoimmune disease that's sometimes triggered by strep.

A divorce court filing lists 18 specialists involved in Ben's care, and Jensvold's own suicide note hints at some of the child's difficulties: "writing problems, migraines, hearing things" – and "a bit paranoid."

He had a small group of friends and enjoyed computers, origami, animals and picking tomatoes with his grandmother, his father said. But school was difficult for him, and his weight – topping 275 before his weight loss-program – made him a target for teasing. 

He found comfort with even more food. "He used to say, Mom and Dad, I don't want to go to school. I don't want to deal with those people. They're mean to me and they hurt me,'' recalled Jamie Barnhard, Ben's father and Jensvold's ex-husband. "It broke both of our hearts."

The couple placed their son in the county's special education program, but Barnhard said his son struggled in the system. He spent about nine months at Wellspring Academies, a weight-loss boarding school in North Carolina, returning in May more than 100 pounds slimmer and more confident.

"He wanted to ride his bike. He wanted to be a kid again," Barnhard said. "He wanted to go out and have fun. He wanted to fly airplanes with his dad. He wanted to just do anything."

But there were still concerns about where to send Ben to school. Jensvold appeared consumed by his education at her father's memorial service last spring, Slaughter said. She confided that she was having trouble paying the roughly $50,000 tuition for Ben to attend Wellspring. She presented a binder about five-inches thick detailing his academic needs, along with a chart showing how his IQ had fallen over the years.

At the end of June, Slaughter wrote her sister to say their mother would pay for Ben's education for the coming year. Jensvold had planned to enroll her son in the Ivymount School, a Rockville, Md., private school specializing in autism and other learning disabilities. Tuition there ranges based on a child's needs, but can be more than $60,000, the school said Monday. Her mother said she'd send a check.

In her final months, Jensvold only sporadically communicated with her family, as she had for years, Slaughter said. Emails frequently went unreturned, mail sometimes unopened.

Ben spent July 4 with his divorced parents aboard his dad's restored boat, treading past the Washington Monument with a picnic dinner of barbecue and pineapple. It was a final moment of serenity.

He died a month later. One day after his body was found – co-workers hadn't heard from Jensvold for days and newspapers had accumulated outside the house – a $10,000 check from Jensvold's mother arrived, Slaughter said.