Teen finds healthy environment in online education

BLACK EARTH — Brennan spent most of his childhood as a pariah, teased and taunted for something totally out of his control. Brennan was born with multiple life-threatening food allergies; the worst allergy is to peanuts.
“His food allergies will kill him,” Brennan’s mother, Donna, said. “He can’t smell them, taste them, ingest them.”
When it came time to enroll Brennan in school, he was “the only one in the district Š that had anything on this type of level,” Donna said. “There were other kids with allergies, but nothing this serious.”
Donna and her husband, Dan, “valiantly tried” to work with the public school system to make it possible for Brennan to go to school like every other child. Remarkably, they made it through Brennan’s first semester of eighth grade, although he missed most of that first semester.
“As the years went by, it became more and more difficult,” Donna said. “As you go to each group of teachers, everyone thinks they know all the answers. They think they’re going to solve it.”
Donna said she and her husband “just could never come to terms” with battling the school just to meet their son’s needs.
They pulled Brennan out of school then.
“There was nothing left of him,” Donna said. “He was totally emotionally sick, physically sick; the family was suffering. There was nothing left of this kid to fight.”
Donna admitted she and her husband didn’t know what they were going to do at that point.
“We just wanted to save him,” she said.
But before they got Brennan into another form of schooling, he needed time to heal.
The couple thought about sending Brennan to the high school he would have gone to. After all, Donna said, it was a new school — although in the same district — with new people. They talked to the principal.
“We literally had to beg and grovel,” she said. “And that’s humiliating. But you do that for your children.”
They never got a call back.
“So Dan got on the computer, and I don’t know if he lit candles or said prayers before he did, but he stumbled across Monroe’s virtual school,” Donna said. “We gave them a call, and they were ready to answer that call.”
The family was so pleased that someone from Monroe’s virtual school came to Black Earth to meet with them, to meet with Brennan.
“They embraced us,” Donna said. “They embraced Brennan. That was the first time in Brennan’s life that anyone came in and looked him in the eye and made a commitment to him that has been honored.”
Monroe virtual school Principal Dan Bauer said he has a lot of students enroll because of medical issues. The first graduate from the Monroe virtual school had epilepsy, which kept her out of the public school system.
Last year was Brennan’s first year in the virtual school — and it was a bumpy one, Donna said.
By then, Brennan had been out of school for three semesters. Around the same time, Donna suffered a devastating accident that put her into a nursing home “half dead.” That kept her away from Brennan regularly.
“I was not there,” she said. “I just couldn’t be.
“He was out on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean,” she continued. “He hated everything.”
Brennan was frustrated with his school work and felt overwhelmed, his mother said.
Sure, there were teachers — available online and via phone — that Brennan could turn to, but he wasn’t at that stage yet.
“He didn’t trust anyone,” Donna said.
But soon, she was able to spend more time with him and help him wade through his courses.
Donna said the Monroe virtual school was like “the second coming of Christ.”
She said the administrators and teachers were willing to work with them.
“They were 150 percent about what they could do to help Brennan succeed,” she said. “Suddenly, Brennan is the center of someone’s universe.”
Donna said it’s still hard for Brennan, now 15 years old, to understand that he is worthy.
Now, Brennan’s doing very well. He’s earning A’s and has expressed interest in going to a technical college — for what, he’s not sure.
Donna said she can’t find enough good words to express her and her husband’s appreciation for what the Monroe virtual school has done for their son.
“They help kids in every direction they’re going,” she said. “The pressure on my husband and I — it’s like the weight of the world is off our shoulders.”
She’s no longer waking up in the morning and worrying that Brennan’s life might be in danger.
If their daughter, Bethany, 18, weren’t so far along in her schooling (she’ll graduate from high school this year), the family would have pulled her out to join Brennan at the Monroe virtual school.
But for now, they’re just happy to see Brennan smiling.
“They gave us our son back.” Kayla Bunge, The Monroe Times