Late last week, two families have each filed $2 million tort claims against Seattle Public Schools after staff members physically abused their children. Both children are special education students and were 7 and 9 years old when the incidents occurred.
Two Rutherford County educators face a federal lawsuit after they were criminally charged with child abuse of a student with Autism. The educators were accused of dragging a student with Autism through the school last year. Both were charged with child abuse, and while the initial charges were dismissed, they were later brought back when the two educators were indicted by a Rutherford County Grand Jury in June.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is being sued by a former special needs student who alleges he was sexually abused and provided alcohol by a teacher’s aide whose job was to assist him getting to and from class during the 2018-19 school year.
These are not isolated incidences; children with special needs are easy to abuse because many of these children are nonverbal and have a bias working against them that their behavior is “abnormal.”; they will have to work harder to prove the abuse. And parents who seek justice often can’t afford to do so because of the steep legal bills and the costs it takes to raise a child with special needs. Our Education system is past due for an overhaul, and no better place to start then with Special Education.
Time to Overhaul Special Education
Our public schools do not always have the kids’ best interest at heart. I have raised two children with Dyslexia and one with Autism and well aware of the serious gaps in special education, and schools do not bear enough responsibility for this population. At the same time, too many parents are not aware of their rights.
As a starting point, our government needs to make it a legal requirement that every single student in Special Education has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) signed off by parents or legal guardian(s) who must attend at least four in-person school meetings (one every quarter) with ALL staff that interacts with the child including Speech, OTs, Teachers, Teacher Aides, School Psychologist, School Country Psychiatrist and Principal.
Why Special Education is remedial education. Too many parents don’t realize Special Education Classes should only be used temporarily and the goal is to integrate the child back into a mainstream classroom setting with assistance in that classroom as needed. And this is where an IEP comes into play. An IEP has measurable goals to ensure the child is demonstrating they are progressing with their knowledge and skillset. Without measurable goals, too many kids stay in pull out special education classes and will progress to the next grade level without mastering the fundamental knowledge, pushing these kids further behind the 8 ball. I have heard parents say, “my child is nonverbal on the Autism spectrum, so we know they will be in special education for the remainder of their school years.” These same parents don’t have an IEP in place to measure their child’s progress in school. And without an IEP, there is accountability on the school. This is when special education becomes remedial education at best. An IEP is a legal document.
School of Choice Voucher Program
In my home state of Georgia, We have a program called the SB-10 Scholarship program. The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (GSNS) Program is a school choice program available for special needs students attending Georgia public schools served under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Both my children had in-depth IEPS in place; my oldest son’s had a value of $9,000+. That meant if I wasn’t happy with public schools, I could place him into private school and that $9,000 would follow him to offset private school costs. Today, only 18 states offer a voucher program. All 50 states need a school of the choice voucher program.
While I applaud President Trump’s 1.8 Billion dollar Autism bill, a huge gap that remains is the legal assistance necessary for parents of children with Autism and special needs. Based on my experience, and my children attended a “red” county school in a conservative area, it is impossible to get the help a child with special needs deserves without some legal representation or a well-qualified Advocate. The costs associated with going up against a school are high, and not all parents can afford it. When I suspected Dyslexia, our county school Psychiatrist initially tried to push those symptoms under Autism, and it turned out they were wrong. We spent about $5,000 between boys for independent testing. We had to hire an Educational Psychologist for independent testing and then hired her to advocate for my children to get a proper IEP in place. It’s expensive and time-consuming.
It should be a federal law that every child has access to at least 30 minutes of recess, NOT in a classroom. All children struggle with a sensory disorder when they are young, and they need that time to regroup. This is why so many kids are on ADHD drugs. Their bodies are not designed to sit for 8 hours a day.
After School Programs should honor IEPS + Extended Test Time
At the height of my boys’ Dyslexia, they both tried out for a science program called Science Olympiad. Despite how smart my boys are they both failed the test because their accommodations such as extended test time where not provided for this after school program. Schools today are NOT required to to uphold IEPS and testing accommodations for after school programs and we need to change that.
Quiet Lunch Area
Too many children suffer from sensory disorders and are forced to eat lunch in loud cafeterias. Every school should have a program where children have an alternative lunch spot such as a classroom with just a few other kids; it will result in a much more productive school day. When my oldest was struggling with the cafeteria, I worked with our school to implement a solution called the Lunch Bunch Program. My son, along with a few other children, ate lunch on Fridays in a classroom; Fridays was when a DJ came into the lunchroom and blasted music. Many kids loved it; my son hated it; he couldn’t handle the noise factor. And the school has a legal obligation here as we paid taxes just like everyone else.