School Issues

We will also include several articles on experiences with local school districts and how attitudes can affect the education of a child with a disability. Here is an example.

Matthew began attending an Early Intervention class provided by our county board of MRDD when he was only eight weeks old.  He attended these classes for the next four years and made steady progress.  At age five, he was transitioned into the multi-handicapped unit in our school district.  This is a segregated special education class and the primary focus is teaching Reading and Life Skills.

By the time he was seven, I was concerned that Matthew hadn’t even begun to learn how to read or write.  During our annual IEP meeting I suggested that he begin learning academic skills such as reading and writing.

The school personnel was appalled and promptly informed me that “Kids like these can’t learn such things.”  When I insisted, I was told that academics aren’t taught in this kind of class.  So I asked that he be included in a class where academics are taught.  They flatly refused.  Rather than agree to his continued placement in this segregated special education class, I secured an attorney and filed for a due process hearing to have him included in the regular educational environment.

At my request, the State Department of Education agreed to provide a mediator to help the school district and myself come to an agreeable resolution.  I wanted to avoid the school and myself becoming adversaries. Unfortunately, the mediation was unsuccessful. The school district insisted Matthew remain in this special education class and refused to consider any other options.  The due process hearing went forward and eventually I prevailed.

I was elated that Matthew would finally have increased educational opportunities, but my joy was short-lived.  Matthew began coming home from school upset and frustrated.  It took only a few weeks for me to discover that his inclusion in this class was becoming a complete disaster because his IEP was not being implemented.  Many of the services and supports he received in the special education class were not provided in the regular educational environment.  I wanted to know why and that question was answered at a subsequent meeting.

During this meeting, the school district claimed they lacked the expertise to implement Matthew’s IEP in the regular educational setting.  The school superintendent stated, “Historically, this district, this community has always embraced the philosophy of being exclusive, not inclusive.” He thought a school district that practiced “inclusive education” might be more appropriate for my son.

The school superintendent also explained that it would take the school district three to five years to acquire the expertise needed to implement Matthew’s IEP in the regular educational setting.  After looking into this I discovered that since my school district will not accept students from another district, no school district could be found who was willing to accept a student from here.

Since the school district was still unable (or unwilling) to provide an appropriate education for Matthew, I filed a formal complaint with the state department of education.   As a resolution to this complaint, my school district agreed to provide tuition for him to attend a private school in a nearby town.  Although the Nicholas School only teaches kindergarten through eighth grade, the district superintendent assured me they would use the time to gain the expertise needed to provide an appropriate education when Matthew returned.

As ordered by the state department of education, my school district did acquire the expertise they needed to include children with disabilities in the regular educational setting but they are not implementing it.  As I understand it, they were only ordered to get the training.  Nobody said they actually had to use it.

Matthew should have been transitioned back into the public school at the beginning of the 2011 school year, but the district did not have an appropriate program for him.  During the 2011 school year I attended monthly meetings with the local school district representative to determine what educational options are now available to Matthew.

I was told the county MH units had been improved and was urged to check them out.  I visited three and was not favorably impressed.  After many meetings it was finally agreed that the most appropriate educational placement for Matthew within our school district would be the developmentally disabled class at the high school.  The next step was to develop a transition plan to ensure that Matthew’s move into the high school would be successful.