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Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD

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"The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." - Mahatma Gandhi

Helping students who have disabilities meet their full potential requires that the Special Education services they receive be customized so that their unique needs are met. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

To properly develop an individualized plan, the IEP team, which includes parents, students, teachers, specialists, and school-based administrators, must be fully empowered to make decisions at the school site. Unfortunately, these local teams are often prevented from crafting appropriate plans for students due to the rigid rules set by LAUSD bureaucrats. As a result, needed programs are not made available, students are forcibly mainstreamed when it is not appropriate, and the district misses opportunities for meaningful inclusion with general education students. These pervasive failures have resulted in deep frustrations within the Special Education community.

If "the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members," then history will judge our school district poorly. The proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution would change this trajectory and set a path that would help all students reach their full potential.

The seating of a new school board that includes a pro-public school majority provides an opportunity to promote change in how Special Education services are distributed within the district. I am, therefore, recirculating the proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution to the board members. To build momentum for its passage I have also started a petition to Scott Schmerelson, an ally who chairs the board's Special Education Committee. Please add your name to this petition and share it so that we can build the momentum needed for the board to act. Our most vulnerable students are depending on you.

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Resolution: Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD

Whereas, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) states that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.";

Whereas," the district's current strategic plan, titled "Ready for the World", states that the "singular goal" of the LAUSD is to ensure that "ALL our students graduate READY FOR THE WORLD - to thrive in college, career, and life";

Whereas, not all students have the ability to attend college. Nor do all students have plans for the future that include a need for a college education;

Whereas, by the nature of their disabilities, it is not appropriate to educate some students in facilities designed for use by students in general education;

Whereas, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has facilities, referred to as Special Education Centers, that are specially designed to accommodate the needs of severely disabled students;

Whereas, the LAUSD has engaged in a policy of depopulating these Special Education Centers;

Whereas, by the nature of their disabilities, some students achieve better outcomes when placed in specialized classrooms separate from their peers in general education;

Whereas, the LAUSD, over the objection of parents, has forced the removal of programs like AutCore from schools in order to force these students into an inclusive environment;

Whereas, the LAUSD currently forces parents and guardians to sign a confidentiality agreement when settling due process cases against the district;

Whereas, confidentiality agreements prevent parents from exchanging complete information with other parents in similar circumstances;

Whereas, the District currently has a policy of having special education "experts" visit classrooms and force changes to the operation of individual classrooms;

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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