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Still Waiting For The School Board To Take Action

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"Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need."
"- Rick Riordan

Last month, elected representatives on the LAUSD School Board were provided with a copy of the proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution and asked for their support. This proposal would change the focus of how services are provided to the district's most vulnerable students and ensure that their needs are prioritized.

Unfortunately, none of the board members have stepped forward to indicate that they will sponsor the resolution so that it can move ahead. I, therefore, took the opportunity to use public comment at February's Committee of the Whole meeting to make another appeal to them:

My wife, Nicole, and I will celebrate our wedding anniversary in April. On that day 15 years ago on Tom Sawyer's Island in Disneyland, she and I made promises not only to each other but also to the five children we brought into our blended family. From that day forward our journeys were joined together.

Becoming a dad to three eight-year-old girls is a daunting task. The fact that two of these daughters were on the severe end of the Autism spectrum increased the complexity of the challenge. It was a responsibility that I faced head-on. I may not have always known what I was doing, but I was determined to do everything I could to help them reach their full potential.

When I first started attending IEP meetings, I mainly deferred to what the teachers recommended. After all, they are the experts and I trusted them. However, before too long it became apparent that changes were needed. I slowly found the courage to push back. Sometimes, my input would be accepted, but if I went too far beyond the boundaries, I would hit a dead end.

My wife and I will always be grateful for two members of our daughters' IEP teams who were brave enough to pull us aside to let us know that what we were asking for was reasonable and would help our daughters make progress. They both told us that if it were up to them they would make the changes we had asked for but that the LAUSD would not let them. The suggestion was then made to refuse to sign the IEP and force the appeals process. We were also warned that if we told anyone that they had made this suggestion, they would get in trouble.

My wife and I did what was suggested and then searched for a lawyer who would take the case on a contingency basis. The lawyer we found filled out the paperwork and eventually we ended up in a conference room high up in the Beaudry building for the mediation process.

The first day dragged on as offers and counteroffers went back and forth. Nicole and I began to feel like the adults involved had lost sight that this process was about the children. When we had to return for a second round, we brought one of our daughters along. With her sitting there we hoped that they would remember that this was all about her.

As we neared the end of the second day, I turned to my wife and said someone has to fix this system. She turned to me and said, "what about you?"

The proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" is the result of the work that I have done for the past eight years not only on behalf of my daughters but for all children who receive special education services. I have listened to desperate parents frustrated by a system that wants to shoehorn their child into a "one size fits all" solution. I have spoken with teachers who want to do the right thing but are limited by a bureaucracy that does not seem to recognize that the "I" in the IEP is "Individualized." I have seen children thrive when given opportunities that others do not have access to because their parents have not figured out how to fight the system.

I respectfully ask that one of you sponsor my proposed resolution so that it can move forward. Taking this action would make a huge difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.

A selfie with two of my daughters
A selfie with two of my daughters
(Image by Carl J. Petersen)
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You can help push the Board to take action on this resolution by signing this petition. Support can also be expressed during the public comment period at the Special Education Committee meeting on March 1. The meeting starts at 5:00 pm and comments are usually placed on the agenda for the end of the meeting. To provide comment, follow these instructions provided by the District:

(Image by LAUSD)   Details   DMCA

Follow this link for the Speaker Sign Up website.

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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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