I find I’m sharing the links in this blog on a very frequent basis. And because I’m lazy, I decided to write this so I can refer to one place for parents of children in California who are fighting for inclusion…when it shouldn’t be a fight at all.
First thing you must know, if you are asking for anything different than in the past you must have a district-level person present. Director of Special Education is preferred. Many times school-level personnel do not have the authority to grant you what your child needs in the way of paraprofessionals, assigned educators to modify curriculum, etc.
You can make this request in your IEP request. If they are not present—then you will end up with yet another meeting to resolve your child’s needs…and everyone attending the IEP will be frustrated.
Special Education Rights and Responsibilities
Every parent needs to know the California Special Education Laws. Community Alliance For Special Education has everything you need to know on the law—written in Layman’s terms in a question and answer format. While the CD is only $25, the $45 for the printed book is priceless. When you place the book on the table at the beginning of your IEP with post-it-notes sticking out all over the place you just told everyone that you know the law and your child’s rights. And at your fingertips are the statutes to quote. You will never need to open this book in an IEP, and arguments fade. http://www.caseadvocacy.org/order_handbook.html
Reforming Education to Serve All Students
A Special Education Task Force has made recommendations to unify our education system in California. They are calling for all students, including students with disabilities to be considered general education students first. This 98 page report addresses the need for all districts to adopt Response to Intervention, a Multi-tiered System of Supports application of Universal Design for Learning techniques, and calls for all students with disabilities to have access to comprehensive and effective transition programs aligned around college/career/independent living standards and expectations.
This task force also addressed the Educator Preparation and Professional Learning Framework and Recommendations in order for the implementation to be successful. If you child seems to be the first to be included in your school or district, then you will be helping them to be prepared for the changes that are coming in all districts in California
Inclusion in Extracurricular Activities
The majority of the second half of my book, “Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion,” addressed the hoops that Sean’s school jumped through to exclude him from extracurricular activities. The Civil Rights Complaint that we filed didn’t go unheard. In 2010 the US Government Accountability Office Completed an investigative report revealing that equal access was NOT being provided for extracurricular activities. This resulted in the US Department of Education providing additional detailed guidance report in 2011 on the school’s legal responsibility to provide equal access to extracurricular opportunities to students with disabilities.
Disability Rights California produced this document to address the clarification.
The full document from the Office of Civil Rights that was sent to school districts is located here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201301-504.pdf
A huge change in fall 2014 the US Department of Education’s Policy Statement of Inclusion of Children With Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs. From this policy, “It is well documented that the beginning years of all children’s lives are critical for building the early foundations of learning and wellness needed for success in school and later in life. During these years, children’s brains develop rapidly, influenced by the experiences they share with their families, teachers, peers, and in their communities. Like all children, it is critical for children with disabilities to be exposed to a variety of rich experiences where they can learn in the context of play and everyday interactions and engage with their peers with and without disabilities. In partnership with families, high-quality early childhood programs can facilitate the experiences that foster learning for all children.”
This is by far the biggest change we have seen in inclusive education in 25 years. It previously had been decided that school districts didn’t provide preschool classes for typical children, so they were not forced to provide an inclusive classroom placement until kindergarten.
While your District Level administrators are all aware of these items, your school level administrators may not be. You aren’t responsible for educating them, that is why it is critical you have someone from the district at your IEPs.
Lawsuit Against the California Department of Education
Because our districts have repeatedly broken Special Education Laws and gambled that parents don’t know the law, they have succeeded over and over in pigeon-holing children with disabilities in segregated classroom settings. The California Concerned Parents Association was formed and has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Education for not enforcing the special education laws. For information on that suit information is available here:
Your Child is Relying On YOU
Parents, you are the only person who can stand up for your child’s rights. While we want to believe all educators have our children’s best interests at heart, sadly many have not kept up on the evidence that Inclusive Classrooms in general education is where all children learn the best. You will be with your child for the rest of your life—let’s give them the best shot at success by making sure they receive the best education, starting now.