Distance Learning and Special Education

Are Some Students Being Left in the Dark?

Does the Goleta Unified School District feel that they are above the law and have authority to violate a student’s civil rights under IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]? There are federal laws that specifically outline the rights of parents to be involved and participate in the creation of any IEP [Individualized Education Program] or placement plan for their child whether the IEP is in emergency times or not. I would like to draw attention to the fact that with the order for the schools to close there were no waivers given to the rights granted under IDEA, therefore to create an IEP or placement plan without involving the parents or to change their services without indication of what services are to be changed is a violation of the students civil rights under IDEA. The district cannot strip parents of their rights to have active involvement in the educational plan or placement for their child.

Secondly, we are now in the third week of school and no one has provided any IEP or description of service changes to us or even a letter describing what my child’s services are to look like. In fact, when asked to schedule an IEP meeting, I told them that I object to them making any changes to my son’s current IEP service provisions and that he already had an IEP meeting at the end of last year. I would like to remind the district that they should tread lightly where a disabled students civil rights are concerned, in particular where a parent’s right to advocate for their child is being denied. The GUSD is not above the law, and the federal provisions provided for under IDEA have not been waived nor repealed. I personally find this letter offensive and misleading to those parents who are not as familiar with the special education laws and their rights provided under these laws.

I would like to know why GUSD has decided to not follow the guidance given last week by Governor Gavin Newsom stating that the schools should reopen only for specific populations of the special needs communities and certain at-risk youth. These are the most vulnerable members of the entire student population who are at risk of serious regression or in other cases worse. What’s more upsetting is that the school has an obligation to protect children and report incidences of suspected abuse or neglect in normal times however they don’t’ feel obligated to provide in-person instruction to at-risk students who may be at greater risk of abuse and neglect during a school shutdown? This was also provided for under the guidance issued by Newsom on August 24.

I find it particular interesting that the district is so concerned about the risk of exposure to COVID and how to provide for the safety of the students and the staff if they are to reopen for the special needs and at risk population of students when there are already student cohorts receiving in-person educational services currently. I am aware that the district has offered in-person education to the children of their instructional staff. Yet they can’t seem to find a way to provide similar cohort group education to the special needs students who have necessary services that can only be delivered through in person instruction? And who are also typically unable to access their education via distance learning plan no matter what devices or aides are offered?

From all aspects this appears to be an injustice where our education system should put favor upon the educational opportunities of the few at the expense of the most vulnerable members entrusted into their care. I think it is time that someone finally stand up and say something and call attention to the fact of what is happening. Teachers are considered part of the Critical Infrastructure as are many of the parents who are now at risk of losing their jobs due to GUSD’s decision to not apply for the waiver to reopen.

Parents are now faced with having to decide between potentially losing their employment which provides the means for them to support their family and provide for their children or denying their children the fundamental education that they need to succeed in this world. And in either instance the only true victim in all of this is the child. They are robbed of their social circles and communities of friendships leaving them frustrated and fragile and very isolated many times. They receive less than the standard for education as many of them have siblings which forces the parent to make decisions between how education and instruction time is divided so many students do not receive all the necessary instruction that they are offered. I hope you can take these talking points into consideration when thinking about the educational plans for the special needs community. I know that I plan to bring attention to it because something needs to change.

In an age where civil rights is of such extreme importance, I urge you to consider the lives of those who are most fragile and can’t speak for themselves or aren’t capable of doing so. Disabled lives matter too! In closing I would like to share with you a picture of the shocking disparity between the provisions offered to the general education community in relation to that offered to the special education community. This is just an example that came to my attention on the day that homeschooling supplies were being distributed. I came to receive the supplies and educational materials for my twins who are in 1st grade; one in special education and one in general education. This is what they received.

It was heartbreaking to see the level of inequality that was undeniable and quite evident put before me like this. I have to ask what student in 1st grade does not use pencils or markers or crayons of some sort? Last time I checked all students have some sort of writing utensil even if it is an assistive device. Why would the school not think to offer writing utensils to its special needs population of students yet the general education students received beautiful baskets full of colorful textbooks and bound worksheets, white boards, paints , glue among many other items so carefully packaged in such a lovely way. I know that the school has since then tried to offer my special ed student items in an effort to correct the problem. But I am left to wonder whether or not any of the other parents of disabled students are being offered the same make up provisions or are they just left in the dark? This is not to say that all of the special education classes received the same treatment, I know that new incoming students in special education likely received materials more consistent with that of their peers. Much of the difficulty in raising a child with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities is the need for constant supervision in order to protect for their safety and well-being. The schools have a whole team of people while distance learning holds only one.

I do hope you take these points into consideration at your next meeting and possibly consider making some changes in the way the district is handling the Special education instruction. I feel it is time that things change for the better for all students especially those who are most vulnerable as we have a social responsibility to care for these individuals and offer assistance so that they might achieve their potential. They are not just throw aways, and their education is not wasted funding. They have a place in society just the same as you or I do.


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