By Aurora Harris
Dear Readers, Parents, Friends, Colleagues, Constituents, Students, Professors, and Mentees,
Due to many calls about complaints from parents within the Detroit school district in general about school closures, transportation problems, and, calls from parents of special needs/disabled students that are experiencing compliance issues, please find below a list of what parents are complaining about as it relates to being under emergency financial management. Some of these complaints have been reported to EMF Robert Bobb. Other complaints have not been reported because some parents feel that their complaints are repeatedly disregarded.
They often say, “What’s the use in calling Robert Bobb? We keep complaining and nothing happens.” Some of these complaints were reported to news reporters, but the stories weren’t published in the papers, for whatever reason. Some of the complaints were even sent to advocates and legislators in Lansing.
Many parents feel that there is a major lack of communication from administration to parent, school to school, parent to parent, and parent group to parent group, including whatever is being reported or not reported by local news sources to the public… Basically, parents feel they aren’t being told about anything concerning changes in Federal and State laws that removed consent from IEP’s (individual education plans), and, other forms concerning their special needs children, and, the stories that illustrate their panic, distress, stress, and frustration are not being told or they are reported in a slanted way.
Today’s entry is not about sensationalism. This blog entry is about fall-out and fear…the stressful experiences of parents and special needs students. I was asked to write this entry by concerned parents, many of whom are afraid to step forward and be identified. I consider their request timely because as of yesterday, I received the following info from an advocate (that was distributed in September through October by other advocates). If you click on the links from the Michigan Department of Education- Office of Special Education, you can download the NEW AND REVISED forms to your desktop:
|MDE State and Due Process Complaint Documents – Revised/NewThe Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services (OSE-EIS) has released revised and new guidance documents regarding the state and due process complaints and procedures. The following are the four documents, now available for download on the Administrative Forms and Procedures page of the OSE-EIS website.
Please replace copies (hardcopies and/or those posted on your website) with these revised/new documents.
Please refer parents to the website for these forms/documents. For additional information or questions, call: (888) 320-8384.
Harvalee Saunto, Coordinator
What you are about to read are some of the things that happens to special needs/disabled children and non-English speaking parents and children when public education in Detroit is being destroyed during the ‘takeover” or “downsizing” of the schools and the city. Many special needs students are labeled as failures and discriminated against. Certified special ed teachers and caring support staff are fired, resource support for children with Autism, ADD, Speech, Brain injuries, and severe disabilities are canceled, and transition adults due to compliance issues are either not admitted or placed into vocational training or forced into a curriculum where they sit all day to do “paperwork”… not receiving hands on training.
If you have had an experience like these, please feel free to add your experience or concerns by writing in the “Comments” section. You may join this blog and advocates will forward you important information to assist you. If you want to remain anonymous, just go to the sidebar in this blog and find an advocacy group that can assist you.
The following complaints were reported to various advocates of special needs children and their parents between September 2010 to the present time.
Due to parents being targeted and fear within the district, parents do not want to be identified. Some parents feel that these violations are taking place because of major firings of staff, teachers, personnel, counselors, bi-lingual personnel in schools, transportation and safety departments. Certain parents that serve on a special ed parents’ committee have also been targeted due to complaints concerning their child or children. Many parents feel that ALL teachers, principals, staff, resource support staff, personnel, and the current Detroit Public Schools Board are not to blame for what has been out of compliance for the past two years.
Parental Consent has been removed from IEP’s after the Initial IEP. Some parents feel that just because you remove the Parent Consent sign off line and the boxes where parents can check off whether they agree or disagree with the IEP, that the removal of the signature of the parent DOES NOT REMOVE THE LAWS OR THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAWS AND PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS THAT PROTECT THEM AND THEIR CHILDREN. LAWS AND PROTECTIONS INCLUDE IDEA, 504, CIVIL RIGHTS, AMERICAN DISABILITIES ACT, PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS FOR PARENTS AND MENTAL HEALTH RECIPIENT RIGHTS.
I. TRANSPORTATION ISSUES THAT PLACE CHILDREN IN HARMS WAY AND CREATES SAFETY ISSUES
1. Special needs children being dropped off at different schools that parents did not enroll them in. This caused panic among parents that tried to find their children.
2. Special needs children were still sitting at home waiting for transportation to pick them up as late as October.
3. Special needs students dropped off “at nearest corner” instead of “curb to curb” or “door to door” which means pick up from home to school and return from school to home.
4. IEP transportation instructions are being changed to “pick up” and drop off at nearest corner” which poses safety issues for all special needs/disabled children.
Questions that were asked by an elder parent: “If I am on a walker or wheelchair, disabled myself, and my child is in a wheelchair, is the school, or city or state going to send me someone to help me and my child through the snow to the nearest corner?” What if the bus is late? Why do we have to stand on a corner in the middle of winter running the risk of getting ill?” Why is cab service for disabled kids cancelled?”
5. Parent reported staff not securing wheelchair bound child properly for transport. Bus attendant not securing child properly at all. ADA violation, IDEA violation, 504 violation
6. Bus attendant and/or driver inappropriately and illegally questioning special needs child about address and illegally, without verifying with parent or giving notification, changed student’s transportation instructions, changed parent and child address, and changed phone number to a non working phone number. All changes are violations of IEP, ADA, IDEA, 504 and Privacy
7. No Bi-lingual translators on buses or in Transportation or information in other languages to help non-English speaking parents locate or find their children when buses are late or student does not arrive at home.
8. No bus personnel on buses that are trained sign language for the deaf and hearing impaired.
II. BI-LINGUAL ISSUES
a. No Bi-lingual staff at Welcome Center, Placement office, Transportation, Security or schools to assist with enrollment or placement in Special education classes or programs, or to assist in emergency situations for non-English speaking Spanish, Arab, Hindi, Bengali, or Hmong populations (Discrimination, Civil Rights)
III. UNSAFE SCHOOL BUILDINGS, CLASSROOMS AND
TRANSFER OF STUDENTS WITHOUT PARENTS BEING NOTIFIED IN A TIMELY MANNER (IEP Violations, Prior Written Notice procedures violated: IDEA, ADA, 504 CIVIL RIGHTS)
The Spanish speaking population reports:
a. No Bi-lingual staff at schools to assist non-English speakers with enrollment process.
b. New security team harassing special needs students at a high school.
c. Under the imposed “Inclusion” model. Students transferred from one Academy to a High School without giving Prior Written Notice or notification in a timely manner. Parents did not understand why students were moved without their consent. Some could not find their children until they could get info from a Spanish speaking student. (IEP, Prior Written Notice violation)
2. Parents of special needs students saw mice and/or rats and reported infestation in a school that already has ADA violations on it. Parents and students concerned about rat or mice contamination in food that is served to students. Parents and students are expected to “bear with” the fact that nothing will be done to fix the school until students are moved to a school that is being refurbished. Violations include: mice in classrooms, broken glass in a door, 16 doors that need repair, holding students back from being placed in vocational programs like commercial foods because of kitchen violations.
Parents are repeatedly told to “Call Robert Bobb.” Parents have been told that “nothing can be done until construction on the refurbished building is completed.” Parents repeatedly called facilities department until they sent staff to “put down more traps.”
One of the questions from parents is: WHY ARE OTHER GENERAL ED STUDENTS GETTING NEW SCHOOLS OR MOVED INTO REFURBISHED SCHOOLS QUICKLY AND OUR SPECIAL NEEDS /DISABLED STUDENTS EXPECTED TO BE IN A RAT INFESTED SCHOOL? Parents report that special needs/disabled students are illegally withheld from being placed in hands-on training and vocational programs for up to two years while construction is taking place on the re-furbished school that will not be ready until February? or March? or June? or September? 2011.
IV. DUE TO PERSONNEL / TEACHER FIRINGS and INCLUSION: NOT ENOUGH CERTIFIED TEACHERS AND RESOURCE STAFF, RESOURCES FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN ARE BEING CANCELLED.
1. Parent reported their school had to wait two months to get certified Special Ed Teachers
2. Under the “Inclusion” or General Ed model, special needs children are placed in overcrowded class rooms. Parents feel that overcrowding is a safety issue.
3. Parents reported student had speech therapy canceled. Some parents were told “Your child talks better than the other ones” as a reason to cancel speech therapy.
4. Parents reported that students’ resources are being canceled because they “Plateaued out” or “They have gone as far as they can go with this disability” or “They have reached the highest limit they can go”
5. Non Certified assistants are reported as running classes instead of teachers.
6. Parents feel that there is general attitude and air throughout the district that there is a discriminatory “lumping together or dumping” of all special needs/disabled students into “inclusive” or general ed classes without regard to the individuality of the student or consideration of their single or multiple disability.
While some special needs children were recently reported that they like inclusive classes, most special needs children are the subject of bullying, teasing, and harassment. Many children with severe disabilities or multi-disabilities are in specialized classes and cannot be mainstreamed.
Some parents feel that their special needs children may not be able to pass new charter school curriculum standards and fear that if they don’t meet AYP (annual yearly progress) the students will be further stigmatized and labeled as failures in schools labeled as failures, and dumped into overcrowded classrooms instead of being considered as being an “excellent or gifted students in an Excellent School” that is given the opportunity to have a classroom with fewer students and more individual attention from teachers.
Some parents feel that the current model of education is treating all special needs children exactly the same as if they have exactly the same learning or physical challenges, without consideration to the multitude and combination of educational challenges and needs that have to be addressed.
Many parents of special needs children are not shown respect. They are either treated and talked to badly or targeted by certain school personnel to “make their lives hell” when they complain or try to get services or IEP’s completed.
One parent reported that in the past month, due to complaints about a school not scheduling IEP in a timely fashion, and, the IEP being late, staff A. TRIED TO CONDUCT AN IEP WITHOUT HER BEING PRESENT WITH JUST THE DAUGHTER, and B. LIED TO THE DAUGHTER AND TOLD HER THAT HER MOTHER CANCELED THE IEP WHEN THE MOTHER WAS IN THE PARKING LOT, and, C. THIS WEEK THEY CONVENED AN IEP WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN NOTICE (AT THE LAST MINUTE) WHILE THE PARENT WAS WAITING FOR RESPONSE TO A MEDIATION REQUEST BECAUSE THE IEP WAS CONTINUALLY DELAYED OR SCHEDULED AT THE LAST MINUTE. AT ONE IEP, THEY TRIED TO GET THE STUDENT TO SIGN THE PAPER WITHOUT HER MOTHER PRESENT.
Another parent reported that her special needs child is repeatedly harassed at school by “certain staff”. “Certain staff” appears to be picking on the student and stockpiling what can be construed as behavior issues that could lead to the student being expelled. This week the parent reported that the special needs student was pushed by a staff member and was injured. Case is being investigated.
…End of complaints…
The complaints you have just read came from parents who wish to remain anonymous. One of the pointst of the parents asking me to post them was to let other parents know what is going on in Detroit in hope that more parents will discuss and/or step forward with their issues. There are many people here in Detroit who would love to hear from parents in other cities just for moral support or to hear a kind word…and would love to hear from parents of special needs children in New Orleans, since Detroit is often compared with New Orleans.
In an effort to inform parents of special needs/disabled students of changes with IEP forms, other advocates and myself are scheduling workshops. On December 14, 2010 I will be at Detroit Transition Center West with parents of the East and West vocational schools for adult special needs transition students (aged 20-26) at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the changes with the IEP form, and, new forms that parents should know about. The school is located at 4800 Collingwood Street Detroit, MI 48204-1418 between Yellowstone and Cascade Streets.
Thank you for your time, Aurora Harris
By Aurora Harris
On December 6, 2010, regarding the case of the Detroit Board of Education vs Robert Bobb, Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, Case No. 09-020160 AW, Honorable Judge Wendy Baxter of the Circuit Court of the County of Wayne, ruled in favor of the Detroit Board of Education. A few days ago, I posted that I would post the legal document on this blog. However, due to the size of the document (over 60 pages long), I found that I couldn’t post it. Therefore, if anyone would like a copy of the case please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
With regard to the state of education in Detroit, my particular focus as a parent and advocate of an autistic person has been to bring to the forefront of discussions, whether they be at community, local and state, or academic levels, is the voice of parents with special needs/disabled children and transition adults in vocational schools.
From late August through October 8, 2010, I was a member of the Detroit Public Schools Academic Transition Team with two other parents of children with special needs, and, members of the community (parents, educators, public education supporters, reform supporters, charter school supporters). During those two and a half months, the concerns and issues of parents with special needs children in the Detroit Public Schools were brought to the discussion of education during the analysis of the DPS District Plans of former Superintendent Theresa Gueyser and the Excellent Schools reform plan of EMF Robert Bobb for the purpose of making recommendations to the Board and the new Superintendent.
During that time, if it had not been for the three of us parents with special needs children…Special Education, the certified special education teachers, and special needs students K-12, and transition students (aged 20-26) in Detroit’s only two adult vocational schools for disabled adults would not have been heard.
The 16 areas that we, The Team discussed and made recommendations included the following, with input from We, the Parents and Guardians of Special Needs/ Disabled Students:
- Assumptions (address assumptions about the District)
- Vision (develop a vision statement)
- Goals of the District / Schools (…goals for the educational process and issues emanating from the experiences of the committee members)
- ISSUES/ACTIONS/ RECOMMENDATIONS TO ACHIEVE VISION AND GOALS
- Personnel-Contract Issues
- Student Assessment
- Culture Issues
- Policies and Procedures
- Interactions (Student/Adult Relationships and involving parents as volunteers)
- Teaching and Learning
As I participated in the discussions and analyzed the plans with attention to the District, and, concerns with Special Education and Bi-lingual education and supports, some of the things that I spoke about were:
1. Under the current climate of reform in Detroit, there is the overall appearance of invisibility of Special Education, Special Needs Students, Parents, Certified Special Ed Teachers, Resource Support Staff, and, Bi-lingual instructors, Bi-lingual Support Staff, as if we and the laws at Federal, State, County, and Local levels that protect Special needs/ disabled children and adults do not exist. Within this appearance of invisibility are the people who have been rendered silent…people that can speak about the spectrum of disabilities that exist and their concerns with the Special needs and Bi-lingual education of our children.
On many occasions, the formula rhetoric and belief, “All we have to do is send them to school, get them educated, get them into college, get them a job” was presented without consideration to class, ethnicity, race, cultural and language differences, and spectrum of disabilities that exist. One of the things that parents with special needs children pointed out at the meetings was the fact that there was no plan within the Excellent Schools plan that addressed the education of Special needs children, their hopes, or dreams, or independence as transitioned adults. Other than longer class hours, increasing academic achievement, or meeting Annual Yearly Progress. There was no detailed plan whatsoever…no who, what, where, or, how to get Special needs K-12 students into post secondary vocational schools educated, working in the community, or into community colleges, colleges or universities. There was no mention of where parents could go to get assistance from the schools or the community. Therefore, it was up to us, to ensure that these things were mentioned, discussed, and included in our recommendations to the DPS Board and future Superintendent.
While I was basically reminded that “The Feds go to 21,” by one of the team members (like our children in adult transition vocational schools were already eliminated or nonexistent in the Detroit District or Wayne County for that matter) whenever I mentioned concerns with our children being trained and not being sent out to train in the community to obtain work skills, I found myself repeating and reminded people that “In Michigan, we go to age 26. Therefore, all laws that protect our children from birth to age 26 are still in effect.”
While members talked about how “education had to be inclusive,” I quickly pointed out that I found it ironic that while inclusion was mentioned, the exclusion of Special needs children and Special Education from discussion was practiced until we spoke up about it. I learned that in reform lingo that “inclusive” meant mainstreaming special needs students into general education classes, which many parents that I have spoken to disagree with because under the current EMF administration, there are not enough Special Ed, Resource, Bi-lingual or General Ed teachers in every school operating in the district. Most parents that I have spoken to do not want an non-certified “Ed Tech” teaching their children because they have not been trained in any area of disability.
2. With regard to the Board being rendered powerless and/or voiceless, so are parents of Special needs children, and others from the community. I pointed out at some of the meetings that many of our parents are not the “uncaring- uninvolved-dumb-special ed parents themselves- illiterate-undereducated” stereotype that has often been presented to me and promoted in the media as the “face” of Detroit’s poor, non-working, underemployed or working class citizens. On more than one occasion, I felt that if it had not been for two other community citizens and myself feeling the need to state our academic and professional backgrounds in relation to education, higher education, politics, social work, and civic literacy, in order to be heard or taken seriously, our voices would have continued to be ignored or talked over. Two of us told the team that we have children who are autistic.
Under the current education reform climate, there appears to be an air of “All disabled kids are the same…what they need as individuals doesn’t matter, so just put them in any general education class.” I mention this because in my case, with a person with Autism, there is a spectrum. Therefore, my child’s Autism is not the same as Michigan Lt. Governor-elect Calley’s child’s autism. That is why there is a name for the disability called AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER.
3. Within Detroit’s population of English speaking Special Needs students and their parents, exists an internal population of those who are non English Speaking and English Language Learners, particularly the Spanish, Arab, Hmong, Bengali, and Hindi speaking populations. While I was challenged on the fact that non-English speaking students are not considered “Special Ed,” I brought up the fact that in many cases, non English Speaking students are often times placed into Special Education classes, and, we need more translators for both educational and safety related concerns.
4. With regard to the “75,000 existing students in DPS,” I put forth to the Team, made up of those from the Educational Reform groups in favor of the Bobb Plan, and, members of the community, the fact that I disagreed with that number. As a researcher with a background in sociology and education, I disagreed based on the absence of population statistics that include both general education and special education students from the previously mentioned ethnic groups, that are also a part of the City of Detroit, that may still be sitting at home, left un-enrolled in our schools due to a. The lack of Bi-lingual staff, educators, and Resource persons to assist in the enrollment process, and, b. The lack of Bi-lingual staff to assist in explaining what Special education is to non-English Speaking parents, and, c. Feelings of helplessness, fear, and/or intimidation when faced with an enrollment process where everyone around you cannot communicate with you or your child.
Therefore, if the parents and students from those populations could be located and properly instructed in their languages about the enrollment process, Special Education, and services that are available through the District, I believe, that the District’s student population would increase.
5. The Federal and State mandated removal of parental consent from Individual Education Plans after the Initial IEP, and, the implications and future effects on Special needs students, their parents, and Special Education educators.
At this point, I will now turn my attention to the new Governor, Assistant Governor, Legislators of the State of Michigan, The Mayors, Provosts and Deans of “teacher universities, colleges and programs,” and employed certified Special Education Teachers, Social Workers, Psychologists and Resource Assistants, to ask “market economy” questions as they relate to proposed changes of the Michigan Constitution and Detroit’s City Charter…questions that I have asked constituents and colleagues:
1. While the “Inclusion” or “General Education” model of Educational Reform is foregrounded in discussions at every level of government in the State of Michigan when it comes to Special needs/disabled students… If Michigan has a high joblessness and unemployment rate, and Special Education is eliminated in the State of Michigan, wouldn’t the elimination of that area of education create more unemployment as it relates to professors in universities and colleges that specialize in Education or have programs that teach people how to become teachers in the area of Special Education?
2. What will teachers or educators who are certified as Highly Qualified Special Education Teachers do when they are fired from their jobs, lose their health benefits, retirement or pension funds?
3. What will the Special Education Social Workers and Psychologists or “”Psyche Evaluation Teams” do when they are fired from their jobs?
4. Who will the State of Michigan and City of Detroit be hiring to replace those who are experienced in every or most or some areas of special need / disability; and have certification; and are qualified to teach, counsel, or render a social, psychological, or educational opinion about Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Sight Impairment, Speech Impairment, Hearing Impairment, wheel chair bound students, or disabilities across the board?
5. As a parent of guardian of a special needs / disabled child, who do you want teaching your children?
6. As a parent or guardian of a special needs/ disabled child or children, regardless of your age, sex, education level, etcetera, do you know how to educate your child yourself or know the laws so that you can advocate effectively on behalf of your child?
7. As a parent or guardian of a special need/disabled child are you economically sound enough, “liquid enough,” or wealthy enough to take on the responsibilities of educating your child at home and providing the support services that your child needs, or, hiring someone who can? For aunts, uncles, elder grandparent or great grandparent caretakers, how much time do you really have to seek out support services or train your transition adult in employable skills?
Overall, the things that I have mentioned, are things that I feel parents and guardians of special needs children should be thinking about or discussing. All of these things I have brought to your attention today are things that I feel can open up areas of legal study and discussion for any parent, student, or educator to investigate in relation to discrimination and violations of IDEA, American Disability Act, 504, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Mental Health Recipient Rights, and, other laws, amendments and mandates… the history of reasons…the why and how, during the past and existing administration under an EMF or State takeover, the many things in Detroit’s School District that led to continued non-compliance as we know and experience today, how an elected Board can be rendered null, and how an entire population of special needs students, their parents, and educators, are rendered invisible and voiceless within the current climate of education reform in Detroit.
In conclusion, while I feel that the effort to eliminate special education in the State of Michigan and Detroit is underway, I would like to remind everyone that special needs and disabilities cut across all political party lines. Please see Fox 2 News: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/generic/health/healthworks_autism
Michigan’s Lt. Governor-elect Brian Calley is in favor of autism insurance reform in the state. He joined FOX 2’s Deena Centofanti Friday morning to share his family’s story and give reasons why the change is needed