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Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD

A proposed resolution is being circulated to the LAUSD Board that would refocus the district’s SpEd policies to make them student-centered.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished about a year ago 5 min read

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.

QR Code For The Petition

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;

Whereas, the District has punished teachers and other staff members for informing parents of their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Now, therefore, be it:

Resolved, that it is the policy of the LAUSD to recognize that “to the maximum extent appropriate” is a significant and important part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act;

Resolved, that the District will allow parents to decide how the “maximum extent appropriate” applies to their child. District staff can advocate positions counter to the parent’s wishes during the IEP process but cannot force them into compliance;

Resolved, that the LAUSD recognizes that it is responsible for providing a high-quality education to all students, including those with special education needs;

Resolved, the LAUSD affirms that its mission is to ensure that all students meet their full potential, regardless of their academic capabilities.

Resolved, the LAUSD recognizes that all students do not have the ability to move on to college. The education of these students is also important to the District and it will provide high-quality, alternative programs for those students.

Resolved, that the Special Education Centers will continue to be operated on specialized campuses, will be fully funded, and will not be co-located on general education campuses;

Resolved, that Special Education Centers will continue to be offered to parents of children with disabilities during the IEP process and will not be denied to them as an option;

Resolved, to achieve the important goal of inclusion, a magnet school will be created and operate on a Special Education Center campus. This school will serve students who have an interest in careers related to special education;

Resolved, that the LAUSD will continue to operate self-contained, specialized special education environments on general education campuses. Schools will not be dissuaded from operating these classes and they will receive the appropriate funding from the district separate from their general education budget;

Resolved, that programs like AutCore will continue to be offered to parents of children with disabilities during the IEP process and will not be denied to them as an option;

Resolved, to achieve the important goal of inclusion, the district will support programs like Peer Buddies that bring general education students into the special education classroom;

Resolved, that the LAUSD values input from parents and encourages them to learn about the options for educating their students including unimpeded conversations with other parents;

Resolved, that the LAUSD will discontinue the use of confidentiality agreements in resolving special education due process cases. Previously signed agreements will not be enforced;

Resolved, classroom teachers are held accountable for ensuring that students are achieving their full potential;

Resolved, classroom teachers, parents, and students should be given the ability to decide what methods work best in their classroom for their students and should not be forced to adopt methods suggested by District “experts.” This does not preclude the District from stepping in to prevent harmful behavior or to remedy situations that endanger students, nor does it preclude parents and students from advocating for the needs of individuals;

Resolved, Vice-Principals, teachers, aids, and other staff have the right to discuss all educational options with the parents and guardians in their school community. If their advice is counter to District policy, they must inform the parent of the District’s policy but cannot be punished in any way for expressing their own opinion.

Revised: 12/18/2022


Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.


About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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