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Our Kids Can’t Wait

LAUSD bureaucrats say that “placement continues to be an IEP decision” but eliminate options by taking away Special Education classes from this school.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished about a month ago 4 min read
Our Kids Can’t Wait
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“The placement continues to be an IEP decision and it is based on the individual student’s needs. There is definitely still a need for special day programs or other classes that are more restrictive for our students.

– LAUSD Department of Special Education

The Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (VOCES) Magnet community knows what it is like to have the LAUSD ignore the needs of its students. For years this school was forced to co-locate with the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) even as that charter school established a record of mismanagement that included allegations of sexual assault, illegal assessment of student fees, violations of the labor code, and fraudulent use of government funds. Allegations of VOCES students and staff being harassed were not enough to force the District to take action. A School Board member even defended NVMI at a meeting where the charter school’s representative called for the public school to be evicted from its own campus to free up additional space.

Children with Special Education needs were particularly affected by the co-location arrangement with NVMI. Like all Los Angeles schools forced to give up space under PROP-39, VOCES was not allowed to protect space used for providing Special Education services when José Cole-Gutiérrez and the Charter School Division lied and said that state law would not allow it. Students at the charter school were alleged to have taunted a VOCES student participating in an Adaptive P.E. class. In another incident, staff found this student “upset and crying” because “several NVMI students were making fun of him by pointing and laughing at him.”

NVMI’s rejection of the LAUSD’s PROP-39 offer for the current school year and subsequent closure should have given the Special Education community at VOCES an opportunity to thrive. Instead, the downtown LAUSD bureaucrats created new challenges by eliminating the school’s one Special Day Class for Moderate to Severe students. Since this class was no longer available, some families were forced to transfer to other schools. The ones who wanted to stay reluctantly accepted the Mild to Moderate class even though it was inappropriate to meet the needs of the students.

Knowing the harm faced by students if the school were to lose the remaining Special Education classroom, the teachers made sure to recruit at neighboring middle schools with students who were culminating and searching for a new campus. Combined with students whose families had committed to return, the community was confident they had the numbers to maintain the program next year.

Unfortunately, LAUSD bureaucrats have decided otherwise and have informed parents that “based on numbers” the school will not have a Mild to Moderate special day class next year. They will either have to move to another school or be forced to mainstream, even if the IEP team agrees that this is not in the best interests of the students. These bureaucrats pretend that “placement continues to be an IEP decision,” even though decision-making for these teams has been preempted by the District’s decimation of a program that provided opportunities for inclusion based on the needs of the students.

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;

Protecting programs like the one being eliminated at VOCES was one of the goals when I wrote the proposed “Improving Special Education within the LAUSD” resolution. Recognizing that “to the maximum extent appropriate” is a significant and important part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, this measure would ensure that self-contained specialized Special Education environments will continue to operate on general education campuses. Doing so would fulfill the promise of the District to give IEP teams the ability to place students in the classroom setting that they decide collaboratively is best for the student.

Unfortunately, no sitting School Board Member has stepped up to support this proposal. In Board District 7, Tanya Ortiz Franklin promised to look into supporting it but never followed through. Jackie Goldberg ran on a promise to support Special Education services but has not responded to requests to sponsor this resolution. During her campaign, Dr. Rocio Rivas agreed to sponsor and support the proposed resolution but has yet to do so.

Most disappointing is Scott Schmerelson’s refusal to back this much-needed protection for students that he often champions, costing him my endorsement and my vote. As someone who has fought for the Locrantz Special Education Center, he knows how much these protections are needed but seems unwilling to take on District bureaucrats who somehow think that providing parents with choices runs counter to the federal law that enshrines the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with Special Education needs.

Dan Chang, Schmerelson’s opponent in the November runoff, has refused to answer any of the questions posed in the LAUSD Candidate Forum series, including the ones about Special Education. Therefore, voters do not know his position on the proposed resolution.

While members of the Special Education community in Board District 3 do not have someone who has committed to supporting the proposal, both candidates in BD1, Sherlett Hendy Newbill and Kahlid Al-Alim, have promised to sponsor and work for the passage of the proposed “Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD” resolution. So has Karla Griego in BD5. Her opponent, Graciela Ortiz, refused to answer the question.

The parents of VOCES need the protections provided by the proposed resolution and cannot wait any longer for its passage. To join Newbill, Al-Alim, and Griego in urging the passage of this measure, you can sign the petition at bit.ly/SpEdpetition.

______________________

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. 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 www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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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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    Carl J. PetersenWritten by Carl J. Petersen

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