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Who Is Advocating For The School District's Most Vulnerable Students?

It is over a month into the school year and the Special Education advocates in the LAUSD's Community Advisory Committee have still not met.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 5 months ago 4 min read
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“An extensive investigation has revealed that the LAUSD office, SFaCE, improperly formed this Appointment Committee in a manner that was both improper, impotent and incompetent.”

– LAUSD CAC Chair, John “JP” Perron

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is the state-mandated advocate for Special Education in the LAUSD. In addition to providing the School Board, the Superintendent, and the District staff with advice about how to improve the delivery of services to the District's most vulnerable students, it educates parents on how to best navigate the complex bureaucracy. This year it is also charged with providing community input during the revision of the SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area), the document that defines how the District will provide these services.

Despite this heavy workload, the LAUSD's CAC has yet to hold its first meeting for this current school year, leaving those with Special Education needs voiceless. I addressed this problematic situation as part of my comments during Tuesday morning's Board Meeting:

Back in June the Department of Students, Family and Community Engagement (SFACE) presented this board with a proposed membership list for the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that purged experienced members, including the elected chair. After this was brought to your attention the approval of this list was pulled from the agenda with the expectation that the process would be revisited.

Unfortunately, the next iteration of the proposed membership was almost exactly the same as the first. However, the delay was useful in that it provided additional time to delve into the bylaws that are supposed to govern the selection process.

As was reported to you in August, these bylaws state that it is the CAC, not SFaCE that is supposed to control the process. It is the CAC that is charged with establishing an Appointment Committee and selecting half of its members. The Appointment Committee is empowered to create the rubric used to judge the qualifications of the candidates. Since none of this was done, the item was pulled from the agenda again, once again with the hope that the proper procedure would finally be followed.

Unfortunately, there is no indication that SFaCE is willing to remedy its past mistakes. An appointment Committee has not been seated by the CAC because SFaCE will not allow the CAC to meet. SFaCE is also refusing to divulge what rubric is being used in the selection process. The officers of the committee have asked for this information, but have not been given these details. So much for a selection process driven by peers.

As you have already heard, the leadership of the Parent Advisory Committee is now also alleging that SFaCE is not following proper procedures for that committee’s elections. The Board can no longer remain a passive bystander to these issues. The state education code mandates these parent committees and SFaCE is supposed to provide support. Instead, they are acting like they have the right to control them. If the leadership at SFaCE cannot act in accordance with the law, then they need to be immediately replaced.

At the last CAC meeting of the 2022-23 school year, the committee was visited by Superintendent Carvalho. During the Question and Answer period, two of the CAC's elected officers described a situation where District staff forced the removal of a reading of the proposed "Improving Special Education Within the LAUSD" resolution from a prior meeting. It was suggested during this interaction that the CAC needed a staffer assigned who was outside the regular chain of command. The superintendent seemed open to the idea of having an ombudsman who could advocate for the needs of the committee when there were disagreements with staff. Unfortunately, there has been no visible progress on appointing someone to this role since that meeting.

If the CAC and the other parent committees had access to an ombudsman who is truly Independent from district staff, the current deadlock may have been avoided. With no representative in the process and the School Board staying publicly silent, SFaCE has no motivation to work toward a solution and children with Special Education needs remain unrepresented. Perhaps that was the plan all along.

____________________________

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.

education
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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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