|ESE refuses to help children harmed by noncompliance
By ELLEN M. CHAMBERS
Imagine you’re a Gulf Coast resident. The job you’ve relied on to provide for your family has been wiped out. Your standard of living has been demolished. All due to the greed of a company that recklessly and willfully violated oil drilling safety regulations.
Now imagine you’re the parent of a bright but learning disabled child. The education that will enable him to provide for a family of his own one day has been stolen from him. Your standard of living has been demolished by the need to hire advocates, lawyers, tutors and private therapists to prevent him from drowning in failure. All due to an educational system that sanctions reckless and willful violations of students’ special education rights.
These are not dissimilar realities, except for one shameful truth. Our government will take action to ensure that the Gulf Coast resident is compensated for her losses. It will do nothing to help the youngster whose future is imperiled, or to compensate his parents who’ve taken a second mortgage on their home and spent their retirement savings in an effort to mitigate the effects of their son’s imprisonment in a negligent educational system.
On June 7th SPEDWatch met with Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr. We asked that ESE require school districts to locate and help students who have been harmed by past district noncompliance with special education law. The request was denied because, according to Baehr, such action "exceeds what is required under federal and state law and regulations." In other words, ESE will only require districts to implement corrective action plans that prevent future noncompliance. Any child harmed by past noncompliance is out of luck.
This is nothing short of outrageous and cannot be tolerated. If ever there was a time for those who care about students with special needs to rise up in protest, this is it. To that end, SPEDWatch is organizing a demonstration to take place in front of the State House, with a tentative date of October 6th. Further details are pending.