- Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 January 2011 16:34
- Published on Wednesday, 05 January 2011 16:34
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Editor’s note: Linda Davis has served as coach for the King George Little League Challengers and is coordinator for King George Special Olympics. Her years of experience working with children in the special education program gives her a unique perspective on how the program is serving children with special needs. This is not a traditional news story — this is one woman’s perspective of one child’s situation.
This week, Jenn, Bobby’s mom, filed the first wave of complaints with the VA Department of Education. It might be the only way we are going to get an effective individual education plan (IEP) for Bobby. We attended a third IEP meeting that lasted for 2 hours and accomplished very little. The complaints are a last ditch effort to get the division to comply with state and federal laws regarding Bobby’s right to a free and appropriate education.
Complaint 1 alleges bullying and harassment by Pat Nealon, Supervisor of Special Services. The complaint centers on Nealon violating Jenn’s right to speak to her guests at the Nov. 16 meeting. This really is a big no-no. Parents have the right by law to invite whomever they wish to an IEP meeting and to determine the participation of anyone present.
Complaint 2 is a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We received an agenda at the Oct. 7 meeting with an item that references another child (not Bobby) who is receiving services at the school. This not the only time the division failed to exercise due diligence required by law to secure the private information of the students, as noted in a notice published online at www.journalpress.com/king-george.
Complaint 3 states KGCS personnel continually discouraged parent participation by refusing to hold the meetings when Jenn could attend. Every time Jenn asked for a meeting after 3 p.m., she received e-mails stating the meeting had to be held during school hours. Jenn works for the school division, they control her schedule. By law they have to try to accommodate the parent’s schedule. Nealon stated at a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meeting that if parents couldn’t make the meetings in the time frame given he would proceed without them. I spoke with a state special education auditor and asked him if this was acceptable. He said: “The statements that you cited from Dr. Nealon are contrary to any technical assistance provided by the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) special education monitoring team.” It looks like Nealon has some explaining to do.
Complaint 4 regards the incomplete IEP currently on file for Bobby, which has no services page and clearly states Bobby was due for a required evaluation in April 2010. The April evaluation was never conducted. Timely evaluations are very important. It is one of the indicators for AYP, which as a division we failed. When asked about the failure, Nealon stated it was the parents’ fault for not being able to show up during the school day. His plan to improve included conducting the meetings without the parents. Are you starting to see a pattern?
Complaint 5: Bobby is supposed to receive progress reports every 3 weeks according to his IEP. The only progress report received so far stated Bobby is not making progress.
Complaint 6: Least restrictive environment (LRE) is not being met. LRE is another AYP indicator the division failed. Bobby’s IEP states he is to have art and PE classes with general education students. He has been coloring pumpkins and making turkey hats in the self-contained classroom. They call that adaptive art. Bobby starts PE next semester, and they were planning to keep him with his class for adaptive PE. Keeping Bobby locked down is cheaper for the division. This is a violation of Bobby’s rights. We know from putting him on the swim team that he can handle most of the interactions required. In fact, he has flourished being with non-disabled peers. He is talking more and he has friends who are watching out for him. The swim team has been amazing with Bobby. We should get these kids to teach the administration. At every swim meet the kids cheer for Bobby, they talk to him and teach him. I was in two IEP meetings where Bobby was present and the school employees did not speak to him or acknowledge him. At least we can all be proud of the swim team.
Complaint 7: The 09-02-10 IEP (his current signed IEP), which reduces Bobby’s services and gives no explanations, fails to tell the parent why the services were stopped. Nealon said some of the services were stopped back in 2008, but the June 2010 IEP said he was still receiving them. We are unable to determine what the truth is. The 09-02-10 IEP was not signed by anyone in the division other than two teachers who had never taught Bobby. This is the IEP formulated for no apparent reason and Jenn can’t get anyone to tell us why they held a meeting (or pretended to) without her knowledge. Bobby had an IEP dated June 2010. Jenn did not request any changes so there was no reason for the division to rewrite Bobby’s IEP.
Complaint 8: No notice sent to the parent for the 09-02-10 IEP meeting. Jenn did not know a meeting was going to be held until after it took place.
Complaint 9 is another FERPA violation. Included in Bobby’s file was the personal identifying information for 13 other students.
Filing the complaints was not our first choice; we tried for months to avoid it. We have given the division ample time and latitude to fix this situation. We don’t know why the division chose this path, but we will stay on it until we get resolution. We are still trying to work with the administration to get an IEP that works for Bobby.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Bobby and his family throughout this ordeal. The world is a better place because you care.
Special to The Journal