The special education legislation reported in today’s Washington Post, proposed by Councilmember Catania is long overdue, well-conceived and on-point with the most pressing challenges still plaguing the District’s special education system. All three reform bills deserve swift passage, and Council Members should hear from any parents and professionals that have struggled to obtain, maintain or fund appropriate services for their students with special needs. If you have a story, now is the time to tell it. Please call or write your Council Member in support of these much needed special education reforms.
Students with special needs such as those described in the Washington Post editorial 1/28/14 do not have to be at the “option of last resort.” In fact, federal law requires that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
The District has a vibrant non-public education community that DCPS and other Local Education Agencies have relied upon for many years to serve the needs of those students requiring the highest levels of support and intervention to achieve their potential. Non-public schools use enriched staffing, proven educational models and specialized services that address behavioral and social needs of students as well as authentic inclusion of families in the education of their children.
The DC Association for Special Education (DCASE) Consortium also supports DCPS and Public Charter Schools with training, consultation, and student services, providing 873 teachers, administrators and students with such resources in 2013. DCASE is working with DCPS and OSSE to improve the ways that students transition when ready, back into their neighborhood schools, including expanding opportunities for students to do partial-day mainstreaming, where they can learn to succeed alongside their non-disabled peers while maintaining the supports of their non-public program.
Students like those at Options do not need to become casualties of systemic dysfunction or problems brought on them by others. The community has an opportunity as well as an obligation to come together and do right by these young people and their families. Let’s see that this happens.