Advocacy Denver has just released a white paper, called “Inclusion in Education,” about the state of services for differently-abled (“special needs”) students in the Denver Public Schools. It is a no-nonsense wake-up call for anyone that believes that the civil rights of every student must be safeguarded, even those with disabilities.
They’re making several assertions in this whitepaper.
As a matter of standard practice, DPS sends kids with cognitive disabilities to center programs. Keep in mind that not every school has a center program (i.e., a centralized resource center for kids with various special needs, usually located in certain schools in a zone). There is a likelihood that your child with developmental delays may not be able to attend your neighborhood school.
Again as a matter of standard practice, DPS limits the level of support and services a differently-abled child might be able to receive at a given school. The problem with this reality is that it could bump up against the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that services be provided according to the needs of the student, not the needs of the school or district. I should point out that board policy is correct, and there are services available through our Student Services department that are appropriate and are in compliance, but Advocacy Denver is specifically pointing out that “school IEP (individual education plan) teams frequently craft the IEP according to building-level resources or preferred practice.”
As another matter of practice, Advocacy Denver points out that DPS gives principals the authority to accept students with disabilities…or not. They point out that (a) the district actually has two different school choice applications for students with or without disabilities and (b) the choice brochure for students with disabilities states “approval for enrollment of a student with a disability is on the condition that the services outlined in the student’s plan can be delivered in the school” and the principal and special education teacher make this decision.
The big bombshell for me, is the statement that
…an increasing number of parents report (and some educators confide) that if a child does not perform at an expected level (academically or behaviorally) some school principals will counsel parents to withdraw their child from the school. It is important to remember that contract, charter, magnet, special program, turnaround, redesigned and neighborhood schools are all public schools and as such, have an obligation to serve students with disabilities. Albeit, they do not have to provide a full continuum, but it is expected they will provide basic supports according to the individual needs of the student.
Parents and students, does this track with your experience? Let me know here in the comments, or if you’re shy about talking in public for whatever reason, email me at email@example.com.
I’ve requested a briefing from Advocacy Denver, as well as the opportunity to hold town hall with parents of students with disabilities. I’ll keep you posted.