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Parents of Special Needs Protest LAUSD's Plans to Close Centers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 01 August 2013 04:56

"We will keep Demonstrating until we can turn this around. The judges, school board and district don't know the law but we do. We have been in the trenches fighting this consent decree. -- Alex Rodrigues Parent

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Parents of children with special needs face a myraid of obstacles and day to day challenges. The challenges, they find can be overwhelming, not as much from their kids but from the schools and paid professionals whose job it is to provide services for them.

Special needs children include both physical disabilities and those with a myraid of learning challenges that can include ADHD, Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome and other conditions on the Autism spectrum as well as Down's Syndrome.

D. MARTINEZ/SFVS

Parents share similar stories that maps a journey that they describe as a wall of institutional bureaucracy and professional complacency that prevents their children from receiving the services that help them most.

They describe their steps for getting services for their children often feeling more like a "battle" rather than a process of support. A process that includes initial action to get their children properly diagnosed, requesting and receiving school evaluations from their home school for an IEP [Individualized Education Program], finding the right school that can meet their special needs, then the process of diligence, parents find they must stay on top of the situation to see that their child's school and teachers are abiding by the specifications of the IEP.

D. MARTINEZ/SFVS

This process has often turned every day parents into special needs advocates.

Alex Rodrigues is one those parents who has been actively involved in the political fight against consent decrees and advocated for special needs services since 2002 when she said a similar action was attempted. Determined to put a stop to LAUSD's plan, she protested with her daughters, one who currently attends a special education center. With scores of other parents, teachers and students, she protested in front of the offices of school board members Margarite LaMott Wednesday and Tamar Galantzan last week holding signs up in English and Spanish for passing motorists to see along Balboa Blvd in Van Nuys.

Rodrigues said Lamott and Galantzan have been among the school board members who are "complacent" on special needs issues. A diverse group of parents, many with their special needs children, some now adults who held up signs for the cameras that identified them as proud graduates of the special needs centers. Rodrigues carried a sign that read: 'Choice of Special Education Placements! It's the Law!'

The latest worry for Rodrigues and many parents is LAUSD's plan to close the special education centers that their children have come to know as a safe school environment where she said "they can be celebrated." LAUSD plans to merge four special education centers with nearby traditional schools.

There are 83,000 special needs students that qualify for services from LAUSD. Galantzan's office referred media calls to the office of special education.

"They want to take them from a place where they have their own sports activities including a cheer leading squad, social activities and are connected to other special needs schools: Rodrigues said.

"They want to put them in an environment where they won't be connected."

Rodriguez and other parents worry that placing their children at a traditional school will make them more vulnerable to bullying. LAUSD plans to "mainstream" more special needs students by merging four special education centers with nearby traditional schools when the news school term begins later this month.

The San Fernando Valley Schools include -- Miller Special Ed Center in Reseda will transfer about 100 students to Cleveland High School. The Fraces Blend School will merge with Van Nuys Elementary School. Students from Lull Special Education Center in Encino will be moved to Reseda High School.

Some parents who asked that their names not be used speculated that money was LAUSD's real motivation and the center's property was wanted for real estate.

"They [LAUSD]are breaking the law including the Federal Disabilities Act. Our kids need to be environments that best fits their needs." Rodrigues said. Protesting parents said that it's not enough to receive an IEP, they have to pressure the district to do the right thing, to keep open the centers and programs that have met their needs.

"We will keep demonstrating until they do the right thing," said Rodrigues. "Our children are being forced into a situation they can't handle. The decision where to place our children should come from us [parents], not the district."

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Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:04