Don't shortchange special education students who need...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

May 23, 1998

Don't shortchange special education students who need help

Kalman Hettleman started out with a very good point in his article ("Special-ed funding isn't fair to all students," May 17). Since 1975, there have been laws that mandate a free, appropriate, public education for students with disabilities.

Mr. Hettleman's first line used the word "entitled." It would be real nice if all students received an appropriate education. Just because a student is entitled to an appropriate education, doesn't mean it always occurs. This is the reason for the special-ed lawsuit that Mr. Hettleman speaks of.

I wish that Mr. Hettleman were right that "federal law has been strictly enforced as a result of lawsuits brought by advocates for children with disabilities."

Many of these so-called "advocates" are parents of students with disabilities who had no choice but to challenge a system that truly didn't appear sincere in its quest to find programs for students with disabilities.

Many students, including my child, have been sent home with no program. Others were placed on waiting lists to be evaluated or placed into educational programs. What should these advocates" and parents do? I thought that Mr. Hettleman was an advocate himself.

Mr. Hettleman said the school systems have been "robbing regular students to pay for special education students." That is grossly untrue and seems to be Mr. Hettleman's attempt to ruffle the tail feathers of parents with "regular" students.

I believe that Mr. Hettleman was horribly insensitive when he used that statement because my child is a "regular" student. He goes to school every day and does classwork and other things students do. My child also has a severe disability.

Mr. Hettleman's insensitivity shows me where his loyalties really lie. Is he a mouthpiece for the school board, which appears to want all students with disabilities to go away? Is he merely trying to feather his own nest by playing regular education parents and students against special education parents and students.

What a way to be a real hero to the school board. Perhaps he can get more "educational consultant" jobs this way.

Mr. Hettleman should remember that but by the grace of God, he could be a parent of a student with a disability.

Robert A. Ward Sr.

Dundalk

I am the parent of twin daughters who are learning disabled, and I resent the implications by Kalman Hettleman ("Special-ed funding isn't fair to all students," May 17) in the Perspective section.

The article seems pretty confusing. If Mr. Hettleman is an educational consultant, who does he consult for? I pray that it is not Baltimore City Public Schools, the system that is supposed to provide an appropriate education to my daughters.

When he was a school board member, what did he do to ensure that special educational services were provided in an appropriate manner?

Nowhere in his rantings did Mr. Hettleman suggest instruction, the one thing that my children desperately need to succeed. Mr. Hettleman continually berates students, who are the victims in the politically driven nightmare of special education. It's easy for him to play judge and jury, but what happens to students who are forced through the system, unable to read, fill out a job application or do even the simplest of everyday tasks, like following a recipe because they can't read?

He uses the word "disadvantaged" in his tiring articles. Special-education students who are passed through a dysfunctional system often don't get high-paying jobs.

If my child had cancer or some other life-threatening medical problem, she would be far more costly to treat than someone healthy. Perhaps if the system got its act together and provided services students really need, such as a reading teacher, Mr. Hettleman could find a real cause -- like teaching students.

Diana Cook

Baltimore

People like Mr. Hettleman have far more opportunities to really make a difference in the lives of these students. He seems to have the ears of certain school board members. Perhaps Mr. Hettleman could make sure that students are identified correctly.

As an educational consultant, surely he knows of individuals or agencies that can properly identify the students' needs. The system doesn't appear to be able to do this. The system fails the students, spends more money and Johnny still can't read.

Perhaps Mr. Hettleman can find folks to teach children to read, as reading teachers seem to have disappeared. Many of Mr. Hettleman's associates are aware of programs that help students to overcome disabilities or learn things a different way.

Why cry about services that are costly, but ineffective? Parents and students do not identify disabilities or provide the services. Baltimore City Public Schools appears to be blaming parents and students for a job they can't or won't do.

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