Saturday Mailbox


November 26, 2005

Special-ed ruling silences parents

Many thanks to Kalman Hettleman for so cogently explaining the Supreme Court ruling about cases of parents of disabled children suing local school boards ("Special-education failures run deep," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 18).

As a middle-class parent of a disabled child, I can speak to the pressures middle-class parents face when dealing with the public school system on behalf of our children. Frequently, we find that the school system has time and budget constraints that prevent our children from receiving appropriate and adequate therapies and education. (Mr. Hettleman notes that this is illegal but it continues to happen in the real world.)

This means that we must take our children to outside professionals - speech, occupational and physical therapists - and pay for this care out of our pockets. Sometimes our health insurance will pick up part of the cost of this assistance but that is not always true.

To be available to take our children to these outside therapies, at least one parent in the family often must be unemployed or underemployed.

Thus the economic pressures on the family are intense for two reasons: the expense of these therapies and the loss of income from the unemployment or underemployment of one parent.

Middle-class parents have always had the choice of hiring a lawyer to fight the school system on behalf of their children to get the necessary services provided in the school setting or using that money to pay for supplemental therapies. This ruling will effectively quash the majority of parent-initiated complaints against the school system.

This institutionalization of prejudice against disabled children is shortsighted and immoral. Isn't it enough that our kids face enormous challenges in every area of their lives every day?

It's truly chilling that parents will be silenced as effective advocates for their special-needs children.

Sue Keller


Demanding parents part of the problem

As a special-education teacher, I applaud the Supreme Court decision that places the burden of proof on parents when the appropriateness of the child's education plan comes up for a hearing ("Special-education failures run deep," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 18).

The role of the school is to provide free, appropriate public education. For students with a disability, this must take place in the least restrictive environment possible. That is the law.

But many times my colleagues and I have had to confront parents who make outrageous demands for their special-needs child; they often insinuate (or blatantly accuse) that the school is violating their child's rights.

I know parents want what is best for their children. But my experience also has been that sometimes the parents are part of the problem. Thankfully, such parents are the minority but they do take up an inordinate amount of time and expense.

The problems in special education are not an individual school issue but, increasingly, a wider policy issue.

It is time for a new conversation regarding the delivery of services to special-education students in the context of preparing these children for a productive life, and not just to pass a specific test to satisfy requirements for "Adequate Yearly Progress."

Edward Kitlowski


The writer is a special-education teacher at Loch Raven High School.

Watch the officials behind the cameras

The mayor's office and Police Department apparently have plans to ensnare criminals in a citywide net of cameras ("The voice you hear might be a camera," Nov. 17). And based on their track record in my neighborhood, I'm afraid that this will happen with complete disregard for the residents and neighborhoods they are supposed to protect.

One recent evening, I (along with dozens of other residents of the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Guilford Avenue in Charles Village) returned home to find that the beautiful cherry trees in front of our homes had been struck by a strange new kind of blight - police surveillance cameras.

All the trees on our blocks, planted 20 years ago as part of a grassroots beautification movement, were pruned and mangled to within an inch of their lives, with upper branches thinned and lower branches completely removed, all to make a clearer view for brand-new police surveillance cameras at the intersections.

So much for cherry blossoms next Spring.

The real issue, however, is not the fate of our trees. It is that the project was undertaken without including either residents or the neighborhood association in the planning process.

The city's heavy-handed approach demonstrates a total disregard for civic beauty, neighborhood revitalization efforts and residents' morale.

Given the opportunity, we, as block residents and caretakers, would gladly have helped the mayor's office and the police identify real problems and develop workable alternative solutions.

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