Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

October 22, 2006

Disabled students should be included

I was thrilled to read the headline "Meetings work toward more inclusive county schools" regarding Carroll County's public schools.

As a parent of a child with a disability, gratitude welled up that, finally, the public school system was reaching out to educate parents and truly include children with disabilities in a meaningful way in their schools.

The story turned out to be about reaching out toward ethnic minorities. This is also a welcome sign of progress, though not the one I had anticipated. Hopefully, the civic spirit that motivated this outreach will grow to include all of our children.

Some of my fellow parents who have children with disabilities believe that the lack of inclusion of our kids can be attributed to ignorance of federal law on the parts of administrators, principals, teachers, and therapists. It's hard to believe that's the case.

I believe that the situation is largely a function of lack of money, in particular, a lack of legally mandated federal funds for special education which the feds partially withhold year after year.

The trickle down effect is that local school districts are left holding the bag financially. Legally, children with disabilities can only be denied services if they don't need them.

Denying appropriate services because providing them would be too costly is illegal. Parents are often told that their children don't need services even when outside professionals may have a differing opinion.

My personal experience has been that appropriate services were denied my child until I hired a professional educational consultant. Merely asking school officials for them in good faith was not enough to secure appropriate services for my child.

Every Individual Education Plan meeting devolved into negotiations, trying to get an appropriate education for my child and leaving the table without many of the needed services.

Children with disabilities have the legal right to be included and all appropriate services and accommodations brought to them in their neighborhood school.

To refuse to do so is illegal. Many parents are unaware of this because the schools have a de facto "Don't tell" policy when it comes to the legal rights of children with disabilities.

"Special education rights ... and wrongs" published locally by the Maryland Disability Law Center (www.mdlcbalto.org) is an excellent document available for free to everyone who needs to familiarize themselves with current special education laws. The Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education's (www.mcie.org) mission is to promote inclusion for kids with disabilities.

I applaud school and civic leaders for their minority outreach to children of ethnic minorities. Hopefully, this will grow to include our children with disabilities, who are also members of a minority.

Sue Keller Finksburg

Developer unfairly given the last word

We citizens were stunned at the Wakefield Public Hearing on Oct. 12 that the chair of the Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission, Peggy Bair, allowed the developer Mr. Marty Hill to use his given time at his request to speak last after all other public testimony.

She, therefore, permitted him to rebut all the citizens' comments, even allowing him to call on his consultants, again and again, to try to dilute the residents' concerns.

This is a serious breach of decorum and protocol, and I have never seen such a tactic that so favored the developer in my 20 years of attending meetings.

I can only hope that a change in the political scenario in May 2007, when three council members are up for election, will result subsequently in a change in the planning and zoning membership. As citizens and taxpayers, we were rudely treated and our case was harmed by her unfair decision to let the developer get the very valued last word.

Rebekah Orenstein Westminster

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