Last month, the 9th Circuit overruled a lower court and stated that parents did have the right to intervene on behalf of their children as they fight to keep special education centers as a choice available to them during the IEP process. While the LAUSD’s lawyers had reportedly already filed the paperwork, the Governing Board of the District was not set to vote on the action until yesterday’s meeting. As with any discussion involving litigation, the state’s open meeting laws allow the Board to meet behind closed doors before voting on this issue, but not before hearing public comment. At the 8:00 AM meeting, parents and other supporters of special education centers filled up the seven allotted speaking spots. I, along with other speakers, spilled over into the public comment portion of the meeting. The following is a transcript of my remarks:
My name is Carl Petersen and I am the father of two daughters who are on the autism spectrum. I am here to speak on behalf of the special education centers.
Let’s be honest. When the Special Education Division wants to shut down these centers, it is not because this is in the best interests of the children, it is to save costs. This is an attitude that was displayed by Monica Garcia a few Board meetings ago when she said:
“When we say $1.4 billion for special ed and we only have $700 million from the federal government and the other $700 million are coming from every child in this district, I’m not about defunding special ed. I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids?”
This is not about general education students versus special education students. When we make decisions based on cost rather than what is best for all of the students, then we are no better than the bureaucrats in Flint who tried to save costs on water by poisoning their children. The legal filing in this case by the district’s lawyers was probably the worst one since they filed since they blamed a child for her own sexual abuse.
- It misstated the law; Congress does not prohibit special education centers. It’s the “least restrictive environment,” that is defined as “what is best for the child” not what is best for the District.
- The filing says that they are not closing these centers. Moving these centers to general education campus is the same as closing them because these special centers provide unique benefits to the children. They are a safe place.
- Worst of all it, it usurps parents. It tells parents in that filing that the District knows better than parents about what is best for their children. Parents are supposed to be teammates in the IEP, not just told “we know best.”
I urge you to end the appeal process and work collaboratively with parents. Keep the special education centers open so that these kids can thrive.
When the Board returned to open session, it was announced that they had voted 4-2-1 to continue the appeal against the parents. Scott Schmerelson and Richard Vladovic voted against the appeal. George McKenna abstained. Steve Zimmer, Ref Rodriguez and Monica Ratliff all voted with Monica Garcia to continue the appeal. Three of these four will face the voters in next year’s elections; Garcia and Zimmer are running for reelection and Ratliff is looking to join the City Council.
I am a candidate for the District 2 seat on the LAUSD School Board, founder of Change The LAUSD and member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. Opinions are my own.