2007-09-19 / Opinions

Some Special Ed parents ask for special treatment

Dear Editor,

Hats off to [News Editor] Donna Gregory for titling her [Sept. 5] article, "Outcasts? Parents claim schools ostracize some disabled children." This title clearly expresses the fact that some parents state that their children with disabilities are treated differently than students without disabilities, but Ms. Gregory does not draw the conclusion that this statement is either true or false. Of course, a writer cannot accurately draw conclusions without knowing both sides of the issue.

If the public laws governing the policies for special education permitted employees of school systems around the United States to break confidentiality and tell their side of the story, the public would be horrified at the tales they might read and hear. Parents coming to school and expecting daily appointments with teachers and administrators, children missing critical parts of the school day on a weekly basis to travel outside the county and receive outpatient therapy sessions, parents who request that the specialized curriculum prescribed by their paid, private consultants supersede the curriculum carefully selected by their local education agency for students in each grade level.

Personally, I have witnessed teachers who have received honors from their peers and even national awards be reduced to tears and driven to stress-related illnesses by parents who threaten to smear the good name of these dedicated teachers. In rare cases, other students in the classroom receive less instruction from the teacher because he or she is making sure the dictated amount of attention is being paid to a single child in the class.

The majority of parents I have known who have children with special needs are fair-minded and giving of their cooperation, appreciation and thanks. They recommend specific objectives and goals in their child's annual school program, but they do not turn the typical 10-page individual education plan into 20 pages or more. These level-headed families meet with teachers and other school staff for reasonable amounts of time and do not demand weekly or daily face-to-face meetings or annual planning meetings which last five-plus hours. If you look around the table during these lengthy meetings and see who is required by law to be present, you might wonder who is in the classroom, teaching all the children.

I believe that typically-developing students and students with special needs should be educated side-by-side. However, I feel that the general education student is not less important than the student in special education, and all students should be given balanced attention by their teachers. General education and special education teachers should be applauded for their efforts to serve all children. Remember, part of their service is to keep the confidential information about students and their families from ever leaving the confines of the classroom or meeting room, and that is why you never hear their part of the story.

Karen Scott


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