Monday, May 7, 2012

Report: SF School District Violated Special Education Laws. Parents say state has failed to enforce regulations

Parents say state has failed to enforce regulations

The San Francisco Unified School District has violated more than 100 special education regulations in the past year, according to a recent report by the California Department of Education. The violations include failing to properly assess students’ disabilities, implement federally mandated services and employ qualified staff to work with special-needs students.

According to the report, the district has failed to adhere to "individualized education programs," legally binding agreements between the district and parents that detail how it will meet the needs of students.
“They’re not implementing their IEPs as written,” said Donna DeMartini, an education programs consultant for the Department of Education. “It’s a huge problem.”

DeMartini and Elizabeth Blanco, who joined the district in February as assistant superintendent of special education, discussed the report with parents last week at a meeting of the district's Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. DeMartini told the group that the department reviewed 85 randomly chosen files of children and found 502 violations of 106 state education code regulations.

Blanco acknowledged the problems raised in the report, but said a system as large as the San Francisco school district “doesn’t change overnight.”

“We have a lot of work to do to make San Francisco special education better for parents, students and support staff,” Blanco said. “The district has had a long standing mistrust with parents of special education students, along with teachers.”

More than 6,000 students with physical, emotional or developmental disabilities attend San Francisco public schools. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, passed by Congress in 1990, requires school districts to provide those children with a “free and appropriate education” from the age of three.

Some parents blame state regulators for the district's failure to comply with the special education laws.
“When citizens break the law, they go to jail, but when the district does it, nothing happens,” said Katy Franklin, the mother of a child with autism and the chairwoman of the committee. “What the California Department of Education does to remedy school district noncompliance is equivalent to swatting the flies instead of removing the crap from the room."

Franklin, along with other parents, is part of a lawsuit filed last month, claiming that school districts across California are failing to comply with federal laws without reprisal from the state and spending taxpayer dollars on outside law firms to fight families seeking services for their children.

Read more of  Trey Bundy's The Bay Citizen article 

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