On April 12, 2016, the LAUSD School Board considered a motion to recognize Autism Awareness Month. I used the opportunity for public comment to outline the ways that they can move beyond words to actually improve the educational opportunities for those with autism and other special education needs. The following is a transcript of my remarks:
Hi, my name is Carl Petersen and I’m here to speak on behalf of my two daughters who are on the autism spectrum and can’t speak for themselves. At last month’s meeting Ms. Garcia 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?”
Well, when it comes to education, all kids are our kids and while this proposition may seem to placate parents who have kids in special education, we need action. For 20 years, this District has been under a federal monitor and that should be an embarrassment.
We should stop the forced mainstreaming of our children. For some children, mainstreaming is very important and it’s a positive step in their education, but for others it’s just not in the cards. They need the protection of a special day class. For those most vulnerable, the special education centers are a lifesaver. To throw them in a mainstreaming environment is going to end up killing one of those kids one day. These children need the protection of special schools.
We need to stop putting bureaucratic obstacles to giving children access to IEPS. Right now, the District seems to have a goal of preventing kids from getting into special education programs. That isn’t going to help those kids. They need early intervention.
We need to stop requiring confidentiality clauses to settle due process. Parents should be free to speak with other parents so they can share the best methods of educating their children.
And we need to stop the prohibition on local staff to offer services and force parents to go to due process through the District.
Most of all, we need to stop using Teacher Jail to punish teachers who dare to tell parents what services are available. I’ve spoken to many teachers who have been punished for simply telling parents “this is what your child needs.” We have to stop that.
And, if we’re really serious about reducing our costs, we need to look at how charters are not serving the most vulnerable of our special education students and also force charters to also pay the costs.
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.