Florida parents charge district discourages special needs students from seeking a standard high school diploma
The Miami Herald reports that a number of parents of special needs students attending school in the Broward County school district are being forced into less rigorous classes that do not result in a standard high school diploma. The parents insist their students are capable of earning a regular diploma, but the children are instead placed on the path to a “special diploma” that has little practical use.
Nearly 33,000 special needs students, with disabilities ranging from minor to severe, attend Broward district schools. District leaders stress that only a small group of parents are complaining. School Board Chairwoman Laurie Rich Levinson said thousands of parents with special needs children “are thrilled with the education they’re receiving.” “You have, just as you do with anything, some parents who are dissatisfied,” she said.
Some of the parents say they have been forced to pursue legal action to fight the district. Those lawsuits are the last resort for parents unhappy with how their special needs child is being served by the school system.
However, Kathrine Francis, Executive Director of Broward’s Exceptional Student Education Department, said there are other ways for parents to resolve disputes with the district. A simple talk with the child’s school might be enough to solve any problems, Francis said, and when that does not work, the district offers its own in-house conflict resolution service. Francis said parents filing due process lawsuits represent less than 1% of special needs students served by the district.
Source: Miami Herald, 2/6/13, By Michael Vasquez
[Editor's Note: In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in J.H. v. Fort Bend Indep. Sch. Dist. , which upheld a district court’s determination that a Texas district had complied with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when they placed a disabled student in special education science and social studies classes, after he struggled in general education classes for these subjects. J.H.’s parents objected to the placement, but his teachers and independent evaluators testified that J.H. was unable to grasp the concepts being taught in general education classes, leading the panel to conclude that he did not gain an educational benefit from the classes.]