Advocates for Special Kids - ASK
September 2002 Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 1
"Back to School Edition"
"VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT:
It’s that time of the year when they
start running that TV commercial for the office supply store, where the
father runs happily through aisles of school supplies, while in the
background music plays "It’s the most wonderful time of the
year!" Suddenly, the focus shifts to his two children standing
forlornly, contemplating the start of another school year. Although we
all can appreciate the humor of the commercial, at the same time I
wonder why it is that as parents of children receiving special ed
services, we all seem to feel more like the kids in the commercial than
the Dad?! Anxiety, trepidation, downright fear. And that’s just us!
Imagine what our kids feel. Although these are not usually the emotions
one associates with "back to school," such is the world of
issue is full of information about ASK’s school year of meetings and
activities. Our meeting schedule is found on Page 2, while a description
of our upcoming meeting speakers can be found on the back page, with much
more in between.
issue also includes an insert at Pages 3 through 6 with an in-depth
discussion of MBUSD’s continuing non-compliance with state and federal
law, and how that non-compliance is affecting student access to the
curriculum at Mira Costa High School. We hope you will read this analysis,
for it provides insight into historical problems experienced by families
of students receiving special education services in MBUSD and the
devastating implications their non-compliance has for our students, our
schools and our community.
get involved with ASK and its efforts toward building a more inclusive
educational system and community. Come to our September 30th meeting, and
visit our Hometown Fair Coke booth on October 5th and 6th. As always, if
you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!
Hometown Fair -
Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6, 2001
ASK Coke Booth - Help ASK Raise
Money and Awareness!
Volunteer! Volunteer! * *
We need YOU
at our Hometown Fair booth! We need donations of $$$$ and Coke!
We need volunteers
and would like two volunteers who each can take responsibility for
Saturday or Sunday and help coordinate shifts!
We need help
with delivering inventory! We need ice chests! We need chairs!
We need able-bodied parents and kids who want to practice making change!!
Booth shifts both
days are 9:30-12:00, 11:30-2:00, 1:30-4:00 and 3:30-6:00
Contact Susan Viker
(e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; Telephone at (310) 545-0201)
Advocates for Special Kids -
Parents Networking Together
|Advocates for Special Kids (ASK)
was formed in May 1997 by Manhattan Beach parents whose children
received special education services in the district. These parents had
become aware of the need to understand all placement options that were
supposed to be available to their children, as well as services to
support their children in their least restrictive environment [LRE]
pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Since then, many more families
have become involved with ASK and benefit from the support and education
they gain from attending our regularly scheduled meetings. These
meetings provide information about services within the district,
resources in the community, upcoming trainings and workshops, as well as
the most current updates on special education law and pending
legislation affecting their child’s education.
ASK meetings are 7 PM
the last Monday of each month. Our schedule this year is:
September 30, 2002
October 28, 2002
November 25, 2002
No December Meeting
January 27, 2003
February 24, 2003
March 31, 2003
April 28, 2003
May 19, 2003
June 30, 2003
1403 Pacific Ave, M.B.
ASK E Group
ASK has an
E-group through Yahoo! which allows subscribers to communicate with
other ASK members in an effective, efficient manner.
To join the group contact
the moderators Marilyn Barraza, Dona Wright by emailing ASK_groupemail@example.com.
They will let you know how to get started.
ASK’s Board of Directors &
Advisory Board consists of
the following individuals who meet monthly to plan ASK’s activities:
[President], Dona Wright [Vice-President], Deborah Blair Porter
[Secretary], Karen Mohan [Treasurer], Eunice Kramer, Alicia Delgado.
Grossman, Mary Anne Fontana, Rebecca Schulman, Susan Viker, Alyse
Zwickel, Janet Hodgman.
ASK Board Mtgs.
Scheduled for the first Thursday
of each month, upcoming meetings are as follows:
September 5, 2002
October 3, 2002
November 7, 2002
December 5, 2002
January 9, 2003
February 6, 2003
March 6, 2003
April 3, 2003
May 1, 2003
June 5, 2003
Location subject to
Call Marilyn Barraza
at (310) 545-5855
is to promote the principle that ALL CHILDREN can learn together; the
acceptance of diversity; family awareness of rights and options for
receiving special education services for their child; children being
taught in their least restrictive environment [LRE]; district
collaboration and community awareness of the importance of educating all
students together to reach their individual potential. ASK supports
family choice and advocates for the full continuum of special education
services for ALL CHILDREN.
Lack of Basic Classes At Mira Costa High School
MBUSD 8th graders receiving special ed services who are
transitioning to 9th grade this Fall have found themselves faced
with the prospect of not having access to the high school
curriculum, because Mira Costa, which offers only College-Prep [CP]
courses and above (Advanced Placement [AP] and Honors [H]), does not
have basic level courses.
Parents have been told they must choose whether their student is
"diploma-bound" or "non-diploma bound," too late
learning the choice is limited to CP classes or the Special Day
Class [SDC]. When parents, in light of the difficulty of CP courses,
have asked for accommodations for their student, they’ve been told
that students receiving accommodations will not receive class credit
toward graduation! What many were NOT told was that NONE of the SDC
classes ever count toward graduation!
Students who would be able to graduate were they properly
supported, are being denied access to the curriculum and the
essential standards that are the basis of the CA High School Exit
Exam [CAHSEE]. They are also prevented from successfully achieving
course credit so that they can graduate from high school. This
violates their right to be in their least restrictive environment [LRE]
and is, to quote an MBUSD elementary vice principal
In response to parent concerns, district officials claim to have
created "embedded" classes, where essential standards are
taught within CP courses. Yet, parents have not received accurate or
timely information about these classes. As well, there has only been
last minute training for these "embedded" classes, and as
Assistant Superintendent Sheralyn Smith recently acknowledged, March
2002 staff development related to differentiating instruction was
only directed toward differentiation at the gifted end of the
All Students Entitled to Basic Track of Courses
The reasoning behind the lack of basic classes at Mira Costa is
the belief that all students should have an opportunity to attend
college and to do so, they must take CP courses. As well-meaning as
this thinking is, it ignores the reality that if CP courses are so
difficult students fail them, or are so discouraged they drop out of
school altogether, there will be no "opportunity" to
Also, if teachers mistakenly assume students receiving
accommodations are not entitled to course credit, the current
reality in MBUSD, students are taking classes that are pointless
from the outset, since they won’t receive high school credit for
School districts are obligated to serve the needs of ALL
students, not just high achievers or those going to college. Typical
students who choose a trade or who have not yet decided to go to
college, should not be obligated to take CP courses, except that in
MBUSD there is no other course or track to choose. School districts
which provide a full range of classes, e.g., Beverly Hills, Las
Virgenes, Irvine, Redondo, produce test scores which demonstrate
that their special ed students not only do better on the CAHSEE than
MBUSD, they have higher graduation rates as well.
Unfortunately, MBUSD with its generally high student test scores
and high-achieving students apparently isn’t concerned about
students other than those who are easy to teach or who make the
district look good. MBUSD also seems to believe it doesn’t have to
comply with federal laws or state orders or guidelines when it comes
to special education. Unfortunately, the State of California has
failed to monitor or enforce compliance and essentially has let
MBUSD get away with its non-compliance scot-free.
MBUSD and the State of California are obligated to ensure access
to programs and procedural safeguards. Both receive federal tax
dollars are conditioned upon their promise to uphold the law and
student rights, yet both are taking our tax dollars under false
pretenses, for they are doing neither.
Lack of Progress of Special Education Students
The reality is that far too many MBUSD special education students
are not making appropriate progress. To add insult to injury, MBUSD
fails to regularly monitor or objectively measure student progress.
Rather than performing the IEP progress analysis found in
"California’s Guidelines for the Promotion and Retention of
Special Education Students," MBUSD allows students to languish
without appropriate interventions, often denying special ed students
access to remediation because they receive special ed
When concerned parents press for assistance for their child,
information regarding assessments and rights under the law related
to SSTs/IEPs is routinely withheld from parents. In too many
instances, MBUSD has passed students from grade to grade, despite
|lack of progress,
often hiding a child’s failure from parents behind false
assurances that the student is "doing just fine."
The 8th graders transitioning to the 9th grade, like all special
education students in the district, are products of MBUSD’s
special education system. Their failure to make progress is the
district’s failure. While typical students do well and succeed
academically, those receiving special education services have done
neither. These students are entitled to an appropriate education and
to successful outcomes, just as their typical peers are. In fact,
the law mandates it.
MBUSD Out of Compliance Under May 1998 CCR
But what the law mandates is apparently of no consequence to
MBUSD, for in May 1998 it was found out of compliance on these very
same issues under its Coordinated Compliance Review [CCR] and
ordered to come back into compliance. The CCR clearly stated:
"Full continuum - parent understanding options
"Documentation and interviews of staff and parents reveal a
"Ensure parents are informed and understand all options,
settings, combinations of services, the full continuum of program
options available throughout the district.
"Include a wider range of general education programs in
core areas, such as English Language Arts, Mathematics, etc. to
accommodate the needs of students whose current options are limited
in Language Arts CP-AP courses.
"Ensure placement decisions are not made on the basis of
disability, configuration of service delivery, availability of
staff, curriculum, content method of curricular delivery or
[Page 11 of 16, IIS8]
"Addressing Modifications and Accommodations
"There is also a need to address modifications to be made by
regular education teachers for special education students'
successful integration and maintenance in the regular classes."
[Page 10 of 16, IIS3]
As of today’s date, MBUSD is STILL out of compliance on these
and other issues, since MBUSD still does not provide courses
less rigorous than CP and
|refuses to ensure
accommodations. These are issues ASK pointed out in its December
1999 "Summary and Recommendations [S&R]." These are
issues Caryl Miller raised in her 2001 analysis of MBUSD’s special
education program. These are issues three separate subcommittees of
the MBUSD’s Advisory Board for Special Education [ABSE] raised in
subcommittee reports to the ABSE as critical problems facing high
school students. Yet, neither MBUSD nor the State of CA has done
anything about them.
In early 2000, as a result of ASK’s contact with CDE officials
regarding the non-compliance, it appeared the State would finally
take action. Then, on April 28, 2000, the State of CA returned MBUSD
to compliance status, despite the fact that MBUSD still hadn’t
resolved these issues. How could this be?
Perhaps it was because the State of California and Superintendent
of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin knew that within two weeks, the
"National Teacher of the Year" was to be chosen and it was
pretty clear that the teacher to be selected was from...(can you
guess?!)...MBUSD, a district out of compliance with state and
Perhaps there was concern about how it would look for CA’s
Superintendent of Public Instruction to honor the "National
Teacher of the Year" in a district that discriminated against
students receiving special education services. Perhaps there was
also concern about the President of the United States holding a Rose
Garden ceremony to honor a well-deserving teacher who had the
misfortune of teaching in a district which openly discriminated
against the disabled!
Suddenly MBUSD’s non-compliance disappeared! But its effects
continue to detrimentally impact our students with disabilities, who
for the fifth year in a row have come back to school in the Fall
facing the prospect of only CP and more rigorous courses to choose
from, or being forced out of the general ed classroom altogether.
All at a time when their need for access to the essential standards
to ensure they can pass the CAHSEE has never been more critical.
MBUSD Attempts to Lower Standard for Special
Insight into how this problem could persist in our district is
found in the recent efforts of the Assistant Superintendent to
"revise" MBUSD’s board policy related to IEPs. In her
May 1st presentation, stating that "We often talk about the Cadillac
vs. the Volkswagen" and that "best is not the
the legal standard,"
Mrs. Thompson attempted to justify a policy change that would have
lowered the district’s educational standard for children with
disabilities, because they receive special ed services.
Yet, MBUSD’s public statements support a high standard for ALL
students, without any separate or lower standard for students with
disabilities. In fact, MBUSD’s own curriculum brochure describes
special education by stating "a continuum of appropriate
programs and services exists to enable all students to achieve
their maximum potential in the least restrictive
MBUSD seems to forget that the majority of parents of special ed
students are also parents of typical learners. No parent with both
special needs and typical students in their family would ever agree
their typical child was entitled to a "Cadillac"
education, while their disabled student was entitled only to a
Mrs. Thompson’s effort to lower expectations for students with
disabilities makes it clear why MBUSD’s special education program
is a failure.
Parents File Non-Compliance Complaint
On June 28th, 2002, 22 MBUSD families filed a non-compliance
complaint against MBUSD, the SELPA and the State of California,
outlining the situation at Mira Costa and alleging that MBUSD was,
among other things, discriminating against students with
disabilities by failing to provide an appropriate education that
would ensure progress. The State of CA refused to even open a
How can a school district be out of compliance, and yet be
returned to compliance status when they haven’t resolved the
issues for which they were found out of compliance in the first
place? Why would a district refuse to provide classes or remediation
to a group of students who so significantly need it? Why would the
State of California refuse to do ANYTHING about this outrageous
The answers are simple and at the same time complex. To provide
additional, remedial services to "special ed" students
would require MBUSD admit that their "special" education
programs, i.e., the programs they claim are breaking the budget,
aren’t so "special" after all. It would be to
acknowledge that despite their blue-ribbon status and excellent
teachers, they’ve failed to appropriately teach at least 10% of
failed to ensure the progress of these children and are not being
held accountable for their failure by anyone.
The reality in MBUSD, that the vast majority of typical students
are successful and make appropriate progress, while far too many
special education students do neither, is historically the case
- MBUSD personnel have withheld critical information from parents
about the full continuum, about programs and services, about parent
rights and the district’s responsibilities under the law, denying
parental input and informed consent;
- MBUSD personnel have low/no expectations for students with
disabilities, often based on ignorance or mistaken assumptions
regarding the ability of children with disabilities to learn, and in
the absence of parental involvement and effective advocacy, their
low expectations have become the educational standard;
- MBUSD has not tracked student progress/lack of progress, nor
conducted appropriate progress analyses at annual IEP’s to
determine whether services need to be added or revised;
- MBUSD has failed to provide supplementary aides and services in
the general education classroom sufficient to allow students to
remain in that placement as the law requires, and often mistakenly
assumes if a child is fully included they are to be placed in the
general education classroom without supports;
- MBUSD has, in the past, failed to hire or use sufficiently and
appropriately trained staff;
- MBUSD has denied appropriate remedial interventions to students
receiving special education services, because they receive
special education services, despite state mandates to the contrary.
- MBUSD has used our tax dollars to avoid providing services,
rather than providing them in good faith for students whom teachers
routinely acknowledge need them. As a result, MBUSD ends up having
to provide services anyway at the end of protracted litigation that
drains staff, alienates parents and funnels our tax dollars out of
the educational system into the pockets of attorneys hired to defend
- MBUSD’s school board doesn’t understand that the
Superintendent works for them, not the other way around; fails to
carefully scrutinize the actions of
administrators; and rather than leading when it comes to special
education, instead slavishly follows, and acts as a rubber stamp
for, the Superintendent.
- The Superintendent has failed to show leadership in ensuring
our district is a caring school community, and instead uses our tax
dollars to fight services for our kids, refuses to work toward
comprehensive systemic change that would benefit all students and
also save money, and ignores the well-considered input of the
Advisory Board that he likes to claim he created.
- Parents have been afraid to speak up about MBUSD problems for
fear of retaliation against their children.
- The system of accountability, i.e., the State of California,
fails to monitor/enforce the law governing special education and the
failure of districts like MBUSD to comply with the laws, so that
there is no accountability. Thus, districts like MBUSD are able to
ignore state orders, and state and federal laws and do so with
The Impact on Our Children, Schools, Community
This negative treatment of students with disabilities impacts our
children, our schools and our community.
For our children, it is their future. If our children with
disabilities do not graduate and become productive, contributing
members of society, it not only affects them and their families, it
affects their peers, all families, our community. MBUSD’s failure
to ensure that ALL our children have the opportunity to succeed
sends a very negative and debilitating message to typical students
who see their disabled peers struggling without appropriate
assistance, falling further behind as they themselves move forward.
What must they think of a system that helps some, but not others and
makes its choices based on whether or not a child is disabled?
For our schools, it is their credibility. If our schools are
educating only those who are easy to teach, without taking
responsibility for those whose needs are more challenging, what does
that say about our schools, our teachers and their overall
reputation? There is a saying "The good students teach
themselves. The good teachers teach the rest." It is
well-accepted that MBUSD’s high test scores are generally because
we are a high-achieving and affluent community. If we accept that
the high scores of our typical students are attributable to our
community, it is logical that our
|special ed students
should score high as well as compared to their disabled peers in
other districts. But that is not the case. What are the low scores
of our special education students attributable to, but MBUSD’s
failure to appropriately teach these students and ensure the same
relative success their typical peers enjoy.
For our community, it is its viability and reputation. If
students with disabilities cannot be contributing, productive
members of society, they become the community’s responsibility and
burden. It is a greater benefit for these students, as well as for
our community, if ALL our students achieve to their greatest
potential and successfully contribute to the community’s overall
What Can Parents Do?
MBUSD has demonstrated beyond a doubt that it lacks the will and
the ability to provide an appropriate education that will ensure
progress for ALL Manhattan Beach children. MBUSD has also made it
clear, as has the State of California, that they care not a whit
about their legal obligations to these children.
Our community doesn’t expect the "minimum" for our
typical children. Our community has historically supported and
funded extensive additional programs to ensure that ALL our children
receive the best education available. Why should we expect anything
less for our children with special needs?
Parents of special needs students in MBUSD must face up to the
fact that this is what the future holds in store for their
children...unless each and every one of them, and the community,
speak up and take action to stop this discrimination. The Complaint
filed against MBUSD and the State of California was submitted to
every state and federal educational official and elected official
possible, yet no agency has committed to taking any action to
stop this mistreatment of our students.
It is up to parents to speak out, demonstrate their outrage and
and challenge this injustice. Write the school board, speak out at
school board meetings and take action on behalf of educational
equity for all MBUSD children. Our community’s good name and the
schools we’ve all worked so hard to make the best they can be are
tainted by MBUSD’s failure to do the right thing, the simple
thing, and appropriately teach ALL our children. We cannot let this
be our district’s legacy for our children or their future.
Upcoming Events! Items of Interest!
ASK Has a New Telephone Number - (310)
ASK now has a telephone number you can call to find out our
upcoming meeting schedule, make those member referrals for your
friends who want to find out more about ASK or get on our mailing
list for upcoming newsletters.
LA FEAT - Families for Effective
LA FEAT will hold meetings the third Wednesday of each month,
from 7:00 - 9:00 PM at St.
James Church, 124 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. [It is
caddycorner from the church in the Religious Building Room 5]. Any
questions, do not contact the church, contact LAFEAT at (310)
10/11/02 - 10/12/02 - Neurodevelopmental Advances
and Best Practices in
AUTISM, ASPERGER’S, LEARNING DISABILITIES,
ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
The H.E.L.P Group Summit 2002 features experts in autism,
Asperger’s, learning disabilities and ADHD, including B.J.
Freeman, Eric Courchesne, Edward and Riva Ritvo, Laurie Stephens,
Bina Varughese, and others. Radisson Hotel Westside, Culver City,
CA. For information, call (818) 779-5212. Website:
Cal-TASH Conference - February 7th- 8th - Fresno
Save the dates! More details forthcoming!
11th Annual Lindamood-Bell International
Conference - March 13-15, 2003
Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes presents "The
Sensory-System Connection: Dyslexia to Autism" - including
guest speakers Dr. Stanley Greenspan, Dr. Temple Grandin, among
others. The International Conference Catalog will be available soon!
Contact (800) 233-1819 or www.LindamoodBell.com.
AAA Clears a Path For Disabled Travelers
A new series of AAA books, "AAA Barrier-Free Travel"
aimed at travelers with disabilities, provides detailed
specifications on facilities at hotels, restaurants and tourist
attractions that enables access for those with disabilities. It also
ranks them on their accessibility, and includes information for
wheelchair users and visually and hearing-impaired travelers. Guides
are available for California, Hawaii, Las Vegas, central Florida,
New York and Washington, D.C. Retailing for $12.95, these guides can
be found at bookstores and also at AAA offices, as well as online at
www.aaa.com. [Source: July 14, 2002 LA Times Travel Section]
Strong Proud Sisters: Girls and Young Women with
By Harilyn Rousso (2001), paints a portrait of disabled girls,
their needs and resilience, looking at a range of issues -
definitions/demographics, access to health care, substance abuse,
exercise and sports, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders and
body image, disability identity, role models/media images,
social/sexual development, violence, educational equity, employment.
[$14, from The Center for Women Policy Studies,
Upcoming ASK Meetings
[All ASK Meetings are at the Pacific Christian
Center, 1403 Pacific Avenue, Manhattan Beach.]
09/30/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting:.Organizing
Meeting: Join Manhattan Beach parents as we organize around the
issue of access to the curriculum at the high school, and at all
levels of our district’s educational system, to ensure student
success. Bring your ideas on how we can advocate for better
practices throughout the district.
10/28/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Learning Together in General
Education Classrooms: Focusing on Learning Outcomes - Rick
Clemens, M.S., founder/director of IECP, has worked with individuals
with autism and other developmental disabilities since 1985, and has
done staff development for school districts, including MBUSD
11/25/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: IEP Training - Join ASK as we
do a comprehensive parent training related to your student’s IEP.
This session aims to provide a hands-on how-to for making your
student’s IEP’s efficient and effective.
12/30/02 - NO ASK MEETING - Happy Holidays!
01/27/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Educational Therapy - Guest
speaker Susan Ehrlichs
02/24/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Autism and AB 88 Reimbursement - Chris
03/31/03 - 7PM: ASK Meeting - To Be Scheduled
04/28/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Occupational Therapy [OT]/Physical
Therapy [PT] and Sensory Integration - Lori Annes, RPT, PhD, Dr.
Annes is the Director of Can Do Kids in Venice. She will talk about
OT/PT and sensory integration dysfunction.
ASK is a non-profit
organization dedicated to helping parents with issues related
to special education. To contact ASK, call (310 480-9310. ASK does not accept payment for
assistance provided to families, rather raises money in
furtherance of our efforts through fundraising and accepting
donations. We also accept sponsorships of our newsletter,
covering typical costs of printing
and mailing the newsletter. Your sponsorship will be
gratefully acknowledged on the newsletter cover. If you wish
to donate to ASK or sponsor an issue, please contact ASK or
speak to an ASK Board member.
Advocates for Special Kids - September
2002, Volume 2, Issue 1
[Sponsored by the Wicker Family]
Advocates for Special Kids
c/o 3109 Walnut Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
"Families and friends of children receiving special
in Manhattan Beach & the South Bay"
"Disability is a natural part of
the human experience and in
no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or
contribute to society. Improving educational results for children
with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of
ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent
living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with
20 U.S.C. § 1400 Congressional
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]