"ASK" - Advocates for Special Kids
Improving Special Education in Manhattan Beach Unified School District
Through Compliance with IDEA and Parent/School Collaboration
Advocates for Special Kids
[ASK] is a parent group which supports families who have children with
special needs. Members actively educate themselves about their
childrenís disabilities and the full range of services and placement
options available to them. ASK works toward improving the delivery of
services to students with special needs and has attempted to foster
collaboration with MBUSD to develop the services and supports necessary
to ensure that ALL children receive an appropriate education.
Over the two years of our
organizationís existence, ASK members have become increasingly
concerned with the districtís inefficient use of education funds
through its failure to implement a comprehensive, system-wide plan for
the effective delivery of services. We have also become aware that funds
that would be better utilized providing services to children are instead
being used to fight the provision of services, to hire attorneys to
discourage parents from obtaining such services for their children and
to send children out of district to Non-Public Schools [NPS]. This is
often contrary to parentsí wishes that their child continue to receive
services at the school site. It is also often in spite of the fact that
the district school is the studentís least restrictive environment.
District personnel have
stated in school board meetings and in the press that special education
has resulted in "encroachment" on the general education fund.
Special education is part of education in general, not separate from it.
Funding the education of a child with disabilities cannot be an
"encroachment" on education funds in general unless one views
these children with disabilities as somehow unworthy of those funds.
More importantly, when it appears that close to half of the funds
district personnel claim caused the "encroachment" were not
spent on services, rather were spent on legal fees the district
chose to incur to defend against having to provide special education
services, it becomes clear where the districtís priorities lie.
In addition, we have become
concerned with the increasingly adversarial approach taken by district
staff in the resolution of complaints. This approach has resulted in a
greater number of requests for hearing than would be typically expected
for a district of this population.
More troubling is the fact
that this adversarial approach is resulting in unnecessary costs to the
district and its taxpayers through legal fees it must pay, not only for
the districtís defense of these cases but for the legal fees of those
parents who prevail and through costs associated with NPSís to which
the district sends children.
Most troubling is that this
adversarial approach is affecting our children - ALL of them - for it
cuts into funding available for much-needed services to children and
results in a delay of services to those children who need them. Such a
delay not only detrimentally impacts the education of special needs
children in the long-term but increases the cost of later interventions.
As well, this adversarial approach affects the education of our typical
children for whom available funding of programs is cut simply because
dollars spent on legal fees are dollars unavailable for the funding of