Her Twitter bio says: Passionate about quality education for children and an advocate of school choice. I find it hard to believe that Betsy DeVos actually believes that. Because if she was truly passionate about quality education, she wouldn’t suggest that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “is a matter that is best left to the states.”
IDEA refers to the United States Federal Law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age.
If Betsy DeVos was truly qualified to be the Education Secretary, she would know this. There would be no confusion.
Norrin was diagnosed with autism and referred to Early Intervention. Our service coordinator said, “You’re lucky to live where you do. Not many therapists want to provide services in the South Bronx.”
In terms of autism programs, The Bronx is grossly under served.
The Bronx is a diverse borough of all socio-economic classes, but it’s still seen as the borough that’s “burning.” Because of its stigma the special needs community, specifically people of color, suffers.
“…if IDEA is not fully enforced, the children hardest hit would be disabled children of color. Kids of color are more likely to be placed in special ed by teachers, mostly white, who view them as having behavior problems. It’s a gross abuse of power to allow those who have always been disadvantaged continue disadvantaged because they live in a certain ZIP code. With an ignorant Secretary of Education, the problems both groups are having will be combined and exacerbated.” – Vilissa Thompson, social worker and founder of the disability self-advocacy organization Ramp Your Voice. (source: The Daily Beast, Elizabeth Picciuto)
Many people suggested we move to Queens, New Jersey, Long Island or Westchester where services could be better.
But moving was never an option. I was still in school. We couldn’t afford to move. And moving to NJ, Long Island or Westchester were out of the question. I can’t drive and I relied too much on my parents for childcare to move so far way.
We got lucky with amazing home-based therapists and a pre-school program.
There weren’t any (private/non-public) schools – other than District 75 schools – specifically for children with autism in The Bronx. I toured schools in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Westchester and New Rochelle.
We applied to 8 schools. The only school that accepted Norrin cost $93,000 per year. (That was six years ago, it’s probably more by now.) It would require a lawyer and suing the Dept of Education annually.
Eventually we settled for a public school in the South Bronx. The Horizon Program was specifically for autistic children within a “typical” public school. On paper, it was perfect. In practice, it wasn’t. It was a horrible situation.
When I questioned the Assistant Principal why Norrin wasn’t receiving OT services, her response was “This is the South Bronx. There’s a shortage of therapists. I don’t know what to tell you. Call 311.”
I filed for an impartial hearing twice that year. And I won both times, without using a lawyer. But I know many parents who spend thousands of dollars, mortgaged their homes and taken out loans to pay attorney fees.
It shouldn’t have to be that hard for special needs parents.
Even with IDEA and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education), school districts still give parents a difficult time.
Special needs parents who advocate for their kids are often seen as difficult and demanding. All we want is want is what any other parent wants for their child – a quality education.
IDEA and FAPE aren’t about being sensitive, it’s about equality. It’s about civil rights. It’s about providing an appropriate education for all children regardless of what state they live in. I don’t think Betsy DeVos gets that.
If you agree you can sign a petition – HERE.
Betsy Devos is old enough to remember a “school” called Willowbrook. And if you don’t know what Willowbrook is – this what “special education” looked like in the 60/70s. Willowbrook is why IDEA is a federal law.
“Unforgotten” is a critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary that examines the impact of the horrors of Willowbrook on the survivors and their families, 25 years after Geraldo Rivera’s historic television exposé.