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A Letter to the School Superintendents Association (AASA)

May 10, 2013 by

By Dennise Goldberg –

Dear AASA,

Recently you have published a report entitled; “Rethinking Special Education Due Process” which you claim is intended to spark a thoughtful, new dialogue about the need for critical changes to the special education dispute resolution system.  In reality what we have gotten is an attempt by your organization to use its influence to strip our children of their civil rights and their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  A report so blatantly disrespectful and bigoted that S. James Rosenfeld the Director of the National Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers has issued a response distancing himself from it:

I was asked to review and comment upon a January 2013 draft of the Report, probably because it cited quotes from my article “It’s Time for an Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure,” 32-2 NAALJ 544-567 (Fall 2012) that were critical of many aspects of special education due process hearings. Those references were included in the final Report, which also listed me in acknowledging “the many people who have been involved in the development of this report.” 

My concern is that readers of the Report, looking simply at the quotes from my NAALJ article and the statement “acknowledging” my “involvement” in development of the report, may conclude that I support the AASA’s recommendations. That is incorrect. While I have many concerns about due process, most of them could be ameliorated by assuring that parents have competent counsel. I have never suggested or advocated that a litigation option be removed from IDEA. Moreover, I never saw the recommendations included in the final report.

Most importantly, I fundamentally disagreed then and now with the Report’s assessment of the place of children with disabilities in the public education system.

AASA, what you have proved with this sweeping indictment of the place of children with disabilities in the public education system is that you will say anything, do anything and use unsubstantiated facts to get your way.  Once again, I could not have said it better than S. James Rosenfeld when he stated in his response, “To be candid, I find the article surprisingly insensitive to the needs and concerns of children with disabilities and their parents – with one surprising exception. That is the first paragraph of the section titled “Reconsidering a due process framework for IDEA,” which sounds like it was written by a different author. I understand, obviously, that the article is written from and designed to explain the school administrators’ perspective, and it does that well.”

Mr. Rosenfeld went out of his way to provide his comments prior to publication of your report and not only did you ignore them you made it appear like he endorsed your findings.  At the very minimum this was a premeditated act of omission.  What I would love to know is how many other people tried to weigh in and were ignored if they disagreed with your agenda.

I did however notice that parents were never even asked to weigh in prior to the publication of this report and were ignored right from the start.  As my friends at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) point out in their response to this piece of fiction, “In its press release announcing its suggestion to “revise” the IDEA Due Process System, the AASA notes that it gathered information from “discussions with superintendents, special education administrators, special education lawyers, professors and researchers in special education litigation matters, hearing officers, state officials, and other education policy experts.” Given the tone of the rest of the release and the AASA report, it is disappointing at best that neither parents of students with disabilities, nor students themselves, appear to have been worthy of consultation in this process. Nor, apparently, were teachers or related service personnel who work with these children.”

If you have not read COPAA’s response in its entirety I implore you to do so and as they aptly point out, “AASA contends the due process system is inequitable and unpopular. The fix to inequality is not to do away with due process of law. The goals of IDEA have never been intended to win a popularity contest and indeed the goal of families is not and never has been for greater numbers to access Due Process.”

As a parent of a child with special needs I never wanted to file for due process but yet I have it done it three times in the past seven years.  All three times I have filed for Due Process I have been offered settlements prior to my hearing based on the merits of my case.  I did not take these filings lightly and did it when I felt I had right on my side.  The first time I filed was when the School tried to exit my son from his IEP and speech services in Kindergarten. After an Independent Educational Evaluation paid for by the District and Private Evaluation paid for by me he was neither exited nor did he lose any services.  That was 7 years ago and my son is about to finish his first year of middle school and still receives special education services via his IEP.  He is flourishing and has made the honor roll all year based on the support and services that his IEP provides.  Without the due process of law I cannot even imagine where he would be today and for this reason and all of the others I listed above I find your report to be despicable and your organization unworthy to lead our children into the future.

Dennise Goldberg 
Parent of a Child with a Disability

via A Letter to the School Superintendents Association (AASA) | Special Education & IEP Advisor.

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