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Parents get special education complaint answered by the state

Under a barrage of criticism from parents, the South Whidbey School district has been ordered to provide better service to some of its special education students.

The order, in a report from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, comes after a group of parents of 10 special education students attending South Whidbey schools filed a complaint in May. OSPI found that the district needs to improve in the areas of timely evaluations, progress reports, additional speech and language services and include general education teachers in evaluation meetings for some its special education students.

The content of the order was brought out at Monday’s South Whidbey Board of Education meeting.

The cost, if any, of these items is not known at this time by district officials.

The parents lodging the complaint are members of a group known as Those Advocating for Special Kids, or TASK, which formed last fall.

Lois Beck, representing the other TASK parents, spoke during Monday night’s meeting. Her son, David, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. She said services in the district for autistic students are very very weak, maybe non-existent.

“We have been trying for nine years to get services from this district for our son,” Lois Beck said.

She said after getting what they saw as no help from the district, they were told by Diane Watson, the district’s special services director, to take their complaint to OSPI.

In September 2002, the Becks and other special education parents joined forces to advocate for their children.

“Since then we have grown in number of members,” Beck said. “There are more parents out there with these problems. We are getting more calls all the time.”

Beck told the board that the group had exhausted all possibilities for having the educational needs of their kids met.

“It was falling on deaf ears,” she said.

A review by OSPI found the school district has not met the needs of all its special education students. One of OSPI’s complaints is that some Individual Educational Plans (IEPS) were not updated in a timely manner. Families and teachers meet once a year to design an IEP and every 3 years for a total reevaluation of the student’s educational needs for special education.

Responding to the TASK parents and the OSPI report, Watson told the school board the district is taking the report and concerns of parents seriously.

“We are taking a systematic approach to the task of responding to the corrective action plan,” she said.

The 24 page-report contains a history of events leading up to the report, an overview of the complaints and issues involved, and needed corrective measures.

The report seemed to be good news for at least one member of the school board.

“I understand the frustration of these parents,” said board director Jim Adsley. “It’s hard to put one in another’s shoes. The report, albeit late, is a good starting point.”

In making the report, OSPI reviewed the 10 TASK student files and several others selected at random. Currently there are 249 students, ages 3-21, in the South Whidbey School District identified as needing special education, as well as 10 under the age of 2.

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