In this column I will be discussing the results of a one-year investigation that we conducted surrounding special education in Minnesota. The opinion of HIT investigators and myself is not included in this column. We began looking at Special Education over a year ago when a parent who was concerned that their child was being mistreated and not receiving their appropriate level of special education service contacted us.
Once we started the investigation we realized that we had walked into a minefield and that special education was, as one person put it, “Americas worst kept secret.” In this column we will attempt to present all viewpoints and give you the reader an idea of the complexity surrounding this issue. So, let’s see what people had to say.
Tina, whose child attends a special education school in the metro area, said, “The school just uses my baby to make money because he is not learning anything. When my baby was in first grade he was diagnosed with ADD because he wouldn’t stay in his seat. I did not think that my baby had ADD; I just thought that he was being a kid. But the school forced me to get him examined or they were gonna call child protection on me and tell them that I was neglecting my baby.
“They forced me to get him examined so they could make money. My baby is so far behind because of being in special ed that it’s gonna take them years to catch [him] up. It took us switching school districts to get my baby back in regular classes. These schools shouldn’t be allowed to force kids into these classes so they can make money. There is nothing wrong with my baby.”
Mike, who’s a teacher at a special education program said, “I have been assaulted more times than I can count since working in this place. I have been hit with chairs. I have been stabbed and I have been hit in the face with a flowerpot, and nothing ever happens to the kid who assaults me.
“This place is a zoo. None of these kids are getting educated. We are just warehousing them. I think that special education needs to return to its roots of providing education to those who are physically or mentally disabled. Kids who have behavioral issues have no business being in classrooms with kids who really need special education services.
“Behavior problem kids need to be in juvenile detention or some other locked place, because that’s where they are going to end up… I know that sounds harsh but it’s the truth. These behavior problem kids spend years abusing people and nothing happens to them until they turn 18. And once that happens they go to jail. That’s just the way it is. If people saw what happens in this place they would be appalled.”
Jan, who’s a high-level special education administrator said, “By law we have to provide an education to everyone so that’s why we have these programs. Now does that mean that all the kids in special ed should be there? In my opinion, no they shouldn’t.
“It can cost between $30,000 to $100,000 a year to educate each of the students that attend school here, and as longs as it’s the law that everyone gets an education, we are going to keep spending money. Kids who are the product of bad parenting should not be in our program. Our program and programs like ours should be for kids who are developmentally delayed not kids who just simply don’t know how to act.
“If we could find placement for those kids with behavior problems, who don’t belong in special education programs in the first place, we would save the taxpayers a lot of money. I know it’s difficult for the families who have children with behavior problems but having them in special education programs is doing everyone a disservice”
Ben, who is the parent of a child in special education, said, “My kid deserves an education just like every other kid. Unless you have a special needs child you don’t understand how frustrating it is when people say that kids like yours are the reason our schools are going belly up and that your kid is taking resources away from the normal kids. My kid deserves to get an education just like every other child.”
As you can see the issue of special education is complex. In the next column we will hear some of the stories of parents and staff members about some of the incidents that they have experienced with special education. You will not believe what happens in those schools.
We also ask people to provide us with some solutions and you will be surprised what people had to say.
Booker T Hodges welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.