Justice Department to look into discrimination against students with disabilities

Several recent news stories have underscored the vulnerability of children with special needs. Now, the AJC is reporting that the U.S. Justice Department plans to investigate allegations that Georgia schools are discriminating against students with disabilities, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced Thursday.

The complaint takes aim at the state’s funding formula, which gives schools more money when students with disabilities are not mainstreamed into regular classes.

At least six state commissions have examined school funding, including one now under way, but there has yet to be any real reform to how Georgia funds its schools.

The investigation by the department’s Office of Civil Rights follows a complaint filed by the center in November, claiming  the Georgia Department of Education uses a funding formula that encourages districts to segregate students with disabilities in order to collect more money.

Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Thursday officials at the agency have not received any word from the Justice Department and cannot comment.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center said it based its complaint on the state’s education funding formula, which was enacted by the General Assembly in 1985 as part of the Quality Basic Education Act.

Under the act, Georgia school districts receive more money when students with disabilities are taught in segregated, rather than traditional classrooms, the center contends. “Students with disabilities often face discrimination by teachers and their peers due to assumptions about what it means to have a disability,” said Jadine Johnson, a staff attorney with the law center.

Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he’ll wait to see the results of the Justice Department investigation. “But at first glance, it appears that our antiquated funding formula, neglected by a bi-partisan succession of governors and legislatures, may be at the root of this particular matter,” Callahan said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

112 comments Add your comment

seen it all

April 6th, 2012
4:44 am

I think there is some discrimination against students with disabilities. Many teachers don’t want these students in their classrooms. They would love to have them locked away in SPED “resource rooms” or “self contained” classes.

I also believe that English language learners (ELLs), another category of special needs students, are discriminated against as well. These students are isolated in the schools and teachers consistently ignore the educational needs of this student group. Schools do very little to meet the needs of ELLs. Part of the problem has to do with the fact that most ELLs are immigrants or come from families who immigrated to the U.S. I know that there are people who actually refuse ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) services for their children because they don’t want their children labeled and obstracized as being “ELL”.

The two categories of “shame” in our schools: SPED and ELL/ESOL. It was even worse because of NCLB and AYP.

On a lighter note- one group of students NOT discriminated against- “gifted” students. Why? Because, as the research shows, “gifted and talented” programs tend serve more white and middle class students. MInorities tend to be overlooked for “gifted” programs despite the fact the the research shows that giftedness runs across all groups of people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, etc. In general about 4% of a population is “gifted”, yet the gifted and talented programs in our schools (especially here in GA), consist of mainly white children. In schools with children of color, G/T programs are virtually non-existent. Yet in suburban, “white” schools, the number of students served in “gifted” and AP/IB classes is humongous in comparison. Does that mean that only white people are smart and people of color (blacks, hispanics, Asians, etc.) are dumb?

Here the connection I see:
Black and brown, get put in SPED and ESOL (left to rot).
White and middle class, get put in “gifted”.
SPED and ESOL class- bad.
“Gifted” class-good.
SPED and ESOL- dumb and a “problem”
“Gifted”: Smart and an “asset”

Just food for thought.


April 6th, 2012
6:15 am

I think it depends on the district, and maybe on the child and the parents.

Personally, I’ve had several parent complaints because the child was “too mainstreamed” and the work was too challenging, and the parents felt their children should be in resource rooms where they would receive more attention, instead of taught with the general population.

To be fair, since the classes I teach would be inclusive/collaborative and not resource, I would not necessarily get the opposite complaint.

mountain man

April 6th, 2012
6:33 am

Two things I have constantly raised as issues:

1) – Mainstreaming of SPED students (or ELL/ESOL) takes resources away from the teacher and the quality of education for the rest of the class goes down. Even if the SPED student has his/her own teacher’s aide.

2) – SPED student education is a drain on the finances of the school – the “average” dollars spent on students is highly skewed, with a large portion going to Special Education. In my opinion, this is related to mainstreaming, that segregating them into their own class would be MUCH cheaper and the quality of their education (if you can call it that) would not go down that much.


April 6th, 2012
8:15 am

Most SLD (Specific Learning Disability) and OHI (Otherwise Health Impaired) students can function in a regular education setting with appropriate accommodations. I teach in a inclusion setting. I enjoy my inclusion classes.

BUT…this past year, my class sizes have jumped above 32+. I am overwhelmed.

Mountain Man

April 6th, 2012
8:20 am

So, teacher & Mom, what are “appropriate accomodations? You say you are “overwhelmed” with a class of 32, would you be overwhelmed if the SPED student(s) were not there? How much extra work is added when you add a SPED student to your class? How much time does working with the SPED student take away from instruction time with the rest of the class?

These are the answers I would like to know.


April 6th, 2012
8:26 am

So whio is discriminated against when the teacher has to dumb down the lessons to accomodiate a few…talk about disctrimination..lets just put everyone to the lowers common denominator and call the USA a bunch of idiots. Again, the government and Lawyers tearing down the educational system

Joe Frank

April 6th, 2012
8:33 am

In a “good” system, the children are mainstreamed, ANYONE gets into the gifted program that is deserving, and the ESOL students are served and eventually mainstreamed as well. The local school board is our most basic form of self government representation. IF yours is not serving your children as it should, VOT THEM OUT! Quit expecting the FEDS to solve all your problems.
As harsh as it seems, there are some children with disabilities that will never be able to be mainstreamed. They drain the resources to serve children that would be better served in a spcial needs environment.
As food for thought, IF the charter school amendment passes, just see how many schools pop up that do only serve an elite student and leave the rest to struggle in a depleted public school. All the time using your tax dollars.


April 6th, 2012
8:36 am

It’s actually pretty simple:

1. Catering to the needs of children with special needs costs money.
2. Money is hard to come by because of so many corrupt politicians..
3. Therefore, Georgia will not do anything until forced to by the Govt.

As for Geogia’s policies being “antiquated”, that’s just a polite term for crooked and incompetent.


April 6th, 2012
8:58 am

If there is any group of students which has more “rights” than others, it is SPED students…and believe me, their parents know all about those rights.

When I look at the resources that are spent on special ed students (collectively and individually) in my school, I cannot understand how anyone could say that the students are discriminated against because of funding…with the combination of special ed teachers, para-pros, diagnostic tools, and a myriad of other special resources, the per-student spending for special education is through the roof!
And those resources are spent in a combination of mainstreamed and individualized efforts.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 6th, 2012
8:59 am

Unless it’s changed markedly since my retirement from classroom teaching, Special Ed is the biggest paper chase since the Egyptians’ invention of papyrus. It was almost-all about the paperwork. Little attention was paid to improving learning for the kids.

Hopefully, things have improved for the better. But the SPLC’s suit suggests otherwise.

By the way, I’ve presented the SPLC with an idea for another suit after this one is settled. The idea: PubEd administrators demonstrate deliberate indifference to the deleterious effects on the academic and social skills of large numbers of poor and minority kids who matriculate in public schools which exhibit deplorable learning climates.

Ron F.

April 6th, 2012
9:07 am

Mountain Man: In most cases, all the special ed. kids get is extra time for tests or a copy of notes (which most of us have on the computer anyway). If the child needs one-on-one, he/she is usually not in an inclusion class or the inclusion teacher pulls them out for testing or one-on-one time. I’ve had inclusion teachers who ended up helping the regular ed. kids more than the special ed. kids. They all need some one-on-one help every now and then. The only issues I’ve seen are the same as for every kid: attendance, motivation, and effort. It really depends on the school and the willingness of the administration to schedule kids according to their needs. I agree with teacher and mom that the number of kids in the class, whether regular ed. or special ed. influences the level of success more than anything else.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 6th, 2012
9:18 am

I think the issue depends upon the system in which you work. I have worked in systems in which very little was done for ESOL or Special Ed students. On the other hand, I have worked in systems where those students were given so much support in terms of time, money and personnel that regular Ed students suffered from fewer resources. Gifted classes can suffer cuts as the needs to students with cognitive impairments increase. The idea being they will do well anyway, and the school likely won’t get sued if they aren’t served. Much of the reason for the rise in educational spending has to do with the high cost of accommodating special needs students – many more of whom are surviving childhood (thanks to medical breakthroughs) and entering our school systems. People tend to over look this when they talk about the great increase in what taxpayers spend per child over the past decades. Children who require one on one aides or special equipment are expensive to a school system.

What needs to be kept in mind is the idea of “balance.” Not all students with disabilities are the same. Some can handle the regular classroom setting. Some cannot. The problems arise when one tries to implement a “one size fits all” approach.

Thanks to NCLB, many special Ed students receive the same content curriculum as their regular Ed classmates. This can be positive, as it means they have the same opportunities to earn a balanced education. No longer should a child with the ability to learn content be stuck in a corner and denied access due to a learning disability or a physical disability.

However, it can also be negative when the child simply cannot handle the material. I am not talking about students who may ‘struggle” with a subject – I am talking about students who simply CANNOT learn the material no matter how many times or ways in which it is presented. They simply are not capable of doing so. In this case, the child becomes constantly frustrated, takes up the teachers’ time trying to get her/him to learn material that is well above her/his cognitive level of understanding, and then makes the school look like it is failing when the student does not do well on end of the year tests for AYP. These children should be learning LIFE SKILLS, not about atoms and molecules.

No matter how much differentiating a teacher tries to implement, teaching a full classroom in which you have gifted children AND low cognitive functioning special Ed children and ESOL children who are reading two grade levels below all the content area text is NOT as beneficial to any of the students as classes in which students are ability grouped. But “ability grouping” is frowned upon….

Do I think students with special needs should be mainstreamed? Yes… but only to the extent that doing so serves them and the regular Ed students. If they cannot handle the content, then don’t mainstream them in that subject. Have them learn skills that are more applicable to their needs.

Of course, this means having educators AND parents who are truly interested in what is best for each particular child, who know the child well, who are realistic about the child’s potential and abilities, and who are willing to work with each other to do what is best for each individual child while keeping in mind the needs of the other students as well.

A Conservative Voice

April 6th, 2012
9:21 am

I tell you what, folks……if you don’t stop screwing up our public school systems, they’re gonna vanish……..wait, hold on……just forget what I said :)

Mountain Man

April 6th, 2012
9:35 am

“Much of the reason for the rise in educational spending has to do with the high cost of accommodating special needs students – many more of whom are surviving childhood (thanks to medical breakthroughs) and entering our school systems”

That is a great observation. Thank you for actually seeing the elephant in the room.


April 6th, 2012
9:38 am

LOL @Conservative

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
9:43 am

On the other hand, the national debt now stands at $15.5 trillion, up from $10.5 trillion in 2008.

The extra dollars being printed just to pay the INTEREST on this debt are steadily eroding the value of everyone’s life savings—and guaranteeing that our children (including those with special needs) will have a blighted economic future.


April 6th, 2012
9:52 am

Back in the 70’s, parents and advocates wheeled their handicapped children before Congress and political willpower wilted on the vine and the result was the Education For All Handicapped Children Act, which mandated “least restrictive environment” or mainstreaming of handicapped children.

Twenty five years later, my daughter is sitting in a second grade class not receiving any instruction while the teacher has to deal with a SPED student pooping in his diaper.

Between the SPED student, the ESOL student, and the future felon continuously disrupts class, the students with average and high ability students actual instruction time is probably measured in Minutes per day. Just assign everything as homework and maybe the parents can catch them up…

Ron F.

April 6th, 2012
10:03 am

Lee: you bring that up often, but I find it hard to believe. The regular ed. teacher is not responsible for that level of service to the child, and if she is having to do it, somebody’s got a lawsuit to file. That child, by law, should have an attending person. If he/she doesn’t, then you might want to be the one to point that out to the higher ups. I would never, and would sound the alarm if I was asked to do it as the regular ed. teacher.


April 6th, 2012
10:06 am

Common sense ought to have a role in all these decisions, but I guess that is too much to ask. I went to school in the 50’s and we had to mainstream everyone (cause there were no special ed classes). The slower students simply were put in the back of the class, or made to do sums on a blackboard all day, and sort of “kept out of the Hair” of the rest of the class so the teacher could teach. I think it makes sense to get them out of regular classes, and into classes where they can get more attention.

Warrior Woman

April 6th, 2012
10:24 am

If you think gifted and talented students aren’t discriminated against, you are clueless. I’ve seen school after school cut gifted programs to fund SPED and ELL/ESOL courses. The ones most harmed by mainstreaming are the above average (but less than gifted) learners. Their classes are continually disrupted by a variety of bad behaviors and behavior disorders, which the teacher is powerless to control because of “least restrictive environment” and IDEA.

The best way to serve ALL students is ability grouping. Unfortunately, political correctness makes ability grouping unpopular, so we ignore bright students in favor of “inclusiveness.”

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2012
10:25 am

Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he’ll wait to see the results of the Justice Department investigation. “But at first glance, it appears that our antiquated funding formula, neglected by a bi-partisan succession of governors and legislatures, may be at the root of this particular matter,” Callahan said.

Of course, when it comes to funding what does Callahan have to say about the ADMINISTRATIVE BLOAT that harpoons most, if not ALL, school public school budgets in Georgia?

Perhaps Callahan is silent on that because those who make up the “bloat” class are dues paying members of PAGE who help pay HIS salary?


April 6th, 2012
10:27 am

@Ron, I bring it up often because it actually happened. The teacher didn’t have to change the diaper, but she did have to a) contact the office to get someone to tell Special Ed teacher to come get him or b) get someone to listen out for her class while she walked him down to the Spec Ed class. Figure this happened at least once or twice per day and the class easily lost 45 min – 1 hr of instruction while the teacher dealt with this mess (pun intended).

I have a great deal of empathy for parents of special needs children, but I also contend that the rights of your child shouldn’t be to the detriment of everyone else in the classroom.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2012
10:32 am

If you think gifted and talented students aren’t discriminated against, you are clueless.

TOTALLY agree Warrior Woman; when administration KNOWS a child is going to “exceed” on the CRCT on the FIRST day they walk into class, just how much attention do you think that child gets from administration?

If you said “zero” (or you were being kind and said “MINIMAL” pass go and collect your $200)

Joe Blogg

April 6th, 2012
10:47 am

Lets put aside the misplaced notion that students with developmental disabilities are few.

Developmental disabilities are common. 1 in 6 children aged 3-17 have a developmental disability. ADHD is most common. 1 in 13 children have a learning disability. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/05/19/peds.2010-2989.abstract)

By some measures these 13% of students receive 21% of education funding.

To illustrated this in dollars and cents, in 2008 the national average spending on primary and secondary education was around $10K/pupil. (http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66). When the 13% special ed student receive 21% of funding, this means special ed is $16K per pupil and regular ed $9K. I.e. we spend 78¢ more on the dollar to educate special needs students.

Across the nation, states identify from 9-18% of their populations as qualifying for special education services. Georgia ranks 47th. Identification and provision of services for students with special needs is inconsistent and varies greatly from state to state. Variability in how states report data make it difficult to make comparisons between how states provide and fund services.

It would be much more useful to have a conversation about how we begin to move from a repair model to a preventative model of identifying and providing services for students with special needs. When we delay identifying and providing services until there is a significant problem, then our ability to affect positive outcomes is diminished. In this country, the provision of services and expenditures on special needs is lowest in the earliest grades and rises steadily a pupils progress through the primary grades and then increases significantly throughout secondary schooling.

Finland is an example of the preventative model. -Where identification and special needs services are highest at the early childhood and primary grades and declines as pupils progress through their primary education, then increasing moderately throughout secondary schooling. In Finland over half of all students receive special needs services before completing their primary education. I.e. special education isn’t special when the majority of students benefit from receiving it at one point in time or another.


April 6th, 2012
10:49 am

Survival of the fittest? Nah, let’s do survival of the un-fittest first. Turning nature’s laws upside down won’t have any repercussions down the road.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2012
10:52 am

Mountain Man: In most cases, all the special ed. kids get is extra time for tests or a copy of notes (which most of us have on the computer anyway).

@Ron F. with the caveat that I may not categorically agree with any solutions proposed by Mountain Man, I must say he brings up FAIR and LEGITIMATE questions.

If you have a student from a behavior disorder class being “mainstreamed” without any assistance, (let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen-the para can’t go to 5-7 classes at once) then we are being LESS THAN HONEST to say that child doesn’t take up time and energy that the regular ed teacher would have for the other students.

What happens for example, when the child’s behavior becomes a threat to the SAFETY of other students, and the special ed teacher trained in restraint techniques is nowhere to be found?

“Um, excuse me boys and girls, while I’m being cursed at, spat upon, and PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED, please practice bubbling in “C” on your answer sheets. I’ve been assured administration will be back from lunch in no less than 20 minutes.”

Don’t think this type of scenario is THAT uncommon.

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
11:04 am

@Beverly Fraud: While it’s true that Tim Callahan’s PAGE has resisted many education reforms which would place school choice more in the hands of parents—his group is NOT funding the Democrat Party (or any other) to block needed reforms.

Rent “Waiting for Superman” to see how the other (union) side pulls that off.

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2012
11:13 am

My main issue with the movie @Jane W.

Are we “Waiting for Superman”?

Then REMOVE THE KRYPTONITE from the classroom.

-Remove the chronically and severely disruptive who HIJACK the sanctity of the classroom learning environment.

-Remove the ADMINISTRATIVE RETALIATION which HIJACKS teachers’ attempt to advocate for better teaching/learning conditions


Why doesn’t the “Waiting for Superman” crowd address THOSE issues?


April 6th, 2012
11:15 am

I would agree to some extent that Students with Disabilities (SWD) are discriminated against, much of the blame, but not all, lies with the parents. I understand where a great many of the parents of SWD come from. But they must take the time to learn about their child’s disability and advocate for the child. They need to be active in the IEP meetings and make their wishes known. Sometimes, the larger classroom is not the best place for a child if reading is a major issue. Having the ability to teach the child in a smaller setting so they can learn how to read is a good thing. Then, having them in the regular classroom for other subjects might be the best program. But, it is about what’s best for the child and parents need to be involved.

It also takes strong leadership on the part of the school. A number of teachers still hold SWD in disdain. They feel like they will have to water down the curriculum and other non-sense. Teachers often do not understand the difference between accommodations and modifications. Accommodations are ways to help the student reach the goals set forth. This could include extended time, larger print, shorter assignments, etc. But at the end the child should show the same mastery as the other students. Modifications are a changing of the goal. Many teachers just go straight to this without considering its impact on learning. Many IEPs are written with this in mind rather than coming up with ways to help the child reach the goals and expectations of every other child.

A few years ago a regulation came forth, the 90/80 rule, that stated 90% of SWD must spend at least 80% of their instructional day in the regular education classroom. I believe this rule is still in effect. This rule was implemented because too many SWD were placed in self-contained classes and not exposed to the full curriculum. A mandate had to be passed on what should have been common sense. I don’t like the rule but too many kids were being cheated out of an education.

The 2nd rule that has impacted special education was the “Highly Qualified” rule regarding teachers. It stated basically if you were going to be the teacher of record of a particular subject then you should be qualified to teach that subject. Too many special education teachers did not have a content major at the secondary level but were supposed to teach a content area. This made for a difficult task because many teachers were asked to teach subjects like biology or English and they only had a rudimentary knowledge of the subject. Getting the kids to the level they needed to be was a most difficult task and was often met with failure. Again, another federal rule that had to be passed because we did not use a dose of common sense.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 6th, 2012
11:40 am

@Beverly “What happens for example, when the child’s behavior becomes a threat to the SAFETY of other students, and the special ed teacher trained in restraint techniques is nowhere to be found?”

Been there, done that. I had a behavior disordered child in my regular Ed classroom who was on an IEP. The IEP said that every time she had a “meltdown” I was to remove the other children from the classroom and call for the “restraint team”. I was not to approach the child or engage with her in any way.

So about three times a week, this child would “melt down” due to anything from not having her homework done when asked, to having her pencil point break. She would start screaming, cursing, tearing up materials, and throwing things around the room. The other students and I would quickly exit the room and wait in the hall until a member of the “restraint team” could be called and respond. I would stand in the doorway, in hopes that I could at least monitor her, even if I could not approach her.

The “restraint team” included the principal, the librarian, the speech teacher, and the counselor. So not only did my students miss a great deal of educational time, but the members of the “team” often also had to stop teaching or working with students to respond. This one child negatively affected the learning of students throughout the school. Not only that, but she managed to destroy a lot of classroom supplies as she tore them up or threw them around while left to her own devices in the room.

I often wondered who would be at fault if she were to injure herself or another child while throwing her tantrums. What if she kicked a window and broke the glass while alone in the room, or what if she hit another child with a chair before I could get them all safely out of the classroom? Where were the advocates for all the OTHER students in my room affected by her behavior?


April 6th, 2012
11:55 am

Well, the problem is surely not that special education (NOT including gifted) is underfunded. Look at this budget document from Fulton County: http://goo.gl/6csOS The feds paid for 25% of what they mandated for SpEd services. Since the state only paid 14%, that left the taxpayers of Fulton County to cover 61%. According to this document (on the FCSS website), the average cost per pupil for SpEd was $30,323 in 2010 and $18,624 of that was local funding.

At the first State Education Finance Study Commission meeting in June, 2011, the superintendent of Forsyth County Schools reported that the federal government paid an appalling low percentage (less than 10 and I believe around 5) of the programs they mandated.

What did that mean? That the sizes of regular (AND gifted) classes were raised, since the Georgia legislature waived the class size restrictions on all but federally-mandated programs (i.e., SpEd). Gifted services are funded ONLY at the state and local levels; the federal government does not provide gifted funding, period.

Other first-world countries address this by not pretending they can educate everyone at the same level. In Germany, for example, special education students are only in school through the eighth grade, after which they are placed in training programs. Other students are allowed to move into apprenticeships after tenth grade, learning trade skills, rather than making others as well as themselves, miserable with literary criticism papers and logarithms.


April 6th, 2012
12:00 pm

For comparison, the average cost to educate an non-SpEd, non-ESOL student in FCSS in 2010 was $8704: http://goo.gl/daTbH


April 6th, 2012
12:27 pm

Oh, and our General Assembly just voted to insure that we will be adding more high-need special ed students to school rosters with the “fetal pain” bill. Can we pass a resolution that every legislator who voted for that bill must have a child born under those conditions placed under his/her care for the child’s life? (And then another child of similar circumstances if that one does not survive?) And how about requiring that the legislator – oh, let’s add the lobbyists advocating for the bill to be equitable – to financially support the child as well. NO government subsidies for health care, education, etc.?

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
12:36 pm

@BeverlyFraud: The same Democrat Party whose presidential candidate is ALWAYS endorsed and funded by the National Education Association—using the extra $130+ yearly squeezed out of each GAE/NEA member—is foremost in insisting on the rights of disruptive students to remain in the classroom.

It seems there’s always a racial angle to be found and exploited in blocking needed reforms.

And if the film “Waiting for Superman” overlooks your pet issue … it does parents a great service by otherwise blowing the whistle on the status quo in public education.

I'm a teacher

April 6th, 2012
12:59 pm

There have been some comments here that regular ed teachers don’t want SPED students in their classes – that is not true. We don’t want students who are not able to learn in our classes – or if they have a disability that allows them to learn at the level I teach with some modification – explain to me how to modify. Most IEPs that I see for my inclusion students (these are not students in a collaborative setting where there is a special ed teacher in with me) have statements like “modify test” without letting me know how to modify the test for that child – a modification for a vision impaired child is different from one for a child who has processing issues is different from a child with ADD/ADHD is different from one for a child who has behavior disorders and triggers on stress. In the collaborative setting – there are weeks at a time when the collaborative teacher is barely in the classroom because they are doing the IEPs (which are pages and pages long, and the computer programs to do them change every other year and everything has to be re-entered, etc.)
Also by the time they get to High School there are significantly more SPED students in the system

Big Brother

April 6th, 2012
1:01 pm

Ah yes, DOJ. Fast & Furious, New Black Panthers, Lawsuits against Voter ID, run by the man who petitioned for the pardons of terrorist under the Clinton administration. Very helpful of course.


April 6th, 2012
1:13 pm

The care of our Old and special needs citizens is another area that America’s people and its government has been shamefully and woefully inadeuqate in addressing their needs in a more humane fashion. Despite all of the Bravdo of how great we are as a nation, all one has to do is to consider how these two groups are treated and cared for and you will see that our evolution has not evolved that much.

Rick in ATL

April 6th, 2012
1:33 pm

When we found out our 2nd grade autistic son was disrupting his mainstream class at SPARK, we put a stop to it–we pulled him out. We felt we owed it to the other kids and the teacher, who was forced to deal with our son on her own because the parapro assigned to our boy considered mainstreaming time to be his “break time.” But we didn’t learn about it until long after it started happening.

There are so many things wrong with how APS and other schools handle this troublesome issue that I could literally write a book about it. But yes, parents do fight to mainstream their special-needs kids–often, as in our case, it has ZERO to do with academics and everything to do with socialization.

(And sometimes it is just a way to get your kid out of the understaffed, depressing SPED classroom where (in SPARK’s case) the SPED teacher had more IEP duties to perform each day than were mathematically possible for any one person to perform).

In an age of too-high student/teacher ratios, it is positively criminal to push SPED kids into a classroom and tell the beleaguered mainstream teacher: “here, you deal with this. You don’t get any additional resources–just deal with it.” (That happens frequently, even at the so-called “good” schools like SPARK).

SPED officials do this to avoid being harassed and sued by parents. They just capitulate and put the kid into the mainstream classroom. Principals pretend not to notice, and woe unto any teacher who dares complain to the principal about the additional hardship. The whole thing is an expensive and destructive farce, and ultimately an abdication of responsibility by ALL parties involved, including–in many cases–the parents of the SPED children.

We felt as parents that our child did not have the right to consume a hugely disproportionate share of the teacher’s valuable time and energy. That to continue doing so would have been a disservice to the other children in that class. But if we hadn’t acted honorably, our son would still be there, still doing the same stuff.

Mainstreaming is important–critically important–especially for autistic kids. But it must be engineered in a way that is fair to non-SPED kids. It is a difficult and complicated calculus, and it is beyond the meager abilities of the bureaucrats we have encountered on SPED payrolls.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 6th, 2012
2:17 pm

Rick in ATL,

Spoken like a caring, socially responsible parent.

We need more like you.

Rick in ATL

April 6th, 2012
2:39 pm

Thank you, Dr. Spinks, but this story does not have a happy ending. After years of trying to get APS to do the minimum required, we sued the district, and now our son is in a private school at taxpayer expense. So in the end, we DID end up consuming a disproportionate share of the a key educational resource–money– and no one is unhappier about that than we are. We would much rather our son had remained at SPARK and received the services he needed–and what we are talking about is not extraordinary. Not at all. In fact, you’d be depressed, but probably not surprised, to hear just how little APS would have had to do to avoid the expense of our lawsuit and the subsequent settlement.

But when your SPED program includes a large percentage of employees who are openly antagonistic toward parents not very good at their jobs, you’re gonna get sued.

APS’s strategy–if you want to call it that–was to BS parents as much as possible and pray to dear god above that parents weren’t shrewd enough to ferret out the truth. That is not exactly a business model you can count on.

Even though our son ultimately got the kind of special-education services he needed at the district’s expense, there is no earthly reason SPARK and APS could not have done what the law and common sense required and avoided the huge cost they–and by “they” I of course mean we, the taxpayers–ultimately bore by NOT doing it.

Erroll Davis has made moves to improve SPED at APS, which was utterly abandoned by Bev Hall during her disastrous reign (we were told by our BOE rep that that was because the performance of the Program for Exceptional Children did not impact Hall’s bonus, an entirely plausible and astonishingly honest explanation), but ultimately, any spec-ed program is only as good as the people involved–the people ARE the program–and at APS, you’re talking about replacing a LOT of people before things can turn around.


April 6th, 2012
2:49 pm

I’m disturbed by the political nature of this inquiry. It sounds like an effort to force Georgia to use the politcally correct mainstreaming model.

For some students it works. For others it doesn’t. As for schools, some school districts really don’t care. In the ones that do, it still varies dramatically school by school.

When our child was entering kindergarten, our public school did not want to do anything special because we didn’t fit into any of the categories they had funding for even though there were several diagnosed issues and a history. We would have been forced to put her in a regular classroom for 6 weeks until she had failed in that setting. It would have been a waste of time for her and damaging to her self-esteem to fail in that setting. We knew it would have been disruptive to the rest of the class. And we would have been getting the dreaded calls from the school several times a week.

I see a lot of bashing of special needs parents. But until you have lived it you have NO clue. If you’ve ever watched SuperNanny, those kids are EASY. There are a lot of smug parents who don’t want special needs kids around theirs and pressure principals to ignore their needs. I remember one Mother pulling her child away from our daughter in the hallway of our local public school and saying in a horrified voice, “She’s going here?” We were actually dropping off our other child, so she had nothing to be worried about. But she had the socially awkward child who our daughter had comforted on several occassions when they were in the same pre-school class. Her daughter remembered the kindness, but her Mother was teaching something different.


April 6th, 2012
2:52 pm

We were also discouraged by one of the office staff from getting our child in any sort of special needs program. “You don’t want to get your child labeled.” We got the impression this very good public school just didn’t want to deal with special needs kids.

Ron F.

April 6th, 2012
3:01 pm

“The same Democrat Party whose presidential candidate is ALWAYS endorsed and funded by the National Education Association—using the extra $130+ yearly squeezed out of each GAE/NEA member—is foremost in insisting on the rights of disruptive students to remain in the classroom.”

Prove that. Quote the legislation that says disruptive students must remain in the room.

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
3:25 pm

@Ron F at GAE HQ: This will hardly be news to Ron F, of course. But other blog readers are invited to scan the spectrum of liberal and far-left causes their GAE/NEA dues dollars end up at: http://goo.gl/bNdPt

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
3:40 pm

@Ron F: And here’s the National Education Association … on its own website … advocating “mainstreaming in the least restrictive environment” SpecEd students: http://www.nea.org/specialed

Larry Major

April 6th, 2012
3:43 pm

The complaint is without merit.

The Southern Poverty Law Center claims that the funding multiplier for SPED Cat V (which is higher than Cat I and Cat VI, but lower than Cat II-IV) violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Complainant’s claim is based on the notion that a school system could get more or less state funding depending on the physical location where SPED students receive their education and that the current funding formula favors grouping SPED students in an exclusive, instead of inclusive, environment.

Both the ADA and Rehabilitation Act specify legal requirements for treatment of, and services provided to, individuals; neither requires funding from any government agency in any absolute or relative amount. Therefore, even if all of the Complainant’s assertions are accurate (which they are not) there is no violation of law.

Summary Judgment for the Defendant and Jadine Johnson is ordered to pay my next bar tab.


April 6th, 2012
4:37 pm

When you think about it, the State of Georgia is a lot like a special needs student. Slow in comprehension, growth and maturity. Always screaming for attention, immature decison making, A serious case of ADD and OCS, especially when it comes to women’s healthcare. does not play well with others. selfish and runs with scissors. need I say any more?

Beverly Fraud

April 6th, 2012
4:38 pm

Rick in ATL,

Spoken like a caring, socially responsible parent.

We need more like you.

I second that remark Dr. Spinks.

Now if there was a way to put APS bureaucrats and BOE members (many, not all) in the MOST restrictive environment, (’self contained’ on a slow boat to China, perhaps?) no doubt teachers AND students would benefit.

Jane W.

April 6th, 2012
5:02 pm

@Ron F: Is it already quitting time over at GAE/NEA union headquarters? How about your spin on the union’s two-faced response to the Special Ed inclusion controversy?

Additional reading: http://www.nea.org/home/18469.htm


April 6th, 2012
5:26 pm

Off topic…but I thought this article was interesting given the many references to “Waiting for Superman”.


Superman dropped in for visit, started a brand spanking new charter school, and then skipped town. I guess the business model wasn’t exactly working out like he had planned.

I’m sure somehow, someway, NEA is to blame for the mess.