Hillsborough parents weigh in on ESE issues
The work group report on exceptional student education ended with comments from the Superintendent's Advisory Council on the Education of Students with Disabilities. This 30-member council consists largely of ESE parents who also work either for the district or community organizations that are involved with special-needs children.
Critics sometimes criticize the council for "too soft." But there was nothing soft about their anonymous remarks:
"Until you have worked with a student who elopes, you cannot possibly imagine the speed at which a student takes advantage of the opportunity to run."
"Strategies to "Avoid Elopement" should be developed. Parents should be included -- they are a wonderful source of resourcefulness -- they have lived it for years."
"While training is important, the opportunity to shadow a well staffed classroom is invaluable.
"Specific training needs to expand beyond the score of elopement. Need training on students who are suicidal, depressive, explosive disorder, medically fragile, etc. Don't limit to special needs population. Should include all employees."
"The goal should be for each school to employ a professional registered nurse, and they should be supported to pursue certification as a school nurse."
"Value of the relationship and understanding of student and family needs."
"Often substitutes are not hired when ESE teachers are out. This practice needs to be stopped."
"The aides get their hands dirty. They deserve the respect and pay for their jobs. But they must also be told that this IS A JOB!"
"For 7 hours a day, paraprofessionals have the responsibility of tending to the learning, hygiene, emotional, and safety needs of the most vulnerable of our children. The demands on these people can be great, as well as the positive impact they impart."
"The nurses need training too. Communication with parents and to let them know what has happened right after it happens and to give the parent a copy of the accident report."
"Teachers need to be encouraged to stay proactive in reaching out to parents on a regular basis. Communication does not have to be involved or protracted. No matter what the child's disability or level of functionality,l parents appreciate and need consistent information from the classroom."
"Principals need to emphasize safety and supervision of ALL students on their campus."
"Jenny C's parents sent her to school to be safe and to learn. She was a middle school student with Down syndrome. I would like for the school board to walk through her school day. Sit in her classes. See what she was being taught. How involved was she in her middle school community? ... What was her educational day like? Do you think she was being prepared for independent living and employment? What are you willing to do about it?"
"Commit to a culture of inclusive communities. All personnel are responsible for all children. All staff has some training regarding students with disabilities."
"More work needs to be done to help our kids transition to either to college or employment."
"Are we asking the ESE students themselves for any input into their issues? I think there should be an appropriate forum at the ESE Advisory Council level. I also think these students should get an audience with the principal and other administration officials, as they often feel like their issues don't matter."