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Friday, November 01, 2019

Why Districts Don't Do Better By Special Education Students

I ask this question as a Sultan School Board member, Ed Husmann, was involved with this interchange about Special Education students (from KING-5):
Chairman: "We're required to educate these students."
Husmann: "But then maybe they're not educatable."
Chairman: "We have to educate every student that's brought to our school, required by law."
Husmann: "Some kids are uneducatable."
Chairman: "That has nothing to do with it."

KING 5 contacted Husmann asking him to clarify what he meant by saying, "some kids are uneducatable."

"If we're spending that much money, what's the possibility of the end result?” said Husmann. “Will these children be normal children to take their place in society, or are we dealing with a situation like we have personally, here?"

Husmann was referring to his wife's adopted, special needs son, Seth. Born brain damaged, Seth died at just 38 years old. Husmann referred to Seth as "uneducatable."

"If you're gonna spend that amount of money, that takes it away from the other students that are there that are going to function in society at some point in time," said Husmann.

When asked if it's appropriate to apologize for what he said, Husmann flatly said no. However, Husmann said he is sorry if he offended anyone and is happy to sit down and have a discussion about the controversy, as well as spending for special needs students.
Whoa and wow.

If you have ever read a Seattle Times' article on Special Education (good, bad or indifferent), you'd see that many comments reflect Husmann's thoughts.

Naturally, there are different levels of need in Special Education.  And some very high-need students cost a lot of money.   And, putting together all the levels of service, it costs money.

I'm not sure what Mr. Husmann thinks should happen to these children but the law requires and morality compels us to serve these children.  Because who gets to decide who should have services?

But this story does hone in on the issue for SPS and all districts.  With such a wide spectrum of concerns and accompanying costs, how is a district to decide how they will "fulfill" an IEP?

Over the years, I have heard from and read so many Sped parent stories about how the IEP was technically fulfilled but in a token manner so the district could say they did do something.  There is so much frustration, worry and anger among parents around FAPE and districts trying to streamline/water down IEPs.

Do districts do this with malice? No.  They do it to try to save money.

I think that is one of the hardest questions for Board candidates.  Because it's easy to say that you believe all IEPs should be enacted down to the letter.  It's harder when you see the costs after you get elected.  I've never thought that Board members didn't care but rather, they feel helpless to see this work done in its entirety.

Naturally, I think the State should be paying more than they do.  I'm not sure if SPS is at a 50/50 cost with the state (I think during the last legislative session, the State said they would put more in).  Anyone?

But I think many districts, by how they fulfill Sped needs, are quietly making choices about where they think the money is best spent.

What Hausmann said is an ugly thing. I would suppose there are many other people who think the same way but I believe all kids deserve the chance to an education.  Learning can mean different things for some children but even the highest-need student can learn something by going to school.

Update: more on what is happening with Special Education via OSPI.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

SpEd services are SPS are a joke. Even if you can get an IEP and your school delivers, the SpEd teachers aren’t adequately trained. I’m just waiting for a lawsuit to remind SPS if it’s legal obligations, and boy will that have an impact on other students.

What that man said is horrible. I agree that there are very, very large challenges with educating certain students, but we must try. This guy isn’t even trying.

Do Better

Anonymous said...

@MW I know you are familiar with the FOIA process. I suggest you look into the Special Education Legal round table. You might then have a different opinion of SPS's motivation.

2e

Anonymous said...

The idea that Hussman puts forward is a common one. “We educate students with disabilities to make them normal, or nondisabled.” Obviously, if that is the point, to educate disability away, then many students are uneducable. If the point is to make them independent, then many are also uneducable. But if the point is to teach all students to take their place in society wherever that may be, to contribute as best they can and be good citizens, then there is hope of success. My kid had an iep for about 15 years. No, SPS is not motivated by cost savings. There are generously funded special education placements, warehouses, special facilities, everywhere you look. The district will spend boatloads to deal with a Sped kid so long as they are “somewhere” else. In that case, the sky is the limit. The thing that is missing is one ounce of care for outcomes by regular educators or administrators. They simply don’t believe in educating people with disabilities, nor consider them in anything. Regular education teachers never consider what a student has actually learned, if it falls outside the scope of what they expect. And usually the won’t lift a finger helping a student with an iep. You’ve heard that IEPs were fulfilled technically correctly? My experience is that never once has anything on my kid’s iep ever been implemented. And usually, nobody has even looked at it. Bad as that sounds, it isn’t completely damning. The iep alone is simply a formality. Service that a student actually receives is dependent on the quality of the teachers they get.

Speddite

Anonymous said...

Looks like a good reason to recall that elected official. OSPI should withhold funding until he resigns.

Just WOW

Anonymous said...

I watched the clip and read the transcript. He adopted a brain damaged child and he was speaking from his own experiences with his own son.

There is a bit of truth in what he didn't communicate very well and for those of us who have been involved in self contained classrooms we understand what he was trying to say.

At some point you realize that many of the students in the self contained classrooms are never going to advance past a very low level. The question is, is it fair for the state to mandate that local districts take on the enormous responsibility of taking care of these type of students without the state properly funding 100% of the cost.

SPS is skimming dollars from other programs and services to cover the huge expense of over $40,000,000 plus which doesn't included the $12,000,000 for outside SPED services.

At some point we need to have open non emotional conversations about this subject.

SPED Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPED Parent, you sum it up nicely.

Anonymous said...

The conversation we aren't having is about placement. Is a large traditional school really the best placement for all children? In most cases the answer is yes however, sometimes the answer is just no.

When two or more adults are needed full time to keep one child in a building is that really what is best for the child? Is it what is best for the building and all the other students in that building? This conversation, like the conversation about race is difficult and no one really wants to take it on.

Anonymous said...

Should we warehouse or institutionalize sped kids or try to add functionality in their lives?

Years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Buck v Bell case that it is best for society to limit reproduction to the most fit in society, and surgically sterilize every one else. They used flawed data to determine Carrie Buck as an imbecile and feebleminded, as well as her daughter. Carrie had a mother who was feebleminded, but Carrie was of normal intelligence. The eugenic movement was in full force in the 20's to 1981. ..


The data schools use can be faulty as well. When i was in school, they classified my IQ to be 86, but in reality, it is in the 140's.

Anonymous said...

Science teacher, you raise the outlier cases and distract readers from the reality, which is that students whose disabilities carry more than the resource room level of impact are always always always accused of being "too much" for SPS. Their parents are told that they are expecting too much. It is pretty hard to see how the bar can be even lower. This is the cultural reality in SPS.

Another science teacher

Anonymous said...

Science Teacher, When a student receives 2-1 adult support written into their IEP, it never just happens. And it is exceedingly rare. There is always a lawsuit behind that situation that proved abuse or neglect on the part of the district, and the student was granted 2 adults fulltime. So, it’s punishment for the district. It’s equally absurd to say “we aren’t having a conversation about placement.” The very first conversation a school has about a challenging student is about placement. How can we get that kid out of my class? Out of my building? Out of my district? The fact is, students that have 2 full time adults supporting them - will be shipped out of district at great expense. Never heard of one lasting the year. Mostly, because parents have prevailed against the lowest bar of quality or expectations set by the district. If the district showed even a modicum of care or accountability, the costs would no doubt be much lower. Nobody in SPS actually cares what special education staff does, or whether it’s effective. Yes that is the culture. It’s a huge machine. and it will not operate efficiently if nobody cares about actual quality.

Scientist

Anonymous said...

I have a kid who receives special education services and I, like many other parents, have had to sue the district. The question of why it is so difficult is one I have thought about for a long time.

I believe that as in all large organizations, it starts at the top. This is my 14th year in SPS and I have yet to see a Superintendent who has articulated a vision for special education. I once asked Larry Nyland at a Special Ed PTSA meeting what he his vision was for how students and families would experience special education services and he couldn't answer the question. His sole response was that it was Wyeth's area so he would let Wyeth answer.

I doubt we will see meaningful change until we have a School Board and a Superintendent who say out loud and to everyone that our students matter, that their success matters. We need leadership to say what they believe special education should look like. Without that, it's up to the leadership in each building. My family has experienced the difference that makes firsthand. In one SPS school, with a hostile culture to kids like mine, my kid crashed and burned and if he had been forced to stay there would have been on the school to prison pipeline. After a lawsuit and transfer to a different SPS school, he is a straight A student, taking advanced courses. Same kid. One of the key differences is that at the second school, the principal had established a culture that values inclusion, that makes clear to general ed teachers that they are responsible for following IEPs. It made a huge difference, and made me think -- what if we had a Superintendent who articulated these values and made clear that's what she expects to see in all our schools?

Would a vision from the top solve every problem in the delivery of special education services? Of course, not. But, without that vision, I fear we will continue to see more of the same and the students who will suffer the most are those from families that cannot afford to sue. It breaks my heart.

Two cents

Anonymous said...

But, without that vision, I fear we will continue to see more of the same and the students who will suffer the most are those from families that cannot afford to sue. It breaks my heart.

In other words, other students who are "furthest from educational justice."

all types

Unknown said...

Well on top of all of this its obvious that sultan school district as a whole agrees with him because a couple months before this was said the district completely cut my son's autism program, sending him to gold bar elementary where there is no specialized teacher with any kind of training and instead they try to keep them out of site out of mind it feels like. My son is so incredibly intelligent and has regressed so drastically as well as every other child in there, it makes me sick to think about.
Shame on him and Any one else who made that judgement for these children to no longer be in a class where they address getting the education they needed so desperately!

Unknown said...

Well on top of all of this its obvious that sultan school district as a whole agrees with him because a couple months before this was said the district completely cut my son's autism program, sending him to gold bar elementary where there is no specialized teacher with any kind of training and instead they try to keep them out of site out of mind it feels like. My son is so incredibly intelligent and has regressed so drastically as well as every other child in there, it makes me sick to think about.
Shame on him and Any one else who made that judgement for these children to no longer be in a class where they address getting the education they needed so desperately!

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