A mother gets what she wants
Score one for Sheila Slade-Lee, the parent whose relentless activism to get better special education services for her 7-year-old son caught both the attention of the city school board and this blog. She called this week to report that her son, a second-grader at Northwood Elementary, has gotten a one-on-one aide. And, much to her surprise, administrators have agreed to transfer him to a private school for special education students in the coming weeks. "Non-public placement," as it's called, as an incredibly expensive option and therefore one of last resort for school systems, which effectively have to admit that they aren't capable of serving a child and therefore need to foot the bill for private school.
Slade-Lee has spoken passionately about her son's plight at the last two school board meetings. She's hired a lawyer, and she's gotten help from one of the city's loudest special education advocates, James Williams. (She's also been more than a little persistent about contacting me with updates.) Last week, she attended an IEP meeting for her son, her 17th such meeting in two years. While there normally are about five school officials present at an IEP meeting, she said, this time there were around 20. Previously, the officials have resisted when she requested additional services for her son, who has hearing problems, sensory and auitory processing disorders, attention deficit disorder, and possibly dyslexia. This time, "everybody changed their story." When they offered non-public placement, "I was just floored."
"He got what I asked for a year ago," she said. "If he got all this stuff I've been asking for, that means they were wrong, right?"
A victory, yes. Yet she was still in tears. Why? "I'm still not happy about it because it's been such a terrible fight."