BY DONNA WESTFALL
I was recently made aware of a Federal statute that aids children with disabilities. Well, it’s supposed to aid children with disabilities. Apparently there is some brouhaha going on between families and schools because our school superintendent, Don Olson, administrators and teachers either don’t know about the 504 program or refuse to follow it’s dictates.
In one current case, last semester a female student earned A’s and B’s from a teacher who followed the program. But, her current teacher is not and the student is failing math. Things like making the child stand outside of the class because she couldn’t find her pencil are taking place. Are her civil rights being violated. You bet’cha. How many other children are being treated this way?
Background, some of you may remember Senator Hubert Humphrey. He introduced the bill to the United States Senate in 1972 stating: “…we can no longer tolerate the invisibility of the handicapped in America …children who are excluded from school …These people have the right to live, to work to the best of their ability, to know the dignity to which every human being is entitled. But too often we keep children whom we regard as “different” or a “disturbing influence” out of school & community activities altogether, rather than help them develop their abilities …Every child, gifted, normal and handicapped has a fundamental right to educational opportunity. Justice delayed is justice denied”.
It was passed and made part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
This is a Federal statute. It’s not optional. Here are some guidelines. As it pertains to public schools children a student must be “qualified ” (which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, and must have a disability). So, a child who: (1) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.”
Many students have conditions or disorders that are not readily apparent to others. They may include conditions such as specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy and allergies. Hidden disabilities such as low vision, poor hearing, heart disease or chronic illness may not be obvious, but if they substantially limit that child’s ability to receive an appropriate education then Section 504 testing and an appropriate educational regimen must be done.
It also specifies that only physical and mental impairments are included, thus “environmental, cultural and economic disadvantage are not in themselves covered”.
It’s all too easy to get dropped through the cracks in this community. If a child decides they don’t want to attend school, a parent could be charged with abuse by forcing a child out the house, into the car and dropping them at school. So, with the law(s) being ignored, more than one child in our community is not getting an adequate education. Whether it’s because of a defiant child, baffled parent, frustrated grandparent or lax administrators/teachers….. folks, we’ve got a problem. There are many factors. Bullying being one of them which was addressed last year. Signs that things are changing regarding bullying is indicative that when administration puts their collective minds to a task, they can make marked improvements.
When will they tackle this problem? Soon, I expect.