School districts need to reach out to parents and make sure that they know what special education services are available. This is not a statement of opinion it is a statement reflecting the child find responsibilities of IDEIA to do public out reach. Unfortunately, too many school district seem intent on keeping parents in the dark, and then complain that parents are not well informed in the IEP process or worse yet have "unrealistic expectations."
A prime example of this failure to reach out to parents is unfolding in a nearby school district, Long Grove-Kildeer School District #96 [grade school], in a very unusual way. A local parent support group, Special Children Special Families, which has been operating for the last 5 years, has invited the District #96 special education director and the Stevenson high school special education director to speak to parents in a moderated panel discussion. This presentation is due to take place next week. The high school district has widely advertised this event in print and online. School District #96, on the other hand, has flatly refused to place flyers in children's back packs. The district claims that it is simply enforcing a policy that has been around since January 2006 prohibiting publicity for "outside groups;" an anti-junk mail policy of sorts.
Unfortunately this claim breaks down. For all previous events this year, flyers have gone home in children's back packs. This practice was observed even when I spoke last March before this same group. I can assure you that my talk was far more "controversial" than anything these special education directors would say publicly.
So why has the school district suddenly decided to dust off this policy in time to dampen attention for its own special education director's presentation. I can not say for certain especially because the school district has refused to explain the basis for its sudden decision in response to the group's emails and attempts at dialogue. Since the district will not answer this question, I am left to speculate:
- The school district does not trust its special education director to toe the district line. Pretty implausible as she is a very capable person who knows her job;
- The school district does not care if parents are informed about their rights and are more capable participants in the IEP process;
- The school district does not understand that it has a child find obligations which include public out reach;
- Because the school district can.