St. Tammany Parish faculty system guarantees to conduct a overview of its particular training companies
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Javanda May, a Slidell mom, said her 9th grade son was struggling to transition to virtual learning when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. May’s son should have precautions for his attention deficit disorder – including text-to-speech shelters, small group classes and mental health services, but “pretty much none of his precautions from his IEP have been implemented,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
An IEP – or Individualized Education Program – is a plan that defines the special educational needs and services of a student with a disability. With her son unable to receive adequate housing for his learning disability, May said his learning loss was significant.
“I feel like my son is being punished for a lack of (his school) teaching him and providing him with the services he needs to be academically successful,” she said.
May said she and her daughter tried to tutor their son at home so he could read at the class level, but he still found it difficult.
“I kept emailing the headmaster and the IEP moderator on a daily basis, but no one replied,” she said.
May applied to Loyola University’s New Orleans College of Law. In March, student practitioner Lisa Soyars and lawyers Hector Linares and Sara Godchaux filed a formal complaint with the St. Tammany Parish school system on behalf of the parish’s disabled students.
“If that happened to one kid, it probably happened to a lot of other kids too,” Linares said Tuesday.
The complaint alleges that the St. Tammany Parish School System is “in a systemic violation of the rights of its 7,000+ special education students and their parents through a massive failure to provide student-mandated academic teaching, changes and related services” committed ‘(IEP’s) during the pandemic-related school closure in spring 2020.
The complaint also accuses the school system of denying students with special needs sufficient additional education to make up for the learning loss caused by the pandemic.
Schools were required to continue to provide special educational services and “access to equipment that would meet their individual needs regardless of operational changes,” so pupils with disabilities the Louisiana Department of Education’s Strong Start 2020 guidelines for reopening. Existing federal law also requires schools to meet IEP requirements for students with disabilities, Linares said.
The St. Tammany Parish School System only offered additional educational services to special needs students who had declined academically since schools closed, which Linares said too many students were left out.
“That’s why we made our complaint because we thought it was applying the wrong standard,” Linares said. “Regression should only be one factor, but it is actually expected progress” that needs to be measured.
Linares said documents he provided following a public request show that about 1,000 students with skills – or just 1 in 7 – qualified for additional educational services, according to the St. Tammany screening model.
On Monday, the St. Tammany Parish School System and Loyola Law School reached an agreement requiring the school system to assemble a review team to determine whether each of the community’s 7,000 students with disabilities received adequate achievement and, if not, how much additional academic work Lessons every student can need.
“We were very pleasantly surprised that St. Tammany was ready almost immediately to come to the table and try to work something out,” said Linares.
The State Ministry of Education will also act as an “independent monitor for the agreement to ensure compliance with the new review procedures”.
Neither the State Department of Education nor the St. Tammany Parish School System responded to multiple messages asking for comment.
“This agreement will have an impact on every single special student who has been in the district,” during the 2020 Spring Semester.
Other school districts in Louisiana were also struggling to provide the necessary services for their special needs students, Linares said, and these school districts could reach similar settlements.
May’s son is now taking classes to make up for the loss of learning that wasn’t corrected last school year, but May said these additional services still don’t meet her son’s educational needs as they don’t teach him grade-level content.
“I feel like he’s constantly being punished for what adults do,” May said.