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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Organizing Parents in Simi Valley

In California, The Simi Valley Acorn reports on the No Education at Simi Group, consisting of parents who criticize the quality of education in the Simi Valley Unified School District. The group placed an ad in the paper:
“It is the opinion of this group that some students may not have received a ‘free appropriate public education,’” the Nov. 14 advertisement read. It asked parents interested in joining the group or sharing information to email 
SVUSD has approximately 2,300 students in special education, or roughly 13 percent of all the district’s students. According to an informational flier provided to the Acorn via email, No Education At Simi’s goal is to bring “an awareness of some of the pitfalls” the members have experienced in the district.
Why was an ad necessary?  There is no public list of special ed students because IEPs are confidential.  Therefore special ed parents have a hard time identifying and reaching one another.  There are other organizational barriers as well:

First, parents might be leery of drawing public attention to their children's disabilities. In the case of high-functioning autism, the other kids will probably notice a difference without necessarily knowing the label.  Once the label is public, however, the child might be subject  to more bullying.

Second, special ed parents might be reluctant to share information with one another.  Those who get a "good" IEP might worry that others will want the same deal and create a "run on the bank."

Third, organizing takes time, which is one thing that the parents of autistic kids and other special-needs students do not have.

Fourth, special needs are diverse.  The things that paraplegic kids need (e.g., wheelchair ramps) are totally different from autistic kids need (aides, communications devices).  A dollar that goes to one need is a dollar not available to another.  Even within the autism spectrum, there are diverse needs that might make it hard for parents to form a community of interest.