- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
On June 7 there was a letter to the editor from a parent who was very disgruntled about the lack of adequate service she believes her autistic son endured. I do not know the specifics of this case and since the child’s information is protected by confidentiality laws, I cannot know what happened.
The fact is that Rita Weaver freely gave what would be considered confidential information in her criticism of the system but because of the law, the school system cannot defend itself without divulging confidential information which would put them in legal jeopardy.
There are few points I would like to make. I am very concerned that anyone would make such wide-reaching statements about the system because they are angry and frustrated without regard to the damage they do.
Whenever a child with extra challenges comes to a school there are hours of Individualized Educational Plan meetings, several conducted past the duty day. At these meetings a plan is devised that surrounds that child with support all day long.
Everyone involved bends over backward to make sure that the child is supported during every aspect of their day. These plans are carefully crafted to support a child’s ability to access curriculum; however sometimes parents request supports and services beyond the scope of public school instructional supports. Special education cannot cure a child. It can only support and try to provide the child with opportunities for success.
I would like to educate the public on a few things. Teachers aren’t getting a raise. They are getting recovery for steps that were promised to them three years ago and never funded. The superintendent is obligated by law to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement with the employees of the system, and he is further charged with securing the funding. He cannot neglect this obligation without facing legal action.
St. Mary’s County is second to last in per-pupil spending in the state of Maryland despite the fact that we are sixth in wealth. We spend approximately $11,800 per pupil, per year. We have been recognized as an A+ system time and again. This means teachers are doing much more than just fulfilling accountability.
According to Mrs. Weaver, her son may be enrolled in a program outside of the county. The system would not freely do that unless all other options were exhausted and they found that this child’s needs could not be met here in St. Mary’s County.
We all recognize how difficult it is to raise a child with a disability. The professionals who work with our families often face many challenges, one of which is planning and supporting students who may, for a variety of reasons, not be present for their instruction nor the implementation of their recommended services. The frustrations a parent feels should not be expressed in public statements that accuse a whole group of hard-working individuals.
Anna M. Laughlin, Lusby
The writer is president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County.