Parents Say Education Bill Would Put Special Needs Students At Risk

first_img“They try to paint us as unrealistic parents,” Spiehler said. “A small minority of parents are, but that’s not the case for most families.”A separate provision in HB 1629 would close Indiana’s open-door law around school emails, which allows the public to request internal emails from schools under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.While Spiehler and Moon-Walker said these emails are essential to monitoring a school’s involvement in a student’s IEP, some administrators see requests for emails as burdensome.“We have no issues whatsoever with handing over records, but conversations back and forth between internal staff are just a waste of our time, energy and money,” said Michael Beresford, superintendent of Carmel Clay Schools.Beresford also cited an instance in which one of his staff members spent more than 20 hours preparing a single records request involving emails, a process that often involves redactions and legal consultations in addition to finding the records.“I understand your dilemma,” Behning said in response. “We definitely want to conserve more money for the resources for serving students as opposed to searching through data.”Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, asked Beresford if most of the emails requested involved special education.“Not at all,” Beresford said.The committee will amend and vote on HB 1629 Monday.FOOT NOTE: Erica Irish is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailShare Parents Say The Education Bill Would Put Special Needs Students At RiskBy Erica IrishTheStatehouseFile.comINDIANAPOLIS — Mary Spiehler’s 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a disability and assigned to an individualized education program (IEP) in 2018.For months, teachers at the school communicated with an occupational therapist working with Spiehler’s daughter. The group defined every detail to provide a comfortable and focused learning experience: regulated 10-minute breaks, select seating and pencil grips to help her daughter with writing.So far, Spiehler said, the implementation of her daughter’s IEP is on track, providing her with sensory accommodations that help her concentrate during critical class time.But Spiehler, along with thousands of families who navigate the state’s education system with a disabled child, is afraid new legislation will limit her ability to hold schools accountable.House Bill 1629—introduced by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis—was reviewed by the House Education Committee Wednesday.The 14-page proposal would change multiple areas in Indiana’s education system, such as making high school students apply to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) prior to graduation and widening the definition of “elementary schools” to include pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-only facilities.However, parents of children with disabilities say two provisions in HB 1629 would inhibit their ability to challenge schools that fail to secure necessary accommodations for disabled students.Erin Moon-Walker, a 34-year-old mother of two disabled daughters, testified against a provision that would split fees incurred when hearings are held to address parent complaints between the school corporation and family—even if the complaint is proven valid.Moon-Walker has brought administrative complaints against West Lafayette Community Schools twice, one on behalf of each daughter.She said the school corporation failed to provide an IEP to her youngest daughter after a doctor diagnosed her with social anxiety in 2017. The legal costs associated with this complaint put her family “thousands of dollars” in debt. She declined to provide a hard total.If HB 1629 were to become law, Moon-Walker said a mandatory sharing of costs would bankrupt families already in vulnerable situations.“The biggest issue I see is that our whole narrative around special education is not true,” Moon-Walker said after the hearing. “Schools have a legal duty to uphold these laws, and they’re just not doing it.”In the hearing, Behning said parent complaints are costly to schools and are often driven by unreasonable demands that are not in the best interests of the student. He said the provision will make legal battles fair for both parties.Spiehler said this couldn’t be farther from the truth.last_img

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