Greater Greater Education

We're moving to California because DC schools can't or won't serve our son's special needs

This summer my family is moving to San Francisco so that my disabled son can attend kindergarten. While we are excited about the next chapter of our lives in the Bay Area, we expected until recently to live in DC, and in Georgetown, the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, that plan changed when we ran into obstruction and hostility from DC Public Schools and local private schools regarding our son's special needs.


Photo by Christopher Chan on Flickr.

My 5-year-old son, Martin, is the joy of our lives. He is the sweetest little boy you will ever meet, with a passion for life that inspires me every day. Martin also has epilepsy.

In the past year, Martin has had over 2,500 seizures. Most of them are drop seizures, in which he drops to the ground like a puppet whose strings are cut. After every drop seizure, he gets right back up and resiliently soldiers oncoloring, playing with toys, eating his food, undeterred.

When the seizures began breaking through his medication last year, my wife and I spent every evening on our laptops, immersing ourselves in pediatric neurology. Helping our boy fight seizures was our primary activity, at least it was until we discovered how much we would have to fight DC Public Schools to secure his rights to an equal education.

Coping with epilepsy

Martin has miraculously not regressed cognitively despite his seizures, but must be kept safe. He has had drop seizures in which his face collides into his cereal bowl during breakfast, into the toilet bowl while going to the bathroom, into the sand table while playing at his preschool.

After several bloody and bruised faces, we made the difficult decision to put a helmet with face guard on our boy. Even with his helmet, he is still not safe on stairs, which pose a real risk to his life and limb.

Martin attends an amazing preschool, St, Columba's Nursery School in Tenleytown, whose teachers unflinchingly provide him any accommodation needed to keep him safe and help him learn with the other children. They go far beyond what the law requires.

This past year, we asked DC Public Schools (DCPS) for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) ahead of his entrance into kindergarten this fall.

An IEP is a list of the accommodations that a public school provides to ensure a child's civil right to equal access to the curriculum. A federal law, the 1975 Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), protects the civil right of children with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

DCPS, through its Early Stages division, initially committed to including a dedicated aide in Martin's IEP to keep him safe. They were unable to put him in a building without stairs. Instead, an aide would hold his hand on the stairs or take him to elevators, as well as logging his seizure count and caring for him when he injures himself.

"Martin will obviously get an aide; he's dropping 10 times per day," was the assessment of our IEP team lead. "Just give us a letter from his neurologist, and we'll include an aide in his IEP." We provided letters from two neurologists, and expected to send Martin to DCPS kindergarten this fall.

DCPS throws up a wall

Two weeks after our IEP meeting at DCPS Early Stages, I received a startling call from our IEP team lead that would signal the beginning of the end of our time as DC residents. "I'm so sorry to have to tell you, apparently we were not authorized to put an aide in Martin's IEP. So we've taken it out."

She was unable to explain why Martin's IEP team couldn't give him an aide. She said to me, "I wish I had answers to your questions. I'm so sorry." When I pointed out that, by law, only members of an IEP team can determine what accommodations go into an IEP, she agreed, and repeated, "I'm so, so sorry."

A week later I received a call from Amanda Parks-Bianco, a DCPS special education administrator who manages all dedicated aides, asking me what my questions were. Parks-Bianco said, "Dedicated aides and nurses are never needed to provide FAPE. If you accept our offer of FAPE, then aides and nurses are additional services that your child may qualify for."

When I cited several court decisions stating that IDEA does sometimes require dedicated aides, she insisted that "IDEA is vague." Several times Parks-Bianco told me, "I know I must sound like a horrible person."

Private schools give the cold shoulder too

My wife and I retained an attorney, who advised us to find a private school that would keep Martin safe. We would then sue DCPS to pay the tuition. However, we were unable to find a general education private school in DC that would accept a child with uncontrolled seizures.

For example, we visited Lowell, known as one of the most inclusive private schools in town. When we mentioned to the Head of School that our son has 10 drop seizures per day, her response was, "You would need to purchase tuition insurance." She then explained that "a school with a smaller student-teacher ratio might be better, with more eyes on your son to keep him safe."

The Lowell Head of School never technically violated the federal law against discrimination towards those with disabilities, but made it clear that my child was not welcome at her school.

We visited Sheridan, also known as an inclusive private school. While they said they embraced children with disabilities, their building is still not ADA-compliant, requiring children of all ages to walk up and down a long staircase with no elevator. When we noticed the facilities they had invested in, such as a campus in the Shenandoah Valley, their true priorities seemed clear.

We considered suing DCPS to accommodate my child with an aide to keep him safe at school, a suit that our attorney said we had a 95% chance of winning. But he also said we would likely have to retain counsel multiple times over the years, as DCPS would try to remove the aide from Martin's IEP.

My wife and I were considering moving to California last fall in order to try a strain of medical marijuana that had helped other children control their seizures. A friend from San Francisco had been urging me to consider schools there that were inclusive of children with disabilities.

In March, I flew to San Francisco, and within a month enrolled Martin in a private school that embraces children with disabilities and was committed to keeping our son safe. Even our special education attorney recommended that we accept the offer of the school in San Francisco.

My family is privileged to have the means to move when our son's civil rights are denied and physical safety threatened by DC Public Schools. DC is full of thousands of special education students who face the obstacles our son faced and have far fewer options.

How can DC be a truly inclusive city?

While we are sad to leave our adopted hometown of 16 years, we are excited to embark on a new journey. We feel deep gratitude to the Bay Area for its inclusive culture, and hope to give back in spades.

One of the hardest parts of leaving DC, besides the friends we leave behind, is walking away from the fight to make DC a just city whose success is shared broadly. As DC's amenities have grown over the past decade, so have the growing gaps in wealth and educational outcomes in our city. This creates a moral imperative to advocate that we can either hide from or accept.

It's easy for elected officials in DC and other east cost cities to promote the influx of new residents, then take credit for the improved joblessness numbers and school test scores that inevitably follow.

My deepest fear for DC has been that in 30 years, all 8 wards will have stellar economic and education numbers, but those numbers will be the result of turning over half the population in the city.

There are few battles more critical to creating an inclusive DC than the fight for the 13,000 students, predominantly poor, who receive public special education.

DC can move forward in one of two waysby displacing DC's recipients of special education, or including them.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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The headline is a bit misleading. You're not moving to California because of DCPS; as admitted in the end of he post, you are moving to CA because of medical marihuana. Not that I blame you, but the headline should be more honest.

In addition, there are other, more accommodating school systems in the area (MD & VA) you could use if you choose to remain in the area.

In addition, you could file for an emergency hearing with the courts here in DC to attempt to get a judge to order DCPS to better accommodate your child.

by Cmonson on Jun 24, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

@ Cmonson

Ken shouldn't have to move anywhere to ensure his son has the public education he is entitled to, and in a safe environment, whether that be to NoVa or San Francisco.

@Ken

Thank you for sharing your story. It is a poor reflection on us as a city that you are forced to move because DCPS will not comply with law. Best wishes in CA.

by Eric on Jun 24, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

The headline is a bit misleading. You're not moving to California because of DCPS; as admitted in the end of he post, you are moving to CA because of medical marihuana. Not that I blame you, but the headline should be more honest.

The headline is very accurate. We were considering moving to CA for medical marijuana, then the DC Council changed the law and 2 cultivation centers have contacted me saying they would grow the strain my son needs. I'm very thankful to CM David Grosso in particular for making this happen.

by Ken Archer on Jun 24, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

In addition, there are other, more accommodating school systems in the area (MD & VA) you could use if you choose to remain in the area.

Special ed parents know well what suburban counties provide special ed accommodations - Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. But my wife and I see little difference between moving to an outer suburb and moving to the Bay Area - in either case we are leaving our friends and support network and starting over. And we don't want to live in an outer suburb. Finally, Montgomery County has a terrible reputation for special ed. Spec ed attorneys do as many cases there as in DC.

by Ken Archer on Jun 24, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

In addition, you could file for an emergency hearing with the courts here in DC to attempt to get a judge to order DCPS to better accommodate your child.

We were planning on petitioning the courts to get the accommodation our son needs from DCPS. The way you do that is through a due process hearing at OSSE. We hired an attorney, an expert witness, and were ready to go. But our attorney advised us we would need to do this multiple times over the years as DCPS would try to pull our son's aide from his IEP. At the end of the day, would you trust your medically disabled child to be kept safe by an agency that will only do so after a lawsuit?

by Ken Archer on Jun 24, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

I wonder if using a mobility chair and the elevator(s) at school would have been a workable solution.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

@Eric, not everyone gets what they are entitled to, but Cmonson has a point. If their reason for moving is the schools, MD and VA both have some great systems. I think Montgomery County does a good job accommodating special needs, but I don't know for sure.

by bk on Jun 24, 2014 2:10 pm • linkreport

First I'd like to say that I'm sorry to hear that you'll be moving. The city loses a great advocate with this, and I'm sorry to hear your son won't receive what you believe to be necessary to educate him.

Unfortunately you seem to present a one-sided version of what the story is, and from an emotional side. What did DCPS offer as a plan to keep your son safe?

What did the charter schools offer to do for your son? (they are often pitched as the answer to DC's education woes on this site). My guess is you didn't even try to enroll at a charter because you knew they wouldn't do anything for your son.

What is the school in SF offering? Is your son getting a dedicated aide or nurse there?

I wish you and your family luck.

by erik on Jun 24, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

What did DCPS offer as a plan to keep your son safe?

What did the charter schools offer to do for your son? (they are often pitched as the answer to DC's education woes on this site). My guess is you didn't even try to enroll at a charter because you knew they wouldn't do anything for your son.

What is the school in SF offering? Is your son getting a dedicated aide or nurse there?

Happy to answer all your questions.

DCPS said they would put no plan together to keep him safe until school starts this fall. They said we had no right to a dedicated aide under federal special ed law, which is patently untrue.

You can't get an IEP from a charter school before you enter kindergarten. You have to go to Early Stages, which is a division of DCPS, and which DCPS Office of Spec Ed apparently can overrule.

The school in SF is an independent school with no stairs that says it is a privilege to educate a student with a disability. We found no private schools in DC who said that and had ADA-accessible buildings.

by Ken Archer on Jun 24, 2014 2:22 pm • linkreport

Ken, we're so sorry to see you leave the area. Best of luck and let us know how it goes.

by GP Steve on Jun 24, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

So DCPS wanted you to enroll your son first, then develop a plan for your son once he's enrolled?

Did Early STAGES design an IEP? Did they offer a seat for your son? If so, where? There are ADA accessible buildings in the DCPS system. It just seems there's more to this than you're representing.

I don't envy you any of this and also understand how difficult it must have been to even post this story since it opens you up to the skeptics (me) and the trolls.

by erik on Jun 24, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

I am horrified by some of these comments. Some of the commenters seem to believe that Ken should just throw up his hands and allow Martin to be in danger, or keep suing DCPS to ensure his son stays safe. This is nuts. Props to Ken for responding to each comment with intelligence.

I know Ken pretty well. He is brilliant and dogged and he loves his son beyond my ability to describe. If he makes the decision to leave DC, then what chance does someone less educated and/or with fewer resources have to keep his/her child safe?

by Marina Streznewski on Jun 24, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

So DCPS wanted you to enroll your son first, then develop a plan for your son once he's enrolled?
Did Early STAGES design an IEP? Did they offer a seat for your son? If so, where? There are ADA accessible buildings in the DCPS system.

DCPS Early Stages put a dedicated aide into my son's IEP, then DCPS Office of Spec Ed overrulled them and they pulled it out. This by itself is highly illegal. Only an IEP team decides what goes into an IEP. Early Stages was instructed to tell me that DCPS would engage how to keep my son safe only after school starts, and that we had no right under federal law to a dedicated aide because no one has a right to a dedicated aide under federal law. That's obviously untrue.

The problem in DCPS wasn't getting a building with elevators. The problem was who was going to walk my 5-yr-old son to the elevator (they are often on other side of the building) or hold his hand on the stairs? My wife and I hold his hand on the stairs always, and he has fallen on stairways about a dozen times in the past year. Anyone of those falls could have been fatal or resulted in long-term injury if we hadn't have been holding his hand.

by Ken Archer on Jun 24, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

If their reason for moving is the schools, MD and VA both have some great systems.

Even if true, its irrelevant that Ken has to move to CA. It would be just as bad if he had to move to AK, or MA or PA or MD or VA. Anyone focused on the CA part of the headline is missing the point.

by David C on Jun 24, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

So sorry to hear that this has happened to you and your family. It's completely inexcusable. I don't comment here much, but I read GGW almost daily and wanted to say a quick "thank you," for all of the content you've contributed to this site over the years. It clearly took considerable time and effort. You should know that it has been appreciated. Best of luck to you and your family in San Francisco!

by Jimmy on Jun 24, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

I see some differing opinions and ideas presented, but I sincerely don't see anything to cause someone to be "horrified."

Was a mobility chair ever considered? Combined with elevator usage, I really think that could have solved most of your (completely justified) concerns for falls. That would at least mean his hand didn't literally have to be held anytime he was away from a desk. There may be other reasons why this was considered and rejected, but personally, I think it would have also offered the child a bit of welcome "independence" at school as a side benefit.

by The Truth™ on Jun 24, 2014 4:06 pm • linkreport

I don't know about the particulars regarding the school systems, but this quote comes to mind..."The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members." I wish you and your family the best in your new life out west. God bless your little boy.

by Thayer-D on Jun 24, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

for thos unfamiliar, there is a growing community of medical marijuana advocates who have found promise in some non-psychoactive strains of marijuana for treating epilepsy. Colorado has been the primary landing spot for families desperate for access. Good to see DC is looking for useful applications of medical marijuana legalization.

Sorry to hear about your struggles with the system. Your son sounds lucky to have such dedicated and loving champions in his corner.

by anon_1 on Jun 24, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

Well, if nothing else, the article and comments highlight that this is another area where Fairfax and Loudoun outpace the District - such advantages are rarely recognized on GGW, where DC and MD are regularly praised and NoVa is repeatedly trashed.

by IEP Parent on Jun 24, 2014 5:17 pm • linkreport

I'm really very sorry to hear all of this, Ken. Despite our occasional skirmishes over GU-related matters, I've always appreciated your willingness to be a firm and unflinching voice for urbanism in Georgetown. Your contributions to the community and DC will be missed.

More directly related to this post... it's not particularly shocking that a school system that does as many things poorly as DCPS also falls down on the job when it comes to special needs students.

This is an instance, however, where DCPS is not a rare exception. Schools tend to be places that insist on strict adherence to rules, many of them arbitrary. Special needs students pose a challenge to those rules, so the immediate response is often to figure out how to get rid of those students or isolate them where their exceptionality will not disrupt the established order. As with many other things in education, we need to do better.

by Dizzy on Jun 24, 2014 5:35 pm • linkreport

Ken,

Your story and the comments (so far by others, and your responses) reflect superb prioritization on the part of Michael's parents (in my view) and illuminate the challenges persons, particularly children, with disabilities face. Michael should thank his lucky stars not for his disability, but for the intellect, effort, courage, and resources his parents are exploring/applying on his behalf and, indirectly on behalf of others so or similarly disabled.

A recent comment notes that "schools tend to be places that insist on strict adherance to rules, many of the arbitary". How true, but not just schools. That said, institutions and societies are also well advised to protect themselves from those that would assert some form of right to bring benefits to which they are not, by the rules, entitled. Bureaucracies run by rules, and often lack a reasonable administrative pathway to explore the merits of exceptions or even decisions that are adverse and contrary to law.

As an aside about Sheridan School, it has owned a tract of land in Virginia for decades. I can't speak to its recent investments there, but it is a legacy of sorts. Their major renovation was, as I recall, some years ago and may have been prior to the DC statutory changes requiring compliance with architectural disability standards. That said, however, when my kids were there, the administrative context was one that focused on rules, as above, not variations or departures.

I suspect you will find this to be true even in the CA school that lies in your child's future.

Regards, and thank you for so many incisive postings and comments..

Lindsley Williams

by Lindsley Williams on Jun 24, 2014 7:05 pm • linkreport

Ken, Your experience with special education sounds horrible but unfortunately I am not surprised at all as a DCPS teacher. Dr. Beers who is the head of DCPS is absolutely awful. He refuses to engage DCPS staff and parents in any meaningful way to address chronic issues that continue to plague special education in DCPS. There are so many special education violations that I witness in he classroom and there is nothing I can do about it. If I tell the principal or someone from central office I'll be thrown under the bus and the problem will most likely not get addressed. It is very hard to go to work everyday and see the system screwing over so many students. It is truly appalling. You made the right decision to escape. Your son and your family deserve the peace of mind.

by DCPS teacher on Jun 24, 2014 7:13 pm • linkreport

I am another DCPS teacher who has witnessed for years DCPS' poor treatment of children with special education needs. DCPS is literally dumping students with special needs back into the system with little or no planning. Despite getting extra federal dollars to meet the needs of these students, teachers in many schools get minimal or no money to buy resources including specialized curriculum for their students with special needs.

To make matters worse, Dr. Beers has a full time practice even though he is the head of Special Education of the entire school system.

Mr. Archer, even though it is unacceptable that you have to leave to get the free and appropriate education your son is guaranteed by law, I think you have made the best choice for your son's well being and your own sanity. DCPS would absolutely fight you in the future to reduce any costly accommodations in the IEP.

It is obvious that even some of the people working for DCPS realize that this is unacceptable as seen in their comments to you.

Good luck and thank you for sharing your story. Also, thank you for mentioning the thousands of students with special needs currently in DCPS who are not being protected.

Good luck with your son.

by Another DCPS Teacher on Jun 24, 2014 8:39 pm • linkreport

While I sympathize with the author--his experience sounds awful--I think the post neglects to mention an underlying issue: how strapped DCPS is for cash. While the city does have money, it is often not availble for DCPS, and the school system often lacks the authority to allocate funds in the manner it sees fit. I'm not trying to justify what happened, but simply want to point out that the individuals in the office of special education are probably as frustrated as you are about the bureaucracy that failed your child, and despite their efforts, have had little success swimming against the tide.

by Glenmonster on Jun 25, 2014 8:16 am • linkreport

If people are being ordered to break the law, against their will, due to a lack of funds then that is what whistle-blower laws are for. While I understand Ken's decision, I wish that documents and emails could have been demanded under discovery and perhaps criminal misdoing uncovered. Perhaps a journalist will FOIA some emails.

On a related point, it's good to see that we're passing a tax cut when we can't afford to take care of the educational needs of all kids. Sure, some people have to move away or risk their health, but I'm getting an extra $160 a year! That's like a free ottoman.

by David C on Jun 25, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

"I think the post neglects to mention an underlying issue: how strapped DCPS is for cash"

DC spends more on education per student than any other school system in the country. There are bigger, deep-rooted issues, and throwing money at it will not magically fix it.

by DC Parent on Jun 25, 2014 10:11 am • linkreport

To be fair, David C, this is on GGW as well as GGE so posters may not have dismissed Fairfax and Loudoun as outer suburbs.

by selxic on Jun 25, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Let's see...DC public versus a private school in SF. You can't compare the two. Clearly, the SF Unified School District (SFUSD) was unable to provide accommodations, just like DCPS was unable to.

And for the record, my partner teaches at SFUSD and suffers from epilepsy.

by Mark on Jun 25, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

My heart goes out to you and your family during these frustrating and challenging times, but I'm not sure that I fully agree with you. Schools have to provide a nurturing and safe environment for all children, and the needs and demands of one child with an extreme issue, be it physical or behavioral, can have a negative impact on the entire class. Thus, you need to ask yourself if a regular school is really the right environment for a child with uncontrolled seizures. Before I get flamed, I should say that I had severe medical problems as a teenager and had to be pulled out of school for 3.5 years until I was healthier. I ended up enrolling in a distance learning based public school program that prepared me amazingly well for college, and it allowed me to study with a tailor-made curriculum created especially for me, not for a class of 30. I was able to focus on getting well without worrying about missing classes or dealing with the red tape/bureaucracy of a traditional school. I know that every parent wants their child to have a normal childhood, but the sad reality of life is that some children need a special environment in order to thrive and meet their full potential. Instead of expecting schools to work around you, you might want to consider a non-traditional school environment which might better suit the needs of both you and your child.

by DC225 on Jun 25, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

My child was lucky and found a lovely private placement outside of DCPS. Over the years, DCPS has continuously tried to revoke her placement and I have had to have my lawyer on stand-by during more than 1 IEP meeting. Sadly, Mr. Archer was correct in stating that he would have been fighting with DCPS eternally about the aide. DCPS is most certainly violating the law when they change an IEP without a team meeting, but until they are fined for these kind of violations by some sort of governing agency, they will continue to push their agenda....unless, of course, a child suffers some sort of catastrophic injury as a result of these kind of practices and DCPS is sued for multi-millions of dollars in a well-publicized case. It is all about the bottom line.

by Parent of DC Special Needs student on Jun 25, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

Let's see...DC public versus a private school in SF. You can't compare the two. Clearly, the SF Unified School District (SFUSD) was unable to provide accommodations, just like DCPS was unable to. And for the record, my partner teaches at SFUSD and suffers from epilepsy.

We have not approached SFUSD about an IEP. We have to move their first and be a resident to ask for an IEP. That makes it near impossible to do "IEP shopping". We did find multiple independent schools in San Francisco who embrace kids with disabilities and are ADA-compliant, unlike in DC.

However, we feel far more confident in SFUSD than DCPS. SFUSD has only about 20 due process hearings per year, whereas DCPS has several hundred. They have no class actions against their special ed system, unlike DCPS and LA. And we know multiple kids ini SFUSD with epilepsy who have 1-on-1 aides.

by Ken Archer on Jun 25, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

This post was so sad. Ken, I am sorry you guys are moving. It is really terrible that DCPS would not meet your child's basic education needs.

I did want to say that, although mine was not as severe as your son's, I did have epilepsy as a child and outgrew it when I was 12 years old. It is fairly common for children with epilepsy to outgrow it.

I wish you and your family the best of luck on the West Coast.

by Susanna on Jun 25, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure that I fully agree with you. Schools have to provide a nurturing and safe environment for all children, and the needs and demands of one child with an extreme issue, be it physical or behavioral, can have a negative impact on the entire class. Thus, you need to ask yourself if a regular school is really the right environment for a child with uncontrolled seizures.

You are certainly entitled to your view on this, but the reality is that your proposal is illegal under current law. Under the 1975 Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every child with a disability has a federal right to equal access to the curriculum in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Pulling kids into a separate special-ed only class or school was the norm before IDEA, and endless research found that inclusion produced better outcomes and did not hurt outcomes for other children as long as sufficient accommodations are made. Dedicated aides are one of those accommodations that are sometimes required to educate children in the LRE.

by Ken Archer on Jun 25, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

Aside from the law, in an era when insufficient resources (or perhaps insufficiently ideal allocation of resources) means that children go without food, are homeless, are left in abusive situations, are sold as sex slaves, etc. I'd much rather, as a society, we devoted an additional worker to ending those horrors than devoted an additional worker into holding one child's hand on the stairs and otherwise accommodating him - especially one who apparently has significant parental caring and resources. It does seem that DC should work to bring online more accessible schools, but, on a moral level, I could not justify the diversion of resources to such a targeted use. I am glad your child has found a place to educated, though, and wish you both the best.

by BT on Jun 25, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

No matter where you go, you'll probably have some litigation ahead o you to get what you need. I am responsible for a family member (who among other things has seizures) and a number of colleagues and friends in different states (and DC) have special needs children; some are in "very good" districts, some not so good. All have had to sue or they decided to essentially put off retirement indefinitely to pay for private schooling. I also used to do school consults as a clinical psychologists.

BTW, the state of California and the county governments with which I am familiar (including LA & SF) all hold their won with DC for difficult bureaucracies. The State once was blessed with well supported services, as were localities and now the job of government there seems to be discouraging you from using what's left.

by Rich on Jun 25, 2014 6:22 pm • linkreport

@DC Parent

I agree that cash isn't a magic fix, but DCPS also has one of the largest percentages of special ed caseloads in the nation. Providing all the services that our city's children need and deserve would render DCPS broke. Hence their unwillingness to bend bureaucracy...

by Glenmonster on Jun 25, 2014 7:06 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately so many Special Education Children do not have parents like you. I had to quit my job, and become an expert in special education law in order for my son to receive FAPE. I cannot tell you how many times I sued DCPS and won. With and without an attorney.
The name of the game is deny, delay and defend. Dr. Beers, as others have said is horrible. He should have his license to practice medicine taken away as a result of his genuinely ignorant decisions. He is a complete idiot who cares only for the bottom line, and not for the children he is sworn to protect. Even the people who work under him privately acknowledge just how stupid he is. He has no idea what he is doing, and that's exactly why he was hired. Just like why Kaya Henderson was hired. She has no clue what she is doing either, and the children are harmed as a result.

There are other children currently enrolled in DCPS with Drop Seizures with aides. At the DCPS school where my nephew attends there is a student in the Kindergarten class with drop seizures and she has a dedicated aide.

IDEA was put in place to assist children to be successful in the school setting. If an aide is necessary, then so be it. Only the MDT team can make the determination whether or not to remove the aide. Additionally, with the determination of the neurologist that this was necessary, they are countering the decisions of a specialist.

I frequently had to litigate for my LD OHI child. A child who just recently graduated from college. I put my career on hold to make sure that my child had a fighting chance. Other's do not have that ability.

Do what is best for your child, and pray for those you are leaving behind.

by Special Ed Mom on Jun 25, 2014 9:51 pm • linkreport

This sucks. Best of luck to your whole family. Go Marty!

by Mike on Jun 26, 2014 12:59 am • linkreport

Sorry you had to jump through so many hoops only to learn what many have learned the hard way about DCPS: Special ed students rarely get what they need, and the fights involved usually result in parents taking their children elsewhere.

Beyond all this, though, my fervent hope for your son is that a treatment will soon emerge that lets him lead a normal, autonomous life. Hopefully you can turn your energies toward this once you have him in a safe, nurturing school environment. He is still very young and hopefully will benefit from a medical breakthrough in the not-too distant future. Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful SF and Bay area, there are far worse places to live!

by Kate on Jun 26, 2014 8:44 am • linkreport

Mr. Archer, I am so sorry you had to go through this. I work for the District Government in the Education field for children with special needs and I understand your frustration.

I have multiple disabilities and as an employee, I feel as though I have to constantly fight to maintain employment. DC Government should and can do better for the students and for their own employees.

I am currently writing a letter to defend myself against grievances filed against me for things I can't control. I refuse to be disciplined for things related to my disabilities. Especially when I am under so much stress trying to do what is expected of me to do. Sometimes I feel as though my agency would rather terminate me than to accommodate me because they have tried to in the past.

I wish I were able to help in some way. I truly understand what you are going through as a citizen, employee and someone who has disabilities that requires special accommodations. Good luck to you and I wish you and your family better days ahead.

by Eaminoroux on Jun 26, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

This article confuses me: You give the Bay Area broad-brush approval ("We feel deep gratitude to the Bay Area for its inclusive culture, and hope to give back in spades.") But is it really so much more welcoming in general? Did you find California's public school system willing to accommodate your child or did you just find the one school? If the latter, I would not be so hasty to laud the Bay Area for your one lucky break.

by LouDC on Jun 27, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

Did you find California's public school system willing to accommodate your child or did you just find the one school? If the latter, I would not be so hasty to laud the Bay Area for your one lucky break.

We have not approached San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) about an IEP. We have to move there first and be a resident to ask for an IEP. That makes it near impossible to do "IEP shopping".

However, we feel far more confident in SFUSD than DCPS. SFUSD has only about 20 due process hearings per year, whereas DCPS has several hundred. They have no class actions against their special ed system, unlike DCPS (DC had 4 a year ago, now DC has 2) and LA. And we know kids in SFUSD with epilepsy who received 1-on-1 aides without a fight.

We also found multiple independent schools in San Francisco who (a) embrace kids with disabilities and (b) are ADA-compliant. We selected one of them. We found none in DC or inner suburbs who met those criteria, with the exception of The Maddux School in Bethesda, which unfortunately didn't accept my son for space reasons.

by Ken Archer on Jun 27, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Sorry to hear this Ken; best of luck to you and your family.

by Ed on Jul 1, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

i can only imagine that poor and/or latino and black families with special needs children, who don't have such resources or mobility, face even more herculean challenges and are equally if not more upset.

by martin on Jul 31, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

I have a special needs child in CA. The worst state to ever bring your child. Our school district has devastated our family. The courts rarely side with the student. The attorneys are horrible and the regional centers are worthless. Healthcare has gone completely downhill. The implementation of Obama care has ruined healthcare. They set it up to fail. No matter where you live you will be facing the problems you describe our country thinks very little of the disabled. We moved across the country to get our daughters needs met and it just made things worse. Be careful of looking for that perfect place. You will never find it. You are better off suing them at every chance you get and fighting your butt off to make your community meet his need and your efforts may Do some good and raise the bar for others in your community. America has become the land of me. If I told you our story it would make your skin crawl. I don't care where you live. Strap on your cowboy boots you will be fighting for him for the rest of your life.
Good luck.

by Megan Guthrie on Aug 20, 2014 4:58 pm • linkreport

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