Accelify Blog

Redlands District Lays Out Special Education (CA)

July 15, 2010

The special education program in the Redlands Unified School District took center stage during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Following two board meetings where concerned parents and advocates spoke about how the needs of their autistic students are not being met, Chief Academic Officer Paul Cullen gave the board and those present a program on what the district has to offer.

"Our district is and has been committed to assuring appropriate support and services are in place for those students," Cullen said.

The district has 2,168 students – roughly 10 percent of total students – in K-12 identified as needing speci al education supports and services, Cullen said. Special education is instruction specifically designed to serve students with exceptional needs, he said. Instruction can take place in the classroom, home, hospital, institution or other location.

It is intended to promote the maximum appropriate level of interaction between students who are and students who are not disabled, Cullen said.

"There is this component to special education of being in what we would call the `least restrictive environment,"’ Superintendent Lori Rhodes said.

"The least restrictive environment in special education is to be with the general education population as much as possible. That is by law what we are required to do."

Federal and state criteria determines which students qualify to be placed in special education, Cullen said. This involves assessment and is manpower intensive.

"To qualify for special education, by law, the student must satisfy both parts of a two-part test," Cullen said. "First, the student must meet the definition of one or more of the (13) disabilities specified. "Second, the student must be show to be in need of special education and related services as a result of his/her disability."

Once a student qualifies for special education, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) – a document detailing the program for the student – is written.

An IEP includes many components, Cullen said. Among the items detailed are the student’s level of achievement and goals, description of how progress will be measured, an explanation of how the student will interact with non-disabled students, post-secondary goals, and more.

"The IEP is unique for each student and developed to meet their individual needs," Cullen said.

Multiple people are involved in creating the IEP, including at least one parent, one regular and one special education teacher, one administration, other service providers and sometimes the student.

These meetings are held at least once a year and parents may request them at any time, Cullen said. Every three years, there is a comprehensive assessment.

If a parent is unhappy with their child’s program, they may file a complaint. The group of parents which has been at past board meetings met with the district Monday and was not present Tuesday.

Director of Special Services Cheryl Sjostrom said it is not often that parents are unhappy and is rare they file complaints according to their due process rights. Sjostrom said her team works closely with parents to find solutions to problems that may arise.

"Generally, we’re able to meet with families and come up with some kind of solution," Sjostrom said.

Cullen said the programs offered in the district are very complex, involve many people and are always evolving to meet student needs.

Members of the board acknowledged their hard work. Board member Pat Kohlmeier commended their efforts – particularly those in recent months – to improve and offer the best education possible.

"We do put the solutions forward, we do respect our students and we do treat everyone with dignity and respect," board President Neal Waner said.