Re: DSM: Re: Is democracy for everyone?


Sharon Stanfill (sharons@juliet.ll.mit.edu)
Wed, 4 Aug 1999 14:24:13 -0400 (EDT)


These are not my views, but the opinions of a friend who is
interested in special education students, and currently
obtaining a masters in special education. I've removed
identifications, but will forward messages as seems
reasonable.

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Subject: sudbury brief notes

First, Scott is misinformed. IF a child's IEP (Individual Education Plan)
team decides that a private school placement is the best choice, the
student's PUBLIC school district must meet the costs of the placement;
this usually happens because the school provides services which cannot be
found in the public schools and which suit the student's unique
needs--usually intensive special education programs. I know of nothing in
the law that can require a private school to provide certain services to
its students at its expense.

If a student requiring extensive medical care were to be placed at
Sudbury without public funding, the responsibility for funding his/her
care would be with the parents, as would the tuition cost. Many sources
can help (medical insurance might well provide medical care costs), but as
far as I know private schools are not assumed to be cost-free to ANYONE.

Finally, I dislike hypothetical cases, especially those involving the very
few students who require extensive care. Everyone gets scared and
defensive at the prospect of unknown, expensive, burdensome services, and
catastrophizes. This overshadows the fact that most kids with special
needs do not require huge amounts of money to educate, just different
approaches, and that they enrich the life of a school. When people
actually know a particular student, and come to care for him/her, they are
willing to work for the best outcome for that child, whether or not that
outcome is admission to a certain school. Approaching the question of a
particular child's needs with hope, optimism, and honest questioning--what
is best, and can we do it, and if not, who can?--takes the focus off the
fear and self-protectiveness we feel in the face of disabilities and puts
it where it belongs; on the children for whom we are committed to care.

Finally, private schools, however noble, don't take everyone; that's why
they have admission processes. If you want a school that is truly
democratic--obliged to serve everyone who comes in the door--go to your
local public school. It's a system with a federal mandate to serve every
child, and it needs a lot of support, advocacy, criticism, sweat, and
increased funding so that it can actually provide the services.

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