Helping resume Special Education services disrupted by the pandemic
As significant, meaningful progress has been made in José Ramón’s story, we would like to share it with you. His story, regrettably, is representative of the many stories of struggle of special education students and their parents to seek and guarantee their rights to adequate and free educational services -- and about what can be achieved when there are resources and support.
You may remember that José Ramon was being required involuntarily to graduate without receiving appropriate transitional services essential for graduating special education students. On his behalf, Puerto Rico Legal Services filed a complaint with the Department of Education (DOE). Had he not received adequate legal representation, José would have been forced to graduate from high school with all services under the Special Education Program to which he had a right terminated, including compensatory education. In addition, he would have not been provided with a proper transition process such as preparation for college admission tests.
As a result of PRLS’s complaint, the discharge previously approved by the DOE was rescinded. The DOE was ordered to carry out an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) Team meeting, develop a revised IEP, provide compensatory education, develop the Transition Plan, and provide the necessary transition services as established under the revised IEP.
Here is the good news, since then José Ramón obtained his high school diploma. He was assigned a teacher to receive a one-on-one education. In addition, independent living skills were worked on, such as the use of public transportation, completing job applications, taking the entrance exams to post-secondary institutions, and job interviews. In turn, the steps necessary to submit his case to the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (VRA) have been taken. The VRA is the entity that offers services to the school population with functional diversity once educational services are completed. He hopes, and so do we, to rejoin cultural activities with his folkloric dance group and in the discipline of taekwondo once the restrictions of the pandemic end.
Our Special Student Defense Fund is a critical element in our efforts to help many other students who have seen a lack of services and a marked decline in their emotional and instructional progress as they were unable to adequately receive the services or evaluations to which they were entitled.
As we see a rise in these cases, we will continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, to ensure children have access to the expert care they need, for testing and evaluation, and the provision of necessary services.
Thanks again for helping us continue our invaluable task! Please share this good news among your friends, family, and colleagues to enlist their support, thus ensuring that students like José Ramon may share a happy ending too.