When we created the Special Litigation Fund for Special Education students, we told you the story of José Ramón, the cheerful and friendly young man with mild intellectual disability who participates in the Special Education program of Puerto Rico’s Department of Education.
José Ramón has been a client of our Special Education Project at various stages. He received our legal representation and counsel before in different forums. This time, when the pandemic put an end to critical – for special education students --on-site learning, we again offered legal representation.
The lack of services for this population during the pandemic impeded his education and he was not able to adequately receive the services or evaluations necessary for his transition to vocational rehabilitation. Despite this, the Department of Education wanted to force his graduation upon him.
But, thanks to our intervention, José Ramón was able to secure the services he is entitled to receive. As a result of the complaint presented and with the help of experts that backed his claims, the Department of Education was ordered to provide compensatory services and that his transition to vocational rehabilitation be handled appropriately. José Ramón is now able to receive the instruction and compensatory services necessary to resume and complete his education, and move forward with his personal and occupational development.
His story is representative of the many stories of the continuous struggles of special education students and their parents who seek to guarantee that rights to adequate and free educational services are respected. And also, about what can be achieved when the resources are there. Hiring experts is essential in these cases, it can also be expensive. But his story cannot, must not, be an exception. There is still a lot to do for these students. Our Special Student Defense Fund will help solve the problems facing this exceptional population. We will continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, to ensure children access to the expert care they need, for testing and evaluation, and the provision of necessary services.
We expect to see many cases of students that have not received services, evaluations and monitoring due to the pandemic and the implementation of distance learning. The impact in their development is yet to be known as in-schools classes resume. Experts predict that many students may require evaluations while others may need to reinforce educational areas.
Thank you for helping us continue our mission. Please share this story among your friends and family to ensure more stories like José Ramón’s.