California’s protection & advocacy system
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From the 2011 Annual Report - Children with disabilities and their families are too often told they must attend segregated school sites or told they cannot attend school at all because of their disabilities. When this happens, DRC quickly intervenes and ensures enforcement of federal law that requires school districts to provide a free and appropriate education to all children with disabilities.
Although11 year old David Cho is nonverbal, his Korean-American parents could understand from his behavior how unhappy he was about attending a segregated school. He cried and refused to board the school bus. His parents were unsure of David’s rights, but after a year of unproductive meetings with the school, they came to our Los Angeles office for help.
Then they got lucky: they were connected with Siyon Rhee, an advocate of Korean heritage, who has a passionate interest in special education. She investigated David’s situation and found no justification for his transfer from a special education class in a regular education setting to a segregated school. At her request, an emergency Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting was called.
Everyone agreed: a less restrictive placement for David, who has autism, would be appropriate. Siyon and her supervisor, Connie Chu, helped the family identify a general education school with a special education class. David started his classes in the new school in September 2011 and reportedly loves his new teacher.
David’s parents said they are amazed by the positive changes in his behavior, confirming how important interaction with both nondisabled classmates and those with disabilities is for him. Siyon, who has worked for DRC for 31 years, is thrilled that David has a second chance.
At 16, Joy Lee, who has an intellectual disability, wasn’t getting anywhere in her public school in Chico. Every year her Individual Education Program (IEP) goals were the same, with no evident progress. Despite evidence to the contrary, her mother, who primarily uses the Hmong language, was told by the district that everything was fine.
When Mrs. Lee asked the regional center for help, she was referred to Lorie Atamian, an assistant clients’ rights advocate in our Office for Clients’ Rights Advocacy. Lorie saw that Joy was struggling unsuccessfully to use an old communication device, and immediately requested assessments for academic capacity, speech and language therapy and assistive technology. As a result, Joy received appropriate communication devices and an independent speech therapist to work with her. Her teachers and family members were trained to use the new communication devices, and Joy is now benefiting from her education.