There have been 19 days of school so far this new school year. And for all 19 of those days Ashley has not had the support called for by her IEP.
Ashley’s IEP calls for the services of an instructional assistant who is ‘sufficiently proficient in sign and speech so as to provide a language role model.’ The IEP states she should be receiving those services for 6.75 hours each school day. The school day is exactly 6.75 hours long.
Since providing such services has always been a point of contention in past school years, I checked with Ashley’s school staff prior to the start of this current school year. I was told, of course, that they had not been able to find anyone to fill the position, and that the classroom assistant in Ashley’s class would fill in until someone was hired. The classroom assistant is ‘sufficiently proficient’, and I am more than pleased when she works with Ashley. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is the classroom assistant is entitled to a lunch break every day. So, for 30 minutes each day, Ashley is without communication support. The classroom assistant is also entitled to sick leave. So, for one full day this month, Ashley was without communication support. And, the classroom assistant must attend weekly physical therapy sessions outside the school building for an injury she sustained last year in the classroom. So, for two hours each week (in addition to the lunch break and the sick day), Ashley is without communication support. None of this is the fault of the classroom assistant. She is doing everything she possibly can to assist Ashley, but the school district has rules that must be followed (lunch breaks, sick time, etc).
Ashley is profoundly deaf in her right ear, and has a severe loss in her left ear. She is totally blind in her left eye, and has a clinical measurement in her right eye of 20/2000. She communicates with sign language and prefers that whoever signs to her does so directly in front of her ‘good’ eye. She doesn’t use a communication board because she has chosen not to. She doesn’t speak because she has never been able to hear well enough to learn to speak. Sign language is her preferred and only means of communication. None of this is news to my school district. Ashley is currently in the eighth grade and has been receiving services from this same school district since she was two years old.
At the start of the second week of school, after attempting to resolve the issue with my school district and getting nowhere, I filed a complaint with my state Department of Education. At that point, a very long timeline goes into effect due to all the administrative aspects of the complaint investigation and resolution. Monday, September 29th, the school district is required to file a response to my complaint – unless of course they don’t and then they are given another 7 business days. The actual investigation by the Department of Education may then take up to 50 more days – for a total of 60 days – unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist and then they get more time. If the school district is found to not be in compliance, they have 30 business days to file a corrective action plan, unless they don’t file. Then the Superintendent for the Department of Education is notified and gets involved. Then….who knows. That’s where the documentation stops.
So, do you think this will get resolved this school year? Here’s a hint – I’m getting more than a little perturbed and I have my attorney’s phone number on speed dial.