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Cleveland: New school CEO must address 23.2% of students with disabilities

Apr 16, 2023, Next Cleveland schools CEO must be a compassionate visionary who will meet the needs of children with disabilities: Danielle Gadomski Littleton

As the Cleveland Metropolitan School District considers applications for the next CEO, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland urges the Board of Education to select a leader who will meet the needs of children with disabilities and value the input of all caregivers.

Ensuring the provision of high-quality educational services to special education students will help all children — and our entire community — succeed.

At Legal Aid we represent parents and caregivers of students with disabilities in countless meetings and hearings involving students with disabilities. During the 2021-222 school year, 23.2% of the students in Cleveland schools were students with disabilities pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and have Individualized Education Programs.

Outgoing CEO Eric Gordon has devoted attention to addressing the needs of students with disabilities and decreasing disproportionate discipline. The next successful CEO must take seriously the responsibilities under IDEA to provide a free and appropriate public education to Cleveland’s special education students.

This includes students with both academic and behavioral disabilities….

Students with behavioral and emotional needs should be identified and provided with the support that they need — and to which they are entitled. This includes educational and mental health services, rather than expulsion.

We encourage the Board of Education to elevate candidates who view parents and other caregivers as experts on their children and seek to rebuild the caregivers’ trust in Cleveland schools.

Many of our clients come to Legal Aid with a common frustration: Their child’s school is neither listening to their concerns, nor communicating what interventions are being tried and are available to address their child’s needs….

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