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Evanston/Skokie (IL) schools "failing to meet [SPED] students' needs"

May 30, 2019, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL, Daily Northwestern: In Focus: Parents of students with disabilities say Evanston schools are failing to support their children ...Her case is not unique across Evanston/Skokie School District 65 or Evanston Township High School/District 202. Both districts provide special education services, but parents, students and professionals interviewed by The Daily say the schools are failing to meet students’ needs. Families have come forward to detail their experiences in the districts, speaking with professionals and confiding in one another. In Facebook groups and community meetings, they shared stories unique to their children and schools, but one concern unites them all: the disconnect between students’ needs and the services they receive. While both districts release yearly special education enrollment numbers, only District 65 provides a breakdown of suspension data for general and special education students…. Every student who is enrolled in special education programs or receives related services in public schools is required to have an IEP. … But in District 202 and District 65, parents, students and professionals say IEPs are not being followed, parent input is being ignored and students with IEPs are not receiving the accommodations they need. … Matt Cohen, a Chicago-based special education attorney who has worked cases in both districts, said the relationship between educators, supervisors and parents does not always function seamlessly. As a result, District 65 and District 202 parents are often excluded from conversations or given incomplete information. Overall, Cohen said he would give the two school districts a grade of C- for their special education programs. He attributes many of the districts’ challenges to a lack of training and research-based curricula for teachers, which are often provided to them without “real depth.” Many schools are also pushing for “inclusive” classrooms — mixed classes with general and special education students — but often, this results in fewer resources for everyone. “They don’t have enough resources in either the regular or self-contained classes. They are quick to discipline kids,” Cohen said. “There’s disproportionate discipline occurring and it seems that the relationships with parents are difficult.”… Cohen said evidence shows traditional school discipline is not effective for most students — particularly for those with disabilities. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, traditional “punitive” or “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies have proven counterproductive and ineffective for all students. Instead, the association recommends positive intervention, including relationship-building within schools and positive reinforcement. Despite findings like these, Cohen said school officials across the district still enforce regular discipline, in-school suspension and out-of-school suspension. In addition to their IEPs, many special education students also have individualized behavior plans put together by their schools, said Cari Levin, the founder and director of Evanston CASE, a special education advocacy nonprofit. Evanston CASE works closely with parents from both Evanston school districts and hosts meetings for parents of students with IEPs to share their experiences…. The mother said school officials are also pressuring her to put her son on ADHD medication despite him having tested negative for the disorder. ...


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