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Detroit to reform special education program after audits

July 11, 2018

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit education officials are working to address shortfalls in the school district’s special education program after audits found it’s failing to meet student needs.

The Detroit Board of Education on Tuesday approved Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s plan for sweeping reforms to its special education department, the Detroit News reported.

Two audits identified that the district lacks an effective system for identifying and evaluating children who may be eligible for special education services. One audit was conducted internally, while the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of urban schools, conducted the other audit.

The plan will increase teacher training and fill vacancies within the special education department. It’ll also develop and improve policies for staff to follow special education requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The audits and full plan will be available on the district website next month, Vitti said.

Many parents have filed complaints against the district at the state and federal level, according to Vitti. Most of the complaints focused on how and where a student is placed in the special education environment, he said. More than 16 percent of the Detroit district’s student population was deemed eligible for special education services last year, compared to about 13 percent statewide.

“I have never been in a district with that many complaints,” Vitti said. “Those complaints are reflective of the lack of the district responding to issues and challenges. So parents feel their only recourse is to go to the federal or state level because responses weren’t being provided.”

He wants to create a hotline and an advisory council for parents with concerns over special education.

Patty and David Thornton plan to join the advisory council. The Thorntons pulled their 9-year-old son Alex, who has Down syndrome, out of school recently. The couple said the district failed to provide basic classroom safeguards, including keeping Alex from leaving class unnoticed, having adequate staffing and providing an inclusive education setting.

But the Detroit parents are hopeful for Vitti’s proposed plan.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Patty Thornton said. “But we need these steps.”

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Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/

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