Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ATTN. Harvard parents of special ed students

A recent article in the Northwest Herald drew my attention to possible problems in Harvard with the programs of students in special education.

I have certainly experienced a full range of problems that I have personally witnessed and experienced in the Woodstock area since 1996. Prior to that, I had virtually no experience with special education and school districts. My daughter grew up in Philadelphia and Poughkeepsie with her mother, and there were no special education needs there. In all the cities and towns in which I lived before 1996, I had not come in contact with any special education districts.

Once I got to Woodstock, I began to learn about special education. People have told me I should write a book. Frankly, I don't think one book would be enough to cover all the stories, but who likes to read bad news all the time.

Dr. Peter Koehn (pronounced "kane") has blown the whistle on the Harvard (Ill.) School District by getting the Office of Civil Rights of the federal government involved. I never dragged problems that far; usually, just getting the Superintendent involved was enough to get the needed correction. But I certainly made many trips to her office, when Special Education administrators (not teachers) threw up roadblocks and speed bumps.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) cannot be unilaterally changed; i.e., a teacher or an administrator cannot make the decision in isolation to change a student's IEP. Changes are supposed to be made at an IEP meeting, which should be attended by the "IEP Team", which includes the parent(s). The Team members are specified in procedures established by the Feds and the Illinois State Board of Education.

The big problem with the "Team" is that most teachers know that they had better not make any waves. If something is wrong with the implementation of an IEP, it could be a "professional" death sentence for a teacher to speak up. So what happens if they read their reports and sit there until the meeting is over. They know that they had better not buck the administrator who is there. After all, who does their performance reviews? Who decides whether they end up monitoring the toilets or the playground? Who gets raises? Who gets canned?

Dr. Peter Koehn is a whistleblower. I like whistleblowers. I'm sorry they must exist. I'm sorry they get fired for blowing whistles. If you are a parent of a Harvard Special Education student and would like to speak with Dr. Koehn, you can call him at 815.212.3209

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