A Shoreline couple is challenging some of the basic assumptions about special education as they fight the Shoreline School District to place their disabled daughter into regular kindergarten.
“We need to break out of the notion that special education is a ‘place,’” says Ananda Scott, mother of six year old Isabelle Scott, who has Down syndrome. “We are not talking about dumping children with significant needs into general classrooms. We’re talking about training for teachers and classroom structures that do exist and work for all children.”
“You’re just throwing it into a box,” says Randy Scott, Isabelle’s father. “Oh, you have Down syndrome, you go into this box; oh, you have autism, you go into this box; you’re typical, you go in this box. If that’s all we’re doing then nobody’s being served.”
Both parents have spent time working in education. Randy Scott has a master’s in education and works as a counselor.
Their case is built from their own experience and extensive reading of the existing research they say. When Isabelle was in public special education preschool, she became more withdrawn, less verbal and physically weaker they claim.
Her parents moved her out into an inclusive preschool at Shoreline Community College, where they say she is thriving, is communicating better both verbally and through sign language, and is now keeping up physically with other kids.
The Shoreline School District says it can’t speak directly to the Scott’s case, but in a statement to KING 5 says, “our school district follows the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state special education regulations in determining education supports and placement.”
Citing in its statement and supporting documents that, “Once a determination to evaluate a student has been made, the district obtains consent from the parent to conduct that evaluation. A group of qualified professionals determine by the district conducts the evaluation and gathers information that helps the team determine whether the student meets the state’s criteria for special education eligibility, as well as information that will help the team determine the special education and related services needed by the student.”
But while the language of the law talks about how students needing special education can qualify for and receive the benefits from it, the Scott’s say they are fighting what they see is a trap that threatens to keep Isabelle confined to special education when she heads to kindergarten next year.
“Isabelle has Down syndrome, she’ll always have Down syndrome,” says her mother. But she says Isabelle’s exposure to typical kids in an inclusive preschool class room has proven to them that her daughter can learn more than she would in “special ed.”
The parents also say other kids can benefit from being exposed to people with disabilities. From inclusive classrooms and special teachers, all kids can benefit they say.
The Scotts say they’ll meet with the school district along with their lawyer very soon about Isabelle’s status next year.
Special Education is already seeing legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Chapter in the case of three disabled boys from eastern Washington, who the ACLU says were expelled or restricted from class because of behavioral issues relating to their disabilities.
Those cases were part of a lawsuit filed against the Office of he state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction earlier in June.