Author Topic: Denied: Houston schools systematically block disabled kids from special ed  (Read 1275 times)

Offline imchills

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At Poe Elementary School in west Houston, former social worker Marsha Baumann says she was told repeatedly that students could not be evaluated for special education.

At Garden Oaks Montessori School in north Houston, retired assistant principal Kathy Drago says she was informed that only two kids could be evaluated per month.

And at Attucks Middle School in south Houston, longtime language arts teacher Thomas Iocca says he was ordered to remove children from special education at random.

"It became a nightmare," Iocca said.

Houston schools provide special education services to a lower percentage of students than schools in virtually any other big city in America. Only Dallas serves fewer than Houston's 7.26 percent. The national average is 13 percent.

For months, as special education has come under increasing scrutiny in Texas, Houston Independent School District officials have described their percentage as a good thing, saying it is the product of robust early interventions that have helped students without labeling them.

But a Houston Chronicle investigation has found that HISD achieved its low special education rate by deliberately discouraging and delaying evaluations in pursuit of goals that have clearly denied critical services to thousands of children with disabilities.

Records show the largest school district in Texas enthusiastically embraced a controversial state policy that has driven special education enrollments to the lowest in the United States. In fact, after HISD officials reduced their enrollment rate from 10 percent to the Texas Education Agency's 8.5 percent target, they set an even more restrictive standard: 8 percent.

To accomplish the objective, HISD officials slashed hundreds of positions from the special education department, dissuaded evaluators from diagnosing disabilities until second grade and created a list of "exclusionary factors" that disqualify students from getting services, among other tactics described in district documents, court records and dozens of interviews.