Program Moved with No Warning to Parents
Many Alameda parents voiced their disapproval of Alameda Unified School District’s (AUSD) decision to move a class for students with special needs from Lincoln School (LMS) to Wood Middle School (WMS) at the district’s Feb. 26 school board meeting.
Parents of AUSD students and community members signed an open letter to AUSD demanding the district take vigorous efforts to make the district more inclusive for children with special needs.
According to the letter, what triggered the outcry from the community was the school district’s decision to end a moderate-to-severe special day class for children with special needs at LMS. The students will now be transferred to one of two moderate-to-severe special day classes at WMS, according to a parent at the board meeting.
“Parents and students were given just one week’s notice that their class would be moving,” the letter states. “LMS students and families were never informed of this significant loss to our community.”
The letter was signed by more than 300 parents and community members. At the meeting parents viewed the district’s lack of notifying parents as one of many slights by the district.
“This felt more like a part of a pattern on not valuing special needs students,” said Zachary Drake, whose son Quinn was in the class at LMS. “Our children are missing from yearbooks, left out of field trips, not included in assemblies and not represented in student government or sports clubs. What we’re asking for does not cost a lot money. We want children to be valued, accepted and included in the school community.”
Suzy Clement has a son in the moderate-to-severe special day class at WMS. She said she’s concerned that adding new students in her son’s class will impact the students’ ability to learn and well-being.
“Some students in the moderate-to-severe special day class at WMS are nonverbal students with significant sensory issues that can be easily overwhelmed by loud noises. This can trigger anxiety resulting in screaming, crying and self-injury.”
Parents were also upset with how they were notified. Jessica Berthold read a statement on behalf of parent Jodie Incanbrant. Incanbrant stated she was notified of the school change by a letter given to her special-needs child. She said she wanted to talk to the district about postponing the school move, but was told the move would go on as scheduled. She also could not speak with her individualized education program instructor to help with the transition.
For many of the students this is not the first time they have been forced to change schools. Lenny Gonzales said his son has went to eight different schools in nine years as an AUSD student.
Many of the parents were also upset with the district’s lack of an explanation why the students had to move to WMS.
“When our children are asked to move, it is often with almost no recognition, as if our children are invisible — not seen as valued members of the community or as equal to their typically developing peers,” the letter states.
Parents asked the AUSD school board to conduct an independent audit of special education and review the principal job description and practices that support inclusion of students with disabilities and their families.
An inquiry to AUSD’s special education director was not returned by press time.