Dozens Testify at Disability, Education Town Hall Meeting

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationOn Saturday, October 19, Access Living hosted a Town Hall on disability and education.  At the town hall, attended by more than 70 people, dozens of parents, former students, and special education staff testified before a panel of experts.  Individuals testified over concerns about staffing, concerns about Individualized Education Plans, and concerns about meeting the education and support needs of students with disabilities.  In one case, a school sign language interpreter testified that because of short staffing, she was sometimes used as a lunchroom monitor rather than a sign language interpreter.


The Town Hall was sponsored by Access Living, Family Resource Center on Disabilities, Equip for Equality, Family Support Network of Illinois, and the Illinois Life Span Project of the Arc.  Margie Wakelin, an attorney with Equip for Equality; Rod Estvan, Access Living’s Education Policy Analyst; and Sharon Soltman, a private attorney who brought the Corey H. Lawsuit against the Chicago Public Schools all sat on the panel.  Under the Corey H Lawsuit, the Chicago Public Schools was sued for illegally segregating special education students. Corey H. In 1998, CPS settled the lawsuit before going to trial, agreeing to send more special needs children back to neighborhood schools and into general education classrooms.  Soltman and the other panelists spent the morning responding to the people who testified, offering specific guidance and follow up to the questions and concerns.


Not all of the people who testified were the parents of children currently in special education programs, or staff of special education programs.  Former special education students also spoke.  Curtis Harris, a disability advocate in his mid-thirties, was the first CPS Student in the Autism Inclusion Program.  He spoke about his experience, and stressed the importance of quality supports for students with disabilities.  In the past, Harris has spoken out at CPS Board Meetings against funding cuts to special education programs.  Immediately following the Town Hall there was a resource fair geared toward supports for students with disabilities, their families and allies.

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