Recently, some parents of special education students held Oak Park and River Forest High School’s feet to the fire regarding a state law requiring one regular education teacher for each special ed student to be present at all IEPs (individualized education plans) from beginning to end. A few things need to be said about this situation:
IEPs are important educational tools, and as many stakeholders in a child’s education need to be present, or involved, as possible.
In many, but not all, cases it may serve a purpose to have a regular ed teacher present at an IEP.
Parents should be able to request a regular ed teacher’s presence at an IEP from beginning to end, and that request should be granted without question or pressure from the school if the parent insists.
But all stakeholders at the high school need to recognize that there are consequences?#34;educational and financial?#34;when teachers are so routinely pulled from classes for up to three hours while a substitute teacher is called in.
According to the high school, there are 550 students in special education at OPRF. Not all of them have severe disabilities, which is what the general population thinks of when they think of special ed. The school holds some 700 IEP meetings per school year. By our math, that would mean that some 20 times per week, a classroom loses its teacher for multiple periods so that teacher can attend an IEP. This is disruptive, expensive, and, we think, not always necessary.
Reason needs to prevail. The law builds in some flexibility, and that ought to be exercised. If parents consent (without pressure), a regular ed teacher should be allowed to submit a written report, which in many cases will suffice?#34;not always but often. Just as with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the key element needs to be “accommodation.”
Regular ed teachers can offer valuable feedback, but their time is limited and the demands on teachers are already great. Other options for involvement need to be established and followed. If a parent feels strongly that a teacher needs to be present, it should be granted. If a written report suffices, that should be allowed.
Special education is a vital component of public education. We have a moral and legal responsibility to provide it. But if the stakeholders on both sides remain adversarial, the system can spin out of control, and public education in general is already pushing its limits.
We want to see regular ed teachers attending IEPs whenever it is appropriate and requested. We do not want to see regular ed teachers required to attend all IEPs from beginning to end when other options are available. That is excessive and a poor use of taxpayer-funded resources.
A middle ground needs to be found on this issue, and we urge both the administration and the parents of special ed students to work harder to find it.
Living with universities in RF
And speaking of finding middle ground, the same needs to happen in River Forest where neighbors of Concordia University have complained about noise, parking and sundry other disturbances. Both of River Forest’s universities (Dominican is the other) are becoming busier, more active places. They need to be if they want to attract more students and survive. That is a good thing for both Oak Park and River Forest. They cannot afford to remain the sleepy institutions that people remember from the past or they will eventually die.
On the other hand, neighbor concerns need to be addressed. We’re glad to see the village working to help mediate the conflict, but the solution should not be to hamstring a growing, vibrant university.