Education guaranteed for disabled kids

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act is federal legislation that guarantees "a free and appropriate education" for disabled children, as well as those that are not disabled, according to Mike Murray, a trained advocate for children with disabilities in public schools.
"What this mandates on a local level is that public school administrators and faculty are supposed to be on the lookout for children that seem to be having problems," said Murray. "When they see that, they can arrange for testing and evaluation and if they identify a disability, provide appropriate facilities or techniques which are available and are funded."
Unfortunately, according to Murray, this doesn't always happen. "An awful lot of our public school administration and faculty is poorly trained and poorly equipped to identify or deal with these disabilities."
As a result, some students fall through the cracks, Murray said. "Sometimes they are ignored. Sometimes they are actually even forced out of the school, and when that happens, there really isn't anybody to go to bat for these students but their parents."
The federal government, Murray says, has no way of monitoring what goes on in the thousands of public schools all over the country, and states don't seem to do much better.
"The parents, unfortunately, are also uninformed. They have no idea what they are entitled to. They have no idea what programs might be available. They don't know anything about testing and evaluation. My experience is that the schools are not very good at informing anyone."
For that reason, trained advocates like Teena Bradley, founder of "I Pinky Promise", are needed, Murray said, "that can contact parents, and educate them and hopefully, in some cases, educate the people in the public schools to deal with these problems in much better ways than we've seen in the past."
Murray says the public needs to be better informed about the services available for disabled children. "It really shouldn't be necessary for us to have to contact parents and have to tell them all of the very basic entitlements and explain to them everything that there is about all of the due processes that are involved in remedying these kinds of problems," he said. "If the public were more aware in general, it wouldn't be so necessary."