Every child needs classroom learning to grow and develop. Yet, hundreds of Oregon children don’t attend full days of school for months or even years at a time because of behavior issues tied to disability. Some children are removed from school altogether and given an hour or two of tutoring per day.
With the right supports, virtually all children can learn in school alongside their classmates.
The State Needs to Help School Districts Support Children with Disabilities
Today, we filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Education. It asks the State to play a larger role in making sure that school districts are equipped to support children with disabilities in their classrooms.
At its core, this fight is about making sure that children with disabilities can live in our world. Providing them with the proper supports at a crucial moment early in their lives will give them the foundation they need to thrive in their classrooms and communities for years to come.
Shortened School Days Stories
These are a few stories of children from across the state whose lives have been impacted by shortened school days.
Aidin is an 8-year-old 4th grader who loves Legos, art, and superheroes. He’s consistently tested above the grade average. He also experiences autism. His shortened days started in kindergarten for behavior like speaking out of turn, not raising his hand, and walking around the classroom and talking to himself when he was asked to sit.
For three school years, he missed out on crucial classroom opportunities to learn and practice social skills while his school day was shortened over his mother’s continued objections.
Ten-year-old Elijah is a funny, quirky “ray of sunshine” who loves dinosaurs, is interested in archaeology and is a wonderful big brother. He loved school and began with good academic skills above his grade level. He also experiences autism. This means that social interaction and reading people’s non-verbal communications are a challenge for him. He has not been consistently allowed to attend a full day of school for more than a year.
Even though he continues to love math, Elijah’s academic skills no longer surpass those of his classmates. More importantly, after years of shortened school days, he no longer loves school because he feels that nobody wants him to be there.
Blake is a happy, affectionate 14-year-old who enjoys swimming, basketball, and jumping on trampolines. He has been consistently evaluated as a bright child. He experiences a severe form of autism and epilepsy. He becomes frustrated when he can’t communicate his wants and needs. It took many years and a legal complaint for his school to begin working on providing him a communications device to give him a voice. That long delay and Blake’s inability to communicate led to him developing more difficult behaviors.
Blake hasn’t truly attended school in four to five years. Imagine how hard that has made it for him to learn the alphabet or numbers, or how to learn to spell his name and read.
When I asked his mom why she’s hopeful for Blake’s future, she told me, “Because I’m his mom, and I don’t give up on him.” Our schools shouldn’t give up on children either.
What You Can Do
Contact the Oregon Department of Education. Ask them to provide all children the supports that they need to thrive in their classrooms.
Contact your legislators. Ask your legislators to support our call for proper supports for children with disabilities.
If Your Child Needs Help
If your child’s school day has been shortened, please use our Short School Day Tool Kit to advocate for your child.
If you have tried those strategies and need further assistance, you can call for an intake appointment (503) 243-2081.
If the court approves the lawsuit as a class action, most school aged children receiving a shortened school day would be included in the class of plaintiffs for this lawsuit.
Please note that our ability to take on individual advocacy has been significantly limited by the filing of the class action lawsuit.
Finally, many people have contacted us recently to let us know that their children have been affected in the same way.
We do not have capacity to individually respond to those many contacts, but the information is valuable to us.
If you think that information about your child’s situation may help us prove our case, please complete this Google Form.
Or contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us your child’s story.
Op-ed by attorney Joel Greenberg: “Oregon fails rural schools who need help teaching children with disabilities,” (The Oregonian, January 22, 2019)