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Special Education in Texas? Nothing Special About It
August 2, 2001
by Mel Dugosh

In only a few days school will be back in session all over Texas. Many parents like myself, a parent of a teenager with significant disabilities, are not especially thrilled at the thought of another year of battle.

Yes, battle. The assumption that all kids in Texas receive a free and appropriate public education is mere hogwash. In Hondo, Texas - the small Texas school district where my son attends high school - this shell shocked parent is fighting a battle for the most basic of his civil rights.

One would assume that any child in Texas would be entitled to the same school day as every other child, however, in the Hondo Independent School District (ISD), "kids like these," are considered unable to attend for that length of time and are offered a "less strenuous" day. A complaint from a parent like myself that the practice of offering individuals with disabilities less education hours that children without disabilities is a violation of the law, brings the response; "this is the way we've ALWAYS done it."

One might assume that every student is entitled to eat in the school cafeteria with all of the other students. However, in Hondo, students with significant disabilities are regularly excluded at the whim of the campus administrators.

One might assume that every student that attends a public school in Texas might be included in the annual school year book publication, but a parent like myself might become heartbroken after finding out that my son and others like him were intentionally excluded from the 2000 McDowell Middle School Yearbook because they were "hard to look at."

One might assume that a well documented, organized, and structured complaint procedure might exist in the Texas State government to protect against violations of student with disabilities - however, former Governor George W. Bush instead designed a firewall to protect the intentional exclusions.

The creation of the Office Special Education Programs (OSEP) Monitoring Division, of the Texas Education Agency, and the staffing of this office with only former teachers and former administrators, has created a "no win" complaint resolution process for parents like myself that have children with significant disabilities. Hearing officers that reside over the courts of due process decisions in these exclusion cases have a quota that they must abide by, and must find in the Texas Education Agencies favor a minimum of 85% of the time.

One might assume that a parent of a teenage son that has deafness, blindness, and has no hands, might be planning a battle to receive educational services from the Hondo ISD that might address his transitional needs into adulthood. Unfortunately, this cannot be the case.

I have decided to let Hondo ISD off the hook, somewhat. Hondo ISD can forget their obligation to provide my son with physical therapy, he walks just fine, thank you. Hondo ISD can forget about their obligation to provide my son with occupation therapy, he is never going to hold down a job and I have accepted that. Hondo ISD can forget about their obligation to provide speech therapy, Chris is sixteen, he hasn't started talking yet, I am prepared to accept his silence and love him the way he is. Hondo ISD can forget about his education goals, everything he's learned in the past sixteen years he learned from a family that loves and appreciates what he has to offer.

My battle in Hondo will be to ensure that Chris Dugosh attends high school for the same hours as every other child in Hondo. My battle in Hondo will be to ensure that Chris Dugosh eats in the public school cafeteria in full view of all of the other students, teachers, and administrators. My battle in Hondo will be to ensure that Chris Dugosh is pictured in the school yearbook and other school publications.

Chris Dugosh who cannot see, sees far more that most people will ever see. Chris Dugosh who cannot hear, hears things that some people will never hear. Chris Dugosh who without his hands manages to touch people each and every day. Chris Dugosh has much to teach the conservatives in Hondo, TX about compassion.

 
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