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