In his column this week, Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews admits that he tends to avoid writing about school-parent conflicts over special education services. The issues involved, he says, are usually “so complicated” and the stories all seem to end in the same dead end of “frustrated parents and ill-equipped educators trying but failing to find common ground, calling in lawyers while the children sit in class, bored and confused.”
A persistent local mother, however, has managed to prod him into telling the story of her struggles to get special services for her son. By Mathews’ account, 12-year-old Miguel Landeros has been clinically diagnosed as severely learning disabled, but his mother, Kelli Castellino, has been repeatedly rebuffed in her attempts to get him the school services that she believes he needs.
When Miguel was in elementary school in Howard County, Md., though he struggled to learn to read, she was informed (after requesting to have him tested) that he didn’t qualify for an Individual Education Plan. In middle school last year in Stafford County, Vir., Mathews reports, Miguel was kept in regular classes despite an evaluation by a clinical psychologist identifying significant learning disabilities. Somewhat enigmatically, the district recently agreed to give him some special services in a class for “mentally disabled or emotionally disturbed children,” a placement that is apparently at odds with what psychologists recommend for him.
Castellino now plans to seek a court order for the district to place Miguel in a private school. “I am selling my car and will be riding my bike to work, selling anything I can in my house to come up with the money to place my child,” she says.
Mathews, getting that déjà vu feeling, asks: “Is there an alternative, some innovative way to help kids like Miguel? …” Seems like a good question.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.