Special Education Column

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For those who thought the story of Alba Somoza, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, had a fairy-tale ending, beware the sequel.

Alba's plight bounced into the public spotlight more than a year ago when her twin sister, Anastasia, who has a milder form of cerebral palsy, appeared on a nationally televised interview with President Clinton and asked why her sister could not attend a "regular'' school with her. Soon after, the New York City board of education secured a place for Alba in a regular 4th-grade class.

Now, more than a year later, Alba's parents are contending that the school system violated Alba's civil rights.

The Somozas claim that Alba was "dumped'' into a regular classroom without adequate support services. They say that although Alba has an above-average I.Q., she is not making academic progress.

In a brief filed in Alba's behalf, the Somozas claim that Alba has "fallen victim to a bureaucracy's two-faced attitude on inclusion, designed on the one hand to secure the maximum amount of federal funding and on the other hand to change as little as possible of the overly segregated status quo.''

The Somozas, with the help of their lawyer, Salem M. Katsh, are seeking additional tutoring and special equipment for Alba and training for teachers in the latest technological developments.

But Lawrence Becker, a lawyer for the city board of education, says the city already has adapted curriculum for Alba and provided her with numerous therapists and specialists.

Both parties are currently negotiating a settlement.

The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, which promotes independence and quality education for disabled people, is working on several organizational changes to push their members' agenda into the forefront of public policy.

A scheduled move from Seattle to the Washington, D.C. area and a new executive director are changes "in line with TASH trying to become more active in the national scene and to provide its members with greater visibility,'' said Frank Laski, a lawyer for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Mr. Laski is serving part time as the acting executive director of TASH while the group recruits a new director.

Shortly after it met in March, the executive board decided to terminate the contract of the executive director, George Flynn, citing financial mismanagement.

Vol. 13, Issue 39E, Page 5

Published in Print: July 13, 1994, as Special Education Column
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