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Superintendent Osborne Trying to Divide White Parents of Students with Disabilities from Black Parents

Dione Williams MD

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 1:28pm

Superintendent Osborne Trying to Divide White Parents of Students with Disabilities from Black Parents

An Opinion by Dione Williams MD

Among all of the vague evasiveness at the PTO meeting, Wednesday April 2, 2014 at the Board of Education offices on Academy Street, Dr. Brian Osborne discussed the recent consent order for the very first time.  He said, before he came, black special ed students were segregated from white special ed students, a disability group sued the state, and our district was not a party in the lawsuit or the consent order. He also stated for the first time that, meetings with the state DOE would commence and he would keep parents apprised of any decisions or action items that may arise.

I saw the sense of relief on the faces of many of the parents in this largely white audience.  They must have thought, that doesn’t apply to me, it is just those black people being pushy again.  I am not going to discuss the education of all students being necessary in providing a world class education system.  I am not going to discuss that while he claims to be innocent of all charges from a previous administration, his co-presenter, Dr Pat Barker was present and should have been aware of the actual facts that led to the consent order.  No, what I am going to discuss is the fact that he can survive administrative missteps and failure to provide state and federally mandated services by pitting his white parents against his black parents.  As long as every one believes the segregation has been about black students being kept out of the classrooms educating white students, then he will get a pass for his devastation of the special-ed budget of 6 inclusion teachers, and other support staff.  He will also get a pass at anyone looking under the hood of his administration to assess his competency as a leader on the eve of negotiations for his contract.

The consent order as described from the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network website states,

“The plaintiffs alleged that children were inappropriately and unnecessarily sent out of district and denied in-class aids, services and accommodations needed to receive an appropriate education in the general education classroom.  The Settlement includes:

  • a Needs Assessment to be completed by the 75+ school districts with the worst track record in inclusion;
  • district site visits by the Department of Education, including classroom observations and staff interviews;
  • extensive training and technical assistance for district staff, and regular assessment of the trainings and technical assistance;
  • training of state complaint investigators;
  • specially designated state and local inclusion facilitators
  • annual compliance monitoring;
  • parental input regarding district failures to appropriately include students with disabilities; and
  • oversight by a stakeholder committee comprised of disability advocates.”

Consent orders are pretty tricky, since no one admits any wrong doing but the services and accommodations were denied to students with disabilities.  They were denied to both black and white students.  The training requirement for special-ed teachers and staff is being required for teachers of both the black and white Special Education students.  Does Supt. Osborne believe firing inclusion teachers and a child study team member to be less expensive than providing the mandated training?   Now the fact that black students are segregated from white students with disabilities is not a major point of the law suit.  The failure of parental input to give students with disabilities a voice was a central issue in the lawsuit. In fact, Drs. Osborne and Barker were more recently cited for not consistently convening IEP meetings, obtaining parental consent prior to evaluations and not providing adequate notice to parents of students with disabilities of scheduled meetings.  Unfortunately, parents of students with disabilities will not get any more input from Drs. Osborne and Barker until after negotiations with the state are done. The next PTO meeting is in September of this year.

The Supt. implied he was not responsible, because the infractions occurred before he got here. He is responsible.  He is responsible for the resolution and corrective plan for the education of individuals with disabilities.  He will not get away with his usual play of race baiting.  Does he think, “ I can keep the white parents quiet and deny them appropriate services for their children with disabilities by implying that all of my missteps are race related? “  He probably does, after all, it has been working for him thus far. Will he get away with it this time?  

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