Ashley Anderson: Salt Lake City schools need someone to investigate IEP non-compliance
We should all be concerned by recent allegations of racism and ableism in the Salt Lake City School District.
Much remains to be seen, but Jeanetta Williams of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate, writing that the board, as well as some administrators, are guilty of racial discrimination and creating a hostile work environment for the district’s Black employees, of which the new superintendent, Timothy Gadson, is the most visible.
She further alleges that the district itself has been negligent in legally required Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, a key part of the special education process in which families and educators must gather annually to review the needs and goals of students with disabilities. Of course, we must wait and see what comes of any investigation. As a parent, a longtime activist within the district and a candidate for the school board, the question I find myself asking is, what else don’t we hear about?
I don’t say that to malign the brilliant work of our educators. Our district has great strengths, but every American school district continues to struggle with American racism. Every school district also struggles to live up to the justice and equity for students with disabilities aspired to by Congress through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which created the IEP in its first iteration in 1975.
We live in a moment where every school system is taking a hard look at itself. That must include rethinking the process by which individual stories are brought into focus at the district level. If the inputs elected officials are receiving from their public aren’t fed to them in an equity-driven process, our values end up compromised by faulty conceptual models.
As a parent who has often volunteered to help other parents to navigate the system in the capacity of an advocate, which has included learning more about their rights under special education laws, I believe that changing the avenues through which complaints are processed might be the biggest single step we could take toward addressing inequity in our district.
Jun 10, 2022
The Salt Lake Tribune
Headcounts are down at public schools. Now budgets are too.
Emergency aid during pandemic wasn’t meant to last forever
Mission, Kan. • A school system in suburban Kansas City is eliminating over 100 jobs, including kindergarten aides and library clerks. Oakland, Calif., is closing seven schools. Other districts around the country are merging classrooms, selling buildings and leaving teaching positions unfilled in order to close budget gaps.
Public school systems are beginning to feel the pinch from enrollment losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
May 9, 2022
Heather Hollingsworth and Annie Ma