Editor’s note: I’ve written the following letter in response to an email I received from my son’s private school director regarding a parent action alert from ASAH (Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped.) The New Jersey State Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education are proposing new rules and amendments (many of which I listed in the letter, but there are more) which if implemented will have a devastating effect on private schools for special education students in our state, both in their efforts to deliver services and to stay open. I will be sending this letter both to the president of the State Board of Education and the acting commissioner of the Department of Education. If you have a special needs child in a private school in New Jersey I hope you too will consider writing a letter, contacts/addresses are listed at the bottom of this post. If you know someone who has a child in a special needs private school in New Jersey please let them know about the proposed changes. Thank you!
January 16, 2017
Dear Mr. Biedron/Ms. Harrington,
My name is Kimberlee McCafferty, and I am the mother of two autistic boys, a writer, veteran educator, and an autism advocate. The needs of my youngest boy, Zachary, have been well served within our public school system, however our almost fourteen-year-old, Justin, has received his education in a private school setting for the last seven years.
Justin is primarily non-verbal and has a co-existing diagnosis of OCD. He began his educational career in two different public school systems, Freehold and Brick. After four years, it became apparent that our local district, Brick, no longer had a program for him, and our case manager urged us to look elsewhere. We toured both public and private schools, and at last settled on his current placement in a private school. It is the perfect placement for him as he has made significant progress in all developmental areas.
It is truly his second home.
Mr. Biedron/Ms. Harrington, I have carefully read through the New Jersey State Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education’s proposed rules and amendments. Your desire to restrict salaries and limit training funds, your request that any gains from any properties sold by private schools must go to public schools, and your suggestion to limit the cost of food services thereby prohibiting many children with severe feeding issues from attending private school, would all drastically compromise many institutions’ capacity to stay open and provide the services so desperately needed by many special needs children in our state.
We are not talking about just a few lives here, although to deprive even one special education student of the services they require is reprehensible. We are talking about 11,000 lives: children who cannot eat without the assistance of a feeding tube; children who cannot walk; and, children, like my son, who cannot speak and requires all personnel who work with him to be adequately trained in behaviorist principles so that he may not only function, but thrive.
These are children whose needs simply cannot be served within the setting of a public school system. We know, because we have experienced both the public and private settings.
If my son’s private school were to close, the impact would not be merely disruptive: the effect would be disastrous, not just to him and the seventy other students and young adults who make such beautiful progress there, but to their parents and siblings as well. A new placement at this juncture in Justin’s development would most certainly elicit a massive regression in all aspects of his life. He has come to love his school, the personnel, and even as a severely autistic child has made connections with classmates over the years. He most adamantly requires the expertise of the educators there and would not continue to grow and develop to his full potential were his placement rescinded.
Ultimately, the effect of closing Justin’s school would be devastating.
Please Mr. Biedron/Ms. Harrington, please reconsider your proposed regulations.
Eleven-thousand children are counting on you.
Mr. Mark W. Biedron
New Jersey State Board of Education
State Board Office
P.O. Box 500
Ms. Kimberly Harrington
New Jersey Department of Education
P.O. Box 500
For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com
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