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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Does DOE have plans to cut services for visually and hearing impaired children?

This entry was written by a parent familiar with the concerns of visually impaired students and their families:

NYC Public School Parents has learned that the Department of Education has floated a plan to eliminate the Educational Vision Services (EVS) and Hearing Education Services (HES) offices in District 75, which oversees special education programs in our schools. Currently, 1,000 children with visual impairments and 3,000 children with hearing impairments are being served by the these offices. Last week, the head of Educational Vision Services was informed by District 75 and the Chancellor's Office that EVS would be closing and that the principals of schools would take over the supervision of the special instructors for these children. When parents started protesting, the reorganization was temporarily put on hold, but not cancelled.

Such a dismantling would likely have a devastating impact on the students in the system with visual and hearing impairments. Children who are blind or visually impaired need all kinds of special services that others don’t —for example, to learn braille, to be provided with books in braille or large print, and to learn travel skills, like walking with a cane. Many of these children are fully functioning intellectually, but need these services to be able to learn. They need special equipment as well. Regular special ed teachers don't teach these skills, teachers who specialize in working with visually impaired students do. Similarly, hearing impaired students need teachers who can teach sign language, as well as interpreters and other special services. This latest "reorganization" has the potential to completely disrupt those services.

Principals of individual schools are not equipped to supervise or support these specialized staff. In fact, these teachers usually work with students at several schools. The offices threatened with closure have the expertise to ensure that students with these disabilities get the help they need and that their teachers (and schools) receive the support and oversight necessary to make sure they do. If the responsibility to provide these very specialized services are dumped on the principals' shoulders, along with all their other new duties, how can they possibly be expected to manage?

Since the DOE's plans for special education have not been fully disclosed, it's difficult to guess what kind of structure they might have in mind once EVS and HES were closed, and what other current supports might also be slated for elimination. Only one thing is for sure: As usual, no one actually working with these students was consulted about these changes, least of all their parents.

Parents of visually and hearing impaired students are up in arms and plan to attend the meeting of the Citywide Council on Special Education tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 at 6:30pm at Tweed to demand some answers. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

We house a D75 school in my building. There are several Hearing and visually impaired children. The people who work with them are some of the most dedicated and hard working people I see in my building. These children are being well served by them and I hope Mr. Moneybags has given more thought to them then just the bottom line $.

Once again another issue of importance with no press and no union action.


Anonymous said...

I am a NYC Assistant Principal and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently no one at the DOE actually knows or cares about Special Education children, D 75 or otherwise. I have been with the DOE for 28 years and I have never seen such a blatant disregard for the needs of children and in particular special needs children. It saddens me.