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Lexington's SEPAC Sizing Up Special Education Survey

As LPS officials deal with allegations of past mistreatment within the special education program, their liaison to parents -- the Special Education Advisory Council -- is gearing up to survey the parents of students with special needs.

A little more than two weeks after allegations of past mistreatment of students with special needs in the Lexington Public Schools surfaced and sent shockwaves across the community, the district’s Special Education Parent Council is responding with plans to survey its constituents.

The council held a preliminary discussion of those plans on Thursday, Sept. 27, during a mid-morning meeting in the lower level of Cary Hall. While the particulars are still in the development stage, the general vision is to survey Lexington families with children on individualized education programs (IEPs) or 504 plans about their satisfaction with the district, as well as any concerns, problems or communication breakdowns.

According to Ann Wolf, co-chairwoman of the council, the idea for a SEPAC-sponsored survey began to take shape after parents brought it up at a Sept. 20 meeting and members of the Lexington School Committee also said they’d be interested in the results of such a survey.

Questions about Lexington’s special education program were thrust into the spotlight earlier this month when a former resident’s opinion piece in the New York Times accused the schools of locking his daughter in a basement closet-turned-seclusion room when she was enrolled as a kindergartener at Fiske during the 2005-2006 school year. Following those accusations, other families came forward with their own stories of young children being restrained and shut away in isolation rooms. While disputing some of the more elaborate claims, the school administration has asked the state Department of Children and Families to investigate two of the incidents.

On Thursday, the Special Education Parent Council discussed its next steps regarding a SEPAC-sponsored survey. Those steps include sharpening the questions, soliciting feedback -- but not approval -- from administrators, circulating the survey to local families and then presenting the results to the School Committee, hopefully sometime in November.

While the council wants to move quickly and circulate the survey while the iron is hot and families are willing to talk about their experiences, members also spoke of the importance of making sure their survey covers all the bases and its findings are legit.

A portion of Thursday’s discussions were on delegating tasks surrounding the survey, and more information about the next steps may be laid out more clearly by the time of SEPAC’s Oct. 9 meeting. 

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