Wednesday, September 19, 2012


"to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
The above is a powerful selection from Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that applies to all public schools in the United States who receive federal funding.
"The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, or age in its programs, services, activities or in its hiring and employment practices. School Board Policy 1122 ensures equal opportunity for all in its personnel policies and practices" (emphasis added).
The above is an excerpt from the Hillsborough County, Florida school district website. It is, in fact, listed as a disclosure on the homepage of their website, found here.
Henry Frost
“I am Henry, a self advocate. I want the same rights as everyone.
Today I read about Martin Luther King.
The worksheet said because of Dr King’s work, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave equal rights to all people.
I am a person.
I want these rights.
I want to go to school in my neighborhood.
Why can’t I”?
The above is a plea from Henry, a thirteen year old autistic self advocate. Henry is a resident of the Hillsborough County school district. Henry uses assistive communication software on his tablet computer to communicate. He also has hearing loss and relies on special hearing-aids.

As you likely realize from Henry's plea, the Hillsborough County school district has refused to allow Henry access to the least restrictive environment. In fact, Henry isn't even allowed to go to the same school his neuro-typical sisters attended (edited 2:55pm) - a school which is across the street from his family home. Hillborough County has decided unilaterally that Henry isn't capable enough to attend their educational program.

Henry's school district has, to date, not held an appropriate IEP meeting. Instead, they have created an internal "good old boy" court in which Henry cannot give input and which his parents are not allowed meaningfully participation. At Henry's last IEP meeting there were 18 district staff members present.(edited 2:55pm) Henry and his family were put on trial in attempt to convince the school of Henry's rights. Instead of allowing the IEP "team" to discuss the goals and accommodations for his educational plan, the school unilaterally determined Henry cannot attend without passing their proprietary "tests" to prove he can cope. Tests of these sorts are not legal.

"Wait. What," you say? Isn't Hillsborough County discriminating and breaking the law? How can a school discriminate like this and not be sanctioned? Yes they are discriminating and the reason is simple.

Every single case of discrimination is processed separately through expensive and stressful due process. Families must hire attorneys at great costs and file discrimination suits. Schools routinely retain attorneys for all their legal troubles. They have lawyers at their beckoned call who stand ready to defend. Schools like Hillsborough County know they have the upper hand. They know that resources are scarce for most of the families they discriminate against. They gamble on the fact that most families do not know the law or do not have the financial or legal resources to fight back. The system is broken.

What Hillsborough County is doing is not uncommon. This is a systemic problem in the United States. Schools know the law better than the families. School districts have legal know-how to continually break the law with little worry. The students who suffer are collateral damage so that the schools can keep the status-quo; that is, to only properly educate the students who are easy - the typical, average student.

What Hillsborough County school district fails to realize, however, is that Henry and his family are not alone. Thousands have taken to blogging and social media to make sure this story is heard. It is only a matter of time before Hillsborough County school district begins to feel the sting of their actions.

I stand with Henry. Won't you?

Edited 2:55pm- originally stated a regular education teacher was not present. This may be the case but has not been confirmed. & The student's sisters no longer attend the same school building as they now attend high school which is a different building.


Ollibean said...

Thank you Amy for providing endless amounts of advice and support!

Ollibean said...

Thank you Amy for providing amazing support and information!!