It all starts with an idea. But ideas that roll around in your mind will always be just that. It is now time for action! Therefore, this is the birth of Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students.
For almost four years I’ve been writing about education in good old Delaware. It’s taken me from the bottom of Sussex all the way to the tip-top parts of the state. I’ve been to Legislative Hall and the Delaware DOE building more times than I can count. And nothing has changed. In fact, I’m going to say it is getting worse. Especially with special education. But it isn’t just that. It is also issues dealing with school discipline, race, gender, bullying, classroom management, class sizes, safety, and trauma coming into our schools in ways our educators are just now starting to fathom and understand.
To that end, I am taking my email/Facebook/social media/cell phone advocacy out of the digital world and into the schools. This will be a huge task and I need your help!
These are the issues I am willing to advocate for students:
Special Education: whether it is IEPs or 504 plans, it is important to know your child’s rights, the parental rights, and the rights of the school. Many parents feel overwhelmed in IEP meetings. Trying to learn about federal IDEA law, Delaware State Code, and all the pending special education legislation is a task in itself. Do you have a child with a unique disability that may warrant very specific goals or accommodations in their IEP?
School Discipline: does the punishment fit the crime? Does the punishment meet the criteria of the school student code of conduct? Does it follow state law? If a student has an IEP or 504 plan was it a manifestation of their disability or just poor choices? What are the rights of students when there are School Resource Officers, constables, or armed security? When is physical restraint warranted? How does it work with transportation and busing when a discipline issue comes up?
Trauma: Is your child going through a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on violence in their neighborhood? Or in their own home? Are their grades falling behind as a result of this? Are they acting out? These are students that may not be special education but need an advocate to help schools and teachers sift through these issues so they can give your child the best education possible.
Bullying: Is your child being bullied? Are you finding the school isn’t doing everything they can to put a stop to it? What steps can you take to make sure they do?
These are my goals:
To serve any of the above needs or potential conflict a parent may have with a school.
To guide parents on the appropriate ways to deal with the folks in the schools. This isn’t as simple as it looks, and when things escalate, there is a proper chain of steps to go through.
To work with every school district and charter school in the state to make sure Parent Council Groups for special education are up and running.
To advocate meaningful dialogue between parents and schools. This is crucial. But it is also important to make sure there is one adult in the room who can be unbiased and impartial. Screaming heads don’t get you far. It might feel good in the short-term, but it is not conducive to the best interests of the one person who matters the most- your child!
To inform parents of their child’s rights and how that applies to the school setting. To inform parents of the differences between legislation and regulation and what is enforceable and what is not.
To make sure due process rights are followed to the letter of the law in discipline situations.
I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be. I am just a parent with my own special needs child who has run the gauntlet with Delaware schools. If your child’s school building doesn’t know me directly, they know of me. All the district and charter leaders know me as well as the legislators. I have contacts all over the place and know exactly who to go to when things need to happen. I’ve helped parents out for years but it is time to take it to the next level.
I will be doing this work at no cost. But any organization or business (whatever this turns out to be based on demand) needs funding. Pure and simple. So I am asking for donations from folks in Delaware who see this growing need in our state. Whether it is a dollar or more, every bit counts. I am willing to go up and down our state to help our kids. I am centrally located in Dover so my door is open for all!
If you are of mind to help get this going and help sustain this, any contributions are certainly welcome! Please go to the Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students page here: https://www.gofundme.com/exceptional-advocacy-for-delaware
If you are a parent who needs help in dealing with a situation involving your child at a Delaware school, please contact me as soon as possible. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and we can exchange phone numbers from there.