Park City School District must work harder to serve students with special needs
May 20, 2016
Public schools are entrusted with carrying out a daunting mandate: to educate our children — all of our children. It is a wildly idealistic challenge, but is fundamental to a society that believes education is the key to a better future, not only for each student, but for the community as a whole.
That mandate extends from the most gifted students to those with severe learning disabilities and along the way guarantees special accommodations to students who speak other languages, who come from a full range of socioeconomic backgrounds and have special physical or mental conditions.
That is the beauty, and the at times almost unattainable mission of our public school system. It is why the biggest chunk of our property tax bill is devoted to supporting the school district and why laws have
That belief is so fundamental that citizens, even those who do not have children, earmark substantial portion of their taxes to support public schools. And, federal laws have been enacted to ensure every child has access to those educational opportunities.
And, while there is no doubt the Park City School District supports that basic concept, in practice it has fallen short. The U.S. Department’s Office for Civil Rights has determined "the district discriminated against a student on the basis of physical disability."
As we reported earlier, the case involved a diabetic student and her school’s lack of adequate nursing coverage to provide insulin when needed. The Office for Civil Rights findings supported the parent’s claim, and the district has been ordered to make changes to address the problem.
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Since then, news reports about the case have alerted other parents in the district who believe their students are not receiving the services to which they are entitled.
It is an important wake up call and we applaud the first parent who came forward, even though it has likely been uncomfortable for her family.
We are also confident the school district was not malicious in its intent and will abide by the court’s decision in good faith.
Nonetheless, we would recommend that both the district and local parents of children with disabilities make an effort to move beyond this case and rededicate their efforts to ensure all students receive the full range of services so they can achieve their highest potential.
Over the years, the Park City School District, with enthusiastic support from its patrons, has worked to offer students an exceptional education — including extended kindergarten, both dual-language immersion and English-as-a-second language programs, scheduling accommodations for competitive athletes, an alternative learning center, a center for advanced professional studies and much more.
But the school district also needs to revisit the basic tenets of public education. Administrators along, with special education staff, nurses, counselors and parents of disabled children should form a task force to review local policies and procedures related to students with special needs and then actively work to raise awareness about the services those children and their families have been promised.