Special ed at forefront—again—in Chapel Hill | Orange County | Indy Week

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Special ed at forefront—again—in Chapel Hill

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The quality of special education continues to be a sore point within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, where parents likely will air their grievances at an upcoming school board meeting.

On Aug. 9, the city school board and Superintendent Neil Pederson will address a study commissioned by the district last fall to examine problems within the Exceptional Children's program. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Center, 750 S. Merritt Mill Road.

The report was written by consultant John Thomas and released in April. It recommended better communication between parents and the district and additional training for special-education teachers. However, several parents complained that the report was soft on the district, and didn't detail the EC program's shortcomings.

The parent-led Special Needs Advisory Council, which includes teachers, administrators and community professionals, wrote a separate report. The council made several specific recommendations, including: requiring regular district and school meetings to inform parents of changes in special education programs; emphasizing the social needs of exceptional children; and focusing on training for teachers, some of whom have complained they receive none.

As the Independent reported last spring, dozens of parents have complained about the quality of education for their special needs children, including those with autism (see "Great expectations," March 7). Many frustrated parents have withdrawn their children from the district, opting to send them to private schools or teach them at home.

In the 2005-06 school year, of the 10,824 students in the district, 1,143—or 10.5 percent—were special-needs students, according to state education statistics.

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