Good morning, my name is Tonya Whitlock. I have four children currently in the
Hillsborough County School District.
I am here because I am very, very concerned with the decisions that are being made for our students in the ESE population and and I feel it’s very important
that the parents who are actually within the system and have children who are dealing in the system speak out about the current things that are going on.
I’m going to kind of start with going over some laws that I’m very sure that most of you here know, but because of the recent changes to ESE and busing children from their neighborhood schools and the segregation children of in this school district I felt like it was pertinent to kind of give us all a refresher of some of these laws.
The first one I am going to start with is Brown versus the Board of Education,
again I’m sure that we’re all familiar with it.
The United States Supreme Court declared states laws establishing separate public schools for students based on race unconstitutional. The court’s unanimous decision stated that separate education facilities are inherently unequal.
Again, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Section 504 extends civil rights to individuals with disabilities and allows accommodations so that they may fully participate in school, employment and other settings that receive federal funding. Section 504 guarantees all students the right to a free public education regardless of a disability. Schools must afford students with disabilities with equal opportunities to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, to reach the same level of achievement, as students without disabilities. I want to stop there for a second,
this is my son Tres and he’s going to be talking to you in a minute.
We’re not from here, we were blessed to be able to live in different states and
I’m so grateful that Tres’ was allowed inclusion in the states that he lived in
through his elementary years. I can’t imagine at five years old stifling him into a classroom and saying that I’m going to, that I don’t believe in your potential, that I don’t believe in your growth. And basically when your placing a child in an ESE placement that’s what you’re saying, because we all know that the standards are drastically different in an ESE setting than they are in a typical classroom setting .
Tres went through his elementary school through fifth-grade and he did amazing.
He was on the honor roll, he loved being be part of his community and the kids that were in his classes. But the amazing thing was it wasn’t about just Tres. His teachers every year would tell me, the students are amazing with Tres. He’s making an impact on them. He made an impact on them. He made an impact on them as much as they made an impact on Tres.
Tres grew up with wanting the same kind of goals. He wanted to be on the honor roll. He wanted to make As. He didn’t see himself as a child with a disability because we didn’t allow it to happen. If we would have placed him in an ESE classroom, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing, you have a disability, we’re going
to confine you and we’re not going to allow you to grow.
In 1975 Congress enacted the Education for all Handicapped Children Act,
later as we all know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,
IDEA. It states that children with disabilities must be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment, and I know that that phrase has become very subjective with many people, but if you go on to read it states that children with disabilities need to the maximum extent, ok , and to the maximum extent, be educated with children who are not disabled. This placement must be as close as possible to the child’s home and in the school that he or she would attend if non-disabled. I’d really likes to stop and ask the School Board, are you really actually telling us that you are trying to educate our children and follow these guidelines to the maximum extent possible?
I would have to question if it’s even being done at the minimum extent possible, because we’re transporting them away from their neighborhood schools .
We’re placing them in classrooms where their standard of education
is the same across the board.
Was that buzz to tell me I’m almost done?
So, quickly I just want to say if we were to go back to the 1960s and we were to talk to those leaders who were vehemently against desegregation, we would hear the conviction in their voices of them stating why they believe their decisions and what they were doing to those children were just. Just as I believe that some of you and some of the board members that have spoken believe that their decisions are just. But, I fear that the Hillsborough County School Board is standing on the wrong side of history.