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Van Nuys : Reforms Proposed in Special Education

Parents, teachers and Los Angeles Unified School District staff will discuss proposed changes in the district’s special education program at a public hearing Tuesday in Van Nuys.

The discussion of changes resulted from a proposed legal settlement in a 1993 class-action lawsuit that calls for reforms in the way the district educates its 65,000 disabled students.

Issues to be addressed include the integration of disabled students with their non-disabled peers and the creation of a computer system to track the academic progress of all students, district spokesman Shel Erlich said.

“We want to hear from people involved, and see whether the proposed consent decree--or the concept of what should be done--if that’s in line with what people are thinking,” Erlich said.

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In 1993, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Chanda Smith, a learning disabled student at Manual Arts High School in South-Central Los Angeles. The original lawsuit focused on the district’s poor record-keeping. In Smith’s case, test results showing that she fell far below grade level were lost and, the suit maintains, no one listened to her mother’s pleas for a special program even as the girl failed 10th grade twice. As the suit progressed, it was broadened to include concerns of other parents.

An outside consultant’s study triggered by the suit found that the district ran a separate and unequal system for disabled students, violating state and federal laws.

A “Special Education Briefing” on the lawsuit is being broadcast this week on KLCS-TV.

Tuesday’s hearing will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at Birmingham High School, 17000 Haynes St. in Van Nuys.

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