• The Six Words All Citizens Should Know: Especially Parents

    July 24, 2023
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    So many lawyers. Lawyers in government, lawyers in education, lawyers in every walk of life. There are so many of them and they create a huge layer of double speak while obscuring laws to make our government the most non-transparent in the world.

    A good example of this is what happens after elections. Pretend for a moment that you are an everyday citizen who was just elected. As soon as you are sworn in, you are given "the speech." The speech is delivered by some well-paid lawyer on retainer who does a quick run-down of all the things you CANNOT do as an elected official. You sign a paper saying you heard and understand them and before you know it, your hands are tied on almost every promise you gave to get elected. You can't even comment on issues for which you have opinions.

    It's even worse for parents trying to negotiate the public school system. As states and districts pass new laws regarding the rights (or lack of rights) of parents, it seems that parents are not allowed to do much of anything when it comes to their children.

    Special Education is a great example of the whittling down of parental rights and the abuses perpetrated by educators and lawyers. When I started teaching, the Federal Government passed 94-142. Here is a summary of that law:

    The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (sometimes referred to using the acronyms EAHCA or EHA, or Public Law (PL) 94-142) was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. This act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education for children with physical and mental disabilities. Public schools were required to evaluate children with disabilities and create an educational plan with parent input that would emulate as closely as possible the educational experience of non-disabled students. 

    As long as I can remember, schools were required to provide educational plans for special education students. As stated above, these plans required parental input, and, more important, parent approval. I remember long meetings with parents, other teachers, administrators and special education teachers writing and reviewing these plans. It was a tedious process, but one that was needed to protect student and parent rights. Most of us understood and desired parental input.

    Suddenly, with the onset of the Covid "pandemic," schools were closed and students moved to online learning. This was difficult for the average student, but for special education students it was devastating. Even after returning to in person school, mandated masking continued to drastically stunt the academic and social growth of special education students.

    The worst part was that school systems, which reduced special education services during these years using excuses like insufficient staff and inadequate strategies, didn't make things better once they were back to regular schooling.

    Now parents are back in battle with the schools, fighting for services for their children. Whenever these fights occur, the lawyers are in place representing the schools. If a parent disagrees with a decision made about his/her child, the lawyers tell them that they (the parent) can't do anything about it.

    Parents need to get smarter and better prepared for this. And all it will take for parents to put a huge roadblock in the public education legal juggernaut is for them to learn these six words.

    "Show me that rule in writing!"

    Instead of blindly accepting what a lawyer or any other official tells you, you need to see that information IN WRITING on an official, verified document. You need a copy of it. You need all the facts about when the rule/law was implemented, why it was implemented, how it was adopted, and how it is being applied.

    The lawyers won't like this. If it's a Board of Education lawyer, chances are she will pull out a HUGE book hundreds of pages thick and slam it on the table to intimidate you. They may tell you to look it up yourself.

    Recently, a friend of mine went into a public library in her county (Harford County, Maryland) to reserve a room to read Ben Carson's book, Why America Matters. She had paid a fee to rent the room. She was told "state law" prohibited her doing that. When my friend asked which law, the librarian didn't know which one. Then the librarian took her upstairs to a computer and told her to look it up. When my friend asked for the librarian to show her the law because my friend didn't believe there was such a law, the librarian got angry, grumbled to her colleagues, and then printed off a vague COMAR statute about volunteers in libraries that didn't apply. The library refunded her money. My friend took this to the county and now she has been told to reapply and hold her reading event during Constitution Week.

    Don't let them deter you. You will have to persevere. It is their job to show you that law. You are the citizen. They work for you. It doesn't matter what your level of education is or what your question is, you have the right to see the law in writing. They have to show it to you! They will resist but ultimately will have to either show you the law or, many times, admit there is no law. When that happens, you could win your fight. If not, you have fuel for a bigger legal fight. Get it ALL in writing!

    Six words.

    Six powerful words that every citizen and parent need to know.

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    Jan Greenhawk

    Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.
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