Just over five years ago, a horrific tragedy happened in Newtown, CT. This happened twenty minutes away from where I live. My son was in first grade as were the children shot on that fateful day, so I easily related to the extreme grief the parents must have felt.
I invite you to consider some interesting, but not surprising, facts regarding Special Education Services in Newtown, CT.
In 2011, one year prior to the tragedy, about 30 to 40 parents contacted state representatives about their dissatisfaction with the district’s special education services. Some parents complained of being treated disrespectfully and hostilly. Some described that school officials refused to recognize the recommendations of experts outside the district. Some described planning and placement team meetings, or PPTs, were not running properly – but in a way that diminishes parent’s ability to be full and equal members. Also, some special education services were being denied to their children.
The situation was significant enough that two state representatives, one from each political party, attempted to intervene on the parent’s behalf. But, the state department of education did not find sufficient evidence of noncompliance with IDEA laws, although they admitted that some of the reports, if true, described hostile and unprofessional behavior on the part of the school district.
Part of Adam Lanza’s history is that his mother pulled him out of school because she was tired of battling the Newtown Schools. According to her sister “she didn’t feel they knew what to do with him. She really BATTLED with the district to get help for him.” So, not only did the district NOT adequately address Adam Lanza’s disabilities according to Nancy Lanza, but they were legally allowed to treat parents, like Nancy Lanza, with hostility. So much so that she gave up on the Newtown school’s ability to give her son the help he obviously needed.
Was the school district’s apathy and hostility a contributing factor in the tragic events of December 14, 2012? I think it was.