Yesterday’s Senate Education Committee hearing on H.B. 1107, which would provide balance to parents in due process hearings by shifting the burden of proof to schools, was a reminder of just how lonely the special education policy space can be at the Statehouse. Over the years The Arc of Indiana has found ways to collaborate with colleagues in the education field, including the Indiana Conference of Special Education Administrators (ICASE) and the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), but yesterday it was made clear that when parents feel empowered to fight for change, reality sets in.
The committee hearing found countless superintendents and special education directors showing up to testify against the bill. Their testimony included misconstrued information. Data comparing apples and oranges and misstatements about the intent of the bill were shared with legislators who unfortunately were encouraged to not ask questions to keep the committee moving along at a fast pace. And while The Arc was there to speak clearly and loudly about the need for balance in special education disputes, the voice of parents was not equally represented due to work commitments or needing to be home with school aged children once school ended. At the end of the hearing, it was not the voice of parents that prevailed. Committee members voted to remove the burden of proof language from the bill.
Later in the day, photos of those who testified against the bill were shared on Facebook, and in the comments, boasts were made about achieving this victory – a victory against parents and children who need critical special education services. Education professionals gloated about a victory while at the same time stating relationships will continue to be strong between parents and schools. The truth is that their “victory” keeps the relationship right where they want it – with schools in power and parents powerless. The David vs. Goliath analogy is real, and it is sad.
And at the end of it all what it means is there are students who need special education services that are not getting the services they need that are mandated by state and federal law.
If you are a parent with a story to share, please reach out to us by calling 317-977-2375 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our fight is not over. Also, stay tuned as the Indiana State Department of Education will be releasing potential changes to Article 7, Indiana’s special education regulation, and will be seeking public comments.