Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Disabled Student Is Denied a Hearing

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Disabled Student Is Denied a Hearing

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

State law seems to offer Paula Drew a reasonable opportunity to try to reverse an apparently unreasonable decision that a high- ranking state official made about Drew's profoundly disabled daughter.

But instead, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has decided there will be no such chance. Her decision was final, she proclaimed.

Really?

Florida Statute 1008.212 sets out an appeal process, in which, on a parental request, a hearing officer would review such decision made by Stewart. I'd much like to see that hearing happen, because I don't get Stewart's decision, or her decision about her decision being final.

The issue is Drew's application to have her daughter Maddy excused from state standardized testing. Maddy seems, to me and many other people, like a child who might be automatically excused from such tests, and certainly one who should be excused now that her mom has specifically asked.

Her child has a long list of physical and mental disabilities. Aside from being developmentally disabled mentally, she is barely able to move, can't speak and is fed through a tube that bypasses her malfunctioning stomach and goes directly to her intestines. She also takes medication to prevent seizures.

Stewart sent a letter refusing to excuse Maddy from standardized testing. The letter did not even explain why.

Maddy can answer yes or no questions with hand gestures, though they are easy to misinterpret because of her limited and somewhat uncontrolled movements, Drew says. Even as her mom, Drew sometimes isn't sure which answer is being given. And sometimes Maddy answers questions incorrectly on purpose, just for fun. Certainly she would not take a standardized test seriously, her mother says, even if she understood some of the questions and the multiple choice answers.

The odds of a test giver reliably understanding any alleged hand- gestured answers are slim, she says. …

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