Support House Bill 2944: Parents know what is best for their kids!

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that parents are presumed to act in the best interests of their children. So how come when parents act in their child’s best interest the IEP team brings in more and more bodies to fill the room to outnumber you in placement decisions?

On April 15th there is a hearing scheduled at 1pm in support of HB 2944 in Salem. This bill brings into the forefront the law that parents are presumed to act in the best interest of their children and sends a message to the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon school districts that the legislature is taking notice of their intimidation tactics in IEP meetings. Right now, if a parent questions a placement decision as too restrictive many school districts will bring in more and more “experts” to tell you what is best for your child. Parents understandably cave in to the pressure and this bill is a step in reclaiming our status as the true experts on our kids.

You can email your stories to Cynthia at and if you are able to show up and deliver it in person at the hearing in Salem or just sit in for support and larger numbers then email Cynthia and there is possibly some carpooling from the Lake Oswego area. This is your chance to get your stories in the hands of the lawmakers!!!

This bill is being sponsored by Rep. Chris Garrett and is supported by Rep. Sara Gelser and there may be others as well and I can add their names if I find out.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


On the blogs: green and safe schools in Oregon Senate

Dennis Newman reports on his Natural Oregon blog that two bills are working their way through the Oregon Senate that limit the use of toxic pesticides and cleaning products in schools. Links to contact committee members are provided.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Parent involvement brainstorm

I believe that relationships are crucial to learning. Parent involvement can take many forms and honoring any and all contributions is key. While it is important to do all you can to improve education for your child you have an opportunity to help another child as well. Your child benefits, another child benefits, and you are modeling humanity and giving for your child. Parents bring different strengths and gifts to the table and PTA’s and parent leadership must foster an inclusive environment where all contributions matter big or small.

In most, if not all, classrooms there are children that are abused, neglected, ignored, or just plain lonely. Loneliness is something that cuts across all walks of life; we’ve all been there. Pervasive loneliness affects self-esteem, learning, and status. Heap on abuse, neglect, and being ignored and lack of self-determination is a given.

One teacher in a classroom of 25+ is going to have a hard time caring for all these kids as individuals. I respect that a teacher must have professional detachment for their own self-care; it is tragic what some children must endure and a teacher must have a thick skin to continue to do the work. The mission to reduce classroom overcrowding and reform education must run parallel to increased parent involvement. In a classroom of 25+ you only need one to a few self-starters to improve the environment and build relationships with all the kids. A parent in my daughter’s classroom shared with me how excited her son is when another parent volunteers. I would like to generate dialogue on the benefits of increased parental involvement, identify barriers, how do we make it inclusive and welcoming for all parents, and what can we do for those kids that are lonely, abused, neglected, and ignored?

I would like to increase the challenge by asking what can we do for the parents that don’t get involved? How can we inspire them and foster unconditional positive regard for them and show them how they can share? Some parents we can’t change but we can still help inspire their kids.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


For the greater common good

I publish this Web site to advocate for the greater common good. I even came up with a mission statement some time back to capture this notion more specifically:

The mission of PPS Equity is to inform, advocate and organize, with a goal of equal educational opportunity for all students in Portland Public Schools, regardless of their address, their parent’s wealth, or their race.

I’ve been troubled by the direction some recent discussions here have taken, as have some readers who have contacted me privately.

Discussions about poverty and race have pushed some into extreme frustration. One reader sent me this link as an illustration of the attitudes she has encountered on this site.

Another reader chafes at what she perceives as an anti-test bias on this site. She cites data showing “65% of PPS 10th grade black students getting a C or better in math but ODE assessments show[ing] only 21% of that population at benchmark.” There’s huge distrust of the district within minority communities, and this kind of data shows why.

Yes, we’ve seen district policy ostensibly aimed at narrowing the “achievement gap” contribute to a two-tiered school system. But that doesn’t mean the achievement gap isn’t real, that the district can’t take real strides in addressing it, or that we shouldn’t have some objective standards by which to measure the district’s progress in doing so.

This is just one example of where teacher-reformers clash — perhaps unwittingly — with civil rights activists, a fight I don’t want to get in the middle of.

The charter school discussion is another fight I’m weary of. It has veered repeatedly into personal territory, with charter parents getting passionately defensive about their personal choices, and charter opponents criticizing those choices with equal passion. From within that melee, I asked a simple question: How can charters contribute to the greater common good?

Besides modeling pedagogy that we already know works, nobody seems to have an answer to that succinct question (though some have pointed out how charters work against the common good).

At the end of the day, I’m not interested in hosting a pissing match about personal choices. I also don’t want to get too deeply into education reform issues, which increasingly seem to pit progressive-minded teachers against civil rights groups (not to mention their strange bedfellows in the market-oriented, anti-union, foundation- and corporate-funded “reform” movement).

I don’t doubt that education reformers want to help all students, and that charter parents would love a system where everybody wanted and got what they’re getting. But these discussions don’t seem to lead to much unity of vision or purpose.

One thing I know for sure: the enrollment and funding policies of Portland Public Schools have resulted in a pattern of public investment and placement of comprehensive schools that demonstrably favors white, middle class neighborhoods and students, to the detriment of the other half of the city. I’m not naive enough to think righting that wrong would be enough for our poor and minority students; I think the district should learn to walk and chew gum at the same time — i.e. address inputs and outcomes simultaneously.

But this is the focus I want to get back to here: what can we do to make our public school system fair, just and equitable for the greater common good? If we’re not working toward answering that question, I fear we’re getting sidetracked… just as we finally see signs of movement in that direction at the district level.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.


Support MECP in person at the school board meeting April 13th

As I stated in a previous blog post Multnomah Early Childhood Program has been notified by PPS that they will not be renewing the contract for early intervention evaluations and PPS plans to take this over. MECP has a streamlined, cohesive, family-friendly, child empowering, and working system in place. This change will affect a lot of families and the risk of children unprepared for Kindergarten is at risk of increasing not to mention the philosophical difference I noted in my blog post.

This will be a showing support for the citizen comment section at the April 13th meeting on MECP. PPS is supposed to give MECP the final word on renewal next week and it is important that we show our support for good programs that work and we show it in person and in quantity.

The school board meeting is at 7pm at 501 N. Dixon in Portland. You can email me at if you want more information or if you would like to testify and need some input.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


Please no MORE, just the SAME for students with disabilities

In the early 1970’s the Pennsylvania ARC won a court case that allowed children with disabilities the right to a public education. Their attorney Thomas Gilhool used the precedent set by Brown v. Board of education in 1954 that separate but equal was inherently unequal. In 1973 the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed and people with disabilities were given legal protection for the first time. Section 504 of this Act prohibited discrimination based on disability in any program receiving federal funds. It took a lot of effort on the parts of advocates to get the regulations written and this finally happened in 1977. In 1974 the Amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act addressed issues related to students with disabilities and this led in 1975 to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act which provides for a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities. This law was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990. Also in 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed finally giving full legal equality to people with disabilities.

While all of this history was being made there were still children being placed in institutions into the 1970’s. When a mother gave birth to a child with a disability the physician commonly recommended immediate placement into the institution and to forget about the child and go have more babies. If the parent did not take this advice the child was still relatively invisible even if you were a part of the parent movement. Even if you did not put your child away you eventually had to send them to the institution for their services because that was the only way to get specialized medical help. When you watch a film from the 50’s and 60’s about Oregon’s Institution the Fairview Training Center (Once called the Institute for the Feeble Minded) you see rows and rows of infants in cribs and nurses in crisp uniforms. You see children no older than 4 in a stark white room with a few dolls and some balls. Fairview Training Center did not close until 2000. I worked with people that had been placed in Fairview as young children and had lived there 40 years and often more. They had no friends and their family had been told to forget about them a long time ago. I read reports about people that entered Fairview walking, talking, and with skills and now this person was in a wheelchair, could not talk, and could not even do the most basic things for themselves.

When do we get to at least start having the conversations about implementing the ADA in public buildings and places? I often get asked, “What about buildings that were built before the ADA was made into law? That will cost a lot of money.” Well schools were supposed to be equalized by federal funding since 1973 and the ADA brought more regulation in 1990; how many more years can we get out of that excuse? When there is talk about minorities, diversity, and equity people with disabilities are not always included. Important, life changing decisions are made for people with physical, medical, cognitive, and acquired disabilities all the time without their consent or opinion. Parents hear, “Your child’s needs are going to be best served in this special classroom with other kids like them. I am a professional you know and evidence based best practices say that this is best for your child.” This logic sounds a little bit like those doctors back in the day that said, “This is the best place for your child with people like them. Go home, have more kids and forget about this one. “We already did that and it wasn’t very nice.

Special education pull-outs from general education are supposed to be a pit stop to gain some skills and quickly get back into the race; not a place you stay your entire school career. These pull-outs from general education currently are a door that closes once you step through it. These children might be sheltered and warehoused in separate wings, portables on the playground, converted locker rooms, basements. Their classrooms are prone to change to new buildings from one year to the next forcing children to transfer. Children with IEP’s do not have the same rights as other children to attend their neighborhood school. If you have a disability and live across the street from a school they will short bus you all the way across town anyway. They will have a variety of reasons for this. Some of them are ADA related or there simply is not a classroom that will meet the needs of the child according to the IEP team. A parent that wants something different has to seek due process. We are discussing transfer options at length and there are some students in PPS that would just like to attend their neighborhood school and they are told NO.

Don’t strategize how you can give people more services to “fix” them, throw more pots of money at them, plan how to give them “special” opportunities to be equitably distributed, and don’t immerse them with people of “their” kind and let them prove to you in segregation with lack of peer models that they “deserve” to be with everyone else. Please no MORE, People with disabilities (teachers, parents, students, staff, citizens) should have the same right to complain about their neighborhood school like everyone else. Students should be able to attend in the neighborhood. Parents in wheelchairs should be able to have access to their child’s school. Administrators, teachers, and staff in wheelchairs should have the opportunity to work in any school they wish.

Please do continue to give people with disabilities a voice in the forum that includes minorities and diversity but only the same, not more. Allow them to have similar joys and worries any student, parent, teacher, citizen might have.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


On the blogs: EPA to study air quality at Tubman

Dennis Newman reports on his Natural Oregon blog that the US Environmental Protection Agency will be studying air quality at two Oregon schools, including Portland’s Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Academy.

Tubman’s proximity to Interstate 5 and industry puts its air quality in the bottom 9 percent of schools surveyed for a story in USA Today last December.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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