Campaign demands Illinois Special Ed Students have Fair Representation in School

Campaign demands Illinois Special Ed Students have Fair Representation in School

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Youth Activism Project started this petition to State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala and

                            Please read my story and sign this petition!

                               MY SPECIAL EDUCATION STORY:

My name is Lauren. I am currently a high school senior and special education student at Homewood-Flossmoor (HF) High School District #233 in Flossmoor, Illinois. Homewood-Flossmoor High School is a one-school district serving six cities. Since my freshman year, I have been sent to outside placements called therapeutic day schools which serve children with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and disabilities, typically ranging from ages 6 to 21. IEPs are developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law is receiving specialized instruction and related services for their needs. Being excluded from HF and sent to outside placements truly meant being excluded from my community. When I was placed in therapeutic day schools, they did not have the same resources and opportunities offered by my community high school. There were little to no clubs, sports, or extracurricular activities of any kind. After two years of being in and out of psychiatric hospitals and school placements, I emailed my HF school caseworker in November 2019 and expressed that I felt I was on the autism spectrum. No action was taken. I continued to be overmedicated, abused, invalidated, and discarded by the mental health system until receiving that accurate primary diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by an independent psychologist outside of the school system at age 16 in January 2020.


School authorities continue to say that I am “too severe” and “dysregulated” but have no current behavioral data supporting these labels, and continue to ignore my significant progress. After being in therapeutic day schools for three years, my goal is full reintegration back into Homewood-Flossmoor because these schools have not prepared me for post-secondary education, independence, and employment, which are the ultimate goals of an IEP.


Disrespect and discrimination are an unfortunate fact of my life when interacting with Homewood-Flossmoor. One example of this is when a school psychologist laughed at and mocked my disability in front of my brother’s psychology class. My emails and testimony to the Homewood-Flossmoor Superintendent, Principal, and Board of Education continue to be ignored, not acted upon, and/or reverted back to Special Education, where these problems have arisen in the first place, and where these wrongs have been allowed to occur. Special education is meant to provide students with the resources and support that they need. Most of the things that special education should help a student navigate, identify, and complete, I have done outside of school, without the guidance of HF, including finding social groups, activities, clubs, sports, completing driver’s education, obtaining my driver’s permit, receiving an autism diagnosis, identifying and receiving support for autism after a delayed diagnosis, and more. My mother found a transportation company after the district claimed they could not find any. She identified and presented therapeutic day school placements for me to attend after HF claimed there were none for me to go to, which ultimately resulted in me being out of school for several months.


We need people in the failing school system who care. If I had an advocate independent of Homewood-Flossmoor High School to objectively assist in my IEP process, I cannot even imagine where I would be today, or how greatly I could have benefited from an IEP.

                                         CHILDREN IN NEED:

Youth Activism Project (YAP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to supporting teens advocating for policy change, systems reform, and equality, all while amplifying their stories and experiences to spotlight their voices. As a member of Youth Activism Project, I am launching Give Me Back My Voice, to help Special Education students across the state of Illinois. 


Besides my experience, there are too many stories of special education continuously failing children in need. School is the stepping stone to a child’s future. When this is one of the first environments that introduces and reinforces that an already vulnerable child is incapable, unworthy of being advocated for, respected, and supported, that child is yet again placed at another disadvantage, in addition to the original reason(s) that they were placed into special education. I am thoroughly considering revoking my special education services with Homewood-Flossmoor. Not because I do not need support, but because special education should never make a child feel like a criminal. Despite the damage already done to me, what I can do is give a voice back to Illinois special education students in similar situations, because it is not too late for them.

                                      JOIN US IN HELPING:

This petition is a demand to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Superintendent, Dr. Carmen I. Ayala, and ISBE Board members. This demand states that Illinois Special Education students should have their IEP overseen by someone unrelated to that student’s school district through a “facilitated IEP.” This free service is an IEP sponsored through the state and not the individual public school. The public school should make parents aware that this an available option for the student and their family. It is a voluntary process that is aimed to aid in communication, problem-solving, and ensure that the child’s needs are being met in regards to their IEP. However, both parties (the school and parent or guardian of the student) must agree to a facilitated IEP. If either party disagrees, the child cannot receive this service. Join us in signing this petition stating that if a school district declines a facilitated IEP, then on behalf of the student, the school must financially provide the family with the funds to cover the cost of a Special Education advocate or attorney to represent that student.


All families cannot afford an advocate or attorney on their child’s behalf, and if a school declines a facilitated IEP, a child’s needs still may not be met. Special Ed students are not criminals and should never need to worry about how to financially supply themselves with the resources to simply have their rights upheld and needs met.


SIGN THIS PETITION TODAY TO HELP BEGIN TO GIVE ILLINOIS SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS BACK THEIR VOICE!

                                           CONTACT US!

If you have had a similar experience within the Homewood-Flossmoor community, any other school system, or would like to reach out to us for another reason, please email our campaign at givemebackmyvoice@gmail.com. Thank you!

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!