Remove Richard Pan from Senate Select Committee on Children with Special Needs

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In 2015, Senator Richard Pan was assigned the position of Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Children with Special Needs.  Since that time, the Committee has met three times.  To our knowledge, nothing of substance has ever been produced by this Committee.  In 2017, parents contacted Senator Pan's office to inquire as to any upcoming scheduled meetings.  All parents were told that there was no scheduled meeting on the calendar.  We launched a petition requesting a meeting and the removal of Senator Pan from the leadership position. 

Within three days of launching the petition, a meeting was miraculously 'already on the calendar.'  With little notice on a holiday weekend, a small group of parents still managed to attend the meeting.  ZERO members of the Committee (other than Senator Pan) attended the meeting.  Although parents felt that there wasn't much accomplished at the April 2017 meeting, they left mildly hopeful with the promise that they would be included in notifications for future meetings.  After the meeting adjourned, one parent visited each Committee Member's office inside the Capitol.  Not a single Senator was even aware that a meeting had been convened!  One Senator was completely unaware that he was even a member of the Committee!

Another year has passed and there is no news from the Committee.  As of last week, there are no plans to hold a meeting anytime in the near future.  We were told by a staffer in Pan's office that "it takes a long time to calendar committee meetings" and she didn't see the likelihood of a meeting this year.  This is unacceptable.  Senator Pan should be removed from the Chair position and a replacement, who is committed to exploring and improving this important issue, should be appointed immediately.  The Committee COULD be an integral piece in improving the lives of children with special needs in California.  Instead, as the situation for these children and their families in California continues to worsen, the Committee is almost a mockery to parents who want action on behalf of their children.  Meanwhile, Senator Pan builds his leadership resume and does nothing.

Parents attempting to contact Senator Pan's office regarding the Committee are treated rudely and dismissed with little regard. Messages are rarely returned and there is never any information of substance relayed to parents. We are told that the Senator is currently too busy. From the looks of this tweet, Pan is busy selling his services as a legislative lobbyist to other states around the country.  Our children deserve better!

We have a crisis on our hands in California with regards to children with special needs!  According to kidsdata.org, school enrollment of children with special needs remained at a steady 9.8% from 2002 through 2013.  As of 2016, this number had jumped a full 2% to 11.8%!  kidsdata.org 2%  The numbers for autism are even more concerning:  in 2002, enrollment of children with autism sat at 2.2% - as of 2016, that number had climbed to 13.2%!!  kidsdata.org autism Even the Sac Bee reported on the 7% increase in kindergartners diagnosed with autism in 2016.  Couple these startling statistics with data from this study, which shows that the average life expectancy of a child diagnosed with autism is a mere 39 years and you might begin to understand why parents are concerned about this issue!

It should be noted that our teachers are overburdened as well. The influx of children with special needs in our school systems has teachers working on their own time to complete iep's and ensure that they are doing the best they can for their students.  Our teachers deserve better!

These numbers don't even begin to take into account the issues related to abuse in public schools that children with special needs are facing.  Like this story of a 9 year old child with special needs being abused by a teacher's aide in an Antioch school.  Or these autistic children who were physically abused in a Rocklin school. Most recently, this case of sexual abuse of a special needs student by a teacher's aide hit the news. Suffice it to say, we could continue on with case after case of abuse happening in the school setting.

It is clear that Senator Pan does not have the time nor the inclination to utilize the Select Committee on Children with Special Needs. He must be removed from the committee and replaced by a Senator who can and will do the job. He is unwilling to foster working relationships with parents of children with special needs. We are not looking to be placated with another faux meeting with Pan at the helm. He has had three years and failed. Replace him now - our children deserve someone more capable!



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