LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — School can be intimidating and tough at any age. But it can be even scarier for a student with special needs. That's why some local parents are voicing their concerns. In our Raising the Bar report 13 Action News Anchor Todd Quinones looks at some of the challenges facing our most vulnerable kids.
"Things were not great at her school," says Cece Martinez.
MORE ABOUT THE DIAGNOSIS
This mother is frustrated. Her daughter, Bella, was struggling in the classroom. Born with Down Syndrome and diagnosed with ADHD: "Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" and ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder, she didn't agree with the way things were always being handled.
"I would notice a lot of the time it would be more about the diagnosis and kind of clumping that into a group, instead of actually focusing on her individual needs and her abilities," says Cece.
So she pulled Bella out of school.
"She didn't want to get up in the morning. I didn't want to get up in the morning... At that point we were taking her once a week to therapy for depression and anxiety," says Cece.
Cece isn't alone. Nicole Hammond pulled her son, Kallen, out of school before he could even start his first day of kindergarten.
LIMITED CLASSROOM TIME
"With his type of behavioral disabilities they were going to put him in a special room with limited classroom time with other kids. I really didn't want that... I wanted him to be able to stay engaged and learn how to be among his peers," says Nicole.
Kallen also suffers from ADHD and ODD as well as SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder. Nicole tried private school, but that didn't work either after she says a teacher lost their patience with Kallen.
"It was really frustrating. It was really challenging. I spent nights crying myself to sleep trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my kid," says Nicole.
These mothers went searching for help and turned to NEAT Services, an educational advocacy and tutoring service for children with special needs.
SO MANY DEMANDS ON TEACHERS
Owner Wendy Broder spent 20 years working for the Clark County School District and says it's not meeting the needs of students with disabilities.
"I feel that there's just so many demands placed on teachers nowadays. There's so many kids on their caseloads. They have so much paperwork to do," says Broder.
She also points to a high demand for qualified teachers, with substitutes filling many of the open positions.
LACK OF FUNDING
One reason is due to a lack of funding. Wendy says some much needed money could attract more job candidates and provide more lessons on effective teaching methods other than just segregating students.
"I think that training would be very helpful to teach educators and administrators how to provide inclusion successfully," says Broder.
She says it really falls on parents in the Clark County School District to fight for their child's rights.
It takes a lot. It takes the parent being very vocal. Often times they do need an advocate or an attorney in some cases to raise some hell and make sure that it's understood that this is what the child needs," says Broder.
In the end, Nicole says her son is thriving with a home school program.
NOT SECOND CLASS CITIZENS
Cece says with tutoring, her daughter is slowing moving back into the classroom setting. But she has a very clear message: things need to change.
"People with disabilities are not second, third class citizens. They are regular citizens just like you and me. They require a little bit more. But they deserve what you deserve. What I deserve. No different," says Cece.
13 Action News did reach out to the School District. We were hoping to speak with someone about these concerns and the effort to improve the education of students with special needs. Unfortunately, we were told no one would be available to speak with us.
In a statement, the Clark County School District says:
We are unable to discuss individual student matters and do not comment on pending litigation.
Clark County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara is looking into ways the District can improve professional learning we provide to the licensed educators and support professionals who serve our students with special needs.
In an effort to ensure the effectiveness of the teaching and learning in our schools, CCSD under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent, Student Services Division, Dr. Deanna Jaskolski, invited an external team in late August from the Council of the Great City Schools to review and make recommendations on improvements to occur this semester.
Our students only have one shot at education and we will continue to make decisions in their best interest to make CCSD #1 for kids.
Professional learning opportunities are also provided to staff who work with students with special needs throughout the school year to include:
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Best Practices
CORE Reading Academy
2-day didactic: Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied Behavior Analysis Hands On
Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI)