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San Francisco Special Education Lottery Against Federal Laws

Under federal law, children with disabilities receive specific rights. These are defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (called IDEA for short). The laws require that each child with special educational requirements receive an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. A team is assembled including professionals and the parents to work out the child’s goals, needs, and to choose a placement in the proper class. This, some parents claim, is not what is happening in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

864731_lucky_numbers_3.jpgStudents are placed in a lottery there, where a computer will select the proper placement for them. The problem is, this is a general education lottery system, and while the children do have an IEP in place, the parents have no ability to participate in the process of selecting their educational goals and teachers. This is against federal law, some say.

One instance that can help to shed some light on the problem happened recently to a parent who receives her child’s information regarding teacher and class placement for their child. They went to see the teacher and classroom to discuss the child’s needs. Little did they know when they arrived that the school just learned of the upcoming class and that no teacher had even been hired for it? Parents are allowed to request teacher qualifications and determine if the placement is acceptable for their child. This parent would have to wait until fall to determine this and, even worse, the child would likely remain in the class for a full year, even if there were an ill fit.

While the lottery method is still in use, parents have challenged it in the past. In both instances, the SFUSD lost at the “due process” hearing. If you are interested (especially if you are in school district administration) in reading the California DOE Special Education Hearing Office decisions, we have linked them HERE-1 and HERE-2 for your convenience.

The lottery system may work for standard elementary students, but for those with special education needs, current law illustrates that it falls short.