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Special education - put burden of proof on schools, not parents

Maia Dang, 10, catches the ball as she takes part in a skills clinic during the Field of Dreams baseball event at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital last month to help outpatients with special needs.
Maia Dang, 10, catches the ball as she takes part in a skills clinic during the Field of Dreams baseball event at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital last month to help outpatients with special needs. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

In his recent commentary (“Two Md. Democrats show ‘courage,’ ‘selflessness’ in speaker race,” May 3), Del. Eric Luedtke offers a self-congratulatory view of how the Democrats handled the Mike Busch succession as speaker of the House of Delegates. I have to agree. They handled it well. At the end of the op-ed, he sets forth the laundry list of Democratic goals including "ensuring that every Maryland kid gets a great education."

How the Democrats could take a small step in meeting that objective was highlighted for us in the investigative piece, “Special education legal fight is fraught" (May 5), which highlighted the difficulties faced by parents in seeking quality education for students with disabilities, a right guaranteed by the federal government. Parents currently are successful in only 15 percent of the cases brought. The expense of lawyers and experts required to prove that the school districts' learning plans for the student are insufficient is significant and generally out of the reach of most parents.

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I believe a significant determinant in the lopsided ratio of parent losses to parent wins can be attributed to the fact that the parents, rather than the school districts, bear the burden of proof. If the burden of proof was on the school district to show that its educational plan for the student was sufficient to meet the need rather than on the parents to prove that it was not (as is the case in New York and New Jersey), I believe that many more kids with learning disabilities would get the help they need and deserve.

Howard Levinton, Pikesville

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