Special education: A good idea for all of us

In the course of my work with the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc. and with the Public School System, I've had an extensive, or rather exhaustive, look into CNMI's Special Education program and many of the problems therein.

To be clear, there is a great deal of good coming out of the program through individualized efforts of numerous, highly-committed people who continually beat their heads against the wall trying to provide a free, appropriate, public education for every student with a disability. Additionally, there is a handful of persistent parents who refuse to accept anything less-if ever there was a case for the squeaky-wheel; it's the outspoken parents of children with disabilities who get the grease.

The program faces some unique, logistical challenges which are not easily fixed. Unfortunately, it is also plagued with other more deeply-rooted barriers from our society's psyche which include some illogical prejudices and a general devaluing of individuals with disabilities. Even people who work for our schools are more inclined to turn a blind-eye to deficiencies in the education of children with disabilities than those without as long as they can avoid the added burden of a formal complaint. But, as in the cases of our non-verbal children, who is going to complain?

So, the single most crucial factor in the delivery of special education services to eligible students with disabilities rests in the quality and efforts of the schools' personnel including but not limited to Administrators, Teachers and Teacher Aides. At a minimum, all people who work at a school have to care about the well-being of children in general. Beyond that, they have to understand the critical nature of the role they serve in the development of these children.special or otherwise, education is not synonymous with baby-sitting and a quality education is never half-ass. Still, with a long-standing history of misguided hiring and firing practices-it's who you know, not what you know-some schools are host to a myriad of check-collectors, people who couldn't care less about the students they work with. They find a way to entrench themselves in various corners of our school sites with the primary occupation of trying to do as little as possible despite the children in their care.

Still, some administrators will harbor these negligent, non-performers for various reasons including but not limited to an over-burdensome, bureaucracy of human resource management which often makes it difficult to replace people in a timely manner-the myth is that a warm body is better than no body at all. In truth, I would rather staff one highly motivated, competent person who pushes to be the best at what he does than multiple, slackers who spend the day waiting to punch the time-clock.for sure, our kids stand to benefit far more from the one.

Above all else, when we choose to work in a school setting, we should be mindful that every minute in contact with students is a teachable moment-kids do hang on our every move whether it seems like it or not, so there are no practice runs for our children in school. Disability or otherwise, a special education is a good idea for all of us.

For more on the rights of students with disabilities or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), please feel free to contact NMPASI at (670) 235-7273/4 [voice] / 235-7278 [tty] / 235-7275 [fax] or via the internet at

Source: Jim Rayphand ( )

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When: 7/2/2014

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