RPS superintendent addresses parents’ special needs program complaints

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A school board member is calling for an external audit of Special Education programs at Richmond Public Schools after serious concerns were raised by parents.

“Summer is almost over and he hasn’t received services,” Jewel Cannon said of her 10-year-old son, Chase.

F79F8FBEF8C24F7DB47B25F30F4471C8Chase was playing video games on Monday, but his mom says her autistic son is really supposed to be in school. She says he qualified for extended year services months ago.

“He got approved for ESY in April,” Cannon told 8News Reporter Kerri O’Brien.

Cannon is not alone. LaQuetta Massey has had a similar battle getting summer services for her son Kendirrick, who has neurovascular dystrophy and dyslexia.

“Once again, in the past three years of dealing with Richmond Public Schools, my son is being denied something he was supposed to get,” Massey claims.

Both parents say it’s part of a systemic problem with the Richmond Schools Special Education program.

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“One big issue is the time it takes for them to respond to you,” Massey explained.

Cannon says required daily progress reports and journals for her child were not kept.

“I don’t believe that the teachers or staff or administrators are properly trained,” she said.

Cannon accused administrators of falsifying data, sharing with 8News an email where an assistant principal directs a teacher this year to quote “revamp behavioral goals and assessments” for her child from 2011.

Both parents argue there’s been a severe lack academic progress in their children.

“He started in kindergarten with RPS and he was on kindergarten level, and now still on kindergarten level. That was 2011 and it’s now 2016,” Cannon said.

8News did some digging. Looking over state performance reports, we found in many areas RPS is not meeting state targets and for the past two years the reports have advised “Richmond City Needs Assistance.”

Massey believes there needs to be a change within the administration.

Massey says, “I think they are incompetent. I don’t think they really understand what they are really supposed to be doing.”

School board members have also raised concerns about special education. In a July 29th email obtained by 8News, board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed told Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden, “RPS is on a downward spiral with special education and compliance.”  She has since requested an external audit.

Bedden admitted much work is needed, but disagreed that RPS is on downward spiral. However, a spokesperson for RPS told 8News on Monday that the school district is voluntarily participating in a review with from Virginia Department of Education and is currently implementing a corrective action plan.

During a school board meeting Monday night, 8News spoke exclusively with Bedden, who said, “I am a parent of a special needs child, so I have sat on both sides of the table.”

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