In the News
Feb 7, 2023 - President Duvall's Speech to the Urbana School District
My name is Julie Duvall, I have a son and two grandchildren who are special needs students that attend Urbana schools. Tonight I am here speaking to you as the President of the CU Autism Network to advocate on behalf of the SPED students and their families that attend USD. As an advocate, I am contacted by parents who are having issues or concerns regarding their students IEP services, goals, supports, accommodations and safety. I'd like to clarify upfront that advocating does not mean complaining.
Behind me are multiple Urbana SPED parents and community members. They are here to show support and are in agreement with this presentation to the school board. The SPED system in Urbana schools is broken.
The district is in noncompliance. Many state, federal, civil, privacy, educational, discrimination and disability rights and laws have been violated against multiple students and parents. IEP violations happen in the district DAILY, sadly this is the norm not the exception:
- Accommodations are not being followed thru
- Supports are not in place
- goals are not being met
- placements are not effective
- students are being “warehoused” with little or no education being presented
- teachers and TA’s openly talk about not wanting to work with specific students or parents
- Placements are being changed without following proper IEP protocols
- Students' behavior and safety plans are not being followed, which often times result in escalated, sometimes physically aggressive behaviors.
- Students are being consequenced for lack of implementation of Behavior Intervention Plans, Safety Plans, and IEP’s.
- Students are being labeled with behavior issues instead of recognized that their behaviors manifest from a disability
- building level admins send SPED students home stating it is an “excused” absence to avoid it being counted against the disability 10 day rule for suspensions
- SPED students have had their privacy violated in the bathrooms and posted on social media. This went viral for weeks.
Students and parents are being discriminated against and have had their rights violated MULTIPLE times on MANY occasions. Not only is this grossly negligent and unethical, it is also illegal.
ALL of these occur at the students expense!!
WHAT PARENTS FACE
As special needs parents we are used to advocating for our children, however advocating within USD at building level can be extremely trying. Lack of communication from teachers and building admins. We go into meetings to present issues and help find a solution, only to be met with silence or defensiveness from staff. Staff at the building level blame actions and decisions on District admin, this causing students and parent to have more distrust in USD staff Broken confidentiality - staff talking about students’ confidential, health and education information in front of other students, staff and community members. Staff at building level are either not familiar with or do not enforce ISBE or federal guidelines, policies and procedures. Building admins have walked out of meetings with parents, teachers and school staff present. Parents are confronted by staff members who are in support of other staff. Multiple SPED parents are in the schools daily to accommodate their students' needs and oversee that the IEPs and Safety Plans are being implemented. A few of these parents have specifically been asked by building admins to attend school with their student for added support.
In November, my student and I had multiple civil rights violated by the Urbana Teachers Union during an IEP meeting. These were violations that the building admins tried to prevent days before, and the District admins attempted to rectify with the District’s attorney after they occurred. Last week I filed multiple civil right complaints against the Urbana Teachers Union. This was after emailing the district admins and the union eight weeks ago with the intention to come to a resolution. Every one of the admins replied, however to this day we have not heard ANYTHING from the teachers union. These types of violations and dismissals happen too often - it is discriminatory.
It is not uncommon for students and parents to be in toxic environments and receive differential and unprofessional treatment from building staff. The toxic environment we experience the most is:
attitudes or avoidance from building staff
staff denying parents/advocates access to classrooms
students feeling they are being targeted either by being punished or avoided because their parents are advocating for them.
Personally, my family has experienced confidential personal and educational information about my grandchild being leaked on social media, newspaper articles regarding legal issues involving school and grandchild being copied on school copy machine and distributed to the staff in the building, and most recently I was informed of a texting thread amongst staff “alerting” them Julie Duvall is in the building”.
The American with Disabilities Act states schools are required to make educational opportunities, extracurricular activities, and facilities open and accessible to all students. IDEA ensures disabled children are given a “free and appropriate education”, emphasising special education and related services that meet the specific needs of EACH disabled child. However, inclusion in the buildings is a top down model. USD SPED students do not:
have adaptive classes available for every class, receive full elective class choices, have access to accommodating afterschool programs, have any sport, academic, or social club options. These programs are not offered or available to fulfil the needs of SPED students according to ADA and IDEA requirements.
Multiple meetings and conversations have been had with Dr. Ivory Tatum, Dr. Angi Franklin, Dr. Caffey, Todd Tayler and Jennifer Hastings. They all acknowledge there are multiple issues and concerns within the SPED Department.
They have worked to make changes by creating plans and programs to make positive outcomes, however they are not fully being implemented at the building levels for multiple reasons. Many parents have exhausted meetings at the building level and leave the school feeling dismissed with no progress and fearful for their students safety.
They go to the District admin frustrated because issues have not been resolved and they want to be heard.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT USD
The parents/caregivers feel they have no recourse but to file Due Process, along with other various ISBE, federal, state and Civil rights violation complaints, to get assistance to resolve these violations. The penalties the school faces for these violations can include losing federal and state funding as well as grant opportunities.
SPED parents have lost faith in USD and feel unsupported.
They expect/want their students to be treated with dignity, understanding and respect
They want to be heard and respected as valuable members of their students education team
They want to work with USD be part of the solution,
The issues raised here tonight are not about principles. We must not forget this is about the laws, guidelines and procedures that are legally in place to protect disabled students who are innocent.
These students might be different, HOWEVER they are not less!!
Thank you for giving me the time to speak,
Champaign Urbana Autism Network