Hearings held to discuss changes affecting special needs children in Ala. schools

Hearings held to discuss changes affecting special needs children in Ala. schools

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - On Wednesday, the first of three hearings was held to discuss changes that would affect special needs children and their families.

Alabama Department of Education representatives say the proposed changes are mainly about cutting back on the amount of money the state spends fighting due process cases filed by parents of special needs children.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the state saw 333 cases from families that had concerns with their child's special education. They included a combination of resolution, mediation and settlement agreements, along with due process hearings.

The cost of all 333 cases was more than $190,000. The state says most of that money went to attorneys fees and a very minimal amount actually went to the student for whom help was being requested.

The changes would require attorneys to be more specific with claims. But some parents say the changes would only make it harder for parents to advocate for their children.

"I don't feel the proposed changes are necessary. If this is about lawsuits and the number of lawsuits and losing money as a state, then we've got our priorities wrong. Our priority should be pulling up those proficiency numbers, getting true representation for these children at the state level and lets focus on that instead of worried about lawsuits and money," Dustin Chandler said.

The next hearing will be held in Saraland on Oct. 29 at Saraland High School (1115 Industrial Parkway) and the last one is in Cullman at Cullman City High School (510 13th St. NE.) on Nov. 4. Each hearing is from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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