Members of the Davenport District Wide PTO developed a set of action plans in regard to special education, including consideration of a lawsuit against the Davenport School District.
Parents, teachers, administrators and other community members met for two hours Saturday morning at Davenport Public Library Eastern Avenue Branch.
“We do think it’s a possibility to sue our district to make these things happen,” said parent Kari Dugan, one of the leaders of the PTO, who referred to a list of action items the group developed during the meeting.
PTO teams and action items for consideration include:
• Social team: educational theme book club, teacher/parent meetups over coffee and community-wide roundtable discussions.
• Outreach: speakers, meeting dates, training in mental-health, first aid, parent advocacy, racial bias and IEPs (an Individualized Education Program is a written document designed to meet a child's learning needs).
• Legal action: formal complaints, research, “IEP buddies,” class action, the end of isolation rooms for students.
• Public relations: funding, politics, public events, media and letters to the editor.
“Our student delivery model is suffering. It’s really outdated,” said parent Gina Hale, a meeting facilitator who spoke when parents discussed the need for para-educators to be specially trained.
Hale’s daughter has a swallowing disorder, so she asked that her child's para-educator be trained in safe feeding.
“They said it’s not in her IEP so we’re not doing it,” Hale continued. “It’s not in the IEP because you didn’t put it in the IEP, even though I asked for it to be in the IEP."
School Board President Ralph Johanson and school board member Allison Beck attended the meeting.
“It’s eye-opening,” Beck said. “On the other hand, I have to remind myself I also know parents who have had good experiences with special-ed."
“Nobody should have a bad experience,” she said. “It is really helpful to hear from parents.”
“If we’re going to get better, we have to listen,” Steve Mielenhausen, principal at Madison Elementary School in Davenport, said after the meeting. “I was shocked when I heard some of this stuff.
“I think, based on a lot of what I heard in there, there needs to be more people at the table here ... (including) more representatives from the district.”
Attendants included Iowa Sen. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport and schools advocate John De Taeye.
After the meeting, Hale said she thinks it’s “really, really positive when you have multiple stakeholders in the same room” talking to each other.