“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
~ John Dewey
The right of every child to a free public education is one of the cornerstones of America, which is why a story I recently read about a Blue Valley 4th grader bothered me so much.
Due to a genetic condition, nine-year-old Brooke Petro has been legally blind all of her life. Because of this, prior to Brooke starting kindergarten, her family worked out an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with the local Blue Valley School District. The deal stipulated that Brooke would attend a private school paid for by her family and the school district would pay for her braille textbooks.
The deal wasn’t perfect but it seemed to be working for all parties involved, especially Brooke. A national award winning braille reader, Brooke can apparently read 130 words per minute. All was well until January of this year when the Petro family was informed that the school district would no longer be paying for Brooke’s books. According to the Petro family, the district told them “They didn’t want to set a precedent for other blind children coming into the school and expecting the private school materials to be braille.”
On top of no longer paying for her braille textbooks, the district is only offering Brooke one tenth of the recommended amount of time with a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), and is refusing to allow the family to pay for their own to supplement Brooke’s instruction.
Since then the Petro family have filed a due process claim against the school district, and Soren (Brooke’s father) and Brooke have attended at least one school board meeting and addressed the group in person. All of this has apparently gotten the family no where with the school district and young Brooke started the year without textbooks. During this crucial time in the development of her vocabulary and overall literacy, Brooke is being hamstrung in her learning efforts.
This story has sparked a debate among online readers about the responsibilities of the school district and those of the parents/private schools. Personally, I believe that the district should honor their preexisting arrangement as it seems to be the most fair for all parties and the most beneficial for Brooke.
What do you think? Should the school district honor their agreement or should the parents be forced to pick up the tab for the braille books?
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Featured image via KSHB