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Chilliwack parents not happy with school district's special ed report

Chilliwack school district's interim report on the special education review did not impress a group of parents who sat through Tuesday's board meeting.

A survey that was mailed out last month to parents, teachers, educational assistants, support staff, and school administration with the intent of gaining input into the current system showed low responses from parents.

Of the 1,200 mail outs to parents, only 285 were returned.

When trustee Barry Neufeld indicated that maybe parents just didn't have the vested interest to fill out the surveys, parent Tonya Padgett took offense.

"Not only is that an insulting and biased comment, it's untrue," said Padgett. "I don't come to these meetings for the fun of it, I come because I have a vested interest in all my children."

Special needs worker Tracey Barnett said the low number of parent responses was a fault of the school district.

Of the nine families Barnett works with, eight received their surveys between May 23 and 24; they needed to be returned to the school district by May 28. One family didn't receive a survey at all.

As well, Barnett would have liked the district to have sought input from families who are now home schooling their special needs children because they felt the public school system failed them.

"Without that information in the survey, you are not gaining a correct representation of what is happening in this district," said Barnett. "You need to look outside the box to get a very true representation of what is happening."

The survey results will be used in conjunction with district and ministry data by Dr. David Carter, an external special education consultant, who will be preparing a detailed analysis in August.

In September, other school districts, similar in size to Chilliwack, will be studied looking at overall expenditures on special education, how special education funds are used, and reporting rates examined by the varying ministry categories.

In October, Dr. Carter will conduct 20-minute meetings with families of special needs children to give parents an opportunity to discuss their concerns in a "safe environment."

The report is expected to be completed in November.

Related story: Autism review caught up in procedural wrangling

kbartel@theprogress.com

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