Nov 07, 2012 0 Share

Supporting Special Education Students

School images with heading, "Building the Legacy: Idea 2004."

I recently learned of an organization that has been established in my hometown’s school district. The Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) was created to bring people concerned about the welfare of special needs children in the district together so they could assist special needs children, exchange ideas, and learn new and changing information regarding special education law. My mother and I were invited to attend a meeting by my former special education teacher who helped form the group and is now the acting president. After hearing what the group’s members and the guest speaker for the meeting that night had to say, my mother and I also became members. I am excited about what this group has to offer.

SEPTSA will work with parents, teachers, and special needs students to create the most stable possible educational environment for all involved. This sounded very promising to me, because even though I have not been an active part of the school district for many years, I still maintain a vested interest in making sure that all special needs students in my area have a chance to succeed in academics and prepare for the challenges they will face for the rest of their lives.

A SEPTSA meeting always has a presentation to offer its members. During the meeting we attended, a representative of a local advocacy center which assists parents of children with disabilities on many different levels made a presentation. She discussed several recent developments related to special needs education, mostly concerning new state laws and changes in existing laws for my home state of New York.

One of the most prominent of these new laws is the New York State Dignity for All Students Act which became effective in July 2012. This new law added an article to New York State’s Educational Law which declares that no student will be exposed to prejudice or persecution in any form including “race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex” from members of a school’s staff, or other students on a school’s grounds, at school-affiliated gatherings, or in school vehicles. This law also requires schools to change their internal policies to ensure the prevention of bullying on school campus using easy-to-understand and suitable wording so that all employees and students have a clear understanding regarding the required appropriate behavior. 

Many other topics of interest were covered by the representative during her presentation. She encouraged attendees to look up various resources she provided for more information about the areas covered. The representative encouraged attendees to consult Wrightslaw, an online database of information about special education law. She showed how easy it was to look up particular topics using Wrightslaw’s search engine and displayed a portion of the vast selection of products from its online store, including an extensive collection of DVDs and books, all related to the subjects covered on the website.

The SEPTSA meeting opened my eyes to just how many parents, teachers, and others in my community are concerned about the education of disabled children. The representative’s presentation was also very interesting because it reminded me of a lot of the struggles my parents went through to obtain the best educational environment for my needs. I will be attending future SEPTSA meetings to find out how to take advantage of the resources this group can offer me and others like me. I look forward to learning more about and becoming more involved in many different areas regarding disabilities and special education not only in my area, but on a nation-wide basis.