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Majority of San Dieguito parents unhappy with special education per district’s recent study.

Per the results of the District’s January 2018 survey, a majority of parents continue to express dissatisfaction in almost every area impacting its special education program. Staff by comparison think they are doing a pretty good job despite the ongoing issues with lack of job training for the students, below state average test scores and much more.

Approximately 70% of parents were unhappy with the support the students received regarding counseling for college, career and job placement. Many have shared with staff and administrators how their students do not even meet with site counselors, and none are trained or informed about postsecondary options for students with intellectual disabilities.

Sadly, this is not news. Parents have been appearing before the Board for three years sharing stories of how the district’s special education program is failing their most vulnerable students. Disability Rights of California also notified the District that certain practices may violate state and federal laws.

In 2017, a task force was created after extensive complaints were aired at a public meeting held in August 2017 at the Earl Warren Middle School. Parents voiced concerns about the district’s fledgling adult transition program, combative program specialists, lack of courses for students in the special education tracks, lack of vocational training or career pathways, and more.

The district’s leadership came under considerable criticism in 2017 for wasting nearly $1 million on a “facility” for its transition program for students with disabilities that was segregated from typical peers, housed in two double-wide portables while other district classrooms were being upgraded to replace portables, had insufficient bathrooms and which was not able to house all of the students scheduled to attend the program. The then special education director had told families that the classrooms were not "portables" despite all district and state paperwork showing that they were. (He continues to work in an administrative position in the district).

As a result of the district’s costly mistake, the students and staff (around 70 people) had to be moved to three classrooms at La Costa Canyon High School, which caused some of the most impacted high school students to lose a classroom and disrupted community relationships the ATP students had formed while in older interim portables at the Earl Warren location. The classrooms at LCC also do not have the needed equipment to train the students for independent living or jobs. There are no kitchen facilities and a cash register brought in at the beginning of the school year to train students has remained boxed per at least one student’s account.

Parents of students in the special education program share that a pattern of deflection continues and that the issues in the special education tracks, which are responsible for educating those students in special day classes for most of their day, have yet to be resolved. Mark Miller, who assumed the position of Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services (a position created in 2015), continues to focus on the big picture and not on the details per parent accounts.

Special education test scores continue to go down and to date, the district has been unable to explain its adult transition program’s lack of critically needed vocational training, the failure of its students to have career portfolios considered a key support by the state and which other districts offer, lack of transportation training to teach students to get to community locations, and the lack of postsecondary job training and placements even though the State enacted the Employment First statute making the employment of adults with disabilities one of the state’s highest priorities for its public institutions and agencies.

Despite the extensive problems of the ATP program highlighted by parents, and the problems set forth in the February 2017 report by the district’s hired transition expert, the district’s adult transition program is not even a focus of the Task Force. The Task Force, under the direction of Mark Miller, has instead chosen to focus on special education "as a whole," even though special education as a whole was never the intended purpose for which parents requested a task force.

Related articles:

  1. Education Matters: San Dieguito’s watershed moment,” Del Mar Times, by Marsha Sutton, 8/15/17,

  2. "SDUHSD changes course on special ed housing," Aaron Burgin, The Coast News Group, 8/10/17.

  3. "San Dieguito district forms special education task force," Del Mar Times, (Author not posted on site), 8/8/17.

  4. School Officials Wanted Everyone But Disabled students to move into gleaming campus,” Maya Srikrishnan, Voice of San Diego, 8/8/17.

  5. Education Matters: Adult Transition Program the latest in a series of district missteps,” Del Mar Times, by Marsha Sutton, 8/3/17,

  6. "San Dieguito finds short-term solution for ATP portables," Karen Billing, Del Mart Times, 8/1/17.

  7. Tool sheds for special ed students anger parents,” Coast News Group, by. Aaron Burgin, 7/28/17,

  8. Parent of special needs tour controversial classrooms,” Fox 5 San Diego, 7/28/17, by Christy Simeral and Jaime Chambers, reporting)

  9. Parents: Solana Beach school renovations unfair to special education students,” ABC Ch. 10 (7/24/17, Rachel Bianco reporting),

  10. Parents demand solution for ‘unequal’ classrooms,” Del Mar Times, July 18, 2017, by K. Billing, front page.

  11. Special needs students protest temporary classrooms,” Ch. 5 Fox News (7/14/17, Jaime Chambers, reporting).

  12. A rueful raspberry – to the Classrooms Without a Clue Award,” Columnist Logan Jenkins, Union Tribune, Local North County, July 9, 2017 (third highlight in the column)

  13. Special education parents continue to advocate for inclusion” (6/29/17, K. Billing, Union Tribune Community Press)

  14. "Parents Battle School Board over new special needs classrooms,” Ch. 5 Fox (6/22/17, Jaime Chambers reporting)

  15. San Dieguito school district parents seek special education changes,” (6/14/17, D. Sullivan Brennan, Union Tribune)

  16. Parents call for special education overhaul in San Dieguito district,” (6/13/17, K. Billing, Del Mar Times)

  17. Parents demand special education reform at SDUHD,” (6/8/17, Richard Allyn, Reporter),

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