Schools Fail at Special Needs 

We read with interest your Back Page essay ("Fantasy Camp," March 30). As professionals who represent families who have children who require special education services, we would add the inability to effectively serve special education students to your list of concerns.

In the IEP (educational planning) meetings we attend, we find professional staff long on titles and degrees and short on effective solutions to meet the very demanding requirements of the children we represent; this is especially true for children with autism. Neither the special education services nor the professional staff members to provide them are available. This is a systemic problem beginning at the top.

Our experience over the past 35 years with the Richmond Public Schools has seen a weak system grow even weaker. We are coming to the conclusion that Richmond has become a repository for unqualified or qualified professional staff members with minimal skills who cannot find employment elsewhere.

Between the "political" arrangement and overstaffing at the administrative levels, our IEP meetings have seen Richmond Public Schools professional staff representatives who contribute little if anything by their attendance, most of whom do not know the child or his or her family. There are too many impressed by their titles or degrees who simply want to enjoy their positions of authority.

The Richmond Public Schools are ripe for a federal court case. We are amazed this hasn't happened. Poor, minority students or other special needs children go underserved or overlooked.

Ramon E. Pardue and Pam Pardue



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