Educating Our Most Vulnerable Students

Taking the “Special” Out Of Special Education

The reaction to society’s stigmatization of special education services should not be to keep students from getting the help that they need.

Carl J. Petersen
4 min readDec 1, 2020

--

One of the things that we have not talked about as a system is the harmful effect of special education.

- Marco Tolj, LAUSD Division of Special Education

Marco Tolj is the Director of the LAUSD’s Division of special education and is, therefore, responsible for ensuring that these services help students to reach their full potential. If any part of these programs is “harmful,” then it is the responsibility of Tolj and his team to make the needed adjustments so that the system performs better. This solution should never involve denying services to students who are in need.

As an example of how special education might be harmful, Tolj mentioned students who have one on one aides to assist them during the school day. He maintained that some of these students “felt that they were always being watched” during breaks and, therefore, had a difficult time socializing. Taking away this aide would solve the problem but would also mean that the student had no assistance during the rest of the school day. A better solution to this problem would be to ensure that the BII (Behavioral Intervention Implementation) Specialist is trained to recognize that the student needed more independence and work with the IEP team to develop a plan towards that goal.

Tolj also warns that we should be cautious about “giving the kids that stigma” of being provided with special education services. He says that such a diagnosis is “limiting” and gave the example of those needing services for having an…

--

--

Carl J. Petersen

Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children. www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com