As promised, every Tuesday in April I am sharing action items that you can do to advocate for people with autism. We’re doing our own little #AutismAction month here. This week’s item is really only for Pennsylvania families. Sorry for my non-PA families, but I feel that this is an important issue AND can have national implications, depending on the outcome.
Last August, the Education Law center submitted a 35-page complaint to the Department of Justice. I am including the full text of the complaint here and I suggest you read it when you have time. It’s worth the read, I promise!
Has your child or another student that you know been placed in what they call “alt ed” programs? Pennsylvania’s “Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth” (AEDY) programs were established in 1997. Citing many studies and statistics, the Ed Law Center points out how not only are they educationally inferior to your neighborhood school, but students who are a minority or who have a disability are placed in these programs at highly disproportionate rates to their percentage of the population.
It is not at all uncommon for children who have behaviors as a result of their disabilities, and have it treated punitively rather than supported. This certainly includes behaviors related to autism and other spectrum disorders. We need to teach our kids how to manage their disabilities and behaviors, not just punish them for having them.
To sum it up in just a few words–these AEDY programs are nothing more than a stop on the school to prison pipeline. They are holding tanks. Kids are not successful in these programs, nor are they designed to be successful or rehabilitative.
So, your action item: If your child has been placed in one of these programs and you are a PA resident, you are encouraged to contact the Department of Justice and share your story. Parents, students, caregivers, social service professionals, and others who have had experience with Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs can contact DOJ directly to help in their investigation. AEDY@usdoj.gov
Please include a contact name and telephone number in the email. Also include the child’s name, age, grade, school district(s) attended and description of their experience with the state’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth program(s). Or call DOJ directly at (202) 305-3223.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.
Please spread the word and share this information!