CCSD administrators adversarial with special education teachers

by Robin Steinberger | October 12, 2017 4:25 pm

Lowcountry Source recently published an article[1] on the lack of staffing and classroom materials for Charleston County School District’s (CCSD) special needs classrooms. Another issue mentioned frequently by special education teachers and parents through emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls is the adversarial position CCSD administrators take when a parent or teacher expresses concerns. The default position seems to be to limit the expenses for the special education programs, regardless of the needs.

CCSD administrators are eliminating self-contained classes at the high school level. Self-contained classes are classes for students who have disabilities that prevent them from participating in the general curriculum either part or all of the day. In a self-contained class, the special education teacher uses a functional curriculum. This curriculum teaches them independent living and vocational skills that will help the students function in their day-to-day living as adults. Instead of receiving instruction in this curriculum, special education students are being mainstreamed into general education classes. One parent was outraged when her child with a second-grade reading level was mainstreamed into English 1 and Algebra 1 courses. The other students in the class know who the special needs students are and tease them. Teachers have complained to the CCSD administration. One teacher states, “My administrator has zero respect for my experience, expertise, or work ethic.” Instead of rectifying the situation, the administrator continues to add paperwork mandates for teachers to complete.

When self-contained classes are retained, the trend is to greatly increase the class sizes. Two self-contained classes each had 7 students. These students had feeding tubes, catheters, and wheelchairs. A CCSD administrator combined the two classes, so now one teacher is serving 14 students with physical needs that are very demanding.

Another issue facing teachers is the mainstreaming of emotionally disabled students. These students are usually the most difficult of the special education population to teach. They often exhibit inappropriate behavior that can be very disruptive in a classroom. In the past, emotionally disabled students who were violent were placed in self-contained classes with small numbers of students and an assistant. These students frequently have to be physically restrained. One teacher gives the example of an emotionally disabled student who broke a laptop and Smartboard in the classroom. Safety is a concern if these students are mainstreamed. They can be a danger to other students and teachers.

Lowcountry Source has heard from teachers that when an Individual Education Plan (IEP) team is convened and determines the services a student should receive, a CCSD administrator will override the IEP team decision and deny services. Federal law states that the IEP team has the final word in determining what is best for the student.

Teachers feel their concerns are being ignored and are afraid to speak out. CCSD has created disruptive and potentially dangerous situations. Lowcountry Source recommends that CCSD eliminate unnecessary and high-paid administrative positions and use the money to fund more teachers and classroom materials for special education.

Robin Steinberger retired after 30 years from Charleston County School District as a high school special education teacher. She is the education reporter for Lowcountry Source.  Please contact Robin at if you have tips to offer.  Your confidentiality will be maintained.

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