Staffing in question for CCSD special needs students

Staffing in question for CCSD special needs students
October 10 18:45 2017 Print This Article

Lowcountry Source has heard from parents and teachers throughout Charleston County School District (CCSD) about the status of special education in the district. The common threads throughout the emails, phone calls, and Facebook messages are growing numbers of students in special education classrooms, removal of teaching assistants, and a lack of teaching resources.

South Carolina State Board of Education Regulation 43-205 states that the teaching load for teachers of self-contained special education classes (a classroom for students with disabilities who may not be able to participate in general education classes either part or all of the day) must not exceed the following student-teacher ratios:
• Mental Disabilities (mild) 15:1
• Emotional Disabilities 12:1
• Learning Disabilities 15:1
• Mental Disabilities (moderate and severe) 12:1
• Orthopedically Impaired 12:1
• Visually Impaired 10:1
• Deaf and Hard of Hearing 10:1
Cross-categorical self-contained classes must not exceed the following student-teacher ratios:
• Mental Disabilities (mild) and Learning Disabilities 15:1
• Mental Disabilities (mild), Learning Disabilities, and Emotional Disabilities 12:1
• Mental Disabilities (mild), Learning Disabilities, Emotional Disabilities, and Orthopedically Impaired 12:1
When four or more students identifies as emotionally disabled or orthopedically impaired are enrolled in a cross-categorical class, a full-time teaching assistant must be employed.

Special education teachers have reached out to Lowcountry Source complaining that they have a self-contained cross-categorical class that exceeds the maximum student-teacher ratio set by the state regulation. Assistants were provided in the past but have been removed, so not only do their classrooms exceed the legal enrollment, the assistant provided in the past has been taken away. In some cases the district is doing away with the self-contained label, even though the classes have the same composition. Teachers suspect it is so an assistant doesn’t have to be provided.

Kathy Roberson, the parent of a special needs student, states that Deer Park Middle School has 65 special needs students, 3 special education teachers, 1 teaching assistant, and an interim psychologist that services the school only on Fridays. The school has only one assistant principal for 600 students. Other middle schools in North Charleston have 2 or 3. This assistant principal must attend the Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings for all of the special needs students.

Students with severe disabilities are being mainstreamed into general education classes. A 6th grade teacher states that a student with severe disabilities was placed in her class. He can’t write his name and wets his pants. She is upset at the disservice being done to this child.

The lack of classroom materials is another problem. A self-contained elementary teacher has been asking for curriculum materials since last year and has not received them. She has spent $1000 of her own money to purchase them.

Adequate staffing in special needs classrooms is essential to maintain safety in schools. CCSD needs to make lowering student-to-teacher ratios and adding teacher assistants a priority in order to maintain safety for the students and teachers in special education classes.

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 robin@lowcountrysource.com if you have tips to offer.  Your confidentiality will be maintained.

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