My name is Karran Harper Royal. I am a parent of a public school student in New Orleans, and for the last 10 years I’ve worked with parents of students with disabilities through my work at Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center.
When education reform came to New Orleans and changed the landscape of public education, I had hope that our children with special needs would be able to get the kind of supports and services necessary so that they too could reach their full potential. Unfortunately, instead, this new landscape has presented parents with unimaginable challenges in their search to get the help their children need. This is attributable to an utter failure of the Louisiana Department of Education to enforce state and federal standards.
Many of our families have experienced their children being turned away from schools or forced to attend classes without the necessary supports and trained school personnel and many children have been suspended, expelled or otherwise pushed out of schools.
These problems have forced parents to search for new schools or leave the city entirely. Some parents have even been told that this is the land of “school choice,” if you don’t like it here, you can choose another school. This landscape of school choice should have given children with disabilities equal access to quality schools. Instead it has put many families on an endless search for schools that will serve their children in spite of their special needs.