RICHARDSON - Parents with special needs students gave federal officials an earful Monday night as the U.S. Department of Education investigates claims that students are being denied special education services in Texas.
Monday's "listening session" in Richardson was the first in a series of public meetings the Education Department is hosting across the state.
More than 75 parents and advocates signed-up to speak at the meeting.
The majority of parents who spoke told the federal officials the decline in special education enrollment in Texas over the past decade is the result of Texas schools delaying and even denying testing for special education services.
The Texas Education Agency has denied accusations that the state agency told school districts to put a cap on special education enrollment at 8.5 percent of the student population. Since 2004, special education enrollment across the state has dropped from 11.2 percent to 8.5 percent.
Billy Wilkerson, a 14-year-old student from Dallas, told the panel of education officials he has difficulty reading and writing. Yet, Wilkerson and his mother, Cindy, said their school district refused to test him to see if he qualifies for special education services despite numerous requests and documentation of diagnosed disabilities.
"The principal said testing costs a lot," the 14-year-old told the panel.
Dozens of parents from districts across North Texas shared similar stories of schools delaying or denying services they believe their students need.
"It's very frustrating for parents to work so hard for our children for that basic right to learn how to read, write, spell, and communicate," said Christine Chien, who said it took more than two years of pleading with her daughter's school before she was given special education services.
The TEA said it never told districts to put a cap on special education enrollment.
The Education Department said it is still investigating and the purpose on Monday's meeting was simply to hear from parents.
And they did.
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