Dear Extra Credit:
My fourth-grade son has Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder that impairs social interaction.
He attended our base school for three years until the school claimed it could no longer meet his needs. He moved to a school with an autism center within our county school cluster.
Our daughter is a kindergartner without a disability, and we would like to place her at the same school as our son. The school system has denied our request, even though the principal at my son's school supported it and said space was available. The main hang-up seems to revolve around the fact that our base school has a half-day kindergarten program and the school we would like to place our daughter in has a full-day kindergarten program.
According to a school system regulation (2230.7, Page 4, Paragraph B1), "No placements for kindergarten students will be made to schools with full-day kindergarten programs. Kindergarten students whose siblings have been student-assigned to schools with full-day kindergarten programs will be allowed to enroll in these schools if space is available."
Under the regulation, our daughter should be able to attend the same school as her brother. However, Richard Gergely, director of social work and support services, wrote on July 5: "I want to clarify that the placement of your son into the autism program through the individual education process is separate from the student assignment process addressed under Regulation 2230.7."
I have two questions. First, if our situation doesn't fall under regulation 2230.7, then what regulation supports the school system in ruling the way it has? I am unable to find anything in writing, and nobody within the school system has provided anything to back up the position.
Second, why doesn't our situation fall under regulation 2230.7? Why should placement to an autism center, as opposed to placement to a gifted and talented center, affect siblings differently? This interpretation of policy appears discriminatory. If Fairfax County is willing to provide student placement for siblings of non-disabled children on a space-available basis but denies it to a sibling of a disabled child when space is available, there seems to be a good basis for a civil rights complaint.
For me, this is not about full-day or half-day kindergarten. This is about fairness to all children, able-bodied or not. Whether a child is placed at a different school because he or she is gifted or because he or she is disabled should have no bearing on policy concerning siblings. Parity, compassion and fairness should prevail.
Since Beth Jarvis wrote her letter, her School Board member, Daniel G. Storck (Mount Vernon), raised her issues and school officials agreed to her request under a hardship provision. Both of her children are now at Washington Mill Elementary School, which has full-day kindergarten.
Fairfax County public schools spokesman Paul Regnier said students can move to schools other than their base school for certain reasons such as a family move, child-care problems or medical, emotional, social or family adjustment problems. Other reasons include if the parent is a school system employee or if a special curricular need, such as an Advanced Placement course, is not available at the base school.
Moving from a half-day kindergarten to a full-day kindergarten school is not allowed unless an older child has already made the move under one of the conditions above and if the younger child is in the same situation and there is room. Regnier said this does not apply when the older student has moved because of a placement in special education or a gifted and talented center.
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