Superintendent’s Corner

Dallas super responds to special needs

Recently, a judge ruled in favor of a student with special needs. The details were reported in the April 18 issue of the Itemizer-Observer. The Dallas School District disagrees with the decision that it has not provided an appropriate education for student. The district devoted much time, staff, effort, training, and resources over this time period to develop a program to meet student’s unique needs. There were 21 educators or para-educators involved with the student’s program, many with specialized expertise to evaluate and provide related services. The district worked with the former Director of the Oregon Deaf-Blind Project and others to provide specialized training to staff on addressing the student’s needs.

The district has hired and trained professional, caring staff to work diligently in the best interests of this student’s education. It is unfortunate that the judge’s decision did not reflect all of the efforts made to support the student’s unique set of educational needs. The district will work with the Parent and Student to address the decision.

Additionally, we would like to follow up on serious misinformation being reported regarding the special education Due Process decision that was issued early in March against the Dallas School District; specifically comments about the student’s oxygen, and about a “dark room.”

First, since the start of the school year in September 2014, a registered nurse has been with the student at all times to address medical needs at school, including oxygen. There was not a claim regarding the student’s provision of oxygen in the decision nor was it addressed by the hearing officer’s decision.

Second, I believe there is inaccuracy referring to what is sometimes called the “little room,” not a “dark room.” This is a special kind of sensory room for deaf-blind students to provide them with the opportunity to learn about “cause and effect” and exploration. A little room was built for the student with consultation and assistance from a deaf-blind expert that has provided consultation to the student for many years. The use of the little room was also not an issue in the hearing. There was a parent concern regarding some items in the room not having batteries at one time, but it was also not an issue addressed by the hearing officer.

It is unfortunate that the administrative law judge’s decision did not recognize the dedication, training, and hard work of the many educators and other trained staff that have cared for the student at the school district for years. It is also unfortunate when there is misinformation disseminated regarding the education of a student with very complex needs.

I want to reiterate my sincere appreciation of the dedicated professionals who have spent years doing the best they can to meet the complex needs of this student.

Michelle Johnstone


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