Parents protest potential changes to special education classes

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SAN DIEGO -- Parents were fired up Tuesday evening at a San Diego Unified School District Board meeting to protest against possible changes to its Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program.

Parents voiced their concerns over potential reduction to ECSE teachers and classes. They wore green and held up photos of their children with special needs to symbolize the need for the program.

“You have parents here, we’re the ones that are on the forefront with these children. This program is not broken,” said one father of a child with autism. “Please don’t break it for us.”

The parents says the program helps develop many three and four-year-olds, especially those with autism spectrum disorder, like Christine MCComish’s son. Her son was diagnosed with autism level 2. 

“David was diagnosed. He has autism level 2. He fell in the developmental category of a one-year-old,” McComish said.

She worries of a potential cutback to special education teachers and early childhood special education classes that may force her son into a general education class instead.

“It’s like asking him to run before you’ve taught him how to crawl,” McComish said.

But district experts say there will be no layoffs and staff will be retained in roles elsewhere that they can apply to. They say there will be the same number of special education classes but they may just be in different locations.

“There are the same amount planned for next year of separate setting classrooms that we have currently this year,” said San Diego Unified School District's executive director of special education. “I think we have about 35 classrooms and there will be that many classrooms next year.”

Gabriela Martin hopes the program remains the same because it has significantly helped her son with autism.

“He enjoys coming to school,” Martin said. “Now, he enjoys going to school.”

The parents are also circulating a petition online that has more than 6,000 signatures.

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