Advocates, lawmakers gather to raise special education awareness

Oct 5, 2016

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley speaks on the Capitol steps about special education reforms.
Credit Courtesy photo / Michigan Governor's Office

While most of the rallies these days are focused on presidential candidates, a different kind of rally took place on the State Capitol lawn. 

Parents, lawmakers and advocates gathered on Wednesday to raise awareness for the needs of special education students.

A recent package of bills banning the use of restraint and seclusion in classrooms except in cases of an emergency is making its way through the legislature.

This legislation came from a recommendation by the Special Education Reform Task Force.

Lt. Governor Brain Calley is the taskforce chair. He says Michigan needs continued funding and reforms, including less isolation, for special education students.

After his speech on the Capitol steps, Calley said, “If we keep our kids with special needs separated out from community and society how would they ever learn how to function and how to live in the broader communities?”

Debbie Rock is a regional parent mentor for the Michigan Alliance for Families, a resource for parents with special needs children.

She was excited the rally was raising awareness, but said more work needs to be done.

“We need an overhaul,” Rock said. “We need to make some really good positive changes and start implementing some positive behavior support. (We need) some kind of a system in place that replaces that and gives our kids a fighting chance.”

State Board of Education President John Austin said Michigan is working on bettering special education.

“Our special education students, they deserve a great education and to be treated with dignity and respect," he said, "and be supported to their full potential.”

Some of the changes Austin is striving for in Michigan include more funding and reforms, such as encouraging schools to put special education students in with mainstream students. Another is ensuring parents and kids have a greater voice.