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June 10, 2024

Councilmember Henderson Introduces Legislation to Enhance Stability and Support for Special Education Students

This week, Councilmember Henderson introduced the Advancing Equity in Special Education Protocols Amendment Act of 2024.

For Immediate Release

June 10, 2024

Sierra Wallace, Communications Director

(202) 355-8431

Washington, DC – This week, Councilmember Henderson introduced the Advancing Equity in Special Education Protocols Amendment Act of 2024. The bill would provide greater stability for special education students, increase communication between DC Public Schools (DCPS) and families, and ensure special education students are receiving quality care by codifying staff-to-student ratios for self-contained special education classrooms.

“I have heard too many heartbreaking stories from families and teachers about the disruption caused by moving our special education students from one school to another, and how under-staffing leaves our teachers and students vulnerable,” Councilmember Henderson noted. “One story that stuck out to me was a special education teacher trying to manage 13 students when the DCPS staffing guidance for self-contained classrooms is 9. DCPS did not provide any additional personnel support, and one of the students was a persistent runner out of the classroom. Imagine if you’re faced with the constant choice of pursuing that student and leaving the other children unattended or vice-versa. It’s an impossible situation. Making staff-to-student ratio standards more than just "guidance” is critical for teacher effectiveness, meeting the needs of our students, and holding DCPS accountable.”  

“Additionally, students receiving special education services deserve the opportunity to have some choice regarding their educational environment, similar to general education students. There are reasons families choose a school beyond proximity to their home, but right now DCPS has all but eliminated that choice for these families,” continued Henderson.  

This legislation would give students who have individualized education programs (IEP) the right to remain in a school within their initial placement feeder pattern; codify staff-to-student ratio standards for self-contained special education classrooms; and require written communication about how the changes will meet the student’s IEP to families, teachers, and administrators if either situation changes.  

“I was proud to work with a group of special education teachers and families to draft this bill. I look forward to continuing our work together and providing our special education students with the appropriate supports to meet their needs,” concluded Councilmember Henderson.

This bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Brooke Pinto, and Zachary Parker.