Sunday, August 17, 2008

Appropriate Public Education

Last year Special Education and Chuuk State were warned that they are in violation of IDEA, FAPE and other laws and standards required by schools and organizations receiving special education funding. The U.S. government advised FSM Special Education that unless it took steps to rectify the lack of compliance, that special education funds would be withdrawn.

This demand by those involved in special education is the tail wagging the dog, because many schools in Chuuk State fail to meet the most basic standards for children: they lack sanitary facilities and supplies (appropriate textbooks, desks, et al) necessary to provide a basic education.

A good example of this problem is Chuuk High School (CHS). During the 2007-2008 school year the Chuuk State School System (CSSS) was notified, in writing and verbally, that the sanitary conditions and lack of potable water at Chuuk High School (CHS) seriously endangered the health and well being of the students and was a factor in poor academic performance.

Now, during the week of August 11 -August 15, 2008, CHS is registering students for the 2008-2009 academic year. The question must be asked, “Since the end of school in May, was anything done to resolve the lack of toilets and drinking water at the school?”

To make matters more serious, it has been discovered that there are many other schools without toilets and drinking water.

Mwan Elementary School is one example of sanitation problems. For months raw sewage has been flowing at the entrance to the school grounds. Students often waded through this polluted unsanitary foul water. Have their been any illnesses in the village as a result?

The Office of Insular Affairs (Honolulu), the FSM Department of Education, the Chuuk State School System (CSSS), FSM Special Education knows, and there are parents and community leaders that know. What will they do?

Will they assure decent, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) services, or will they ignore these serious omissions? Will the departments responsible for providing appropriate facilities continue to ignore these serious problems? Will FSM Special Education (FSM SPED) allow their students to attend classes at schools without the most basic sanitary facilities, which appears to clearly be a violation of all special education legislation? Should they not demand positive steps be taken to improve conditions both for SPED participants and all students?

Will parents and community leaders, FSM and Chuuk education departments, the United States’ OIA continue to look the other way while schools fail to provide the most basic facilities for Chuuk’s children? It has been happening for a very long time. When will it end? When will Chuukese children have free appropriate public education?

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