Houston ISD Millard House II has just released a statement that the district is not going to remove the special education students from T.H. Rogers as it had planned. At least not now.
In November, parents of the special ed students in the PSI (Preparing Students for Independence) program had been told their children would be moved to their home schools as an attempt to comply with state requirements for the Least Restrictive Environment.
Parents at the school immediately objected saying they hadn't been consulted on this move and that their students, many with profound impairments, would not be well-served by being moved to regular schools in the district who are not equipped to handle their special needs.
Thursday's statement from House released to the media:
"I am happy to share that HISD will not be moving forward with the transition of students in the PSI program at T.H. Rogers following a pause on the decision prior to the holiday break. HISD is committed to meeting TEA requirements for the least restrictive environment to keep the program intact at T.H. Rogers and better engaging our parents and families in decisions impacting our students, now and into the future. The feedback, advocacy, and involvement of our community was critical in arriving to this outcome."The immediate reaction from parents Thursday was wary, particularly after House in a private meeting with parents had said the Texas Education Agency forced HISD to do this, while TEA has said it was the district's decision.
One parent Thursday said the reference to "in the future" in House's statement makes them think this is a temporary solution and there is no guarantee that the district will not try to move forward on its plan to make T.H. Rogers only a school for Gifted and Talented students (who are also on that campus now). Originally the K-8 school also had a deaf student population but those children were removed last school year.
At Thurday's board meeting, several audience members thanked the administration for calling a halt at least for this year to the plan to remove the special ed students, but also wanted to know how long that will last.
As PSI Parent Julie Beeson put it:
“We just in the last hour Mr. House received your communication regarding the program. And I know you chose your words very carefully, but you used the word ‘future’ and not ‘indefinitely’ and I know that’s maybe not a word you would use but we don’t know if that means 2024, we’re not trusting yet and we’re still processing.
"I’d like to address an NPR show that aired this morning and your hearing officer Khechara Bradford. [Houston ISD Executive Officer of Specialized Learning and Services]. She called our school not modern. She said it is not modern for our children to be taught in a medically, physically, socially, and psychologically safe special needs-only environment most of the time. Even though that is what the parents and the ARD committees have recommended . What Bradford is suggesting is not modern, it’s archaic. Shuffling these innocent lambs to the four corners of the district to be stuck in a classroom in the back of a giant high school or middle school is not modern, it’s turning the clock back."
Warefta Hasan a Vanguard parent at T.H. Rogers said “It sounds like the district will continue to dismantle the PSI program.”