[nfbmi-talk] oakland schools reverses illegal decision
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Fri Jan 7 09:38:34 CST 2011
Oakland Schools reverses decision, will provide large print books for student - dailytribune.com frame
Oakland Schools reverses decision, will provide large print books for student -
By Jerry Wolffe
For the Daily Tribune
Click to enlarge
Published: Thursday, January 06, 2011
The mother of a 14-year-old visually impaired Catholic school student says she can finally let go of her fears for her son’s future education.
Her son will have textbooks in large print as he needs and can look forward to a successful academic career.
Dina Vailliencourt was very worried about her son’s education after Oakland Schools stopped providing Sean large-print books at the beginning of the school
The denial came from Oakland Schools based on a legal interpretation of the state constitution by LaPointe & Butler, P.C., of East Lansing despite two federal
laws that say school districts must provide a wide range of accommodations to students with disabilities in both public and private schools.
Kathleen Barker, director of special education for the 222,000-student Oakland Schools district, said an interpretation of the state constitution by former
attorney general Jennifer Granholm said the intermediate school district didn’t have to provide “auxiliary aides” such as large-print and Braille textbooks
to disabled students in private or parochial schools.
Following a published report, the district requested a second opinion from attorney Clark Hill of Birmingham, saying it was reviewing its policy on providing
accommodations, officials said.
“We asked for the additional legal opinion to ensure two things: first that the Oakland Schools was in compliance with the law as it distributed public
funds; and, if possible to find a way to continue providing the tools for special needs students to assure learning for all our Oakland County students,”
said Vickie L. Markavitch, superintendent of Oakland Schools. “If there is legal uncertainly, we want to err on the side of the students, whose education
is our primary concern.”
Oakland Schools reversed its policy Monday and said it would provide large-print textbooks to private school students.
Vailliencourt said she was thrilled with what Oakland Schools has promised.
Her son is a tad skeptical.
“Sean will believe it when he has the large-print textbooks in his hand,” she said he said when he learned of the change in policy.
Oakland Schools officials say Sean, an eighth-grader at Guardian Angels Catholic School in Clawson, will be given his large-print textbooks next week.
“We were using regular print textbooks and were sometimes spending five hours a night studying ... and weren’t keeping up,” Vailliencourt said. “At first
it seemed we were going to be able to borrow the large-print books Sean needed,” his mother said, referring to last fall when the large-print books were
denied Sean. “But that didn’t work out. The school district only found large-print books for two of Sean’s seven classes.
“I started thinking about high school and looked at the textbooks Sean’s brother Jacob uses in high school. The print was so small I felt Sean wouldn’t
be able to cope despite our help,” she said. “I felt Sean especially would have difficulty understanding math and science which involve diagrams and scientific
Jacob, 17, is a junior at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights where Sean hopes to attend next year.
She expressed her concerns about her son with attorney Richard Bernstein of Farmington Hills who said he would sue the district in federal court if it continued
to violate the Individual with Disabilities Education Act as well as the Rehabilitation Act, section 504, of 1973 by denying Sean an accommodation.
There are thousands of disabled students in Oakland County’s 28 school districts.
The two federal laws supersede state law and require school districts provide accommodations to public as well as private school students with disabilities.
“I believe Mrs. Markavitch didn’t know” my son was being denied accommodation, Vailliencourt said Tuesday.
“She found out from The Oakland Press that Sean was being denied large-print books he needs. In the long run, if my son gets a good education and is self-sufficient
it saves the government money,” Vailliencourt added.
At one point, Oakland Schools said it could not afford larger-print books for Sean because property tax revenue has plummeted.
Vailliencourt said she feared denying her son accommodations was a “slippery slope” and other school districts would follow Oakland Schools and try to balance
local budgets by denying disabled students accommodations.
“I just did what I felt was necessary for my son,” Vailliencourt said.
Markavitch understood Vailliencourt’s motivation.
“I am grateful to the Royal Oak parent (Vailliencourt) for advocating for her son’s education and bringing this issue back to our attention,” she said.
“I apologize to the family for the inconvenience our initial action caused and am very pleased that the additional research done will allow us to resume
our previous practice of providing large print and Braille books to all Oakland County students.”
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