Adam Dayan, Esq.
District 75, according to the New York City Department of Education website, is a program that "provides citywide educational, vocational, and behavior support programs for students who are on the autism spectrum, have significant cognitive delays, are severely emotionally challenged, sensory impaired and/or multiply disabled," with more than 300 sites in the five boroughs and Syosset. The purported mission of District 75 is to provide "appropriate standards-based educational programs" to students with severe challenges in a way that matches their abilities.
Whether District 75 actually accomplishes this mission is a separate issue. But what about the fact that of the 15,000 children turning 5 who were recently referred to District 75, only 1,000 actually belonged there? This is straight from the mouth of a person who knows -- the new superintendent of District 75, Gary Hecht, who has been with the DOE for 30 years and was previously the deputy superintendent of District 75 before taking over as superintendent. Mr. Hecht also stated that he wants to help the DOE with its initiative to move children out of special education private schools and back into the public schools' special education programs. But the whole reason that parents removed their children from the public schools in the first place is that they lacked the resources and ability to properly educate these children. If Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, and the DOE intend to bring students back, isn't it reasonable to expect that they would make changes to and improve these public schools? Perhaps Mr. Hecht could begin with figuring out why 14,000 students who don't belong in District 75 were referred there, and then determine what would be an appropriate setting since we know that District 75 is not that place.
District 75 is not an actual "district" the way that term is commonly understood, but rather is a program based in various public schools. The reality is that it is a "self-contained" program which connotes a high level of segregation because it includes all students who have serious needs. This program has become a dumping ground, to put it crudely, where school principals can dump children with special needs when they don't feel like dealing with that child's special needs.