Cherry Hill district Fails kids with Disabilities
Jesenia Roldan-Vazquez and Harvey Vazquez have been battling the Cherry Hill school system to ensure that they provide services for their disabled son, Dylan, so that he can attend school in-person. Dylan has autism and a feeding disability that requires nurse assistance. Doctors have already approved Dylan’s special education school services, which includes a nurse at feeding times, occupational therapy, speech, and a Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), nonetheless there hasn’t been adequate action on the part of the school to organize and provide these needed services. Everything that Dylan needs can be funded through New Jersey tax dollars, however Cherry Hill has been unable to accommodate in-person learning since Dylan has entered school. Typically, when a public school cannot accommodate a child, they allow the child to be placed out of district, for some reason that never occured.
Six-Year-old Dylan and his twin were born at only 27 weeks gestational age. He started out life battling bronchopulmonary dysplasia ( also known as Chronic Lung disease) and Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), spending months in the NICU and almost a year in the hospital. He has overcome so many medical struggles and has progressed to the point he can be oriented into a classroom. Dylan is fed through a G-tube, and is slowly becoming more comfortable with chewing and swallowing solid food. You can read his story on the CHOP website.
Cherry Hill’s solution was to provide Dylan with 10 hours a week of in-home tutoring, which is certainly not enough. He has only received 150 hours in total instruction, and in that same time, his peers have received 600 hours of in-school instruction. Dylan needs to be in school with other kids. It is critical for autistic children to be in a school environment so that they can interact with other children and develop their communication skills and interpersonal skills. The increased knowledge and personal growth that happens during school years will provide the foundation for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, because he hasn’t been in school, Dylan has regressed.
The parents said that the larger problem is that Cherry Hill Schools have a lack of communication and follow-through, in addition to being short staffed. These parents have spent the last 10 months quietly advocating for their son with legal representation, without success. They had enough. Fed up, the mom decided to take to the street in protest.
Jesenia stood in the street with signs, pleading, until Cherry Hill attempted to accommodate Dylan. Dylan was excited to start school, in person, full time last week. The school hired a nursing agency to help with Dylan’s feeding tube during snack and lunchtime. The school told Jesenia that the agency nurse has been in contact with Dylan’s doctor to receive specific instruction. When Jesenia called the doctor to follow-up, she learned that no one from the nursing agency or the school ever contacted the doctor. In addition, it wasn’t even clear if the school had set up the additional support services for Dylan, therefore, for his own safety, he didn’t end up going to school last week. Cherry Hill is supposed to be working with the parents and doctors to set up and review care plans, communicate goals and reassess these goals every 2 weeks. They are failing miserably and have yet to release the child to a school that can accommodate him.
According to the parents, Cherry Hill, was pushing an NDA (non disclosure agreement) as a bargaining chip, in order to hide the district’s gross negligence, rather than accommodate Dylan’s needs to receive education . To add an insult to injury, the family previously received a visit from the Cherry Hill truancy officer regarding Dylan’s lack of school attendance.
Dylan’s parents refuse to sign NDA so that Cherry Hill cannot hide their failures. Dylan’s parents hope to bring attention to this issue in order to help other families advocating for their children in a similar situation. Ultimate goal of special education is to improve the learning ability of individual students with disabilities and enable them to live normally and be confidently in their future professional lives.
Cherry Hill school distric has not only only violated Dylan’s human rights but also Federal and State of New Jersey laws and policies. Every child deserves a quality education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with special needs have access to a “free appropriate public education” and they have the necessary tools to meet their educational goals.