McEachin task force to host forum on special needs students

8/4/2017, 9:51 a.m.
A task force created by Congressman A. Donald McEachin of Henrico will host an education forum on Saturday, Aug. 12, ...

By Holly Rodriguez

A task force created by Congressman A. Donald McEachin of Henrico will host an education forum on Saturday, Aug. 12, to help parents understand their rights and the resources available for special needs students.

“I’m bringing this task force together out of frustration,” Rep. McEachin said in an interview with the Free Press. “But we’re doing this with the hope that we’ll be able to pull together a solution to help the students who are affected.”

Sparked by complaints and reports of unfair and harsh discipline disparately impacting African-American and special needs public school students in Richmond and the surrounding counties, the task force is comprised of 15 people from Rep. McEachin’s 4th Congressional District. He said all the volunteers, who are education professionals, administrators, parents, attorneys, pediatricians and child advocates, “are committed to ensuring all children receive educational opportunity.”

Richmonders on the task force include attorney and Richmond School Board member Scott Barlow, 2nd District, and Dr. Carolyn Boone, a physician who specializes in pediatric and adolescent medicine.

“This task force is advising me in the area of civil rights to determine whether we need additional legislation at the federal level to make sure these children are treated fairly and informing parents of their rights,” Rep. McEachin said.

The forum, “Know Your Rights: Parent Power,” will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St. in the East End.

The forum is free and open to the public, and will include workshops, a panel discussion and time for participants to talk one-on-one with advocates, experts and professionals in the field.

In March, Rep. McEachin sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate disparate discipline of African-American and special needs students within the district that includes Richmond, Petersburg and several counties, including Henrico and Chesterfield.

He said he has heard nothing from the federal officials except acknowledgement of his letter to Secretary DeVos.

“I hope that the Department of Education will provide the help that students in the 4th Congressional District and across the country deserve from our federal education leadership,” he said.

The disparate rates of suspensions of students of color and special needs students are unacceptable, Rep. McEachin said. “The problem is egregious and needs to be addressed now.”

For more information about the forum, contact Tara Adams in Rep. McEachin’s office via email at tara.adams@mail.house.gov or call (804) 486-1840.