Every Thursday, a growing group of parents from across New Mexico meet to talk about how they can make schools better for their special needs children.
“We had some issues getting support for him through the school district,” said Perry Stephens.
Stephens and his wife Savannah’s 6-year-old son Aiden has Autism.
“He’s a funny little guy. He makes us laugh all the time,” said Stephens.
All of the nearly two dozen parents in this group are having similar problems with their special needs children. Many parents told KRQE News 13 their children with special needs are often restrained or treated unfairly.
“It’s not only frustrating. It’s scary,” said Stephens.
Special Education Attorney Gail Stewart recognized this was a growing problem across New Mexico and started OPEN Meetings: Organizing Parents Education Network, back in January.
“We’ve had about six school districts represented so far,” said Stewart.
Stewart says these parents are not her clients and this is all volunteer work because she understands what they’re going through.
“I had a daughter in Albuquerque Public Schools in the 1990s and she was not receiving appropriate education and I switched my area of practice,” said Stewart.
This group’s goal is in the early phases. Right now, they’re all sharing their stories and looking at how they can inspire change in districts across the state.
“We have seen patterns of teachers not being supported in the classroom with appropriate training,” said Stewart.
KRQE News 13 recently told you about a Rio Rancho boy with Autism whose teacher filed a police report against him after he punched her in the face.
Just this week, KRQE News 13 told you about an Albuquerque mom who is suing Albuquerque Public Schools because her special needs son’s teacher allegedly told the entire class he wet his pants by writing it on the chalkboard.
“It’s very sad. Unfortunately, it’s a pattern we’ve seen before,” said Stewart.
It’s incidents like these that this group hopes to stop.
“It is going to take a collective voice of parents to make the systemic change we need in New Mexico,” said Stewart.
If you would like more information about OPEN, you can contact Gail Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.