Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nelson: Jenks & Union Schools Should Get Used to Criticism

This release is in response to a Tulsa World news story today regarding Jennifer Carter's use of the word “dirtbags” in a tweet nearly a month ago.  Carter tweeted when she learned that administrators in the Jenks and Union school districts were suing parents of special-needs students who are using scholarships available through the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act.

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Nelson said the leaders of the Jenks and Union Public Schools should get used to criticism after targeting the parents of special-needs children with a frivolous lawsuit.
He said criticism is more than warranted in light of the districts’ apparent continued violation of state law and mistreatment of special-needs children.
“Apparently, Jenks and Union officials are shocked that anyone would call them ‘dirtbags’ for persecuting the families of children with special needs,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “I’ve got news for them: Get used to it. Oklahoma citizens will no longer stand by while wealthy school bureaucrats abuse their power.
“I believe these districts continue to violate state law and know their actions are indefensible - which is likely the reason they did not include ‘suing parents’ on any school board agenda,” Nelson said. “I’ve not heard one person defend suing parents outside the administrators of Jenks and Union schools. I’ve visited with numerous people who shudder at the idea of a school district suing parents – especially in this case – and many of them used far more colorful language to express their opinion.”
Several months ago, the Jenks and Union school boards voted to sue the state attorney general to challenge the successful Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act. However, they never filed that lawsuit, and instead suddenly sued parents who legally obtained scholarships as a result of the law.
Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships allow a student with a disability (such as Down syndrome or Autism) who has an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend a private school that parents believe can better serve their child. The scholarships come from the amount of money already designated for the education of those children.
“At the start of September, the amount spent on all students receiving these scholarships statewide was a combined total of $197,345 – far less than the combined salaries of the two superintendents at Jenks and Union,” said Nelson, who authored the scholarship law. “When you have school administrators obsessing over a month-old, offhand, one-word Twitter comment instead of working to provide each child a quality education, that suggests the school funds being wasted are those spent on administrators’ fat paychecks and not the pittance spent helping educate children with special needs.”
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