The parent of a special needs child in the Columbus Municipal School District spoke to the board for the second time this year to complain about what he believes is the district’s mishandling of his son’s educational needs.
Jim Wilson first addressed the board in a special-call September meeting addressing the Special Education Department, during which he and several other parents of SPED students said their children were not receiving services they were entitled to under federal law. Since the September meeting, Wilson told the board, he filed a complaint with Mississippi Department of Education. He provided each board member with a copy of MDE’s investigation findings and suggested they “carefully review” those findings.
“Take these to heart,” he said. “Please ensure that we will have the corrective action that not only my son, but also all special needs students deserve.”
Absent during the meeting was Superintendent Philip Hickman. No board member specified a reason for the superintendent’s absence during the meeting, and board president Jason Spears did not respond to a text from The Dispatch after the meeting asking for an explanation.
The board previously voted not to renew Hickman’s contract, but he is still superintendent through June 30.
Wilson said he filed the complaint on behalf of his son on Oct. 6 after he felt like he “exhausted all other efforts” to resolve the issue with no response from the district. The complaint alleged the district did not provide services his son needed, including an occupational therapy evaluation and a teacher’s assistant.
Wilson’s is one of several parent complaints to the state against CMSD’s SPED program.
MDE conducted an on-site investigation on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. After the investigation, Wilson said an IEP (individualized education plan) committee meeting was planned to determine whether his son was, in fact, entitled to an OT evaluation, a teacher’s assistant in the classroom or both. At the Nov. 17 meeting, Wilson said, the IEP committee unanimously decided his son was entitled to both these services.
Still, Wilson said, nothing has changed.
“It is Dec. 11, and 24 days have come and gone since that meeting,” Wilson said. “I have not heard from the district regarding this matter and I have no idea if the district is working towards getting a simple OT evaluation or teacher’s assistant for my son.”
From his understanding after reviewing policy codes within the district, Wilson said when a position is available within the district it must be advertised on the website. Although he has yet to find the position opening on the website after searching, Wilson said it does not mean it isn’t there, as the website is difficult to navigate.
Wilson said he has been requesting a teacher’s assistant for at least two years.
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