In what appears to have all the signs of becoming a charged community issue, the LAUSD has decided to use two secluded bungalows at meant for students with special needs as a space to educate students at a high risk of dropping out.
Last week, a team of LAUSD officials led by District 4 Director Annick Draghi did a “walk through” of the school campus to address people’s concerns about the plan to turn the bungalows into a so-called “Tri-C” school, according to Sarah Bradshaw, chief of staff to LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser.
‘Special-Needs’ v. Lowest-Achievers
Because “Tri-C” schools typically cater to the lowest-achieving students, including some who have been expelled from other schools, the idea of educating them in an area reserved for the lowest-functioning students is clearly a troubling one for many.
Special-needs students at Eagle Rock High, some of whom were born with Down syndrome, receive “Community-Based Instruction” in such simple tasks as how to shop, cook and take a bus in a safe environment.
Handicapped accessible, the bungalows are located near the school's softball field along Yosemite Drive and are surrounded by a chain-link fence (seep photos). One of the bungalows has a full-fledged kitchen meant to teach the so-called "CBI students" how to prepare food (or make coffee, which they go around selling on campus, thereby sharpening their social skills).
“To replace emotionally disturbed CBI students with students who have been expelled from other schools or have done something really bad is just not right,” says one ERHS staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of angering superiors. The displaced kids, who number about 30, will likely have “a tough time adjusting to such a dramatic change—their mental capacity is very low and some are emotionally disturbed.”
Further, the kitchen meant for the special-needs students is unlikely to be uprooted and installed wherever on campus they might be rehabilitated, the staff member said, adding: “Why the District thinks it is a good idea to throw these special-needs children out of their safe environment is beyond belief.”
According to Bradshaw, however, the plan to bring Tri-C students to ERHS is a cost-saving measure for LAUSD. The impacted kids will be accommodated elsewhere on campus and LAUSD Facilities Management officials “will make sure that any special needs they have will be taken care of,” she said.
“No one says it’s ideal, but this is what happens when the state slashes your budget to next-to-nothing,” Bradshaw said. “That’s the hand we’ve been dealt—and the hand these kids have been dealt.”
The proposed Tri-C students live in Eagle Rock, and any allegations or aspersions that they have criminal backgrounds is “really unfair to them,” Bradshaw added.
“These are not kids straight out of ‘juvee,’” she said, alluding to the city’s juvenile justice system, and “there’s nothing we’ve seen so far that suggest they’re a problem. On the contrary, said Bradshaw, “there are plenty of reasons why kids fall behind in their credits—signing up for the wrong classes, illness, parents working five jobs—to call them lowlifes is not helpful to anyone.”
Neighborhood Security Implications
With the , many of the “problem students” at ERHS were reassigned there, and Eagle Rock experienced a significant decrease in petty crime and quality of life problems around the high school as well as , argued President Michael Larsen.
“Just when it seems that we were gaining some ground with security and quality of life issues, it appears that LAUSD is determined to import a population of the worst—possibly even criminal—juveniles to the Eagle Rock campus, inevitably diminishing the safety and peace of students and the surrounding community,” said Larsen.
“I strongly urge anyone who is concerned about this scheme to make their voices heard by calling our school board member, Bennett Kayser, at (213) 241-5555 or emailing his Chief of Staff Sarah Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org,” added Larsen.
“We cannot as parents and community members stand by when decisions are being made that might harm our children or neighborhoods."
Correction: The initial version of this article inappropriately referred to some children who "suffer" from "Down's Syndrome" instead of describing them as being "born with Down syndrome."