‘Problem’ Kids to Replace ‘Special-Needs’ Kids in Eagle Rock High Bungalows

The LAUSD plans to use two structures meant specially for handicapped students to accommodate potential dropouts.

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 sarah.bradshaw@lausd.net,” 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."

vicki mastro February 07, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Let's take this energy and make sure these problem-kids get what they need to become healthy and productive citizens. If we rally around these kids, show them what their options might be with our actions then maybe, just maybe we can turn this situation in a win-win. Let's think about ways that the special needs kids and the troubled kids might be able to help one another. And, by the way, my daughter is a sophomore at ERHS.
Suzanne February 07, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I'm concerned that the special needs students are being moved (and they're unlikely to receive the same level of accommodations they had before, despite the assurances of the Facilities department). However, I'm glad the District is paying attention to kids at risk of failure -- they have a legal obligation to do so, and this is certainly a better way than putting them in mainstream classes where they disrupt other kids and learn nothing themselves. Calling them "criminals" is inflammatory and irresponsible; not all kids who fail, or who are even expelled, engage in criminal behavior, and shouldn't be written off because they aren't academic achievers. ERHS is a neighborhood school, not a private academy, and should be serving ALL its kids, not just those who can handle an intense academic load. If it creates a bigger problem on campus, I'll be among the first to complain. And my son, too, is a freshman at ERHS. By the way, to correct an impression from the article: the special needs kids at ERHS are not, by and large, "emotionally disturbed". They have developmental and cognitive delays, some of them severe. Many have physical and emotional challenges as well. Disruptions to routine will certainly upset them. But that doesn't mean they're all emotionally disturbed.
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Thanks for your view, Suzanne—well-argued except for one generalization: Nowhere does the article mention that *all* the CBI students are emotionally disturbed, nor that *all* the Tri-C students are criminals. The ERHS staff member quoted only says, "To replace emotionally disturbed CBI students ...," not, "To replace *ALL* emotionally disturbed CBI students." Similarly, Larsen's phrase is, "... possibly even criminal—juveniles ...," not, "possibly even *ALL* criminal—juveniles ..." I realize it's arguably lamentable that even "some" of these kids might referred to as "criminal" in any way, but any such reference would be in a strictly (or largely) legal sense, supported by data—not in a moral, psychological or developmental sense.
Michael Larsen February 07, 2012 at 05:25 PM
What is absolutely critical here is that LAUSD be 100% transparent about this decision and related process to both the ERHS community and the ER community at large. So far they have not been. I would like to know if anyone on the ERHS PTA knew about this? Has the school or district held any public meetings to hear concerns and get feedback? Doesn't LAUSD at least owe it to parents, teachers and the community to make this a little more open and transparent?
Rick Shaw February 07, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I am an Eagle Rock Elementary and Eagle Rock Jr/Sr parent. If this happens I will be a CHARTER parent. Time to defund LAUSD. Wal-Mart and McDonalds would do a superior job.
Rick Shaw February 07, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Let's take this energy..." Let's not. It's just more slurping at the Federal teats. From GreatSchools.com: Los Angeles's Tri-C Community Day School serves grades 8-12 in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Based on its state test results, it has received a GreatSchools Rating of 1 out of 10. Year-round
Yvonne Garcia February 07, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I disagree with moving the students with disabilities and bring in low achieving students on to ERHS campus from other schools. The campus is so crowded already. My sons AP Calculus class has 50 students. Why not accommodate the high achieving students. They are the ones that always get put last on the list.
Sarah Bucolic February 07, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I may not understand the entire picture right now as I am reading this article on my phone during lunch, but I have a HUGE problem with the special needs kids being mixed in with the "problem" kids. My sister was a special needs student but she was fortunate enough to go to Perez Special Education with other special needs kids. The way teenagers tease each other these days is just awful and I can only imagine how the special needs kids will be treated by "underachieving" students. My sister dd not like change at all and it would make her very upset. I just can't believe how insensitive the LAUSD is. I guess all they are seeing are dollar signs. They obviously do not care about the students' well being. I'm betting if anyone who had a part in this decision had a special needs child they would be against this. Shame on you LAUSD. Why can't they put the "underachieving" kids in another classroom and not take away from the special needs kids?
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Sarah—just fyi: when you reread the story you'll see that these two sets of kids are not being "mixed in" but will be on separate parts of the campus. What a lot of people appear to find objectionable is the fact that the special needs kids need to be moved at all to accomodate the "problem" kids—and why Eagle Rock High needs to be the place for these chronic non-achievers to begin with.
Thomas Alleman February 07, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Mr. Singh, you are perhaps the only journalist I've ever encountered who feels it necessary to respond (so defensively!) to every other comment that follows one of his or her stories. Is this a publication of news and information---on the same continuum, arguably, as the Times---or is it your personal blog? When you challenge, correct and patronize so many of the folks who comment on these stories, the clear impression is that (unlike a "real" journalist) you've got a special attachment to the conflict being discussed---"a dog in this fight"---and that your journalism, such as it is, was probably compromised from the beginning. (It also gives the impression that you've got too much time on your hands.) Rather than spending all this effort challenging and correcting the mis-comprehensions of your readers, why don't you get to work on writing a follow-up to your original, incomplete piece. The people in the community will form their own opinions based on facts that you provide, presuming you can do that; your barely-disguised bias and your over-sensitive defense of every other letter you receive is bizarre and counterproductive.
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Mr. Alleman—I thought I strove for nothing more than clarity (as you yourself appear to be doing). I do love dogs, but took care not to leave any in my story, nor, I hope, in my response to comments. Could you point out the breeds and color?
erxicana February 07, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I take offense with the title of this story "problem" kids to replace "special needs kids. You are already forming an opinion that will divide the parents of these kids to fight over two spaces for their children. You call these kids "chronic non achievers" based on what facts Mr. Singh. All of these students deserve a quality education. I have to agree with the comments by some above that gives attention to youth who need it the most and given the opportunity to graduate from high school. These labels serve no purpose but to divide and conquer!
Rhonda Tritch February 08, 2012 at 05:48 AM
First my Editor I have a daughter with Down (no 's) syndrome.....and she was born with it and does not SUFFER...I find this highly offensive, and shows your ignorance in writing it before understanding what you are writing... Why is that the children with NO VOICE are the first ones to be displaced and as I parent of a child starting ERHS in August, I was never told about this even being a possibility. My daughter has had a teacher and aide become physical with her show PG 13 movies in her classroom and deny her the basic human right we all have of going to the bathroom when she ask to go. So LAUSD history with children with special needs in horrible and they are failing to educate our children to the BEST OF THERE ABILITY that's all the parents of children with special needs want is for our children to be treated with dignity and respect as people with feelings first and differently abled second. Rhonda Tritch
Rhonda Tritch February 08, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Yes Michael they do this is LAUSD going to go down a road that is going to result in a failure to educate children in special education as they will never have the same set up as they do now and if they do it will take years and years to accomplish due to "BUDGET CUTS"... I am not against high risk students but why does my daughter ( who has Down (not Down's) syndrome and does not suffer from it she was born with it) and her fellow peers have to be displaced there has to be other options and plenty of other classrooms. Rhonda Tritch
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Rhonda—my apologies for inaccurately calling what your daughter was born with as "Down's syndrome" instead of Down syndrome, and for using the word "suffer" in that context. Both have been corrected.
Rhonda Tritch February 08, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Mr. Singh--- Thank you for your correction. I know that in my first comment that it sounds like I do not want the other kids at ERHS that is not the case at all. I just know that the district will never own up to replacing everything that is taken from the Special Education classrooms, as they will then state that they are do to "Budget Cuts" Believe me when I tell you the stories that us parents that have children in LAUSD have had to put up with and what they have already and continue to do to our children is horrible.. I have a friend who's son has a service dog and even the school police said the dog could not go on campus ( the dog has a working service dog vest on him). Rhonda Tritch
Susan R February 10, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Ajay, that staff member from ERHS should be fired. It was totally wrong as Suzanne said that all those students are all emotionally disturbed. Those students have all different kinds of disabilities. I feel it is so important to stress that I copied her statement below: By the way, to correct an impression from the article: the special needs kids at ERHS are not, by and large, "emotionally disturbed". They have developmental and cognitive delays, some of them severe. Many have physical and emotional challenges as well. Disruptions to routine will certainly upset them. But that doesn't mean they're all emotionally disturbed.
Sean February 24, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Mr. Singh, your comment in response to Mr. Alleman is extremely obnoxious. You treat this site as if it were your personal blog. People visit Patch to read professional journalism about their community, and they get endless comments from an emotional editor who writes almost every article. And then comments... and comments... and comments... Research your articles thoroughly before you write, and there will be less need to be in a perpetual state of defending yourself. Not that this site should be all about you, but it reads that way.


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