Special Education

In 2001, several months before her third birthday, one of my daughters was diagnosed with autism  Over the course of the next several years, we worked hard to find treatments and educational supports to help her reach her full potential. But in the course of navigating the special education system for our daughter, we found that parents who lack financial resources, advocacy skills and English language skills are at a tremendous disadvantage.

Since I was elected to the Board in 2008, I’ve worked hard to change the conversation from “encroachment” and “adversarial” to “investment” and “collaboration.” Decades of under-funding have left our system under tremendous stress, and it has been challenging to build trust between administrators and parents, who are supposed to be acting together as equal partners in what is best for a particular child.

The district has made progress: the special education department has been entirely restructured and is under new leadership; the Superintendent commissioned a review of our special education strengths and practices, and released that review to the public to send the message that district leadership would acknowledge past failures and start a frank conversation about how to improve. Richard Carranza, our new Superintendent, has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he “gets it” with respect to inclusion and improving outcomes for our students with disabilities.

The system isn’t perfect by any means, and the overhaul begun with the 2010 review is only partly complete. But I also feel far more hopeful about the future for students with disabilities in SFUSD than I did when I first ran for the Board in 2008.

Below I have collected several past interviews, blog posts and published articles to help voters get an idea of my specific views on inclusion and other special education reforms.

Putting a price on special education,” Crosscurrents interview, KALW-FM, broadcast May 28, 2013 (I did not write the headline :-)

More thoughts on the special education audit,”  blog post, Sept. 22, 2010

What does ‘encroachment’ mean?” blog post, Sept. 9, 2009

2008 Senior Dad Candidate Forum: Special Education (podcast); Oct. 15, 2008

Video: “What would you do to improve special education?”
Oct. 7, 2008

Autistic Woman’s Story Shows How Far we Have to Go, guest post on SF Examiner’s education blog; July 24, 2008

Reaching Special Education Ideals are Still Far Off
BeyondChron series May 31 – June 2, 2006:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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3 responses to “Special Education

  1. Rachel, best of luck with your campaign! As was once said to me “Special Education is not a place, it is a group of services.” I believe this to be true & thank you for representing all students, but especially your commitment to the SE Community. Thanks Tony.

  2. I would be surprised too, since as you know transportation is obligatory if is part of the IEP. Can you email me off blog at rachel “at ” rachelnorton.com and i will look into this for you ( i need the school name).

  3. chris francisco

    Rachel: My son who is in a sped class in middle school and who has transportation included in his IEP was told, along with all his classmates, that his/their sped transportation services would be stopped in the next two to three weeks. He was extremely upset, as am I. HIs teacher said that letters had been mailed. I have not received anything and have no knowledge of this change. Can you clarify if this is a new policy? I am astonished that my son would hear of this change in the middle of class without me having any information.

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