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Gabriel’s Story

Gabriel is a kindergarten student with speech delays. His first language is Spanish. Last spring, Gabriel’s zoned school held a meeting to discuss the special education program that he needed for kindergarten. Because his zoned school did not have the special education program he needed, the school recommended that Gabriel attend a District 75 specialized school for students with significant disabilities. Gabriel’s mother recognized that a specialized school setting would hold Gabriel back. The other students would have much lower academic functioning, and the school would not offer Gabriel any interaction with peers without disabilities.

Throughout the spring and summer, with the help of an English-speaking friend, Gabriel’s mother asked the Department of Education (DOE) to hold a new meeting to consider an appropriate special education program for her child. She wrote detailed letters explaining her concerns with placing Gabriel in a specialized school. The DOE did not respond. Finally, Gabriel’s mother emailed Advocates for Children’s Early Childhood Education Project. Her email, written in Spanish, began, “I am desperate and you are my last hope.” AFC intervened, and the DOE scheduled a second meeting.

At the second meeting, the DOE agreed that a specialized school would be too low-functioning for Gabriel and recommended instead a bilingual integrated class, speech therapy, and counseling in Spanish. However, at that meeting, the DOE representative informed Gabriel’s mother that Gabriel would need to attend his zoned school even though the school did not have the bilingual class or services they had just recommended. The zoned school only had a monolingual class and services in English, and staff there had stated themselves that the school would be inappropriate for Gabriel.

AFC stepped in a second time, requesting that the DOE find a school that could provide Gabriel with the bilingual integrated class in Spanish and services that he needed. Consequently, the DOE found a school with a bilingual class and services, and Gabriel was able to start attending his new school in late September. Gabriel’s mother is happy to report that Gabriel is doing very well and making progress. Thanks to his mother’s tenacious advocacy and AFC’s prompt intervention, Gabriel is having a great kindergarten year!