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State Rep. James Arciero recently filed legislation to give the parents of special education students a greater voice with school committees across Massachusetts.
“I believe this bill will first start a conversation about the role of special education in our schools and the challenges faced by parents and students with these circumstances,” said Arciero, who was diagnosed at an early age with dyslexia and is a graduate of the Westford public school system.
Filed at the request of Westford School Committee member and Westford SEPAC parent, Alicia Curtin Mallon, the bill would allow for the selection of a member of a local Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) to serve as an ex-officio non-voting member of a municipal school committee. This selection would be made by the membership of the local SEPAC organization. SEPACs are Special Education Parent Advisory Councils that exist to advocate for special needs education in the local K-12 schools in Massachusetts, as instituted by Massachusetts state law.
“I applaud School Committee member Curtin Mallon for her leadership on this legislation and on SEPAC issues. This is her idea and I give her all the credit, and I am happy to be working with her and the other SEPAC families to make this change a reality,” said Arciero who filed the bill following discussions with Curtin Mallon and others at the recent Westford-Chelmsford SEPAC Day on the Hill event.
The mission of a SEPAC is to work for understanding of, respect for and support of all children with special needs in the community. They exist to promote a network of parents of children with special needs and to provide a forum to share information. The group also advises the school administrations and school committees on the development and operation of special education programs, teacher training, parent teach interaction, and the promotion of understanding, acceptance and inclusion in the school and greater community.
The bill will be open for co-sponsorship by the members of the state legislature for a period of seven days, after which it will be assigned to the Joint Committee on Education for a public hearing where individuals across the state will be invited to provide written and oral testimony. Upon the decision of the Education Committee, the bill will then advance to the House Calendar for consideration during the 2019-2020 legislative session.
“While I know that our school systems are miles ahead of where they were in regards to special education since my time in elementary school, I always feel that we can do better and can work to improve how we deal with these important issues that impact our young people for their entire lives,” said Arciero.
Editor’s note: Alicia Curtin Mallon is running for a three-year term on the Westford School Committee against Sean P. Kelly and Daniel Goldner.