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Parents With Special Education Kids Give Authorities An Earful At Richardson Meeting

Bill Zeeble
14 year-old Billy Wilkerson has dyslexia and dysgraphia. Mother Cindy Wilkerson has fought to get special education services

Federal and state education officials got an earful from angry parents Monday night at a meeting in Richardson. Most say their school districts have denied special education services to their kids who deserved them.

One of those children, 14-year-old Billy Wilkerson, has had dyslexia and dysgraphia for years. The seventh grader says his parents sought help at school, but the district denied any.

“My parents had to hire a lawyer to get into a program,” Billy told the panel. ”There is no excuse to ignore what is going on in Texas.”

Billy’s mother, Cindy Wilkerson, says several of her children qualify for special education services. But she says getting them sometimes seems impossible.

Cindy Wilkerson's comment

“You’re going to expect them to pass a test — a state test — but you’re not going to give them services? Guess what happens to the kid? For most kids, medication,” Wilkerson said. “They’re on so much medication. I took them off. It was like having a bunch of drug addicts.”

Monday night’s listening session was called by federal education authorities. That’s after allegations surfaced in September that the Texas Education Agency denied special education services to children. The Houston Chronicle reported that the TEA capped special education enrollment at 8.5 percent. The national average is 13 percent.

The TEA says it never denied services to eligible students.

Some parents, like Heather Gregg, offered praise Monday night. She said her son, on the autism spectrum, was properly tested and given adequate services.

Heather Gregg, parent of a child on the autism spectrum

“They were with us every step of the way and ultimately he did qualify for autism services and for OT and PT and it was a very supportive environment, helping us teach us how we could help our kids at home, too. So, thank you,” Gregg said.

A similar listening session was held in Houston. More Texas sessions continue this week —  in El Paso and Edinburg Tuesday and Austin on Thursday. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.