Oppose ‘Mandate Relief’ – New Action Exec Board member

Testimony before New York State Regents opposing Proposal #1 mandate relief – to remove School Psychologists from CSEs.

Good evening, my name is Maria Ramos, I have been a School Psychologist for 16 years and before that I was a general education teacher. I am an employee of the NYC Department of Education. I am also an Executive Board Member of the United Federation of Teachers.

When I was 18 years old I volunteered to work at Willowbrook State School –  Some of you may remember the pictures of that school when in 1972 Geraldo Rivera revealed the autrocities of that place — and what I witnessed for my self – the horrendous conditions that children were subjected to —-I had to quit after only two weeks because it literally made me sick and depressed.  It was then I knew that I wanted to be part of the solution – so this would never happen again. As a school psychologist I have blown up into poster size  PL 94-142  of 1975.   I have it on my bulletin board in the parent teacher conference room. It is the guide to Least Restrictive Environment which states that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities…are educated with children who are non-disabled”; and that special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

It is the school psychologist through the psychological educational evaluations,  observations, clinical interviews working with other staff members and parents, who determines the severity of the disability—and therefore we the school psychologists safeguard children’s rights to be educated in the least restrictive environment.

In conclusion I want to leave you with these words from Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man

“We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.”

Our role as school psychologists and what we do is intertwined in the very civil rights of our children. And if this mandate relief is passed — I think it puts us on a very dangerous road that can lead back to Willowbrook State School.


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July 2011

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