PROGRAM — Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program

Leroy was a premature baby that my medical staff said would not live due to his lungs not fully developing. I was told he would not even be able to take his first breath. They were prepared for my child to die. However, my little fighter came out crying meaning his lungs were holding oxygen. He was immediately transferred to the NICU. I immediately enrolled him in the High-Risk Progam. Once completed, he began the Babies program. After that, he went on to Pre School Intervention.

He suffered and struggled from the moment he entered the school for his Kindergarten year. As a parent, I recognized that Leroy struggled with vocabulary (Dolch sight words) and reading, but I did not know what was wrong. I fought for two years trying to get him help. I was told I was over-exaggerating about his issues and that he was doing fine. The school district in my county denied him special education services. To be honest, the district was just passing him along. It would take my son 4 to 5 hours to complete work at home. I was informed by a principal at another school that they were denying him entry. Because this school was an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, they were only allowed so many Special Education students in order to maintain their pathway.

In March of 2013, Leroy was belittled in a class by his own teacher. She told my son: “You won’t pass the second grade because you can’t read and pass the MAP test (a local exam).” I contacted the school and board, but they did nothing. I immediately withdrew all of my children, gave up our home, quit my job, and moved to the Atlanta area. The school harassed and threatened me with the threat of involvement of the Georgia Department of Family & Children Services. I then consulted with my attorney who informed me that I had 30 days to enroll my children in school.

They were enrolled with the Newton County school district at Live Oak Elementary. Leroy was in school and after one week he had to take an SRA test (reading & ELA benchmark). I was contacted by the Principal for a parent meeting. I cried in that meeting. The principal said: “Ms. Hodges please hear me out. This is never easy to tell a parent but Leroy is significantly behind and he needs immediate help.” I cried, not because he was behind. I already knew that. I cried because someone finally recognized it and was ready to help him. Those tears were tears of joy!

They immediately began the IEP process. It was determined that Leroy has Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and dyslexia. He received services and he began to learn. Unfortunately, due to my heart condition, we had to go back to the Savannah area. Once again, after enrolling in the SCCPSS we endured problems. The first month of school Leroy was belittled once again by a paraprofessional. She told Leroy in the middle of class: “Boy you got an IEP, we slowed the class down and you still dumb.” I immediately reached out to the Board Special Education department and the middle school directors.

We encountered so much at that school that I decided to utilize SB10 (Special Needs Scholarship Program) to enroll my son at St. Andrews Private School. Leroy is now getting the services he needs and is doing very well. He informed me that he does not get bullied, nobody teases him, and all of the teachers work with him. He also told me the longer classes give him the time he needs to gain an understanding of the content and get his notes done. SB10 is the best thing that could have happened to my son. Without SB10, Leroy would be stuck in a district that does not care about Special Education students and one where it is likely he would not graduate. This was a journey for us and now we are in a place where he can succeed.

The right to a fair, equal, and good public education is guaranteed by every state constitution and yet my son did not get that. We had to move districts and ended up back in one that did not help Special Education students. Our only choice was SB10 and we are blessed to have it. All families should have the right to choose for their children. Every child’s learning styles and capabilities are not the same. And, sadly there are a lot of children with learning disabilities in the public sector that do not receive much-needed help, services, and understanding of their disabilities. Every family should have the right to choose the proper education for their child.

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