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House rep raises concern over lack of SPED services

Tualauta Rep Larry Sanitoa has raised grave concerns over services that Special Education (SPED) is supposed to be providing to our children with special needs, but are not.


During a House regular session last week, Sanitoa pointed out to the lawmakers that local SPED receives over $6M in federal grants annually to educate our children with special needs, however in January, several parents with disabilities, autism and other special needs contacted him about the lack of qualified and trained specialists and teachers to provide the necessary services for our children as required by local and federal laws.


Special Ed teachers and principals also lodged complaints about not getting proper materials and supplies to help them do their work for children with special needs.


”Since last month, I have been emailing DOE Director Vaitinisa and Ms. Jeannette Vasai - Head of SPED’s office requesting a meeting with the parents to address their concerns. Unfortunately, there has been no response.”


Aside from not getting the proper help and support for these children as required by law, some parents have taken the next step by filing their complaints directly with the US Department of Education because they are unable to get any help or satisfactory results from the local responsible agencies. 


If these complaints filed with the Federal Government are validated and we are found not in compliance with the Development Disability Act 2000, Sanitoa said, SPED will most certainly lose these grants.


In 2012, there was a settlement agreement between the US DOE, the Office for Civil Rights and the American Samoa DOE which was signed by then Director designee Jacinta Galea’i.


“I am concerned and would like to know if the terms of this agreement have been met and implemented as it is a very serious matter,” the rep said.


He asked the House Speaker and Chairman Vaetasi, to hold an urgent committee hearing to review and address these serious issues at SPED, to which the Speaker agreed and noted the importance of the matter.




In an email leaked to Samoa News over the weekend, sent to the SPED Director from a furious parent, the woman pointed out in her email that she and the SPED director had discussed during her son's meeting held on January 10, 2014, that she is still paying out of her own pocket for Behavioral Therapy, which SPED under the "Free and Appropriate Public Education" law is supposed to be providing.


“The licensed counselor currently working with my son in the classroom has not had adequate training to work with children on the Autism Spectrum and behavioral challenges therefore he needs further training… On top of my son not receiving an initial assessment by a licensed Speech Pathologist during his evaluation, until this day SPED is still without one and this is completely unacceptable!”


The mother pointed out in her email that she had emailed the SPED Director several times to update her on the status of her son's resources and she had not received a response. “I have had to seek advocacy from OPAD and local legislators only to hear that it is ‘still in process’ and is currently with DHR.


“How is this not an urgent matter to HR when it very well is and can affect the well being on the special needs children in the classroom?” she asked.


The mother did not point out what she’s waiting on from DHR but went on to say that she’s very concerned with the inadequate progress that her son has been experiencing with the lack of the beneficial services not being provided by SPED.


She further stated that her son is not the only special needs child who needs this service, as she has had numerous parents complain about appropriate evaluations not being in compliance. “Delay in adequate and appropriate services could result in my son regressing. I am requesting that the services I have been paying for my son’s behavioral therapy be reimbursed ( 2 weeks from January 10th).”


She says that she hopes her son will not be without this service before the end of this month and she has been patient long enough, and that her son's development in school is in SPED’s hands. “I pray that you are doing your due diligence! If I have to personally speak to the Governor and the 1st lady and bring attention to the media about this disservice that is what I will do to see some results.”