Hoopa Parents Push for More Help for Kids With Learning Disabilities

By Kristan Korns, Two Rivers Tribune

Frustrated parents banded together to push for more special education and other services for children and adults with disabilities in the Hoopa Valley.

185 students, or approximately 18 percent of the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District (KTJUSD) student population, are classified as needing some form of special education.

The classification can range from children with specific learning disabilities, to those with speech or language impairments, to those with autism or health-related impairments.

Meagen Baldy said “it took three years of badgering the District” to even get her daughter tested to see if she might qualify for extra math and reading help.

“She ended up qualifying for a 504 plan, which meant she could get ‘accommodation’ on testing, in-class help, and extra help from a teacher in the learning center,” Baldy said. “Later, she qualified for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).”

Baldy said other parents got a hold of her to form a group to support each other in getting help from the District and the Tribe.

Kerry Venegas, director of Hoopa Tribal Education, said her department will provide the parents’ group with a place to meet.

“There are some parents who are really savvy about the IEP process and others who aren’t so experienced, so this is an opportunity for parents to share knowledge and give each other support in dealing with the school district or county services,” Venegas said.

She said Tribal Education will have trainers from Powell Family Center from Redding come to Hoopa. “They’ll train the parents in advocacy and help educate them on the laws and their rights.”

Ginger Rogers, Nohoł-diniłay-ding Program Manager, said tutors from the Hoopa language, culture and education center were already working with fourth through eighth grade students at the Community Day School.

“Our goal is to help them take pride in their culture and history, and then we come full-circle with cultural, language, and academic help,” Rogers said.

“We have academic mentors who go into the classroom to work one-on-one with students who aren’t understanding and help give them that boost they need,” Rogers said. “We can’t expect teachers to do that intense one-on-one when they have 30 kids in a class.”

Rogers said there is homework help available too. “We also do follow through in our afterschool program at our center.”

Darcey Brown, who started the Disabilities Parents Support Group with other interested parents, said they are also working to get protections in place for tribal and family members who are more severely handicapped.

“We’re hoping to approach the Tribal Council to set up some bylaws for protecting tribal members who have special needs,” Brown said, “so they can stay in their own community instead of having to go elsewhere.”

“My brother is autistic. He’s been in a home most of his life because there are no programs here,” Brown said.

“Not all parents have to worry about what happens when their kid turns 18. It’s stressful,” Brown said. “I see so many parents that are stressed out because they have nobody to talk to about the issues their kids face.”

Baldy said the District receives funding directly from the federal government to support education for local children. “90 percent of the school district is Indian kids, and it’s not giving them the education they deserve,” she said.

“We all know that 10 voices are louder than one voice, so we need more parents to get involved in these efforts to find out how to get support for our children,” Baldy said.

The Disabilities Parents Support Group will hold its next meeting on Monday, February 24, at 6pm in the College of the Redwoods Student Commons on Loop Road in Hoopa. After that, meetings are planned for the third Monday of each month at 6pm in the Student Commons.

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