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Battling For Special Ed

 February 4, 2021 at 5:07 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, January 4th. Fighting for education and care for children with special needs. That story next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. San Diego county public health officials reported 968 new covid-19 infections yesterday and 54 additional deaths. That’s the second day in a row of less than one thousand daily new cases reported. Officials say there are now at least 19 coronavirus vaccination sites across San Diego. But getting vaccines to people in rural communities has been a challenge. Now, Cal-Fire San Diego and more than 20 local fire agencies are running what's called “operation collaboration.” The fire agencies have administered more than 7,000 vaccines at mobile sites and long-term care facilities. They’ll be in Jamul later this week and Ramona over the weekend. Appointments for people 65 and older and healthcare workers can be made through the county. You can learn more about vaccines at A recall effort for San Diego City Council President Jen Campbell was made official on wednesday, when a notice of intent to recall was published by a legal newspaper. Recall leaders have to wait 21days after publishing the letter of intent before they can begin collecting signatures. Campbell described the recall campaign a waste of time and money. Recall backers have until June to collect more than 14-thousand signatures from voters in her district. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. As special education costs continue to spiral, battles between parents and school districts over what services students need have intensified. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has the story of one family who took their fight to court. “Can you tell him your name? I’m Eli” Eli’s parents say they knew right away that their child would have hearing problems. His dad John Davenport recalls how as a toddler Eli held his plastic toy guitar right up to his ear to hear the noises it made. CHERYDAVENPORT.mp400:10:24:19“He would sit with his ear flush against it while it was blasting music, and he would just lay with his ear like that. I tested it, and I took it and I held it close to my ear and it hurts. It was obvious for me at that point that he had a problem.” Fortunately, Davenport and his wife Farah Chery were able to put Eli in the deaf and hard-of-hearing program for toddlers at San Diego Unified's Lafayette Elementary School in the Clairemont Mesa neighborhood. But when Eli turned three, he aged out of the program and the district has denied him entrance into the full-day program ever since. For the past two years, Eli’s parents, who are both physicians, have spent upwards of $30,000 to provide Eli with a patchwork of private services. But despite the advantage of being health experts with financial resources, they say Eli is still significantly behind where he should be. The pandemic has only made things worse. CHERYDAVENPORT.mp400:19:26:07He didn’t meet the district’s criteria for hearing impairment, so they kicked him out when he was three, but he should’ve remained in that school. If he remained in that school, his speech would be far improved from where it is now. There’s no question it would be. El i’s parents say they have “no clue” why the district did not provide the services. In the past two and a half years, several independent experts examined Eli and found he easily qualifies as hearing impaired. Hearing specialist Gwen Suennen is one of those experts. SUENNEN2.mp400:00:46:18I have three audiograms that clearly show he has a hearing loss in both ears. If I look at his audiogram, he has a moderate rising to mild sloping down to a moderate loss in both ears. The couple sued the district in Nov. 2019 and again in Oct. 2020 for denying Eli services and for reimbursement for the private instructors and therapists. So far, they say they’ve spent more than $20,000 on attorneys fees. Summer Stech is a special education attorney and a former teacher. She says disagreements like this occur only in a small percentage of cases. But when they do happen they can be costly for both families and school districts. STECH.mp400:16:17:03Sometimes you do wonder how you end up paying all the attorneys fees and all the other costs and sometimes reimbursement to families that have paid for these services themselves. When you look at what it would’ve just cost to just do it in the first place and see if it is in fact what the student needs to receive a fape, then it probably would’ve saved a lot of money to do it that way. San Diego Unified School District Spokeswoman Maureen Magee would not comment Eli’s case. citing the pending litigation. She also did not respond to questions about the district’s special education policies. Chery says the final straw came last October after they made one last failed attempt to get services for Eli through San Diego Unified. The parents said they couldn’t wait any longer. CHERYDAVENPORT.mp400:13:46:07His progress has been very very slow. He is nowhere near age level. He does not have age level language. I’d say he’s maybe at a 2 year olds speech? And he’s five. In November, they enrolled Eli at the John Tracy Center in Los Angeles, which offers full-time, in-person instruction for deaf and hard of hearing students. The parents rented an apartment in Los Angeles and took turns living with Eli for a week at a time. The couple says they’re fortunate to be able to pay for their son’s special education. But they can’t get back what they lost. CHERYDAVENPORT.mp400:15:35:12There’s no amount of money that someone can have and still give everything to their child. We have resources but it wasn’t enough. Joe Hong KPBS News. That story from KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong. California’s vaccine roll-out has caused confusion as the state continues to adjust who’s next in line for the shot. CapRadio’s Sammy Caiola recaps the latest changes Right now, people over 65 are eligible for the vaccine. So are food and agricultural workers, educators, and law enforcement. The question of who’s NEXT in line is where it gets tricky. It was supposed to be transportation and manufacturing employees, and people who work in homeless shelters, jails and prisons. Then people under 65 with medical conditions, and workers in communications, defense and financial services. BUT those categories are all scrapped, according to the state health department. The state’s going to make people eligible by age only. They have not announced which age group will follow people 65 and older, and the old priority list is still on their website. SOC Last month, vandals splattered pink paint on some Black Lives Matter banners across San Diego. KPBS’ Jacob Aere reports. Community leaders are seeking the public’s help to identify a suspect who vandalized two “Black Lives Matter” signs with pink paint at University Christian Church and Rich’s San Diego nightclub in Hillcrest. Mayor Todd Gloria says these types of crimes will not be tolerated in San Diego. “I want to be extremely clear: there is no room for hate in San Diego. This was more than an act of vandalism. It was an attack on our community and the people who live in our city.” On Wednesday, police released a still photo of the suspect they obtained from security footage. People who have any information regarding the vandalism should contact the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000. Jacob Aere, KPBS News. That story from KPBS’ Jacob Aere. San Diego Gas and Electric is now collaborating with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to understand real world impacts of a changing climate. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has more. The region’s investor owned utility has expanded a relationship with researchers at UC San Diego. They are hoping to tap into ongoing research of extreme weather events that are happening because of climate change. Flooding along the coast is just one area of concern. CLIMATEDEAL 1A :13 Chris Ahrens, SDGE meteorologist 00:06:14 – 00:06:27 “That’s really going to help us understand, are we at risk of a compounding coastal flooding, here in San Diego going forward. How’s that going to affect San Diego at large.” Scripps researchers will also be able to use the utility’s back country weather network for research on wildfires and storms. Current climate research suggests there will be even more extreme weather events in Southern California as the planet and region warm. Erik Anderson KPBS News That story from KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson. Coming up....Some San Diegans were part of last month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. The local connections highlight San Diego’s history of extremism. “There are terrorists groups that are here locally, hate groups that are attacking our residents and our neighbors that are also trying to infiltrate mainstream right wing groups.” That story coming up next. After last month’s Capitol Riot, the Department of Homeland Security issued a rare national terrorism advisory warning that violent extremists could carry out attacks in the coming weeks. One person arrested last week in connection to the riot was from the San Diego area and another who died during the attack after being shot by police while trying to climb through a window at the capitol was also from San Diego. Joel Day is a UCSD lecturer in the School of Global Policy and Strategy who specializes in homeland security and combating extremism. He spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon about the warning. That was Joel Day, UCSD lecturer in the School of Global Policy and Strategy who specializes in homeland security and combating extremism. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Specialists agree that Eli Chery-Davenport is hearing impaired. But the San Diego School district has thus far denied him the special education services his parents say he needs. Meanwhile, San Diego has a long history of extremism, so it is not surprising that some San Diegans were part of last month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, Plus, San Diego Gas and Electric is partnering with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to study the impacts of climate change.