As an advocacy specialist at Disability Rights Wisconsin, Joanne Juhnke regularly finds herself on the phone with parents concerned about their children’s treatment at school.
Most complaints concern public schools, which enroll the majority of students. State funding for special education has shrunk, forcing districts to struggle to provide services, and disparate treatment of students with disabilities at public schools persists. But in public school, families have a state body to appeal to: the Department of Public Instruction.
DPI is far less helpful in disputes with private schools, which under state law can legally discriminate against students who need certain disability accommodations — or even kick them out. This applies even to private schools that receive taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers to educate students.
The calls Juhnke receives from voucher families often contain the same story. A family has enrolled a child with disabilities in a private school. Administrators have begun pressuring the student to leave or have kicked them out, something public schools cannot do. The parents are shocked. They’re sure the schools can’t do that.
Many times, Juhnke has to tell them: Yes, they can.
“You went into this school choice program thinking that you were the one, as the parents, who have the choice,” she said. “Really, on the other end, the school holds more choice cards than you do, and you’re coming out on the wrong side of that.”
Far more important, however, is the context not provided. There are plenty of good-faith Americans who have legitimate concerns about how COVID was handled and how gender and sexuality are currently being handled in schools. 99.99% of them don't do what this man did.— Chris Rickert (@RickertWisSJ) May 21, 2023