Rally held to advocate for special needs students - FOX 13 News

Rally held to advocate for special needs students

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Several dozen parents of special needs met to rally outside the Children's Board in Hillsborough County. Their signs read, "Investigate Freedom High School" and "Train the Aides."

They were protesting because the board was having its Legislative Summit, deciding which issues to bring to legislators in January.

Mom Theresa Mastella brought her 9-year-old son Anthony, who was born with Downs Syndrome. He said his school lost him twice, though they found him within 10 minutes. She actually believes his school leaders and administrators were very caring. But she had a major problem with the way the district dealt with special needs children.

"Our biggest thing was they had very low expectations and goals for children in ESE. And he had already met FCAT and Florida Sunshine Standards. He could count to 100 and was reading when he entered kindergarten. But they refused to put him in a regular kindergarten class," Mastella said.

Parents believe the schools are ill-equipped to handle ESE students. Not only do they say the money is not there, but they say the training is not either.

Helyn Moore, whose son is autistic, says it's not a lack of knowledge, but she believes it's a lack of training and caring.

"There has to be a change in the culture of Hillsborough County. There has to be some respect for these students," Moore said.

Moore says she was labeled a "problem mom." She says she was even banned from her son's school campus. Moore says she was only trying to make sure her son got everything federal law provided, including the fact a kitchen in the classroom was never stocked with food for their classroom lessons.

"My son is unemployable. But he can learn to make a PB & J sandwich. He can learn to pour a bowl of cereal. He can learn to fold clothes. I can assure you the kids in the culinary program are not walking into a kitchen with no food and not having food for their culinary program. So why is it ok for my son?" she said.

The parents say they are ready to fight, and they expect legislators will listen to what they have to say.

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