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Parents push for change in special needs policy | Schools

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Parents push for change in special needs policy

One central Georgia family says they want the Jones county school board to change its policy for special needs students.

The rule says when a student turns twenty-two they must the program.

"My name is Clark Howell Sauls. My son Tucker Sauls has autism. He's been in the Jones county school system since he was three years old. He's now twenty- one years old," explains Clark Sauls.

He says his family was told that a new countywide procedure will dismiss his son from the school system on his twenty-second birthday.

"The students get a lot out of the schools completing the whole year, to treat special needs kids that way, to kick anybody out on their birthday is just cruel," says Sauls. He adds, "A typical student is never dismissed from school just because they have a birthday."

"We appreciate you coming tonight and being an advocate for your children," responded chairman Ginger Bailey.

Superintendent, William Mathews, says the county changed its procedure because of funding.

He declined to speak on camera Tuesday night, but he said the system gets federal and state funding for each special needs student under the age of twenty-two twice a year. When the student turns twenty-two, Matthews says, that funding stops.

"Twenty one others that surround us find the funding to keep those special needs students in school to the end of the year," Sauls stated Tuesday.

Chairman Bailey said, "It is policy and policy is law, and you can't go around breaking your own policies."

The board did not make a decision at Tuesday's meeting about whether to consider changing that policy, because one board member was absent.

Bailey said they hope to meet next month to discuss the new procedure but haven't made any decisions whether they will repeal it or keep it as is.

The State Department of Education leaves it up to each individual school district to decide whether a student who turns twenty-two during a school year will be allowed to complete that year.


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