The Schottenstein Family of Ohio
Gila’s daughter, Joni was the recipient of a special
education scholarship through a pilot program, now
she has a chance to succeed academically.
Gila Shottenstein is a sixteen-year-old girl with Down syndrome and hearing impairments living in the Columbus Public School District. As the parent of a child with special needs, Joni, Gila's mother, is acutely aware that parents’ voices are not always heard in the public school system.
Gila is in a high school classroom for children with disabilities and hearing impairments, but Joni is disappointed with the school. “While her teacher is wonderful and amazing, the school system does not offer the necessary services Gila needs to succeed,” Joni said.
Joni notes that children with Down syndrome need to learn practical life skills, but Gila’s school won’t accommodate that need. “These skills are far more important to us than any classroom activity,” she said. “I sought assurances that Gila would be able to go into the community three times a week to help her develop her life skills. Unfortunately, as the principal informed me, ‘in this school, academics are the highest priority.’ As a result, my daughter was only able to be in the community one day a week.”
Safety is another concern. Two years ago, Gila was left on a school bus with a substitute driver for more than two hours. “Not only could they not tell me where she was, or even whose bus she was on, they could not even assure me she was safe. In addition, Gila was once physically assaulted at school by a fellow student. “When I asked the administrator whether the school could ensure her safety, the response was, 'No, we cannot,’ ” Joni said.
“As an observant Jew, I am limited to Jewish neighborhoods. We have considered moving to Bexley [another community] to receive better services for my daughter. Unfortunately, the district is unable to commit to accepting my daughter, even if we move into the district, until after we have moved. If the program is full, she would have to attend another school more than a half hour away, at taxpayer expense.”
Joni notes that parents such as she simply have no alternatives. “The attitude of the public school officials we dealt with was, 'Tough luck; try again next year.' A special education scholarship pilot program will give my daughter a chance to succeed,” she said.