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Teachers Protest Loss of Special Education Class


Nov 17, 2004 – Teachers at a St. John elementary school held a two-day protest this week to call attention to the loss of the special education teacher at their school.
One of the teachers at the Guy H. Benjamin Elementary School said the educational staff waited by the phone in the school office for two days, waiting for officials from the Department of Education to answer questions about the future of special education in the island's public schools
"We were waiting for a phone call, to get somebody to call us, to explain to us what's going to happen to the students, what's going to happen to the class," said Benjamin School teacher Lisa Penn.
Penn said in spite of their attempts to convey their concerns there was no return call. While teachers held their wait-in by the office telephone, a volunteer stood outside the school gates with a clip board soliciting signatures for a petition supporting the return of special education services to Benjamin School.
The protesting teachers say there are no students receiving the specialized instruction at this time, but there are a number of students who are being evaluated and may be assigned to Benjamin School as special education students.
She also said the island's other public school, the Julius E. Sprauve School, has special education services but at this time, only for students in intermediate grades. "Julius Sprauve is for intermediate grades. Our classes are for any student on St. John from kindergarten through fourth grade," she said.
Juel Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the department's policy is to provide such services to students on an island by island basis, but she referred further inquiries to Dr. Rosalind Knight, the director of Special Education for the Education Department. Attempts to reach Knight by phone on Wednesday were not successful.
On Wednesday morning a Benjamin School administrator said classes had returned to normal.
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