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Hastings Parents Battle Cutoff Date for Special Ed

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Cutoff dates are a contentious debate for parents deciding whether or not to hold their children back in school a year or get them started early. That decision is even tougher for parents with children requiring special education.

“Our son David’s got issues, he’s been receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech (therapy) since he was 9 months old,” said Hastings resident Tommy Mitchell.

Many parents choose to "redshirt" their children before sending them off to kindergarten, essentially give them another year of preschool so their child one of the oldest in the class the following year. The cutoff date in Hastings is Dec. 31 and David Mitchell’s birthday falls on Dec. 2. Redshirting is an option for the Mitchells, but it will come at a price they deem unfair.

“We do have the right and they will give us that option, but if we do, it has negative consequences for our son because he’s not able to get the services in the way the services are intended to be received,” said David's mother, Christina Mitchell, who is a seventh grade teacher at Irvington Middle School.

While the Mitchells, who are both Hastings High School alumni, could hold their son back, he would lose the benefit of having therapy during the school day and within the classroom. He would be required to do his therapy outside of the classroom, which would negate the effectiveness of it according to his parents.

“There are multiple issues going on here,” Christina Mitchell said. “I really truly believe there is an inequity going on between general education and special education students. It is not an even playing field.”

Although the board of education’s policy is to not make changes in the middle of the school year, it said it would discuss the issue further.

“We’re going to try and work through the superintendent on this one because of the timing of it makes it difficult for the board to switch the date for next year,” said Hastings Board of Education President Eileen Baecher.

Christina Mitchell said she doesn’t necessarily believe redshirting is right, but if parents of general education students are allowed to do it without negative repercussions she argues special education students should have the same right

Tommy Mitchell said he just wants his son to have the same advantages that other students in the district have

“We want to do what every other parent has the opportunity to do, to keep their kid from going because they’re not ready,” he said.

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