CORPUS CHRISTI — “She was diagnosed with a lateral lisp and a stutter,” Stephanie McGee said.
McGee, a Corpus Christi Independent School District parent, said her middle school daughter relies on speech therapy.
She said it was a shock when she received a letter, dated Aug. 23, from CCISD that stated there wasn’t an SLP at her middle school.
“I did hear directly from the speech pathology director that it’s all the middle schools,” McGee said. “The district has to provide these services to students with disabilities. It’s not okay. It’s not okay this lack of attention and it’s not just her.”
Under a federal guideline, school districts are required to provide these services to students who need them.
“The fact that this is happening, It just means that children with disabilities are falling through the cracks," McGee said.
CCISD district officials said there are slightly more than 300 of their middle school students that need that kind of support.
“What were they doing all summer?” said McGee.“ Why wasn’t this addressed? This is a huge staff shortage.”
Senior director of special education, Melly Guerra, said that the SLP department saw some employee losses across the board.
“She doesn’t have the proper techniques being pushed upon her on a weekly basis so that’s why it’s so important with people with these speech impediments that they do have someone to see them on a consistent basis,” McGee said.
In an email to KRIS 6 News, Guerra stated CCISD is looking to fill nine SLP positions, is currently contracting four, and is supplementing with 11 SLP assistants.
Guerra said the district has a teletherapy program in their high schools.
“We are looking to expand that so that we can begin the provision of services for all of our students again,” she said.
Secondary students are usually more independent so they are able to get on the computer and access their teletherapy services that way she added.
“That would leave our in-house therapists to focus more on our elementary students who would require more of that social interaction in person,” Guerra said.
Another option for the district and others facing shortages is to provide services utilizing outside resources, but that can be costly to districts, said Natalie Parker, Region 2 Coordinator for Partners Resource Network.
In addition to cost, it can also create scheduling problems, Parker said.
CCISD tells KRIS 6 News it won't know the impact the lack of SLP has on students until services resume.
“There’s still a case manager for the student,” Guerra said. “We’re still monitoring their progress.”
She said that they are not only posting on job boards and special groups, but they are also trying to recruit from area universities.
“We welcome interns within our department,” Guerra said. “We do welcome assistants, SLP assistants who are working towards getting their SLP certification.”
McGee said she’s afraid without the consistency of speech therapy, her daughter will regress and the district failed her.
“I notified them that I will be filing grievances and complaints and that I would be contacting the school board and I have already contacted the TEA,” McGee said.
Partners Resource Network, a non-profit funded by the U.S Department of Education and Office of Special Education Programs, works with parents of children and youth with disabilities throughout Texas, providing a variety of training.
The organization will host a virtual workshop on Section 504 at 6 p.m. on September 23.