FALL RIVER — Diocese of Fall River Catholic Schools Superintendent Stephen A. Perla, a strong advocate for Catholic school special education students, was recently invited to participate in the United States Department of Education’s Annual National Private School Conference in Washington D.C.

As a member of the Conference’s panel on “Empowering Private School Officials to Participate in Timely and Meaningful IDEA Consultation,” Perla spoke about the legal rights that private school students have under the federal law, the Individual Disability With Education Act (IDEA), and the challenges that private school leaders and families confront attempting to access special education services for private school children.

The panel especially focused on IDEA’s consultation requirements. Under the federal law, public school officials are required to consult with private school leaders about child find screenings, the number of private school students who need special education services, the amount of federal funds to be allocated to serve private school special education students, and what special education services private school officials would like IDEA funds to provide.

Since IDEA’s passage in 2004, private school officials have been tirelessly working to have the federal law appropriately implemented. There is still much more work to be done before we see the true intent of the law fully implemented, according to Perla. In Massachusetts, private school leaders are fully committed to securing special education services that private school students are legally entitled to and their parents have paid for these services via their taxes, concluded Perla.

(L to R) Maggie Hubbard, Director for Special Education, Archdiocese of Washington D.C.; Ruth Ryder, Office of Special Education Programs Monitoring and State Improvement Planning, U.S. Department of Education; Stephen Perla, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Fall River; Pamela Allen, Office of Non-Public Education, U.S. Department of Education; and Dwight Thomas, Office of Special Education Programs Monitoring and State Improvement Planning, U.S. Department of Education.
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