Townsend Harris High School, one of the most exclusive high schools in the city, will admit 11 special education students in September who fall outside the standard criteria for admission, a move that has a lot of parents seeing red.
“How can the Townsend Harris administration be told that they are to hand over seats to completely unqualified students?” the PTA wrote in a letter addressed to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a last week.
More than 5,000 students apply annually to the school and only 270 freshman are accepted. To be considered at Townsend Harris, students must earn an A average and score in the top 10 percent of the state in reading and math tests.
Though parents say they have no problem with special education students coming to the school if they meet the requirements, they do not want admission policy changed to allow special education students who don’t meet the criteria.
But the city Department of Education has been trying for some time to open up the city’s specialty schools to special education students.
“Students with disabilities, just like those without them, deserve a high quality education,” DOE spokesman Marcus Liem said. “The school administration will have the support it needs, and all students in this school community will benefit from learning alongside each other.”
According to the DOE, there was only one special education student enrolled in the school during the 2012-13 academic year.
Several other schools across the city employ the same policy, though some specialty schools, such as LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and the Performing Arts, were not among them.
The DOE has been speaking with the principal weekly and plans to meet with staff and teachers to develop a plan for services in place that will better serve special ed students. They also plan to meet with the PTA to discuss the changes.