SECAC (Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee) Groups: What are they and what do they do for me?
By Confident Student
What are they and what do they do for me?
The Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) is part of a statewide network of advisory committees that are required by state and federal law. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA) requires that each State operate a statewide advisory panel. In accordance with the law, Maryland has a Special Education State Advisory Committee (SESAC). The purpose of SESAC is to advice the State Board on unmet needs of students with disabilities, including the development of evaluations, reports, and corrective action plans in response to federal monitoring, and implementing policies and procedures to coordinate services for students with disabilities.
The Maryland State Department of Education supports the development of local advisory committees in each local school system. SECACs enable a local director of special education to seek meaningful input from parents, community partners, service providers, and school administrators on local issues relative to the provision of a free appropriate public education and the achievement of students with disabilities.
In addition to regular meetings, set on regular intervals by county chapters, some have even formed Yahoo groups to foster interactive communication and support between members throughout the school year.
Each chapter has its own personality, and develops an agenda based upon the issues challenging students in the county, as well as the quality of the working relationship with its Department of Special Education (DSE). Kimberly McKay, Executive Director of Parents for Parents, Inc and current Chair of the Howard SECAC comments: “We have a wonderful working relationship with the DSE. Our DSE is very open and accessible to parents. Howard County parents are beginning to address issues facing the students with disabilities in all areas of the school system-transportation, curriculum, testing-beyond just the department of special education. At most of our events,” McKay continues, “we host a listening post‘ period when parents can meet with SECAC Executive Committee members to share concerns. At many events, the DSE leadership staff is there as well to answer individual questions or concerns.” Heading up a younger, but growing chapter, Harford County Chair Chuck Masters is excited about the emerging involvement of Harford County parents: “There now is a core group of parents that are interested in working together. I‘m hoping to discover ways to improve communication between parents that don‘t know where to get answers they seek.”
Parents who need more information about academic challenges, the process to explore supports within the school system, or are frustrated with some aspect of special education should consult their county‘s SECAC organization. Masters reiterates how vital this information exchange is for student success across the county: “We parents are the biggest advocates for our children. Their futures depend upon us and our ability to secure relationships within the school system to create that village that nurtures our children to become productive members of society. SECAC, I believe, allows parents an avenue to understand the special education process at the county level which helps to navigate the special education maze. As parents, we can help to implement change at our individual schools from the information we share at SECAC meetings.”
To find your local SECAC chapter, visit the Pathfinders for Autism provider database.