9-year-old Orlando boy with severe disabilities forced to take state-mandated test

Fla. rep. pushes to change law to eliminate state testing for special needs students

By Sheli Muniz - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - A 9-year-old blind boy with severe disabilities is being forced to take a state-mandated test, despite his special needs, according to his guardian.

It's similar to the FCAT, but it is the FAA, or Florida Alternate Assessment, one that is used to test students with disabilities.

However, Michael's guardian Judy Harris says he is not capable of learning, much less sit through hours of testing.

"Michael, he's capable of recognizing a few people, he's capable of loving certain type of music," said Harris.

9-year-old Michael has the mentality of a 6 month-old baby. He was born prematurely with only a brain stem. He cannot speak, he cannot see, but Florida law says he can and has to take a standardized test.

"You'd have to see it to believe it. You'd have to see this test they're trying to get Michael to do," Harris told Local 6.

Judy Harris has been Michael's guardian at Russell Home since he was a baby. About a month ago, she got a letter saying Michael would have to take the alternate to the FCAT, one for children with disabilities.

"It's quite a book and it has several pictures in it and the teacher reads him a story and then she asks him about the picture," said Harris.

Harris says he can't even do that. By law, the teacher is required to put him through hours of testing.

"I don't understand it. I don't understand why the educational system doesn't wake up," said Harris.

Michael has a teacher who comes to the Russell Home in the Hospital Homebound program with Orange County Public Schools

Now, several local and state officials are trying to change the law. State Representative Linda Stewart wants to amend a bill that would eliminate that requirement. She says the law goes beyond common sense.

The law was put in place to give all children an opportunity, but some families say there should be exemptions.

Watch Local 6 for more on this story.

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