(Updated: Adding video, comments from parents, school district statement)
Certified special education teacher on unpaid leave for refusing to get vaccine or seek exception
LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- La Pine-area parents who rely on special education teachers to assist their children in school are worried, after suddenly learning their children's teaching aide was removed from her job for not following the state vaccine mandate.
Danielle Walsh's 9-year-old son, Wyatt, is in third grade at Rosland Elementary in La Pine. On Monday, he came home with a letter from his special education teacher, saying she was being placed on unpaid leave -- and that the district would not be filling the position with a certified special education teacher.
Wyatt has developmental disabilities and is awaiting an autism diagnosis.
When talking about the uncertainty of her son's education, Walsh was brought to tears.
"I felt really helpless," Walsh told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday.
Monica Clark's son, Tristan, brought home the same letter.
Tristan is in the fifth grade at Rosland Elementary and is about three years behind his peers, with learning and mental health disabilities.
"I was upset. I started crying," Clark said.
Both Walsh and Clark say this was the first they'd heard about the staffing change, and that upset them even more.
"We had the right to know that -- we didn’t need to know the details, but we had the right to know that a member of the children's team, that is legally required to be there, isn't there any more," Clark said.
Like most students with special needs, Wyatt and Tristan go to separate classes and are given accommodations to help them learn.
Their moms worry about what this means, without a certified special education teacher.
"I'm worried my son's not going to get the education that he needs and he deserves," Walsh said.
Clark shares the same sentiment.
"He's going to fall further behind than he already is," she said.
On Tuesday, the principal of Rosland Elementary emailed families with students who have an Individualized Education Plan, saying a substitute teacher will fill in as the replacement until a special education teacher is hired.
A representative with Bend-La Pine schools also issued a statement:
"For those teachers who chose not to comply with the state regulation, we have supported building administration in getting appropriate staff to fulfill those positions. While we understand that this transition creates a change, we are fully confident we can continue to fulfill the educational goals of all of our students."
Walsh and Clark said they know what their children need to succeed and rely on the school district to provide.
"It takes a village to raise a special needs child, and a lot of support," Clark said.