My idea is to explore how other countries around the world are dealing with education and special education issues. I’d like to see different successful schools, wherever they may be, up close. I’d like to sit down with directors and administrators. I’d like to speak with government officials who keep a pulse on the education affairs of their communities. I want to learn more about education around the globe through speaking with locals, seeing the schools, and shaking hands with the people responsible for implementing the systems. If you know of any outstanding (public or private) special needs schools in other parts of the world, I’d love to hear about them. If you know any education experts from around the world, I’d love to be introduced to them. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or ideas. Read more about my mission.
Friday, April 29, 2011
This case is an example that not every procedural violation will be deemed a denial of FAPE. The violation must be shown to have deprived the parents of meaningful participation in the special education process or interfered with the student's ability to benefit from the educational program. If it were the case that the special education professional had not worked with the child in several years, or the child's needs had changed, or the provider never really understood the child's needs...that would be cause for concern. But here, the court believed that the speech provider had worked wtih the child recently enough and was enough to fulfill the requirements under federal law. Judges and impartial hearing officers can be picky about this type of thing - you have to be able to show more than just a technical error.
Giving Special Education Students The Option Of Applying Per-Pupil State Aid To Another Program Of Their Choosing
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Quick synoposis of the facts: 12 year old girl is classified by the CSE as having a disability. The CSE recommends a collaborative team teaching program for the 2007-2008 school year with supports. During that year, the girl complains to her parents constantly about being bullied at school. The parents attempt to address the issue in person and in writing but those efforts were dismissed by the school. After meeting to discuss the child's needs for the 2008-2009 school year, the CSE recommends the same program with fewer supports. At this meeting, the parents attempted to discuss bullying of their daughter but the principal said it was not an appropriate time to discuss the matter. No meeting was scheduled to address the issue and no investigation was ever conducted. The persistent bullying and the school's lack of concern compels the parents to remove their daughter and place her in the Summit School, a private special education school. The parents filed a claim asserting that the bullying resulted in a denial of FAPE and seeking reimbursement. That claim was denied by the impartial hearing officer who determined that the bullying was separate from the issue of the appropriateness of the "program." The SRO upheld that decision.
The EDNY reviewed cases and standards from other circuits (including 1st Amendment cases showing a student's right to be free from attack by others) and attempted to articulate its own standard for determining whether bullying results in a denial of FAPE under the IDEA. The court provided a 4-part test: (a) the plaintiff is an individual with a disability who was harassed; (b) the harassment was sufficiently severe that it substantially restricted his/her education; (c) the school knew about the harassment; and (d) the school was deliberately indifferent to the harassment. The court made a significant distinction that "[t]he bullying need not be a reaction to or related to a particular disability" (presumably because children with disabilities are inherently more vulnerable to bullying and it shouldn't matter whether or not the harassment is because of that specific learning issue). The court also noted that "[i]t is not necessary to show that the bullying prevent all opportunity for an appropriate education, but only that it is likely to affect the opportunity of the student for an appropriate education."
The court rejected the school district's argument that this would open the floodgates for litigation by anyone who has ever been bullied, stating that this only requires them to do what they were already obligated to do - i.e. address harassment incidents about which they know or reasonably should have known.
The judge concluded that the IHO erred in determining that the bullying had nothing to do with the adequacy of the program. The IHO did not determine whether school personnel had notice of substantial bullying, whether they took reasonable steps to address the harassment, or whether the harassment rose to the level of depriving the child of an educational benefit. Therefore, a new evidentiary hearing would be required (not exactly the conclusive determination the parents were hoping for). Although the judge suggested that the case would be remanded for that purpose, he did not state so explicitly ("the issue requires a court evidentiary hearing, and, a possible remand to the state authorities for a rehearing"). The judge did, however, clearly leave the door open for recovery in this case ("The IDEA gives a court broad authority to grant appropriate relief") pending additional proceedings.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
8th Circuit Clarifies "Reasonably Calculated To Lead To Academic Progress" And "Least Restrivctive Enviornment"
At the conclusion of a due process hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that the child was entitled to reimbursement for tuition because the school district had failed to provide an appropriate education and the private school was appropriate. The case made its way up to the federal district court and the judge reversed the ALJ's decision on the grounds that, because all the students there had learning disabilities and received special education, it was not the least restrictive envioronment and was therefore not appropriate under federal law. The judge also found that the district could offer an appropriate program (even though, in reality, it had not done so in a timely way).
The 8th Circuit reversed the district court and explained that the student's minimal progress was not enough to show that the public school program was "reasonably calculated to lead to academic progress." The record showed that the gap in reading skills between the child and his peers continued to widen. When the child was in the sixth grade he was only reading on a first grade level - in spite of IQ tests reflecting that he was capable of a lot more. Although a school district is not obligated to maximize a child's potential, it is obligated to provide individualized education and services that will provide real educational benefit. It's still a case-by-case determination. But, in this instance, this kind of slight, barely noticeable progress for a child with average intellectual ability and a positive attitude toward school/work is not sufficient.
The court also reminded the school district that a private school placement does not have to meet all of the strict requirements that a public school might. Although federal law provides that children should be educated in the least restrictive environment, a private school does not have to satisfy this requirement in order to be appropriate. The court explained that the concept of least restrictive envionment comes from Congress wanting to prevent "relegating handicapped children to private institutions or warehousing them in special classes." But here, the private school was able to provide this child with an educational benefit and the decision to place him there was a result of the school district's failure to fulfill its obligation. Therefore, the mere fact that the school contains mostly special education students and few mainstreaming opportunities is not necessarily an impediment to reimbursement. Here it was not an impediment and the parents were awarded reimbursement.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
SRO Bates, however, took the position that "absent a determination by the impartial hearing officer that there was a denial of FAPE, no basis exists upon which to predicate an award of additional services." If the CSE offered FAPE for that school year, the school district would not be liable for tuition reimbursement for the private school. However, regardless of whether FAPE was offered, it is the parents' prerogative to send their child to a private school and if the parents choose to do so, the school district is still required to provide the related services recommended on the IEP. Under New York law, a CSE must "assure that special education programs and services are made available to students with disabilities attention nonpublic schools located within the school district on an equitable basis, as compared to special education programs and services provided to other students with disabilities attending public or nonpublic schools located within the school district." NY Educ. Law 3602-c. The SRO makes no mention of this provision and seems to have ignored it altogether. As of the November 2009 IEP meeting, the CSE believed that this child required a 1:1 paraprofessional. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the school district provided a para to the student at the private school and the parents therefore have a basis for reimbursement for the expense they incurred due to the district's failure to provide the service.
It seems unfortunate that the parent completely missed out on the opportunity to do a private evaluation. It's unclear why the parent did not accept the $1,800 for the evaluation, personally pay the difference, and then seek reimbursement for the amount paid out of pocket. When this case was heard after the parent's attorney requested an impartial hearing, the impartial hearing officer (IHO) determined that the school district had no obligation to cover the cost of the evaluation (even though it had agreed to it!). The main issue here was whether a parent needs to disagree with an actual evaluation completed by the district, or it is sufficient for the parent to disagree with the IEP. In a sense, the IEP does reflect the district's evaluation of what the child's needs and issues are so that argument is not far-fetched...but you would need a friendly IHO or SRO to see it that way. Neither of those individuals saw it that way in this case.
The SRO upheld the IHO's decision and took the position that "evaluation" means a test or assessment and not an IEP. Therefore, because the parents never actually disagreed with an evaluation that was completed by the district, they did not meet the necessary criteria.
The argument is the same as with charter schools - the more money allocated to benefit these programs, the less money the public schools receive. Special education often takes a big hit when money is tight because schools are then unable to afford the providers needed to deliver services. Those providers who are on payroll are stretched thin among a number of schools and are assigned more students than they can handle. Like charter schools, the voucher program threatens public school education. The theory is that public schools will be forced to compete and improve in response but the reality is that schools become paralyzed due to a lack of funds. Schools will have a much tougher time improving their programs when there is even less money coming in.
The intentions behind the voucher program are good but it's not clear what the voucher program can do for the lowest-income families. Low-income parents wishing to send their children to private schools likely will still have to contribute the difference between the value of the voucher and the total cost of the program. The poorest families would not be able to take full advantage of the voucher opportunity and would be stuck in public school. The end result is that the public school population becomes poorer and poorer and studies have shown the positive correlation between poverty and low academic performance - the poorer the students, the lower the academic performance.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
You also find the full USA Today article at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-28-1Aschooltesting28_CV_N.htm
Monday, April 11, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Read more at: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/cathie-black-is-out-as-chancellor/?emc=na