Children with Disabilities with High Cognition
Some students may be doing well academically at school, but still qualify for special education services. The U.S. Department of Education is concerned that some school districts are hesitant to conduct initial evaluations to determine eligibility for special education and related services for these students. The Department noted that this seems to be happening for students with emotional disturbance or mental illness in particular. On April 17, 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a memorandum to the State Directors of Special Education reminding them of the federal regulation that states, in part –
…in determining whether a child has a disability…the IDEA requires the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, and prohibits the use of any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability and for determining an appropriate educational program for the child.
The Department requested that their Letter to Delisle, issued on December 20, 2013, be widely distributed to school districts reminding them of their obligation to evaluate all children, regardless of cognitive skills, suspected of having one of the 13 special education eligibility categories.
Read the Letter to Delisle here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/122013delisletwiceexceptional4q2013.pdf
Read more about the special education eligibility categories in the parent guide from the Illinois State Board of Education: http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/parent_rights.htm
Respecting the Parental Right to File a State Complaint
Parents who are unable to reach an agreement with their school district on what constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for their child, have specific formal options for resolving disputes. Those options include mediation, State complaints, and due process hearings.
Some issues that may be resolved through a State complaint, could also be addressed in a due process hearing. If a State complaint is filed over the same issues that are part of a current due process hearing, the State must set aside those issues in the formal complaint resolution process until a final decision or dismissal is issued by the hearing officer assigned to the due process. It has come to the attention of the U.S. Department of Education that some schools may be filing due process complaints against parents concerning the same issue that is the subject of an ongoing State complaint resolution to delay the State complaint process and force parents to participate in, or ignore at considerable risk, due process hearings.
A “Dear Colleague” letter was released April 15, 2015 from the U.S. Department of Education strongly encouraging schools to respect parents’ reasonable choice to use the State complaint process rather than a due process hearing.
Read the letter here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl04152015disputeresolution2q2015.pdf
"Stay Put" Remains in Effect Through Final Resolution
When a parent disagrees with an educational placement decision made by the IEP team for their child, and files for mediation or a due process hearing to work out the issue, the child is allowed to remain in the current setting until the case is resolved. This rule applies unless the child has possessed a weapon, possessed illegal drugs, or inflicted serious bodily injury to another person.
The United States Supreme Court was recently asked to determine if the “stay-put” rule remained in place when a case is taken to the district court level or even when a case is appealed to a federal district court. On May 18, 2015 the Supreme Court declined to grant the Ridley School District’s petition to allow them to change the placement of a student whose case had been appealed to a federal district court. This denial means that the “stay-put” rule remains in effect through every stage of the appeal process.
The “stay-put” rule is found at 34 CFR 300.518: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title34-vol2/xml/CFR-2011-title34-vol2-sec300-518.xml
Read the Supreme Court case here: http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/reports/13-1547NSBA%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf
Kids and Reading
In January 2015, Scholastic released its annual survey related to children’s reading. A summary of the findings from www.edcentral.org/4-surpreise-scholastics/ show:
1-Boys and older teenagers are reading books for fun with less frequency than 4 years ago.
2-Parents and preschoolers place high importance on reading aloud to their children, but less than 2/3 do so daily.
3-Kids want books in print – as opposed to electronic format – even more than they did 2 years ago. So do their parents.
4-Kids wish their parents had continued to read to them after they reached school age.
Read the Scholastic report here: www.scholastic.com/readingreport/
Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies published a report in February 2015 about the effect of disciplinary suspensions on student success. The report concludes that “if we ignore the discipline gap, we will be unable to close the achievement gap”. Suspensions have a negative impact on both student achievement and graduation rates. The report determined children with disabilities have the highest suspension rates. Read the full report at:
Social and Emotional Learning: Skills for Life and Work
Independent researchers in the United Kingdom have found that it is important to focus on social and emotional skills early in a child’s life. Those skills include self-perceptions, self-awareness, self-direction; motivation; self-control, self-regulation; relationship skills, communication skills; and resilience and coping. The studies indicate that social and emotional skills matter for adult mental health, life satisfaction, socio-economic reasons, and employment. Read the 2015 summary of findings at:
Harsher Penalties for Truancy of Students with Disabilities
House bill 3402 was introduced in the Illinois Legislature in February 2015. It would increase the maximum penalty for parents whose child with a disability is truant. Parents of students can be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to 30 days under current Illinois law. HB 3402 would increase those maximum penalties to $1,000 and a six months in jail for parents of children with disabilities and leave the maximum penalty the same for other parents. You can monitor the status of this Bill at www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp
Professional Development for Educators and School Staff
The BEST Act – Better Educator Support and Training Act – was introduced on March 31, 2015. U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said “If we want our children to have a quality education, with top-notch instruction and support, we’ve got to invest in our teachers as well as our classrooms.” U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania noted that the BEST Act “aims to provide comprehensive resources that educators need to help students achieve their academic best.” If enacted the Act would provide educator mentoring and professional development to the entire educational team – librarian, counselors, principals, and teachers. Learn more at:
Educational Services for Youth in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems
Children involved in the foster care system or in the juvenile justice system experience hardships related to “trauma, changes in placement, family mobility, disabling conditions, and economic disadvantage”. The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk lists these hardships in their new guide entitled “Quality Education Services Are Critical for Youth Involved With the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems”. The guide is designed to assist child-serving agencies address barriers and challenges for the children and families they serve. The guide offers policy-related recommendations and actionable items that staff can use to ensure better outcomes for youth.
View or download the guide at: http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/sites/default/files/NDTAC_Correctional_ED_Practice_Guide_508.pdf
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act
On December 19, 2014 the ABLE Act was signed into federal law. Regulations or guidance related to the new law will be issued by June 2015. Each state will decide whether to offer an ABLE program.
The ABLE Act allows families to create a savings account for their family member with a disability to save for future disability-related expenses. These ABLE accounts resemble the 529 accounts that parents can set up to save for their children’s college tuition. The new accounts protect eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal benefits. The money can be used for housing, transportation, employment training, assistive technology, education, funeral and burial expenses, and other approved expenses.
Learn more details from The Arc of Illinois: https://files.ctctcdn.com/92d3c2d6001/c0d1c5c0-d9cc-4cae-83e9-9404ce412f19.pdf
A Vision for the Future of the Education in the United States
On January 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined what he wants to see change as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized. He calls for increasing the opportunity for quality preschool, increasing funding and assistance for school and educators, reducing time spent on testing, and informing parents, teachers, and students about progress toward college and career readiness.
Find all Duncan’s comments here:
The Arc of Illinois New Assitive Technology Program
The Arc of Illinois, through a generous donation, has developed a new Assistive Technology Program. This program will fund, or partially fund, the purchase of assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, such as an iPad, for social and communication skills. There must be an evaluation/assessment completed by a qualified provider to prove need and reason for the requested device.
The goal of The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Program is to enhance and improve the quality of life for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities by providing opportunities for individuals to receive technology to help with education, employment, community living and independence. With today’s technology, there are assistive features on devices, such as iPads, that can really improve learning for students with special needs. One mom recently told us, “I am so excited about the possibility of this program especially for people like my son, who has autism. A device like an iPad would mean such a difference to him in being able to communicate with the people in his life.”.
The maximum amount funded will be $500.00 per person or family. Upon approval, the device will be shipped directly to the applicant. Once the device is received it is the responsibility of that person and/or family to make sure it is used in the appropriate manner and that an evaluation is filled out to assure future funding for this project. There are not many programs like this in the state of Illinois and The Arc of Illinois is overjoyed to be able to provide this much needed assistive technology for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Go here to apply: The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Application.
The Arc of Illinois is a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and has emerged as a leading advocacy organization in Illinois. The Arc is committed to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families and insuring persons with disabilities have services and supports available to them when needed. For more information about The Arc of Illinois visit our website: www.thearcofil.org or call the office at 815-464-1832.
Equal Access At School For English Language Learners
The U.S. Department of Education and Justice released guidance on January 7, 2015 explaining how school districts can meet their obligations to English learner students. The guidance explains the schools’ obligations to:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in English at:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in other languages at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ellresources.html
To view the entire guidance document, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf
COMMUNICATION NEEDS OF STUDENTS
A fact sheet issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on November 12, 2014, discusses how schools are to meet the communication needs of students. The fact sheet explains that “Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools must, without charge, ensure that communication with students with disabilities is as effective as communication with students without disabilities, giving primary consideration to students and parents in determining which auxiliary aids and services are necessary to provide such effective communication.”
The fact sheet lists these examples of aids and services related to communication:
For a student with a speech disability – word or letter board, writing materials, spelling to communicate, a qualified sign language interpreter, a portable device that writes and/or produces speech, and telecommunication services.
For a student who is deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing – exchange of written materials, interpreters, note takers, real-time computer-aided transcription services, assistive listening systems, accessible electronic and information technology, and open and closed captioning.
For a student who is blind, deaf-blind, or has low vision – qualified readers, taped texts, audio recordings, Braille materials and refreshable Braille displays, accessible e-book readers, screen reader software, magnification software, optical readers, secondary auditory programs, and large print materials.
The fact sheet clarifies that schools are not required to provide aids or services greater than what is needed to ensure effective communication.
Read the fact sheet at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-parent-201411.pdf
Read the Frequently Asked Questions document on this topic at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-faqs-effective-communication-201411.pdf
BULLYING OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter on October 21, 2014 about the persistence of bullying of students with disabilities. The Department also issued letters in 2000, 2010, and 2013. The new letter notes that in recent years, the Office for Civil Rights has received an ever-increasing number of complaints concerning the bullying of students with disabilities and the effects of that bullying on their education, including on the special education and related services to which they are entitled.
The letter emphasizes that the bullying of a student on the basis of his or her disability may result in a disability-based harassment violation under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The letter states that “if a school’s investigation reveals that bullying based on disability created a hostile environment – i.e., the conduct was sufficiently serious to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school – the school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the bullying, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.”
When investigating disability-based harassment, OCR considers several factors, including, but not limited to:
*Was the student with a disability bullied by one or more students based on the student’s disability?
*Did the school know or should have known of the conduct?
*Did the school fail to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the conduct, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects?
When investigating whether a student receiving IDEA FAPE or Section 504 FAPE services who was bullied was denied FAPE under Section 504, OCR considers several factors, including, but not limited to:
*Did the school know or should it have known that the effects of the bullying may have affected the student’s receipt of IDEA FAPE services or Section 504 FAPE services? For example, did the school know or should it have known about adverse changes in the student’s academic performance or behavior indicating that the student may not be receiving FAPE?
*Did the school meet its ongoing obligation to ensure FAPE by promptly determining whether the student’s educational needs were still being met, and if not, making changes, as necessary, to his or her IEP or Section 504 plan?
Read the Dear Colleague Letter at this link: