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Archive for June, 2010

Districts strain to serve students with multiple, severe disabilities

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

From the New York Times:

School districts across the country are struggling to meet the needs of students who were once predominately isolated in institutions. Among the hard questions districts face:

  • How can schools balance instruction in functional skills and academics for students with severe disabilities, even as they are providing custodial care?
  • Is inclusion really helping these students?
  • How can schools measure progress reliably for these students?

The Times highlights the story of Donovan Forde, 20, who has cognitive disabilities brought on by a traumatic brain injury that occurred when he was hit by a car as an infant. After 15 years in the New York City school system, his mother says, Forde is more social but has made almost no other progress. He is not able to walk, speak or feed himself, and has not achieved most of the goals set out in his education plan. When not in school, Forde lives in a nursing facility on Roosevelt Island and receives services that are paid by Medicaid.

An excerpt:

Because they need intensive interventions, students like Donovan do not fit neatly into the paradigm for special education that has prevailed in the United States for more than a decade: inclusion. Congress ranks each state for its success in moving special education children into general education classrooms, addressing a core concern in the field – that too many children are not getting access to the regular curriculum.

But whether Donovan is best served in an academic-focused classroom is an uncomfortable question for many educators, because few better options are available, and inclusion “indicates a level of hope for parents, and the absence of hope is deadly,” said David Rose, the founder of CAST, a national organization that works to expand learning opportunities for students with disabilities.

“It’s an awkward period,” Mr. Rose said, in talking about the education of children with the most severe cognitive disabilities. “Because we know what we are doing is not right, and we often don’t talk about things when we don’t know what we are doing about them yet.”

2 states get federal OK to cut special ed funding

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

From Education Week:

At least two states have received federal permission to cut back on the money they spend on special education, and officials at the U.S. Department of Education are considering a request from a third.

Iowa and Kansas have both won permission for the funding cuts, which can be granted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when states are struggling financially. South Carolina’s request is pending.

Special education advocates say this is the first time they’re aware that such economic hardship waivers have been granted. With states facing record budget shortfalls and soaring special education costs, one education finance expert said, more waiver requests may be coming.

More information here.

Related post here.

City to drivers with disabilities: Pay up

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

From NBC Washington:

Officials in Alexandria, Virginia, have decided the city can no longer afford to offer free metered parking to drivers using disabled parking placards. The change, which goes into effect in September, is expected to generate $133,000 in revenue for the city in its first year alone.

City officials say the switch is designed to combat parking fraud, as well as to respond to gripes by consumers without disabilities. Critics say the city should step up enforcement, not penalize legitimate placard holders.

“We get complaints: Why is this segment of the public actually parking at no cost, and that cost is then being borne, then, by the general user of parking within the right of way?” said Richard Baier, Director of Alexandria’s Transportation and Environmental Services.

Related posts here.

Parents of student with DS seek removal of school textbook

Friday, June 11th, 2010

From the Brockton, Mass., Enterprise News:

The parents of a seventh grade student with Down syndrome are trying to get their Massachusetts school district to stop using a science textbook with language they consider offensive.

The book, a standard seventh-grade science text in Bridgewater Middle School,  uses the term “mental retardation” and characterizes Down syndrome as a genetic “error.” Parents Tom and Pauline Lewis said they fear the book’s language could encourage bullying of their son and other children with Down syndrome. Tom Lewis is a special education teacher in Boston.

A district committee declined the Lewis’ request that the text be removed from the classroom, and suggested instead that teachers “create lessons for ‘teachable moments’ when the term ‘mental retardation’ arises.” The family has appealed.

Related stories:

CA appeals court limits insulin injections in schools

Friday, June 11th, 2010

From the Sacramento BeeSan Francisco Chronicle, and the Central Valley [CA] Business Times:

The California Third District Court of Appeal has struck down a state regulation that had allowed trained school personnel — not just school nurses — to administer insulin shots to students with diabetes.

The 2007 regulation had been adopted after parents argued that a shortage of school nurses meant kids with diabetes were in jeopardy of being deprived of a free and appropriate public education unless parents were prepared to come to school throughout the school day to administer injections.

The regulation was challenged by organizations representing school nurses. The American Diabetes Association and California Department of Education argued for keeping the regulation.

Related story from KING5-TV, Seattle:  Nurse shortage pushes students with diabetes into one school; Parents cry foul

A Washington state school district has clustered medically fragile kids in one elementary school, claiming that the students would be served most safely and economically in one location. Most of the relocated students have diabetes.

Parents and advocates complain that consolidating nurses and relocating students with disabilities amounts to a violation of the children’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has the effect of separating them from their peers.

“Really, this idea of segregating kids with diabetes isn’t sustainable,” said Scott Heinze, a board member with the American Diabetes Association. He says moving all medically fragile children to the same school sends the wrong message to kids with a manageable illness.

“This idea that we would take young people and segregate them because of the standard of care that they need to manage their disease essentially ostracizes these kids,” said Heinze.

Legal cases challenging similar practices have been launched in at least seven states.

Related posts here and here.

LA schools chief defends remark about special ed, ‘regular kids’

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, school superintendent Ramon C Cortines defends his recent statement that special education funding takes services away from “regular kids.” The comment came in an article about plans by the Los Angeles Unified School district to close 200 special education classrooms.

An excerpt from Cortines’ letter:

… if legislation refers to students as “special” and refers to other students outside this population as “regular,” I believe that my word usage was proper.

I do not discriminate. My record supports this.

Earlier posts here and here.

Reporters find 250 cases of abuse in Texas facilities

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A records review by the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune has disclosed that workers at a center for distressed children provoked seven girls with developmental disabilities to fight as staffers laughed and cheered.

The 2008 incident, one of more than 250 recent cases of abuse and mistreatment in state residential treatment centers that were uncovered by reporters, caused bites and bruises but drew no public outcry or criminal indictments.

Reporters reviewed cases that had been documented by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services but not previously disclosed. Among the records, they found documentation that residential treatment center workers had choked and punched residents, that residents were forced to strip down to their underwear, and that staff members and a staffer’s relative had engaged in sexual acts with residents. The centers are paid by the state to provide care. All of them remain in operation today.

“Why I’m outraged is, the department hid this from us,” said state Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs. “This is another example of us having to find out about systemic failures through the press, as opposed to proactively from the department.”

Not long after the incident at Daystar Residential Inc. in Manvel, Texas police stumbled on to cell phone videos of workers at a Corpus Christi institution forcing fights between male residents with intellectual disabilities. That case prompted public outrage, criminal convictions for six workers, and enhanced security measures at state institutions.

Earlier posts here.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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