Thursday, November 06, 2014

Special Education News Roundup

Recent to semi-recent stories from around the country on Sped topics.

From Disability Scoop, a story about the feds looking to nail down best practices to support those with autism from school to job.

The National Institute of Mental Health is doling out $7.9 million in first-year funding for 12 research projects that will assess various models of service delivery for individuals with the developmental disorder at three key stages of life.

At the young end, grants will fund efforts to determine how best to identify kids with autism as early as possible and ensure that such children connect with intervention services, the NIMH said.

Meanwhile, a separate set of projects will focus on individuals preparing to leave high school. Researchers plan to test methods to improve school-based service coordination for students during transition, enhance parent advocacy skills and teach self-regulation and self-determination to those on the spectrum.

A third group of studies will look at techniques to assist adults with autism obtain employment and learn social skills as well as other aspects of independent living.

In my previous thread on enrollment forms for charter schools here in Washington State, I ran across this charter school application for a deaf/hard of hearing school in Spokane. Their charter was not accepted but it's an interesting idea. 

From Truthout, the ugly truth about "restraining" disabled students.  We've talked about this before and, of course, Sped PTA has talked about this a lot but I thought this article worth reprinting. 

Interestingly, the lead to this story mirrors some of the parent comments at last night's Board meeting about why lunch/recess time is so important.

Ask most parents, and they'll probably tell you that they send their children to school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. At the same time, schools have always done more than this, teaching children to mediate conflict, socialize with peers, and demonstrate self-control and discipline.

But what happens if a child is considered out of control?

The result is a roster of horrors: "pinning uncooperative children face down on the floor, or locking them in dark closets and tying them with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords and even duct tape." Yes, it sounds like something out of Dickens, but these tactics are far from unusual. In fact, ProPublica documented 267,000 instances in which kids as young as four were subjected to these tactics in 2012 alone.

How can this happen?

According to a June 2014 report from ProPublica there are no federal limits on the use of physical restraint or isolation rooms for children attending public or charter schools, even if the student is disabled or in need of therapeutic services.

Some states, of course, have given lip service to protecting children from the cavalier use of such measures. Nonetheless, in most places, the standards governing discipline and control are so vague that they offer scant protection from abuse. The federal government is no better, discouraging the use of restraints or isolation "except where there is a threat of imminent danger or serious physical harm to the student or others."

The US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, concedes that students of color and the disabled - the majority of them male - are much more likely than their white peers to be given out-of-school suspensions or be subjected to isolation or restraint. And the disparity starts early. While African-American kids comprise 18 percent of pre-K students nationwide, they receive 48 percent of pre-K suspensions. Yes, you read this correctly: This is happening to 3 and 4-year-olds.

I'll look to SPS Sped parents to update us on what SPS is doing (or not doing).


Mary Griffin said...

I can’t comment in any sort of authoritative way on much at SPS. I am glad that they did not continue on with TIERS as their consultant. I continue to hear from parents that their kids are getting restrained. I continue to hear of transportation and discipline issues. My child seems to be adequately served, aside from serious transportation issues.

On a broader front, the issues concerning restraint and seclusion in this state are serious. The Washington State School Directors put forth a seriously flawed model policy and procedure (3247) in response to new state law, which unfortunately impacted many school districts as they policies were adopted without input from parents. The DOE OCR has an open complaint in the Cheney School District in Washington State regarding the discriminatory policy which singles out the use of restraint an seclusion for students with IEP’s and 504 plans, but has no similar policy for students who do not. SPS did listen to parents and advocates regarding their policy and procedure and made some changes, but more needs to be done. Positive supports that are specified by IDEA are very much on a classroom by classroom basis in SPS, and as a whole the district does not have the will nor has it put into a place any training or standards to support a district-wide approach to positive supports or social-emotional learning. Notably, last month, Supt. Larry Nyland approved a special education procedure 2161P that differs significantly from the WSSDA model policy as well as from other districts which does not call out training for teachers of special education students.

The model policy from WSSDA states:
Personnel Development
In order to provide a staff development program to improve the quality of instructional programs, the following procedures will be employed:
1. Special education concerns will be identified through a staff needs assessment completed by administrators, teachers, educational staff associates, program assistants, parents, and volunteers;
2. Training will be provided annually to all personnel who may be providing aversive interventions under a student’s IEP on an as-needed basis;
3. In-service training schedules will be developed based upon the results of the district assessment and in support of needs identified;
4. Training activities will be conducted for general and special education staff, staff of other agencies and organizations and private school staff providing services for special education student; and
5. Training for classified staff in the state recommended core competencies may occur through district-sponsored activities or through arrangement with the Special Services Supervisor.

The language in the new SPS procedure available on the last page of this pdf: be fair to Larry Nyland, this language regarding professional development is very similar to past SPS language) states only this:

Classified staff will present evidence of skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The District will provide training to classified staff to meet the state recommended core competencies.
Without any further information, a rational person might conclude that the district does not value and certainly does not want to commit to providing appropriate professional development to its staff. A rational person would wonder why the district does this in the face of OSPI sanctions and serious issues of noncompliance. If this is not the case, then who in the legal department is making these recommendations to the Superintendent? And why?

Mary Griffin said...

(Continued from previous post)

On the parent engagement front, it is disheartening to parents that the SEAAC group has been put on hold as well as the Positive Climate and Discipline Advisory Council. A lot of lip service gets paid to family engagement, especially with SpEd claiming that parents are already engaged in so many communities when in fact parent engagement is illusory at best an fraudulent at worst. Yet the district is missing out on the opportunity to receive input on its programs and policies when it refuses to allow such groups to meet.

I remain irrationally hopeful that sometime in the next few years, we will succeed in developing better educational strategies for our most vulnerable learners that will focus more on positive supports and social emotional learning rather than containment and punishment. It is extremely disappointing to me that the district as a whole has not seen fit to make better strides in its disproportionate treatment of students who may be identified as African American or receiving special education services. With a DOE investigation ongoing for the last 2.5 years, a rational person would at least think that they would have the courage to discuss what they could be doing better.

On the national front, it was identified today that Sen Patty Murray may look at giving up her chair of the budget committee, and possibly move to Health Education, and Welfare, as Sen. Tom Harkin did not seek re-election. How this will play out for students with disabilities is of grave concern to me and I hope that the advocacy groups in this state can find a welcome ear in regard to the education and treatment of students with disabilities.

Anonymous said...

@ Mary and blog readers: What should be of more immediate concern to you re: disability funding is what will happen when McCleary collides with our state's post-election Republican caucus.

The huge value of McCleary does have some potential liabilities and I have no doubt that we will be seeing a proposed slashing of disability services as well as other state funded health and human services shortly.


Mary Griffin said...


Well, Jeepers ! I can't comment on everything all at once. The issue of funding for state social services, etc., and specifically disability services aside from education is concerning. I don't have information from anyone, especially from lawmakers, that indicates that they are going to do that, but of course they will if they don't develop any new sources of revenue and they attempt to meet the demands of McCleary.

The state as a whole strikes me as libertarian in values rather than progressive. It's one thing to be for legalizing marijuana and marriage equality. It's another thing to pay for the education of our children or for out state's safety net.

You are absolutely right that we need to be concerned.

Anonymous said...

SPS SPED said...

I don't see funding for IDEA being cut, however more people are asking for greater accountability on IDEA part B spending from states. As for Washington state, SPS has DOE's and DOJ's full attention and are applying maximum pressure.
SPS SPED staff are under the DOE microscope, so much that they now speak like robots!

Currently SPS is only focused on IDEA procedural issues and I would say not making much progress.
It also looks like the schools are back to making unilateral SPED education decisions with SPEd administration only caring that the paper work is in order.

DOE doesn't expect SPS to meet the compliance deadline of June 30th unless there are dramatic improvements in the next 90 days.

The word is SPS is making their excuse list and working on yet getting another extension. If you listen to the comments coming out of SPS they pitifully full of excuses.

Soon we will be in the home stretch of the 2015-15 school year and historically this is when families figure out that SPS is not serving their students.
Hopefully these families will have the courage to file complaints with OSPI.

I expect SPS will be hiring a dozen more lawyers soon.

Melissa Westbrook said...

EdVoter, as parents and taxpayers we need to make it clear to the entire Legislature that pitting public ed against social/health services is a non-starter.

They MUST readjust/create revenue streams. They just don't want to.

I think if 1351 were to pass that double whammy of it and McCleary might make the Legislature finally figure it all out.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary Griffin said...

To anonymous at 11/9/2014 3:08
Please sign your post, or your comment will be deleted.

And while you are at it, please come up with some actual precedent-setting case law decision instead of an administrative law decision from 2008 in West Virginia.

The facts of the matter are that for the most part, teachers can lay on top of students, can lock them in rooms, restrain them in chairs with duct tape, and as long as they are teachers they get away with it under qualified immunity.

Current law in Washington State allows a teacher to restrain or seclude a child for unpredictable behavior. I dare you to name a teacher that has even been prosecuted in Washington State for use of restraint or seclusion and has lost. You can't, because it hasn't happened.

The federal guidelines were developed in response to numerous cases of abuse and death of students with disabilities. They are just guidelines, not laws.

Your hypotheticals are just that, hypotheticals, and your citation of "case law" is very weak.

Meanwhile, hear are some cases from Senator Harkin's report:

In a Minnesota public school, an 8-year-old girl with communication, attentional, and hyperactivity disorders was secluded 44 times in one school year, despite objections from the mother and an independent behavior consultant. • During one incident, the teacher forced the girl into a seclusion room while she was on her way to the bathroom, causing the child to urinate on herself. • Administrative law judge dismissed claim because parent failed to exhaust IDEA’s administrative hearing process when she removed the child to a private school. • Eighth Circuit upheld that decision, effectively ruling that children must remain in the environment where seclusion and restraints are being practiced in order to successfully demonstrate that they are being denied FAPE.

• New York public school • 15-year-old boy with multiple developmental disabilities• Child was repeatedly confined in a padded 5 by 6 foot chamber • Although parents sharply dispute that they ever agreed to the use of such a practice, school records indicated that they had been informed. • District court dismissed most of the parents’ claims, finding qualified immunity, a lack of evidence, and a failure to show that remedies received through the administrative process were inadequate. • Parents transferred child to a private school.

• North Carolina public school • 18 elementary school children with disabilities • Mother of one of the children agreed to restraint only if her 5-year-old daughter became aggressive. • She discovered her daughter strapped to a chair even she was not showing signs of aggression. • Mother believes the girl was restrained over ninety percent of the time at school. • Education’s Office of Civil Rights found multiple violations including incomplete or insufficient IEPs and lack of parental notification. • School district agreed to train its employees on the use of restraints and proper documentation requirements, but did not admit to any improper use of restraints. • Although school developed training, it is no longer compelled to require any of the school personnel to take it.


Mary Griffin said...

Here's a few more cases showing abuse of restraint and seclusion as well as qualified immunity for abusive staff:

• Connecticut public school • Multiple grade-school children with disabilities • Teachers isolated “disruptive” children closet-sized “scream rooms” with concrete walls. • Other children complained of hearing loud noises and cries coming from the rooms. • Building custodians reported having to clean up blood and urine from the floors and walls. • Media coverage prompted various investigations by state agencies and a new state law. The school took corrective actions as a result. • State law still allows schools to use seclusion for any reason. Subsequent to enactment of the state law, a parent told the Committee staff she sent her daughter to private school after a public school repeatedly secluded her daughter in a cell-likeroom.
• Florida public school • 12-year-old boy with developmental disabilities • Teachers restrained the child at least 89 times over the course of 14 months, including 27 face-down restraints. • Parents maintain the school did not notify them about the incidents. • Court dismissed the parents’ case against the school district, in part because it did not find that the school’s actions showed sufficient indifference to the child’s right to an education. • Parents moved child to a private school.
• Georgia “psychoeducational” school • 13-year-old boy with depression and ADHD • After repeatedly being left alone for hours in a room that looked like a prison cell, and stating his intention to harm himself on two separate occasions, the boy committed suicide by hanging himself with a rope that a teacher gave him to hold up his pants. • Parents maintain they were never made aware that their son had made suicidal comments, or even that he was secluded. • Court found that the actions of the school and staff involved did not constitute “deliberate indifference” to the child’s well-being, even though evidence showed they knew he had made previous threats to harm himself. • Media coverage prompted state to ban use of seclusion for allchildren.
• Iowa public school • 8-year-old girl with autism and other disabilities • The child was sent to a converted storage area under a staircase to calm aggression about 100 times between September and December 2005, as many as 5 times in a single day. • At other times, multiple adults forcibly restrained the child to quiet her. • The school district claimed that it had used “established educational principles" to address the child’s disabilities. • An administrative law judge found that as a result of extensive use of seclusion, the school failed to provide the child with FAPE, but the school district was not required to change its policies. • A new state law was subsequently enacted but Iowa still allows seclusion for educational disruptions. Thus, tantrums like the type exhibited by this child might still result in seclusion.
• Louisiana charter school • 7-year-old boy, with PTSD and ADHD • Child was called to principal’s office for an unspecified behavior issue and in response the principal and assistant principal attempted to lock him in closet. • Principal called the police, who held the boy down with excessive force and handcuffed him. • The mother’s claims were dismissed on the grounds of state sovereign immunity and qualified immunity. • Mother transferred child to a different school.