Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 01st, 2013 - Act to Keep All Students Safe

August 01st, 2013 - Act to Keep All Students Safe

[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CAMBRIDGE, MA.]  – Six parents who put a national spotlight on the deadly use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms with students in schools announce a new campaign to highlight federal legislation to end these abusive practices that are  called “torture and abuse” by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. George Miller (D-CA).  The groundbreaking effort includes a call for parents and others to visit federal representatives in their home offices in August to discuss the bill. 

Action to Keep Students Safe is the brainchild of six parent advocates who have encountered physical restraint and seclusion rooms in schools personally or professionally.  They include Sheila Foster, the mother of Corey Foster, the 16 year-old whose 2012 death while being restrained at a Yonkers, NY school made national headlines, and Bill Lichtenstein, whose recent Sunday New York Times expose about the use of a seclusion room with his 5 year old daughter, Rose, in Lexington, MA, attracted a flood of media attention and “helped coalesce a national effort to end these practices and promote positive behavior interventions in schools” according to a recent honor from the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism. 

The other parents in the campaign include Scott Bryant-Comstock, CEO and President of the Children's Mental Health Network; and leading child advocates Ellen Chambers, founder of SPEDWatch, a civil rights and advocacy organization, Amy Peterson, an advocate and writer, and Debra Pacheco, whose granddaughter was subjected to restraint and seclusion for years without the school providing notice. 

“No parent should send their child to school and have them not come home,” said Sheila Foster, whose heart-wrenching story involving the death of her son Corey has been featured on ABC News Nightline; Anderson Cooper Live and the New York Times. 

Action to Keep Students Safe is focusing on the federal Keeping All Students Safe Act(HR 1893), introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), which would limit the use of physical restraint and seclusion rooms with students unless required in an emergency to keep a child or others safe.  The Act would require schools to notify parents promptly if a child was restrained or secluded, something that does not often happen currently, and would ban dangerous mechanical and chemical restraints, and restraints that impede breathing.  

“Without Congressional action, children will continue to suffer from these abusive practices.  This legislation would make practices such as duct-taping children to chairs or restricting a child's breathing illegal.  It makes it very clear that there is no room for torture and abuse in America's schools,” said Congressman Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, upon re-introducing the bill on the House floor in May 2013.

The campaign will give voice to parents, many of whom have reported being retaliated against for speaking out about the use of these practices in schools, a matter currently being followed by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Dept. of Education. The group has designated August as Action to Keep Students Safe Month, and is calling on parents, advocates and the public to visit their congressional representatives as they return to their home states and offices for summer recess. The group is providing a one-page informational sheet to bring to meetings at the representatives' local offices, and will post photos and notes from constituents visiting their local congressional offices on its website.

Action to Keep Students Safe offers a website located at, an e-newsletter, is developing an educational outreach video and PSAs, and has an online directory of the phone numbers and email addresses of federal representatives and senators to contact regarding the legislation.  A Back to School Awareness Rally is being planned for September 9, 2013 at the Leake & Watts School in Yonkers, NY, where Corey Foster died after being restrained in April 2012. 

“There's one message we have for parents, students, educators and all who are interested in keeping our kids safe,” said Bill Lichtenstein.  “Pick up your phone now, call your representative and senators and let them know how you strongly you feel about the need for the Keeping All Students Safe Act.”  

The campaign comes at a crucial time as reports of abuse and neglect of students through restraint and seclusion have flooded the media in recent months in the wake of Lichtenstein’s New York Times article and media appearances by Sheila Foster.  These reports of mistreatment and abuse by restraint and seclusion bolster the efforts by Representative Miller and Senator Thomas Harkin (D-IA) to end the improper use of these practices through federal legislation.  

A 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed thousands of school children have been secluded and restrained, and that these practices were used disproportionately with students who had special needs and children of color.  The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights found more than 20 deaths resulting from these practices.  Often parents were not notified, and teachers and staff were not trained in the proper use of restraints.  Currently, 20 states require no parental notification and 19 states have no laws or regulations related to the use of seclusion or restraints in schools.

Dr. Joe Ryan, a researcher at Clemson University and advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, is assisting the campaign by helping create detailed information on research-based, best-practice positive interventions that schools can use to work with students while keeping them safe.

“There's been no way for parents to connect with others about this issue nationally,” Lichtenstein said. “Our goal is to create a national dialog and to give parents a voice. There's no reason these practices should be used the way they are now, and the time has come to stop using them.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lee's Summit Autism: SSI and Disability

Lee's Summit Autism: SSI and Disability

I have a disability attorney and a retired Social Security Judge that would be willing to speak to a group about SSI and disability. I would be glad to host this event, but I need to know that someone is going to show up. Please let me know if you would be interested in this.a

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Report: Autistic Child Abused at Stone Mountain School - Schools - Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch

Report: Autistic Child Abused at Stone Mountain School - Schools - Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch

A father from Stone Mountain is furious at educators who allegedly abused his 14-year-old autistic son and then tried to cover it up. 
John Malone said his son Wesley, who cannot speak, was terrorized by a teachers in May at Stone Mountain Middle School while an observer monitored the class. The abuse allegation was passed on to the school district which then failed to respond appropriately, according to CBS.  
The district failed to report the alleged abuse to police for a whole month, Malone said. "I'm irate about it because not only is my son not receiving a fair shake, all the other kids with special needs won't get a fair shake either," he said.
A paraprofessional from the school has been forced to resign and a teacher may be fired for allegedly slamming a broomstick against a wall repeatedly in order to get Wesley's attention.
An investigating officer later issued "a vague and inaccurate incident report," Malone said. "I think there's been a complete cover-up to protect the DeKalb County School system. Arrests should have already been made." 
Jeff Dickerson, spokesman for the DeKalb County School District, said both educators have been disciplined and the Department of Family and Children Services has been notified.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do High Pensions for Superintendents Encourage Status Quo? - District Dossier - Education Week

Do High Pensions for Superintendents Encourage Status Quo? - District Dossier - Education Week

Do High Pensions for Superintendents Encourage Status Quo?

In St. Louis, more than 10 percent of operating costs go to pensions. Chicago's school district leaders cited high teachers' pension costs as one of the reasons behind their most recent round of teacher layoffs. And, of course, public-sector pensions are one of the major factors in Detroit's historic bankruptcy.
Most of the conversation about doomed pension plans in the education world has focused on teachers' pensions. But what about superintendents and administrators? Education Nextrecently published an article examining how school and district administrators' pensions play into this picture—and why those leaders have very little personal incentive to reform the pension system.
Superintendents and principals are generally enrolled in the same pension programs as teachers, Education Next reports, but, since they're receiving higher pay at the end of their careers, they draw significantly more in pension than the average teacher. "Promoted individuals, who have large late-career salary increases, benefit disproportionately from a formula that determines the value of the annuity based on the highest few years of earnings," write Cory Koedel, Shawn Ni, and Michael Podgursky, all in the economics department at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in an analysis of data from Missouri educators' pension system.
In Missouri, superintendents' expected benefits are 89 percent higher than teachers', and their average contribution is just 53 percent higher. The authors suggest that a system that prioritizes early-career take-home pay instead of pensions might attract more talent to the profession.
Whether or not you agree with the authors' conclusion that administrators are "on the same side of the table" as labor in terms of reconsidering pension programs, it's interesting to see this particular facet of the pension issue in the spotlight. Pension programs in other states may look different than in Missouri, and in charter schools, most teachers and administrators don't have traditional pension programs at all.
Another point from the piece: Pensions systems are designed to reward those who stick around, but to eventually encourage them to retire. Superintendents and principals, like teachers, are likely to retire around 55 or 56, the article reports.
One question this raised in this reporter's mind: Could this incentive to retire at a (relatively) early age be related to why there's so much churn at the top of districts? Are superintendents simply encouraged by their retirement plans to retire once they've hit a certain point in their careers?

Education Week: Duncan Reluctant to Tweak Accountability-System Oversight

Education Week: Duncan Reluctant to Tweak Accountability-System Oversight

Secretary responds to Indiana grade-change flap

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees no need to step up the federal role in oversight of new accountability systems that are part of his department’s No Child Left Behind Act waiver program, even in the wake of a school-grading flap that last week cost Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett his job.
In a wide-ranging interview with Education Week last week, Mr. Duncan did not defend Mr. Bennett—embroiled in a controversy stemming from his previous job as Indiana state schools chief—or Mr. Bennett’s actions. Nor did Mr. Duncan say there’s a reason at this point for federal officials to investigate what happened in the Hoosier State, which involved a grading system at the heart of its NCLB waiver agreement.
Instead, the secretary said, it’s important that those systems be developed and implemented transparently. And in the case of Indiana, given that the grading-system changes were exposed in the media, transparency prevailed, he said in the Aug. 1 interview.In a wide-ranging interview with Education Week last week, Mr. Duncan did not defend Mr. Bennett—embroiled in a controversy stemming from his previous job as Indiana state schools chief—or Mr. Bennett’s actions. Nor did Mr. Duncan say there’s a reason at this point for federal officials to investigate what happened in the Hoosier State, which involved a grading system at the heart of its NCLB waiver agreement.
“I’m not worried. See what happens when someone messes up?” Mr. Duncan said, adding that he doesn’t know if Mr. Bennett did anything wrong. “You need maximum transparency, and if anyone’s looking to do something silly, the costs on their lives and careers is profound.”
The Indiana changes came to light after the Associated Press obtained internal state education department emails from last fall.
Indiana is one of 39 states plus the District of Columbia with federal waivers allowing them considerable flexibility to design their own school accountability systems and freedom from many of the constraints of the NCLB law as written in 2001.
Mr. Duncan said that all the facts of the Indiana situation will come out soon enough.
“I think the facts will emerge, and we’ll look at them,” he said.

Waiver Renewals Loom

Even as states continue to work out the kinks in their waiver systems, it’s almost time for those state-federal agreements to be renewed. Federal approval of the waiver plans expire as early as the end of the 2013-14 school year. But Mr. Duncan wouldn’t offer any details about what a renewal process might look like.
“It’s early. We’re starting to think about it; we’d love to figure out if reauthorization has a shot in a bipartisan way,” he said.
By reauthorization, Mr. Duncan meant a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose current version is the NCLB law. While there are bills moving in both chambers of Congress to revamp the outdated law, Mr. Duncan has not been out front as a strong advocate for renewal, as he’s been on other issues, such as President Barack Obama’s proposal to greatly expand access to preschool.
“You want to spend time where people are serious,” said Mr. Duncan, explaining that he doesn’t view the House Republican version of an ESEA reauthorization, approved last month on a party-line vote, as “serious” in a bipartisan way. “I want to spend time where there’s a chance to get things done.”
Even though Mr. Duncan has not been making many public appearances in support of President Obama’s preschool initiative, no bill has yet been introduced, nor is there an appetite in Congress to raise taxes to support public programs. But Mr. Duncan sharply rejects the view that preschool legislation is a lost cause.
“Totally disagree. Why is this not a wild goose chase? Because there is such extraordinary bipartisan investment and support across the country that we’re seeing from governors, Republican and Democrat,” he said. “And while it is not public yet, we have had many, many conversations with Republican leaders in the House and Senate that are frankly encouraging.”
Mr. Duncan said preschool is one of the most important policy initiatives he wants to accomplish in Mr. Obama’s second term.
“You have 3½ years to think about what are the big things you want to get done, and the fact that today so few children in this country have access to high-quality early-childhood education, the fact that so many start kindergarten so far behind, the fact that so many never catch up, to me is morally unacceptable, ” he said.

District Agreements?

Mr. Duncan wouldn’t talk much about the tailor-made waiver that nine California districts are seeking in order to get out from under provisions of the NCLB law just as states have done. That would be a first-of-its-kind waiver and would upend the traditional relationship districts have with states. With the beginning of school just a couple of weeks away, those school districts—which cover about 1 million students and include Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Fresno—are anxious for an answer.
But Mr. Duncan gave no clues about whether he would go forward with granting such a waiver, except to say his staff hasn’t presented him with a proposal to consider.
“Our teams have been working hard,” he said. “At some point, staff will bring a recommendation to me; we’re not at that point yet.”

Davie Teacher Charged With Abusing Disabled Student - Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach - News - The Daily Pulp

Davie Teacher Charged With Abusing Disabled Student - Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach - News - The Daily Pulp

Deborah Tersigni, a 44-year-old Davie school teacher, has been charged with child abuse after she allegedly restrained an 8-year-old intellectually and physically handicapped student.
She also reportedly sat on top of the student, a Broward County School Police report says.
Police say the incident occurred in January at Silver Ridge Elementary School.
Tersigni allegedly grabbed the boy from his chair and forced his hands behind his back, then put him face-down on the floor.
She then sat on top of his back, which made it difficult for the boy to breathe.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the boy weighs 30 pounds, while Tersigni weighs 155 pounds.
Records show that Tersigni has been with the district for close to a decade.
Silver Ridge Elementary says she was reassigned in January after the incident while the investigation is ongoing.

Tersigni was taken into custody on Friday.

Former Antioch teacher charged with physically abusing young autistic students - Inside Bay Area

Former Antioch teacher charged with physically abusing young autistic students - Inside Bay Area

PITTSBURG -- A former Antioch special education teacher accused of physically abusing her young autistic students at Mno Grant Elementary School was arraigned Tuesday on six felony counts of child abuse.
Theresa Allen-Caulboy turned herself in Tuesday at the Pittsburg courthouse, complying with a $600,000 warrant for her arrest that was issued last week when the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office filed charges alleging six victims -- boys and girls ages 5, 6 and 7 -- were abused between October 2012 and Jan. 30, 2013.
Allen-Caulboy, 55, of Brentwood, resigned from the Antioch Unified School District in February, a month after parents reported her to police and she was placed on administrative leave.
At a bail hearing Tuesday, prosecutor Melissa Smith said Allen-Caulboy "preyed" on vulnerable children, some of whom are nonverbal, and that there is "nothing to indicate that something prompted her to act out this way."
Less than six months after she started teaching at the school, other district employees began witnessing Allen-Caulboy commit abusive acts, including kneeing a child in the chest, pinching a child's nipples, backhanded slaps, pinning children to the ground and forcing students to "eat boogers," according to Smith. Allen-Caulboy allegedly threatened a school aide that anyone who reported her conduct was "going to get sued," Smith said.
Prosecutors would not say whether there are charges pending against any school district employees who allegedly witnessed or received complaints from parents but did not go to police as mandated by law, before parents sparked the police investigation in January.
"All aspects of this case are still being investigated," said senior Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Grossman described Allen-Caulboy as a "thoughtful, compassionate, hardworking, caring and sensitive human being" who received no prior complaints in her 11 years of teaching.
The defendant was accompanied to court with her family and a former colleague at John Muir Elementary School in Antioch, where Allen-Caulboy taught autistic students in 2011.
"This is a person who very much wants to address these charges," Grossman told the judge, later adding, "I have a lot to say about whether (the DA) will prevail on these counts."
Judge Nancy Davis Stark ordered Allen-Caulboy to electronic house arrest until she can post a $200,000 property bond. The judge further ordered Allen-Caulboy not to teach or care for any minors and issued a restraining order barring any contact with the alleged victims and witnesses in the case.
Allen-Caulboy is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 12 to post bond and enter her plea to the charges.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jake's SSI

We had a hearing before a judge and he denied Jake’s SSI.  Below is part of his report.

The claimant has the following severe impairments: autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Per report, the claimant was, at various points in his childhood, diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, and autistic disorder.

In early 2009, Tracy Orchester conducted an EXTENSIVE psychological evaluation and diagnosed him with autistic disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  She spent many hours with and came to know him.

The claimant was referred to Susan Barngrover, Ph.D., who conducted a FIFTEEN MINUTE examination of his mental status and ability to manage funds.  Based on the claimant’s performance of relatively high functioning, Dr. Barngrover’s diagnostic impression was that the claimant had “long-standing Asperger rather than full blown autism”.  This despite the fact that Dr. Orchester’s report stated that it might appear that Jake has Asperger syndrome, but in fact he has autism.  His PCP stated in his report that the claimant has full syndrome of autism.  Children’s Mercy also conducted an evaluation and found that he did not have Asperger’s Syndrome, but in fact was autistic.  The only person that concluded that he had Asperger’s Syndrome was the person that only spent FIFTEEN MINUTES with him. 

Throughout the hearing, the claimant gave thoughtful, well-considered responses and testimony.  The claimant did not display any discernible lack of social graces.  On the contrary, the claimant tended to demonstrate better than average social poise and communicative skills.  The claimant’s testimony also appeared to be exceptionally straightforward, candid, and unexaggerated. 

Dr. Orchester emphasized that she could “not make any kind of evaluation off his current abilities or limitations.”  Based on notes that she took in 2009, Dr. Orchester opined that the claimant, when he was 15 years old had marked limitations with interacting with other people and with performing at a reasonable pace and moderate limitations in handling simple instructions and making simple work-related decisions. 

The Vineland II scores were quite low.  However, the Vineland scale does not involve the testing of the claimant, but is based upon the subjective responses of claimant’s parents.  Dr. Barngrover’s diagnostic impression and the claimant’s responsive testimony demonstrated a much higher level of social functioning. 

The vocational expert testified that given all of these factors the individual would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as:  stubber of which about 1,800 jobs exist in Missouri and library age of which about 1,000 jobs exist in Missouri. 

Sherri R. Tucker
Cofounder and President Lee's Summit Autism Support Group
Cofounder MOAFAA (Missouri Advocates for Families Affected by Autism)
In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.”
-Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
“It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.”― Carl T. Rowan

Risk factors for bullying among children with autism ... [Autism. 2013] - PubMed - NCBI

Risk factors for bullying among children with autism ... [Autism. 2013] - PubMed - NCBI

Risk factors for bullying among children with autism spectrum disorders.


1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.


Although children with disabilities have been found to be at an increased risk of bullying, there are limited studies investigating predictors of bullying involvement in children with autism spectrum disorders. The current study presents findings from 1221 parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who were selected from a national web-based registry. Parents completed a survey dedicated to the school and bullying experiences of their child, and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify child and school risk factors for involvement as victim, bully, or bully-victim. Additional analyses examined the risk of bullying involvement based on the amount of time spent in general education classrooms. Children diagnosed with Asperger's disorder, attending a public school or a school with a general education population, were at the greatest risk of being victimized in the past month. Children with comorbid conditions and a high level of autistic traits were the most likely to be victims, bullies, and bully-victims. Finally, children in full inclusion classrooms were more likely to be victimized than those who spend the majority of their time in special education settin

Autism as a death sentence - LA Daily News

Autism as a death sentence - LA Daily News

By Jonathan Dobrer
Should Paul Corby be allowed to die because he has autism? This is the simple question before the doctors at University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Their answer was: Yes. He does not warrant being saved by a heart transplant.

Let me disclose at the outset that I am not an objective reporter here. I worked with autistic children in the early 60s, I have a grandson with Asperger's Syndrome and my stepbrother lived a good and full life for nearly a decade and a half following a heart transplant. I take this case and the larger issues very personally.

While it is true that over 300 people die each year waiting for a heart transplant, Paul's autism is keeping him from even being wait-listed. Now to be fair (which I plan on being for a little while longer) heart transplants are not easy and patients do need to participate in their rehabilitation and ongoing care. Routinely people with major psychiatric or medical issues are turned down -- as are substance abusers. Since Corby has no other medical conditions and the substances he is on consist of 19 medicines prescribed to keep him alive, why he is being declined is
not clear, other than for his autism.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said, "The physicians involved believe that any discussion of the specifics of his case would be most unkind to him and therefore will not comment."

This is a phrase of such cruel and ironic bureaucrat-ese that it defies parody. Disclosing the reasons for allowing him to die would be "unkind" but allowing him to die is, well, what: Kindness itself?

Yes, Paul is quirky and geeky. He plays video games, has written one self-published novel and is working on another. He seems to have a mental and intellectual quality of life worthy of continuing. As a person with autism, he has developmental issues and is not always socially appropriate, according to our normal rules. None of his behaviors seems to warrant the death penalty, which is exactly what the University of Pennsylvania Hospital is imposing by its refusal to treat.

There is, of course, a larger social issue here. Who is worthy of living and dying? Do we "waste" medical services when they are given to people who are different by dint of some handicap or developmental issue? Do we want to rule out autism spectrum people and lose a potential Mozart, Einstein, probably Thomas Jefferson and certainly Temple Grandin? Do we want to have real "death panels" and come up with intellectual and emotional criteria for who shall live and who shall die? Do we want to take the chance of passive death panels that say your life is not worth saving becoming active death panels as happened when the Eugenics Movement of the 1920s devolved under the Nazis into the extermination of those not considered normal?

There are no guarantees with heart transplants. Some will survive surgery and go on to good lives, as my stepbrother did. Some will return to self-destructive life-styles. Some will be bad people and others wonderful and creative contributors to society. We have neither the tools nor the right to try to guess at the outcome of any individual life.

I hope the hospital finds that it, in the end, has a heart. And I mean this in both senses.