Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Democrats call on Missouri education commissioner to resign UPDATED with DESE reaction - KansasCity.com

Democrats call on Missouri education commissioner to resign UPDATED with DESE reaction - KansasCity.com

Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota has called on Missouri Education commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign.

In a statement, also signed by St. Rep.Genise Montecillo, he said:
“Dr. Chris Nicastro has demonstrated a troubling tendency to abuse power. The recent revelations concerning her involvement in overruling Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff to secure a more favorable cost estimate for a ballot measure being proposed by a special interest group is just the latest example...
“We believe the faith that Missourians once had in DESE has been shattered.”
LeVota and Montecillo are Democrats.
Nicastro has been accused of working with well-known conservative activistRex Sinquefield on a ballot measure related to education.
This, from Peter Herschend, president of the Missouri State Board of Education:
“Commissioner Nicastro’s review of this petition was nothing out of the ordinary. Department staff performed routine consultation on this measure just as when staff consulted on charter school legislation with Rep. Montecillo during the 2013 session.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/26/4651393/democrats-call-on-missouri-education.html#storylink=cp

Can the School Expel My Son? - Wrightslaw

Can the School Expel My Son? - Wrightslaw

"Our son is almost 16 years old and is still in the 8th grade. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. Recently, he was evaluated by a psychologist who found that he has serious learning disabilities. He takes medication and sees a psychologist."

"The school is aware of his diagnosis but have never offered any help."

"Our son has been suspended several times this year - recently, he was suspended for 10 days. The school sent us a letter that they plan to expel him for the rest of the year."
"What did he do wrong? He did not fight or sell drugs. He went home after school with a friend in a car without getting permission first." 

"We have always supported the school but this isn't right. He is so far behind and feels so hopeless about school - if they expel him, I'm afraid he will drop out."

Can the school expel our son for this offense? Are they just trying to get rid of him? What should we do next?"

You say the school is aware that your son has ADHD and learning disabilities. He has long-standing academic problems. The school has retained him. Despite evidence that he has a disability that is adversely affecting his educational performance, the school has not offered to evaluate him nor have they provided any special education services. 

After suspending him several times, they decided to expel him. His "offense" is not related to weapons or drugs. He isn’t a danger to himself or others. You ask, “Can they do this?”

Yes, they can do this if you, the child's parents, don’t know his right and your rights or don’t know how to assert your rights. If the school has not evaluated your son or found him eligible for special education, it’s unlikely that you know these rights.

Here are some general suggestions about how to proceed. 

Get Your Emotions Under Control

Read our article, Emergency! Crisis! Help! In this article, you will learn what to do (and not do) when you are in the middle of a crisis, and how to make short-term and long-term plans.

Consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about special education issues
An attorney can help you decide how to proceed, given the law in your state or jurisdiction.

How to Find an Educational Consultant, Advocate, Attorney offers strategies to find an advocate or attorney who represents children with disabilities.

For a list of parent attorneys, visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for your state and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates website.

Talk to your son’s psychiatrist and psychologist.

To deal with the school, you need help from outside experts who know your son. Because the school retained your son and did not provide him with special education services, he has fallen far behind his peers. To master the necessary skills to succeed in life, he will need intensive educational help. What are his educational needs? How can these needs be met? 

Write a letter to the school advising them that you do not agree to the expulsion

Use the letter you sent to us as the basis for your letter. Describe the problem and your concerns about your son. In your letter, do not point fingers or blame the school overtly. More advice about letter writing and sample letters.
Learn about your son's and your parental rights and responsibilities.

Here is some general information to help you get started. 
* Read the discipline section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Discipline is in Section 1415(k).
Our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, includes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, all implementing regulations, and decisions issued by the U. S. Supreme Court in special education cases.

* Read Frequently Asked Questions About Discipline from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
* Read the decision in Community School District No. 93 v. John F. - this case has similarities to your son's situation. Decision in PDFDecision in MS Word
Learn how to be an effective advocate for your son.

Our Advocacy page includes dozens of articles that will help, including:
Advocating for Your Child - Getting Started. Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools.
From Emotions  to Advocacy - The Parents Journey - Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head. 

Discipline of Children with Special Needs by William B. Reichhardt, Esq. - Wrightslaw

Discipline of Children with Special Needs by William B. Reichhardt, Esq. - Wrightslaw

Note: Bill Reichhardt presented this program about discipline of students under IDEA or Section 504 at the 2013 Institute of Special Education Advocacy.
Our starting point is children who have been identified as having a disability under IDEA or Section 504.
Students who have not yet been determined eligible under IDEA prior to the misconduct may invoke the procedural and due process protections if it is later determined that they were eligible at the time of the misconduct.
The school is deemed to have knowledge of a child’s disability if:
  • The parent has expressed written concern that the child may need special education services.
  • The school notes pattern of behavior or performance that indicates a need for special education services.
  • The parent has requested an evaluation for eligibility for special education services.
Short and Long term Suspensions
  • Short term suspension – up to 10 consecutive school days or 10 cumulative school days in a year.
  • Long term suspension – more than 10 consecutive school days.
  • Expulsion: 365 days.
Ten Day Rule
  • A special education student can be removed to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting for not more than 10 consecutive dayswithout this removal being considered a change of placement.
  • Be aware of patterns of short-term removals that act as placement changes. May be called something different – a placement that is not his placement in the IEP.
Continuation of Services
This is an area of law that continues to cause confusion. Some schools believe they don’t need to provide any instruction while the child is suspended or expelled. Or schools believe that because he’s suspended, they can change placement.
School districts must continue to provide educational services for special education students who have been suspended for more than 10 days or have been expelled.
What is a Change of Placement?
A change of placement occurs when:
– child has been removed from more than 10 consecutive school days; or
– the child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern -
  • Series of removals total more than 10 school days in the school year
  • The child’s behavior is substantially similar to previous incidents of removal
  • Consider total amount of time/proximity of removals
In-School Suspensions
In school suspension may not be considered a change of placement triggering due process if:
– The student is afforded opportunity to progress in the general curriculum
– the school continues to provide services under the IEP
– student continues to participate with nondisabled students to the same degree
Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)
  • If the child is faced with expulsion or long term suspension (over 10 days), the school must determine whether the behavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability.
  • If a manifestation, the disciplinary suspension must end and the behavior must be addressed through the IEP process
  • MDR must be done within 10 days from the date of the suspension/expulsion decision (removal of the child from the placement)
  • MDR is done by the IEP team
Special Circumstances when a MDR is not Required
The student may be removed to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days without a MDR if:
– The student is in possession of a weapon at school, on school premises or at a school activity.
– The student knowingly possesses, uses, sells or distributes illegal drugs while at school or school functions.
– The student has inflicted serious bodily injury on another person at school or on school premises.
Criteria for the MDR
The behavior for which the child is being disciplined was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability, and /or
The behavior was the direct result of the schools failure to implement the IEP.
If the Behavior is a Manifestation of the Child’s Disability:
  • The school must either – conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement a behavior intervention plan (BIP) or
  • If a BIP has already been developed, review the plan and modify as needed.
If the Behavior is not a Manifestation of the Students Disability
If the behavior was not a manifestation of the students disability, the student is subject to the same discipline for misconduct as children without a disability – however, the student must continue to receive education services to allow the child to progress under the IEP.
Preparing for the MDR: Marshalling the Evidence
  • Quickly obtain the discipline packet from the school – incident report, student’s statement, witness statements, teacher summaries etc. (ask about video tape).
  • Review all current evaluation material for the student (school /private testing); prior FBAs, BIPs
  • Identify potential experts – therapists, physicians etc. – get releases
Basics of Defending the MDR
  • Have a thorough understanding of the nature and scope of the student’s disability.
  • See how the school has previously described the manifestation of the student’s disability- in the IEP, FBA, BIP.
  • Objectively assess the defense of the MDR. Do not stretch credibility.
Preparing Expert Input for the MDR
  • Experts such as a child’s therapist or physician should have a clear understanding of the criteria for the MDR.
  • Give experts a copy of the incident report and student statement(s).
  • In giving written or verbal input, expert should reference specific facts of the incident and link to the child’s disability using the MDR criteria.
MDR Tactics from the Trenches
1. If you need more time to gather existing relevant evidence, offer to do a written waiver of the 10 day rule.
2. If refused, offer the waiver in writing and cite the reason. This could help you on appeal.
3. If your experts are helpful, get releases for them to speak to the school about the MDR criteria, in addition to written submissions.
4. If you have a good defense,  turn the MDR into a collaborative problem solving effort. Focus on “ direct substantial relationship.”
5. Prepare your response to the “intentional misconduct” argument by school personnel who “don’t believe in special ed.”
Behavior Intervention Plans
Should be written and should describe specific positive behavioral interventions.
Are used to help a student with behavioral problems function in the least restrictive environment.
Should be made part of the student’s IEP (but not required).
Expedited Due Process Hearing
Parent may request if:
  • Contest “non causal” MDR finding
  • Disciplinary placement decision
School may request if child is dangerous in current setting.
Common Appeal Issues in Discipline Cases
  • Findings and Procedures in the Manifestation Determination Review (MDR).
  • Denial of FAPE by extended homebound exclusion without adequate services.
  • Failure to provide FAPE in an alternative learning environment.

School Learns Lessons After "Scream Room" Investigation | NBC Connecticut

School Learns Lessons After "Scream Room" Investigation | NBC Connecticut

A year and a half after a “scream” room investigation at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, the Superintendent of Schools said the staff has been completely retrained, and school policies reevaluated.
Dr. Patricia Charles said educators at Farm Hill have been working with the State Department of Education to learn how to deescalate a child’s behavior before resorting to seclusion, a process in which children are placed in empty rooms and monitored by an adult until the child calms down.
“We do still have the rooms at Farm Hill School,” said Dr. Charles, who was hired after the allegations first came to light.
In 2012, Farm Hill School parents complained of children coming home and describing screaming students being dragged into seclusion rooms in the school. Investigations by the State Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and Office of the Child Advocate concluded that staff were not notifying parents regularly when a child was placed in the room.
The investigation found huge holes in state-mandated documentation of the use of the rooms. The investigations also revealed that of the 15 children placed in seclusion that school year, only four had individualized educational programs in which parents were aware of the use of that technique.
A federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is ongoing.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, the State wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, and so together, through their guidance, we've been able to put together a good plan so we don't end up with those same issues again,” Dr. Charles said.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Missing Visalia teenager with autism found dead | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com

Missing Visalia teenager with autism found dead | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com

A 14-year-old boy with autism who had been reported missing Monday after he didn’t show up to Valley Oak Middle School was found dead, according to Visalia police reports.
Dameian “Luke” Gulley was last seen walking to school around 6:30 a.m. Monday, and when his parents came home that night, they discovered he’d never made it to school. Miguel and Andrea Villegas filed a missing person report because they believed something had happened to the teen, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
His body was found Thursday, according to a news release sent out by Visalia police at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“We are with friends and family, gathering, grieving and mourning. That’s where we’re at right now,” Miguel Villegas said.
Gulley’s body was found in the Sequoia and Kings National Parks, according to law enforcement.
“Obviously his body wasn’t found within the city limits, but we are working with the FBI very closely,” Mestas said.
Mestas wouldn’t confirm whether the body was found in the park or the forest portion of the federal lands portion of the Sequoia-Kings parks.
“We take these cases very seriously, especially because he had special medical needs and medication,” she said. “This is a very, very active case and we are getting all the facts we can.”
Investigators spent all day with the parents. The parent’s ID’d the body and the body is in the custody of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Coroner division.
The FBI was notified through computer early on in the investigation and joined actively when the body was found Thursday afternoon.
The FBI will partner with the Visalia Police Department investigating the case, and other local agencies are expected to assist. Mestas would not confirm if the death was caused by violence.
Gulley’s parents had been at odds with investigators, who labeled the teenager as a runaway. Police who searched the boy’s room found evidence they say indicated Gulley ran away. But his parents had insisted otherwise.
They said, due to Gulley having Asperger’s, he had set routines and would not have deviated from those routines, such as walking directly to school. An undated note referencing how he’d miss his family, along with some missing money, had led investigators to believe Gulley had left home of his own will, his parents said.
While he was missing, Gulley’s parents say their son’s habitual nature — he became very stressed when taken out of his daily routine — should have cast considerable doubt on the working theory that he ran away.
During the search, Sgt. Paul Esquibel said that, while the missing teen’s special needs raised significant concerns, the situation didn’t necessarily change the department’s protocol. He had also said on Tuesday that, at that time, was no evidence pointing to any sort of foul play.