Friday, February 7, 2014

Mo. Senate confirms two appointments to state Board of Education after debating definition of 'layperson'

Mo. Senate confirms two appointments to state Board of Education after debating definition of 'layperson'

I applied for the open position in my area. I guess I didn't have enough experience working for the system. I guess I am the lay person that they didn't need.

JEFFERSON CITY • Five Missouri Senators huddled around a dictionary in the Senate Chamber this morning, page open to the word "layperson."

It was one several dictionaries floating around the chamber today as Senators debated the definition of a "layperson" for more than two hours.

The topic was brought up by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, as the Senate examined two gubernatorial appointments for the state Board of Education -- who were later confirmed.

Schaaf said, according to law, that board should consist of eight lay members appointed by the governor.

Schaaf did not think the two appointees -- Republican O. Victor Lenz, Jr. and Democrat John A. Martin -- met the definition of a layperson because they had too much experience in the education field.

Lenz is the current president of the St. Louis Area Curriculum Coordinators Association and former president of the Lindbergh School District Board of Education. He also was that district's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Martin is a board member for the Missouri Center for Safe Schools and former superintendent of the Grandview School District. He also was the former interim superintendent of the Kansas City School District.

"We need to have lay people who are not conflicted by a lifetime of experience in the education community," Schaaf said.

While some senators agreed with Schaaf's sentiments, others felt the experience of the two appointees is important to address the tough questions related to education.

"This board needs people who know the ropes a little bit, but are willing to ask tough questions," Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said, in particular, she supported Lenz's appointment, despite her initial hesitations.

"I started my conversation (with Lenz) saying, 'I plan to kill your appointment,' " Chappelle-Nadal said. "I said at the end of the conversation, 'You have impressed me more than any other (appointee).' He has the ability to be intelligent on issues and think independently of others."

Lenz will begin serving on the board immediately. His term will end July 1, 2019. Martin's term will end July 1.

The Senate confirmed 18 other appointments today, including Richard Fordyce as director of the Agriculture Department and Mike Downing to head the Economic Development Department.

Alex Stuckey covers Missouri politics and state government for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter at @alexdstuckey.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Miss. schools still use seclusion, restraint on special education students | The Clarion-Ledger |

Miss. schools still use seclusion, restraint on special education students | The Clarion-Ledger |

Use of seclusion and restraint on disabled children is common among Mississippi schools despite warnings by the nation’s education chief of the potential dangers and lack of evidence of their effectiveness.
At least 30 school districts use physical restraint, mechanical restraint or seclusion — or a combination of all three — on children with disabilities, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
In the 2009-2010 school year, for which the most recent statistics were available, 329 such incidents were reported.
Districts that most frequently reported using restraint and seclusion are located on the Gulf Coast: Harrison County logged 74 incidents, Moss Point and Jackson County had 46 each, and Gulfport had 36.
The Jackson Public School District, which in 2011 was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for chaining a teen with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to a pole, had two reported incidents that year.
JPS settled the suit one year later by agreeing to no longer engage in that practice.
“As many reports have documented, the use of restraint and seclusion can have very serious consequences, including, most tragically, death,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a letter to school districts urging them to review their policies on the practices.
“Furthermore,” Duncan said, “there continues to be no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques.”
Mississippi is one of 13 states without a law addressing seclusion and restraint, according to the federal agency, but a bill introduced in January by state Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, seeks to change that.
The Mississippi Student Safety Act, or SB 2594, calls for standards that would prohibit certain punishments and define when it’s acceptable to use others.
It also would collect and analyze data from the districts in an effort to reduce seclusion and restraint.

In-depth report: Special-education students failed by the state | The Clarion-Ledger |

In-depth report: Special-education students failed by the state | The Clarion-Ledger |

For special education students, diplomas, jobs increasingly elusive | Hechinger Report

For special education students, diplomas, jobs increasingly elusive | Hechinger Report

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Four weeks into a medical assistant program at Antonelli College, Nikki Mclendon eagerly took her parents to the college’s student appreciation day. The 20-year-old looked forward to discussing her progress and pre-registering for the next term, but instead received devastating news.
School officials told the Mclendons their daughter was ineligible to continue. Without warning, the career technical college that accepted Mclendon a year after she finished high school said the “occupational diploma” she’d received from Forrest County Agricultural High School disqualified her.
“I thought, ‘What? I just went through my first semester of college…. I’m having a blast at it, and you all are ruining my career,’” Mclendon recalled.
Katie Nelson, a special education teacher at Brandon High School, teachers her class how to write a check. Life skills are part of the curriculum in some special education classes where students are on track to earn an alternate diploma. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
Katie Nelson, a special education teacher at Brandon High School, teaches her class how to write a check. Life skills are part of the curriculum in some special education classes where students are on track to earn an alternate diploma. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
Mclendon had no way of knowing the alternate diploma many Mississippi special education students choose if they cannot meet the academic requirements of a regular diploma would be a roadblock to higher education and a career — one the state can ill afford. In Mississippi, some 20 percent of youth ages 16-24 are not in school or the workplace, the highest rate in the U.S., according to U.S. census data.
When Mclendon was admitted to Antonelli, the school had not yet received her transcript, said Steve Bryant, president of Antonelli’s Hattiesburg campus. Mclendon was allowed to start classes and start paying tuition for the $30,000 program, which was refunded when she left. Then the transcript showed that she had not passed all her exit exams, and did not have a regular diploma.
“If we can’t verify when the transcripts arrive that they did in fact receive a normal, regular high school diploma, then the student’s conditional acceptance is revoked,” Bryant said.
What happened to Nikki Mclendon is emblematic of a larger problem in Mississippi, where students are much less likely to graduate with a regular diploma after they are classified with a disability. A review of data by the Clarion-Ledger, of Jackson, Miss., found that the majority of special education students receive an occupational diploma, meant to prepare students for a job, or a certificate of completion, meant to honor special education students’ efforts in high school — even if they fell short of graduation requirements.
As a result, thousands of capable students leave high school with few career and education options in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.
In the 2011-2012 school year, only 23 percent of special education students in Mississippi received a regular diploma, according to the Clarion-Ledger review. Federal data shows that the same year, more than 60 percent of all students who exited special education in Mississippi received a certificate or alternate diploma not recognized by most colleges and employers. The rest dropped out, transferred to general education or aged out.
While most states have similar alternate options, few hand out certificates of completion and alternative diplomas as frequently as Mississippi, according to a study by the National Center for Learning Disabilities in 2013.
Click to read our entire series.
Click to read our entire series.
The state is one of just three where more students with a learning disability — such as a reading or math calculation disorder — graduate with an alternate diploma than a regular diploma, the study found.
Lindsay Jones, director of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said the occupational track limits these students’ futures.
“Many, and most, certainly can reach grade level and certainly should be graduating with a regular diploma, not to mention going on to college and a career,” Jones said.
The Clarion-Ledger investigation found that special education in the state can fail students even before they approach high school. Students are often steered into an alternate path at 14, when federal law requires all special education students to receive a transition plan. This is often when teachers and parents create post-graduation goals and determine which diploma track the student will enter. Mississippi tends to graduate more students from the alternate track than the national average.
Some students may not even belong in special education or have a minor or highly specific learning disability that can be addressed and should not interfere with their ability to be successful in high school.
Too often, researchers have found, children are inappropriately diagnosed and placed into special education, particularly when they are black and Hispanic. Most states, including Mississippi, diagnose twice as many African-American students as having emotional or intellectual disabilities as white students, according to 2008 federal data mapped by the Equity Alliance, a joint of project by the University of Kansas and Arizona State University.
Nationally, in 2011, only 64 percent of U.S. students with disabilities graduated with a regular diploma and 14 percent were given a certificate or an alternate diploma. An additional 20 percent dropped out, according to recent U.S. Department of Education data.
In Mississippi, the certificate of completion — the bottom tier of three diplomas — is useless, advocates say. “It means they went to school for however many years,” said Sue Cannimore, the education team co-leader for the Jackson-based advocacy group Disability Rights Mississippi. “It doesn’t qualify them for anything.”
For students with more severe disabilities, this option can be appropriate, educators say. A certificate of completion can reward students with severe cognitive or physical disabilities for meeting their individual goals regarding academics or life skills. But for students with less severe disabilities, the certificates and occupational diplomas do little more than exit the student from high school.
Teacher Katie Nelson's room at Brandon High School is stocked with post-graduation information. The Rankin County School District emphasizes career training to prepare students with disabilities for employment. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
Teacher Katie Nelson’s room at Brandon High School is stocked with post-graduation information. The Rankin County School District emphasizes career training to prepare students with disabilities for employment. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
In the 12 years since the “occupational track,’’ was developed, Mississippi’s 15 community college have wavered on admitting alternate diploma graduates into academic tracks. Susan Molesworth, director of special education for the Long Beach School District, said the occupational diploma was never meant to be a college prep curriculum.
“Some of the [occupational diploma] kids that were coming into junior colleges weren’t able to do it,” Molesworth said. “They were failing. If [colleges] had seen a lot of success with the students, then they would not have reneged and said ‘we’re not going to accept it.’”
Only seven of the state’s community colleges accept alternate diploma students into academic programs, according to the Mississippi Community College Board. No universities in Mississippi accept the occupational diploma — and neither do two or four-year colleges.
Alternate diploma students face high unemployment rates.  In the year after high school graduation, alternate diploma students have nearly triple the unemployment rate of high school graduates, according to the state Department of Education’s 2013 Annual Report.
More than a quarter of special education students who received a certificate or occupational diploma in 2011 were “not engaged” in a job or higher education, the report said. Only 34 percent of special education students were competitively employed, meaning they worked 20 hours a week for at least 90 days in the year since leaving high school — at a job paying at or above minimum wage that alsoemployed nondisabled workers.
Mississippi lawmakers are beginning to recognize the crisis. Gov. Phil Bryant in January called for a commission to identify “barriers or disincentives to the employment of people with disabilities” and called special education students an “untapped resource” for employers. A proposed Mississippi House bill would require state agencies to prioritize finding viable, “competitive” employment for the disabled.
Lawmakers are also recognizing the need to employ special education students, who can range from students with physical disabilities to those with severe cognitive disabilities, and include students with less severe, somewhat “invisible” disabilities, like a hearing impairment or a reading disorder.
Ann Maclaine, executive director of Disability Rights Mississippi, which has spearheaded the legislative initiative, says hiring people with disabilities does the economy a favor. “They’re earning some money, paying taxes…Instead of the state spending millions and millions of dollars to support them in sort of non-productive endeavors, they’re actually out contributing.”
State officials say part of the reason Mississippi gives out a higher proportion of alternative diplomas and certificates than other states is due to tougher graduation requirements. Mississippi is one of eight states requiring four or more exams for graduation, and is one of 23 states requiring students with and without disabilities to pass the exams to earn a regular diploma.
Some states allow special education classes to count towards regular graduation tracks but not Mississippi.
Mclendon’s story
Mclendon qualified for special education at the age of six after she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which made it difficult to focus and remember material she had read on her own. But her grandmother and guardian, Joyce Oleson, said it hardly interfered with her class work or her love of school.
Nikki Mclendon's senior picture. Mclendon was kicked out of a technical college after it was discovered she graduated with an alternate, special education diploma. (Photo: Courtesy of Joyce Oleson)
Nikki Mclendon’s senior picture. Mclendon was kicked out of a technical college after it was discovered she graduated with an alternate, special education diploma. (Photo: Courtesy of Joyce Oleson)
In high school, the friendly, soft-spoken teenager took general education classes and passed three of Mississippi’s four high school exit exams, including the writing component of the English exam. But a few weeks before graduation, she learned she had failed the reading portion of the state’s English exam for the fifth time.
That’s when Mclendon was offered a quick out: At graduation she could accept a certificate of completion instead of a regular diploma. Her grandmother refused.
“I was not going to accept a certificate when she had passed every subject that was required by the high school, and was not in any special ed classes,” Oleson said.
The certificates are meant for students with severe intellectual or physical disabilities, said Sue Cannimore.
When Mclendon and her grandmother pushed back, she was offered another option: the occupational diploma.
Under state law, students must take at least four general education classes to leave high school with an occupational diploma. Mostly, though, they are sequestered in classes like “Life Skills Science” and “Employment English” where they learn proper hygiene and how to interview for a job.
Students also have to clock 540 hours of paid work or complete a two-year career or vocational program while in high school. It can set non-college bound students up to live independently and find a job.
Mclendon never took an occupational diploma class, but had completed a two-year vocational program in drafting at her high school. In April 2012, Mclendon was put on the occupational diploma track because she could not pass the English exam.
Mclendon’s grandmother said she had checked the state department of education website and noticed that several colleges — including Antonelli — were listed as accepting the diploma, so she agreed. In May 2012, Mclendon donned a cap and gown with her classmates and picked up her diploma. She was accepted at Antonelli in July 2013 and began classes later that month.
Jerry Morgan, superintendent of the Forrest County Agricultural District, said: “We did our best to try to help her get a general ed diploma.”
He added said that it is “not necessarily” common for students at her high school to receive an occupational diploma for failing one of the exit exams. Many students on the alternate track take advantage of the high schools vocational programs, and leave the school with “skills they can use in life,” Morgan said.
Mclendon, who passed four years worth of high school classes, enrolled in a GED prep class. In December, she took the English II exam for the sixth time to try and earn her regular diploma. The results will come back in February but her grandmother isn’t letting her rest.
“She can either go back and pick up on where she left off on her GED, or she can try to find a job,” said Oleson.
Dwindling options in Rankin County
For many, the state’s alternate diplomas seemed like a good option at first, helping prepare students for careers and what used to be several options for higher education. But those options have dwindled.
Sunshine Owensby plays with her dog outside the McDonald's in Long Beach where she works. Owensby is trying to earn a Mississippi occupational diploma, one of two alternate diplomas for special education students. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
Sunshine Owensby plays with her dog outside the McDonald’s in Long Beach where she works. Owensby is trying to earn a Mississippi occupational diploma, one of two alternate diplomas for special education students. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
The state’s interim special education director, Therrell Myers, said there are no statewide recommendations for how special education students are steered toward degrees. “Those decisions are made at the local level, as is best for the child,” he said.
Still, the state encourages districts to start special education students on a regular diploma track whenever possible, and to use the occupational diploma or certificate only if that doesn’t work, Myers said.
Linda Moore, special education director of the Rankin County School District, said she agrees that alternate routes should be a last resort. But students need to pass four state exams to graduate if a student has a history of failing state exams, “chances are he’s not going to be successful” on the high school tests, she said. Once a student is on the alternate diploma track, it’s exceptionally difficult to switch and make up missed general education classes.
Katie Nelson, a special education teacher at Brandon High School, says she’s seen a shift in the three years she’s been teaching at Brandon. “We’ve tried to put those borderline kids into [the regular diploma track] to give them a shot,” she said.
In December, Hinds Community College which runs five campuses across Mississippi, informed Rankin County Schools that it would no longer accept the occupational diploma for academic classes, and only for certain career and technical programs, such as office systems technology and meat merchandising.
Hinds Community College did not respond to repeated phone calls for comment.
Scott Alsobrooks, vice president for economic and community development at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, which does not accept occupational diplomas, said Pearl River’s reasoning is entirely financial.
The federal government doesn’t view the “occupational diploma’’ as equivalent to the GED or a high school diploma. That means college and universities can’t get funding for occupational diploma students, and the individuals themselves are ineligible for federal student loans and grants.
More career training
As diploma options dwindle, Rankin County plans to continue its emphasis on career training, Linda Moore said.
Already, as a way of helping students transition from high school to employment, Rankin County runs an off-campus daytime coffee shop staffed by students with disabilities. Students are in charge of everything, from stocking sugar to running the cash register. They are not paid, but they clock in and out. A greeter opens the door and invites customers in. A manager makes sure tables and floors are clean every shift.
District staff members make sure this experience translates to post-high school employment. Alumni have found work locally in retail stores and restaurants. One works as a “media specialist” for a local car company; another works construction. The district has shared its model with other districts to help create similar opportunities.
“The whole point of the program is that they don’t go home and collect a check,” Nelson said.
In the classroom, teachers follow state education standards in each content area: Employment English, Job Skills Math, Life Skills Science and Career Preparation.
A ninth grader will learn to “distinguish between odd and even numbers” and “determine, count, and make change in solving problems” in math. High school seniors need to “develop a job placement portfolio” including resumes and letters of recommendation in career preparation.
On a recent morning in an occupational diploma math class at Brandon High School, a half dozen seniors were reviewing vocabulary words about checks, like “memo line” and “void.”
The district’s special education students also take field trips, like a recent one to a Nissan plant.
Still, it can be difficult for students to find jobs — particularly at large corporations that require online applications.  “[Our students] don’t meet any of the questions they ask,” said Jane Smith, who heads Rankin’s special education transition efforts. The students must answer ‘no’ when asked if they have a high school diploma, for instance. To find jobs for students, “I go to the people I know,” Smith added.
Moore, who used to work for the state education department, said she is concerned about how well the occupational diploma program is being run in other school districts. In small schools, all grades could be lumped together in one special education class, making it harder for teachers to cover four years of material, and teachers may not be well trained to help with post-high school transitions.
In rural areas, in particular, it’s hard for districts and students to find the jobs that would let them complete the required 540 hours of paid employment, “The integrity of the program has begun to suffer,” Moore said.
‘Responsibility should rest on student’
Not every district is as involved in helping students find employment both in school and after school as Rankin. Long Beach School District, where students with learning disabilities are usually placed on the occupational diploma track, says responsibility should rest on students
“The student must do that on their own because they have to be self advocates on their own,” said Susan Molesworth, the director of Special Education for the Long Beach School District.
Sunshine Owensby, a student at Long Beach High School, got her job cleaning the lobby, monitoring the soda fountain and occasionally manning the fryer at the Long Beach McDonald’s when her mother Barbara Owensby asked on her behalf.
Owensby earned a reputation as a good worker; she may soon be trained to run the cash register. But her mother says it’s no thanks to her high school, which she says failed to prepare her 20-year-old daughter for a career or higher education.
In 2013, after Disability Rights Mississippi filed a complaint on behalf of the Owensbys, the state found the Long Beach School District failed to comply with federal requirements regarding Sunshine Owensby’s education. The district, according to the state, failed to set measurable goals for Sunshine based on the classes she was enrolled in.
In Sunshine Owensby’s 2010 Individual Education Plan — a document every special education student receives that determines yearly goals and classes — one goal states that “Sunshine will be able to demonstrate basic hygiene skills with at least 64% accuracy.’’ A statement that was supposed to describe a post-graduation plan for Owensby did not mention higher education, and only listed one post-high school plan: “After high school, Sunshine will live with her mother for as long as possible.”
The district was also found to have failed “to provide an appropriate transition plan” regarding Owensby’s post-high school plans. Long Beach had originally encouraged her to try the GED track when she was 18, but her mother refused. Owensby now plans to stay in high school until she is 21 to earn her occupational diploma, using the hours at McDonald’s.
Since receiving the state complaint, Long Beach has hired a part-time “transition coordinator” to work with special education students to prevent a similar situation.
“You don’t want a parent of a senior saying, ‘I don’t know what he’s going to do when he graduates, and you’re going, ‘Well, it’s a little too late now,’” Molesworth said.
That was never the problem with Nikki Mclendon, who knew from a young age that she wanted to work in medicine, possibly as a veterinarian. She has now come to terms with the fact that she most likely will never attend college. But it’s been hard getting over her disappointment. “I was succeeding,’’ she said sadly, “I was happy and succeeding, It’s painful to think about.”
Emily LeCoz contributed to this report.

Monday, February 3, 2014

J.D. v. Atlanta Public Schools: A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Long Ago" by Pamela Wright & Peter Wright

J.D. v. Atlanta Public Schools: A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Long Ago" by Pamela Wright & Peter Wright

Court Upholds Award of Compensatory Education in Draper v. Atlanta Public Schools: "Poor Man's Burlington Remedy" by Steven Wyner, Esq. -

Court Upholds Award of Compensatory Education in Draper v. Atlanta Public Schools: "Poor Man's Burlington Remedy" by Steven Wyner, Esq. -

ourt Upholds Award of Compensatory Education in Draper v. Atlanta:
"Poor Man's Burlington Remedy"

by Steven Wyner, Esq. & Marcy J. K. Tiffany, Esq.
On March 6, 2008, the Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the decision of the District Court in favor of our client in Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (11th Cir. 2008).
Jarron DraperIn 2007, the District Court had ordered the Atlanta Independent School System to pay Jarron's tuition at a private special education school for four years, or until he graduated with a regular high school diploma, as prospective compensatory education for their persistent failure to educate him.

The Atlanta Independent School System and Jarron appealed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to resolve different issues.
Prospective Compensatory Education in a Non-Public School
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit approved the District Court's award of compensatory education requiring the School System to fund prospective educational services provided by a private school. The Court specifically rejected the notion that the student had to prove that the public school system was incapable of providing the compensatory education.
The Court relied on the Supreme Court decisions in Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep't of Educ., 471 U.S. 359, 105 S.Ct. 1996 (1985) and Florence County Sch. Dist. Four v. Carter ex rel. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 16, 114 S.Ct. 361, 366 (1993), which held that school districts are required to reimburse parents for the costs of private placements in nonpublic schools when the public school failed to provide an appropriate education.
IDEA Does Not Provide Wealthier Parents with Greater Benefits Than Poorer Parents
Relying on these decisions, the Court reasoned that the District Court had the authority to require a public school to pay the cost of prospective compensatory education that would be provided by a private school.

The Court held that:

"The argument of the School System would provide those wealthier parents greater benefits under the Act than poorer parents. We do not read the Act as requiring compensatory awards of prospective education to be inferior to awards of reimbursement. The Act does not relegate families who lack the resources to place their children unilaterally in private schools to shouldering the burden of proving that the public school cannot adequately educate their child before those parents can obtain a placement in a private school. The Act instead empowers the district court to use broad discretion to fashion appropriate relief."

"Poor Man's Burlington Remedy" for Families That Cannot Afford Private School Tuition
The 11th Circuit fashioned a "poor man's Burlington remedy" for families that cannot afford to unilaterally remove their child from a public school and pay the cost of educating a child in a private school after the public school failed to provide a FAPE, while also incurring the expense of a due process hearing and subsequent litigation before they can recover the cost of tuition for the private placement.
Significance of Decision in Draper
Negotiating for Quality Compensatory Education Services
This decision should help special needs families and their counsel in negotiating settlements that provide quality educational remediation when their child has been denied a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

When the school system fails to provide FAPE, the family can and should ask for compensatory education from a non public agency or school.
Public schools often offer to provide compensatory education in the form of supplemental educational services provided by their staff. Since the public school failed to provide FAPE previously, compensatory educational services provided in the future (prospectively) by school district staff is generally an ineffective remedy. The same teachers who previously failed to educate the child would be responsible for remediating their past failures.
Compensatory Education Requires More
School officials are fond of interpreting Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. (1982) as requiring that they provide the educational equivalent of a Chevrolet and not a Cadillac.
While the Supreme Court decision in Rowley requires school districts to provide special needs students with a "basic floor of opportunity" that provides "some educational benefit," the 11th Circuit held that compensatory awards must do more, and "should place children in the position that they would have been in but for the violation of the Act." Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (11th Cir. 2008)
Simple Themes: Teaching a Child to Read
Simple themes win cases. In Jarron's case, the themes included the following: the school system failed to appropriately evaluate him, misdiagnosed him as mentally retarded when he had dyslexia, and failed to teach him to read.

If schools don't teach children the basic skills of reading, writing and math, these children will not have an opportunity to become productive, self sufficient members of society, as envisioned by the IDEA.
When you read the decisions from the U. S. District Court and the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, you see this theme repeated over and over - that Jarron's reading skills were at the 3rd grade level, year after year, until he finally left school.
Resources: Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System
"A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Long Ago" is the "inside story" of Jarron Draper's case. When the Judge issued a favorable decision in 2007, Jarron was 20 years old, stocking shelves at Target and working as a security guard. He couldn't read, earn a high school diploma, or fulfill his dream of attending college.

In A Lesser Spirit, you'll learn about the battles his family fought, how school employees viewed their responsibilities to Jarron, and who stepped up to the plate to represent him in the due process hearing. You'll learn about some legal issues - burden of proof, statute of limitations, and remedies for the failure to provide a child with a free appropriate education. You'll meet the dedicated and talented attorneys who also stepped up to the plate to help Jarron and his family when their case went to federal court.


Complaint in Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Public Schools (03/01/07)

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School District (N.D. GA 2007) - The U. S. District Court finds, "Based upon a preponderance of the evidence, the Court concludes that APS failed to provide J.D. with a FAPE for the 2002-03,2003-04, and 2004-05 school years. APS failed to timely assess J.D. in the 2002-03 school year making it impossible for APS to design a proper IEP to meet J.D.'s unique needs." The Court ordered the school system to pay for four years of compensatory education at a private special education school.(03/20/07)

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (11th Cir. 2008) - The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously upheld the decision of the District Court and ordered Atlanta Public Schools to pay Jarron's tuition for four years at a private special education school as compensatory education for their persistent failure or refusal to educate him. (03/06/08) 

Atlanta school tuition case is ‘tip of iceberg’ - Dyslexic student awarded $38K toward education after being placed in special education classes in Atlanta Public Schools - Jones Day attorney David M. Monde, who represented Jarron Draper as co-counsel with Wyner & Tiffany, suggested that Jarron’s case is “the tip of the iceberg … given this kid’s needs are not particularly unique. There are an awful lot of other Jarrons out there in the system who just don’t get the help they need.” (Daily Report, 04/03/07)
Jones Day Obtains Pro Bono Eleventh Circuit Win for Special Education Student - Jones Day represented Jarron Draper, against the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) in an appeal of last year's order from U.S. District Court Judge Shoob that APS pay up to $156,000 in future private school tuition, plus transportation costs, because of APS' multiple violations of federal law. The Firm worked with California-based Wyner & Tiffany, a nationally-recognized firm in the area of special education law. (Jones Day, 03/08) 
Family Says School Misdiagnosed Boy As "Retarded" from (includes link to video)

Atlanta Schools Told to Pay up to $136,600 For Private Tuition: Student's Dyslexia was Misdiagnosed by Kristina Torrcis - A federal judge has ordered Atlanta Public Schools to pay for a former student misdiagnosed as mentally disabled to go to private school to get his high school diploma.
The student, Jarron Draper, now 20, has been out of school since June, stocking shelves at Target and working full time as a security guard while he and his family fought for an education that he hopes will get him into college. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 03/23/07) 

Alert! Civil Rights Case: Discrimination & Retaliation -

Alert! Civil Rights Case: Discrimination & Retaliation -

Violation of Civil Rights: Discrimination Under Section 504
In Jarron Draper's civil rights case, he "asserts that he suffers from injuries as a result of his educational deprivations that cannot be addressed by any amount of compensatory education" and is requesting damages under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

On March 31, 2008, the U. S. District Court of Georgia issued a decisionthat denied the motion by the Atlanta Independent School District (“APS”) to dismiss Jarron’s civil rights claims that APS discriminated against him and retaliated against him and his family. In Jarron’s civil rights Complaint, he asserted that:
  • APS incorrectly assessed Jarron as mentally retarded in fourth grade
  • APS placed him in a functional program for the mildly intellectually delayed (“M.I.D.")
  • APS failed to reassess him for over five years as required by law, and
  • after learning that Jarron has dyslexia, APS moved him from the M.I.D. program into a 10th grade regular ed program with no support or remediation, which caused him to fail
In this decision, the District Court held:

"In addition to being denied appropriate educational services, J.D. also alleges that he suffers from stigmatization as a result of being improperly labeled 'mentally retarded' throughout most of his educational career.There is little doubt that the harm suffered by J.D. exceeded a mere denial of FAPE (emphasis added) ... the cumulative impact ... supports a reasonable inference that defendants may have exercisedbad faith or gross misjudgment (emphasis added) in denying J.D. access to a free and appropriate education" in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Read decision

Violation of Civil Rights: Retaliation Against Jarron and his Family 
The court also refused to dismiss the retaliation claims, explaining that:

"The Rehabilitation Act's anti-retaliation regulation provides that "[n]o recipient ... shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purposes of interfering with any right or privilege secured by [the Act], or because he has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing ..." 34 C.F.R. § 100.7(e)

Specifically discussing the retaliation claim, the court held that "a causal link is supported by plaintiff’s allegation that ‘[w]hen J.D. and his aunt challenged his placement in the M.I.D. program, ‘Faustina Haynes made [it] clear that he would always be M.I.D. and would never graduate from high school.’”

The Court concluded that "plaintiff's and his family's requests for reassessment and their resort to administrative remedies triggered retaliatory conduct appears plausible."
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

According to Wyner and Tiffany, "APS had moved to dismiss the 504 claims on various grounds, including failure to exhaust and statute of limitations. 

"With respect to exhaustion, the court held that the due process request mentioned the 504 claims, including the retaliation claim. Although the the administrative decision did not expressly rule on those claims, the decision does include relevant factual findings that go beyond what was necessary to find a denial of FAPE. The court further held that because of the comprehensive remedies received in the due process case, further exhaustion was excused as futile."

Statute of Limitations

"The court also denied the motion to dismiss on the grounds of the statute of limitations. APS argued that because the 504 claims had not been brought within two years of when they accrued, they were barred by the statute of limitations."

"The court agreed with plaintiffs that the statute of limitations on the civil rights claims did not begin to run until the student was 18 years old. In any case, the statute was equitably stayed under federal law while the Jarron's family exhausted their claims under IDEA."

Court Rejected Claims Based on Section 1983

"Although the court rejected various claims based on section 1983 (joining the growing number of courts that have rejected a 1983 claim premised on a violation of the IDEA), this case provides substantial support to plaintiffs who attempt to pursue civil rights claims under Section 504 related to underlying violations of the IDEA."

Filing Due Process under IDEA if Civil Rights Claims by Wyner and Tiffany
According to Wyner and Tiffany, lead counsel in Jarron's cases, "The court’s analysis contains some very important guidance for plaintiffs whofile for due process for a denial of FAPE under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), but believe they may also have civil rights claims under Section 504 after exhausting.

The Court found that "Plaintiffs due process hearing was not limited to whether J.D. was denied a FAPE ... [the] due process complaint cited Section 504, ADA, and state law grounds for relief ... specifically mentioning retaliation and defendants' 'willful disregard' of J.D.'s educational rights."

"Even though hearing officers will refuse to rule on the civil rights claims on the ground that they do not have jurisdiction to decide such claims, it is important to include these claims in the due process request. It is also important to introduce evidence relevant to these claimsduring the due process hearing, to the extent that the hearing officer will allow it."

We asked Marcy Tiffany of Wyner and Tiffany what will happen next?
"The next step will be to engage in discovery, including depositions, and ultimately a jury trial. Along the way there will probably be some summary judgment motions and, of course, there is always the possibility of settlement."

We will keep you posted on new developments in this unique case.

Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Public Schools: Background &  Decisions
On March 20, 2007, the U. S. District Court of Georgia ordered the Atlanta Independent School System to pay Jarron Draper's tuition at a private special education school for four years, or until he graduated with a diploma from high school, as prospective compensatory education for their persistent failure to educate him.

The Judge ruled that 
"Compensatory awards should compensate, and this means that they must do more than provide ‘some benefit’ as required by ordinary IEPs ...Read decision

The District Court held that: 

"Compensatory education involves discretionary, prospective, injunctive relief crafted by a court to remedy what might be termed an educational deficit created by an educational agency's failure over a given period of time to provide a FAPE to a student ...

"Compensatory awards should compensate, and this means that they must do more than provide ‘some benefit’ as required by ordinary IEPs ... compensatory education is necessary to preserve a handicapped child's right to a free education."

The Atlanta Independent School System and Jarron appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to resolve different legal issues.  On March 6, 2008, the Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the decision of the District Court in Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (11th Cir. 2008).

The Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the District Court's award of compensatory education that required the school system to pay prospective educational services provided by a private school. (11th Cir. 2008). The Court specifically rejected the notion that the student had to prove that the public school system was incapable of providing the compensatory education. Read decision.

Relying on decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court in Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep't of Educ., 471 U.S. 359, 105 S. Ct. 1996 (1985) andFlorence County Sch. Dist. Four v. Carter ex rel. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 114 S. Ct. (1993), the Court of Appeals affirmed that the District Court had the authority to require a public school to pay the cost ofprospective compensatory education that would be provided by a private school.

"Poor Man's Burlington Remedy"

Read about the significane of Jarron's IDEA case in Poor Man's BurlingtonRemedy by Stephen Wyner & Marcy Tiffany. 

"A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Years Ago"

To learn more about Jarron, his family, and their struggles, read 
A Lesser Spirit Would Have Been Crushed Years Ago by Pamela Wright and Peter Wright. 

Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) for Autism - West Palm Beach Autism & Education |

Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) for Autism - West Palm Beach Autism & Education |

Unusual sensory responses are relatively common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and often one of the earliest indicators of autism in childhood. In fact, sensory issues are now included in the DSM-5 symptom criteria for restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities (RRB). When present, sensory problems may interfere with performance in many developmental and functional domains across home and school contexts. Best practice guidelines indicate that when needed, educational programs for children with ASD should integrate an appropriately structured physical and sensory milieu in order to accommodate any unique sensory processing challenges.
Sensory integration therapy (SIT) is often used individually or as a component of a broader program of occupational therapy for children with ASD. While sensory activities may be helpful as part of an overall educational program, there is no reliable and convincing empirical evidence that sensory-based treatments have specific effects. A recent study published in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders systematically analyzed intervention studies involving the use of sensory integration therapy. A total of 25 studies were described in terms of: (a) participant characteristics, (b) assessments used to identify sensory deficits or behavioral functions, (c) dependent variables, (d) intervention procedures, (e) intervention outcomes, and (f) certainty of evidence. Analyses indicated that 3 of the reviewed studies provided evidence that SIT was effective, 8 studies found mixed results, and 14 studies reported no benefits related to SIT. Many of the reviewed studies, including the 3 studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. The study concluded that the current evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the education and treatment of children with ASD. According to one of the authors, “Rigorous, methodologically sound studies do not indicate that it helps and, in fact, the majority of studies that were reviewed reported no benefits for children with ASD.” In sum, this review indicates that SIT does not qualify as an evidence-based, or scientifically-based, intervention and that the results support the omission of SIT from several recent peer-reviewed lists of evidenced-based practices for children with ASD. Likewise, the National Autism Center’s National Standards Project identifies SIT as an “Unestablished Treatment,” for which there is little or no evidence in the scientific literature that permits a conclusion about the effectiveness of this intervention with individuals with ASD.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also issued a policy statement indicating that support is lacking for SIT. The group’s Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Council on Children with Disabilities recommends that because there is no universally accepted framework for diagnosis, sensory processing disorder generally should not be diagnosed. They also conclude that although occupational therapy with the use of sensory-based therapies may be acceptable as one of the components of a comprehensive treatment plan, “parents should be informed that the amount of research regarding the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy is limited and inconclusive.”
Consistent with the Academy’s recommendation, interventions to address sensory related problems, when utilized, should be integrated at various levels into the student’s individualized educational program (IEP). Comprehensive educational programming may also include consultation with knowledgeable professionals (e.g. occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, and physical therapists, adaptive physical educators) to provide guidance about potential interventions for children whose sensory processing or motoric difficulties interfere with educational performance.
All interventions and treatments should be based on sound theoretical constructs, robust methodologies, and empirical studies of effectiveness. Different approaches to intervention have been found to be effective for children with autism, and no comparative research has been conducted that demonstrates one approach is superior to another. The selection of specific interventions should be based on goals developed from a comprehensive assessment of each child’s unique needs and family preferences. A more detailed discussion of assessment domains (e.g. communication, social, sensory, academic) can be found in A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools.
Lang, R., O’Reilly, M., Healy, O., Rispoli, M., Lydon, H., Streusand, W., … Giesbers, S. (2012). Sensory integration therapy for autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 1004–1018. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2012.01.006
American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Council on Children with Disabilities, Policy Statement (2012). Sensory Integration Therapies for Children With Developmental and Behavioral Disorders. Pediatrics, 1186-1189. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0876
Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. He is also editor of a new Volume in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools.
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