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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
May 22, 1998

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The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, educational methods that work, and Internet links.

We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. Back issues of The Special Ed Advocate are archived at our web site -

http://www.wrightslaw.com

As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and subscription information can be found at the end of this newsletter.


ANNOUNCEMENT

Growing Pains and Revising Our Site

In mid-April, we realized that our web site was having growing pains. Several visitors advised that they had difficulty finding information on the site. In response to these problems, we decided to revise the web site. To help visitors navigate, we devised a "site map" with links to the main sections of the web site.

Before we uploaded the "new and improved" site, we checked and double-checked all links. Everything looked fine.
At 2:00 am on April 24, we uploaded the revised web site. A few hours later, we flew to Thailand, in Southeast Asia, for a 3 week trip.

A few days later, our Office Manager advised that some broken links showed up. Several people phoned and e-mailed that they were unable to access specific articles and cases. Although we made several attempts to fix the problem from Thailand, we were not successful.

After we returned  to the States, Pete fixed the links. (Later we will post some photos of Pete and Pam riding elephants in the rain forest.)

We apologize for these problems. The learning curve is very steep and sometimes seems to go in a downhill direction.


The next time you visit The Special Ed Advocate web site, you’ll find these sections:

What’s New! Announcements about new cases, articles and uploads; information about current and upcoming guests; conferences and schedules; information about how to subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate.

The Special Ed Advocacy Library - Articles about special education advocacy topics.

The Law Library - Cases, statute and regulations.

Resources on the 'Net - links and other useful information on the Internet

Publications and Projects - information about pending books, conferences, projects, consultations, and the Advocacy Package.

About Us - what we are up to, what we are doing, where we will be.



NEWS FLASH!

SPECIAL INTERESTS PREVAIL: IDEA 97 BECOMES A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

In June, 1997, the new IDEA was signed into law. Most provisions of IDEA-97 took effect immediately. On July 1, 1998, those portions of IDEA-97 about IEPs will go into effect. The new regulations that govern IEPs were supposed to be published in their final form in late April, 1998.
However, after several heated arguments broke out between a few members of Congress and staff of the U. S. Dept. of Education, the regs have been postponed twice.

One hot button issue is "discipline." Some Congressmen have been advised by school administrators that IDEA-97 will require them to admit violent children who will then wreak havoc in schools. Several other hot button issues have emerged, including block grants, tuition savings programs, vouchers, and "unfunded mandates." As usual, the situation in Washington is polarized and politicized.

In April, the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Education Association (NEA) encouraged their members to embark on a letter writing campaign to members of Congress. These groups argued that it was unreasonable to expect schools to develop IEPs that complied with IDEA-97 before July, 1998. They said that if school staff had to re-write more than 5,000,000 IEPs during May and June, the quality would suffer. They said that this would be unfair to children and their parents - even though the new statute law was signed into law in June, 1997 and has been widely disseminated.

The IEP statute is quite clear and easy to read. It is located at our website in The Law Library. Read it yourself.

After you read the IEP statute, you may find that it's hard to understand why, after a year’s advance notice, schools were unable to turn in their homework when it was due and develop appropriate IEPs.

On a more positive note, the Division for Learning Disabilities of the CEC, has expressed concerns that IDEA 97 does not focus on providing individually designed, very intensive instruction in very small groups, or one-on-one with a highly trained teacher. They are correct in their assertions that learning disabilities are often poorly understood by educators and that children are often improperly identified.



TACTICS AND STRATEGY CORNER

Question: Does your child’s IEP comply with IDEA-97?

If you are like most special ed parents, you'll attend an IEP meeting in May or June.

If you subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate (and have read the new statute on our website, beginning with "IDEA 97 Overview and Table of Contents")

20USC1400MyOverview.html
you know that IDEA-97 includes several changes that should have a positive impact on your child’s special education program.

Scenario: Your child’s IEP team has developed an IEP for the 1998-1999 academic year. This IEP was written before July 1, 1998. It may not comply with IDEA-97.
This means that your child’s special education program for the coming school year may be governed by a law that was superseded a year ago.

Problem: If the IEP team does not meet to develop a new IEP earlier than legally necessary, your child’s IEP may not comply with IDEA-97 standards until the next IEP meeting, which need not be scheduled until May or June, 1999.
This means that the IEP team will develop an IEP that complies with IDEA-97 for the 1999-2000 academic year!

What should you do?

Solution: If your child’s current IEP is based on the old law, you should request that the IEP team meet again after July 1, 1998 to develop a new IEP. As we discuss in our articles, "Understanding Tests and Measurements"

http://www.wrightslaw.com/tests_measurements.html

and "Your Child’s IEP," http://www.wrightslaw.com/iep_guidance.html

you must ensure that independent, objective measures and benchmarks are used to measure gain and educational progress over time, instead of the customary subjective, anecdotal means.



WHAT’S NEW? MEET SONJA KERR

Sonja Kerr is our first guest contributor. Sonja is a special education attorney from balmy Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Because Sonja wants to encourage more attorneys to take special education cases, she wrote an article for the attorney who is preparing his or her first special ed case.

Her "Letter to Damon"

http://www.wrightslaw.com/ltr_to_new_lawyer_Kerr.html

is full of excellent advice about the perils and pitfalls of "going it alone," the need to remember whose job it is to educate, and how to build a perfect case.

We added one of Sonja’s "favorite cases" about autism and Lovaas therapy to the site - Independent School District 318.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/case_Kerr_ISD_318.html



THE LAW LIBRARY: EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR SERVICES

Several hot battles have been fought over extended school year services. We’ve added an ESY case to the site.

In Reusch v. Fountain, 872 F.Supp. 1421, 21 IDELR 1107 (D. MD 1994),

http://www.wrightslaw.com/case_esy_reusch_fountain.htm

a federal court addressed the school district’s "hostility to providing ESY." In this case, the court found that parents were prevented from advocating for their children by the district’s refusal to provide parents with notice about their right to request these services. The district also engaged in delaying tactics by requiring parents to attend futile meetings.

The court found that, in this district, administrative convenience took precedence over providing FAPE to children with disabilities. Educational decisions were not individualized according to the needs of the child.

In Reusch v. Fountain, the court listed six factors that the IEP team should consider in deciding if the child is eligible for ESY as a related service. These six factors include:

1. Regression and recoupment - is the child likely to lose critical skills or fail to recover these skills within in a reasonable time;

2. Degree of progress toward IEP goals and objectives;

3. Emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities - Will a lengthy summer break cause significant problems for a child who is learning a key skill, like reading;

4. Interfering Behavior - does the child’s behavior interfere with his or her ability to benefit from special education;

5. Nature and/or severity of disability;

6. Special circumstances that interfere with child’s ability to benefit from special education.

Citing Pete’s case, Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter,

http://www.wrightslaw.com/case_carter_usdist_sc.htm

the District Court wrote that

In any contest between systematic efficiency and the provision of FAPE to a disabled child, Congress and the Supreme Court have made it clear that the child must prevail.



UPDATE ON IDEA-97:

HIGH ACADEMIC STANDARDS WILL HELP PREPARE DISABLED CHILDREN FOR LIFE AFTER SCHOOL

For years, parents and child advocates complained that special education programs have failed to teach basic academic skills, such as reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. Too many special education students have left school without the skills they need to succeed in "life after school."

Many parents say that when they asked for academic instruction or remediation, the special ed staff balked.

IDEA-97 attempts to change this situation. The purpose of  IDEA 97 is to "promote improved educational results for children with disabilities." Parents send their children to school to learn the skills they will need in the workplace and other educational settings. Education - including special education - is supposed to prepare children for "life after school."

In IDEA-97, Congress wrote that effective educational systems must -

          (A) maintain high academic standards and clear performance goals for children with disabilities, consistent with the standards and expectations for all students in the educational system . . . and provide for appropriate and effective strategies and methods to ensure that students who are children with disabilities have maximum opportunities to achieve those standards and goals. [Sec. 651(a)(6)(A) of the Act.]

See the proposed Appendix C at  (http://www.wrightslaw.com/new_appendix_c.htm)



HOT LINKS

To improve special education outcomes, IDEA-97 focuses on using effective practices and research-based educational methods. As a layperson, where can you go to find accurate information about "effective practices and research-based educational methods?"

International Dyslexia Association

The International (Orton) Dyslexia Association has developed an outstanding web site that will get you off to a good start.

This site includes information about research and "what works" in educating children with dyslexia. It is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, attorneys, and advocates.

The International Dyslexia Association is a non-profit scientific and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia. People with dyslexia have language learning disabilities. About 15 percent of the population have dyslexia. People with dyslexia have "unexpected problems" learning to read, write, spell, speak, and/or listen.

At the site, you will find a list of effective educational methods that have been used successfully to remediate children (and adults) with dyslexia.

 http://www.interdys.org/



TRAINING PACKAGE FOR IDEA-97 -
HIGH STANDARDS FOR ALL CHILDREN

A training package for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 is now online.

It focuses on legal requirements & provisions of IDEA 1997 & includes 500 pages of background information, resources, handouts & a series of 145 overhead transparencies.

The package, developed by the Department's Office of  Special Education Programs (OSEP) & the National Information Center for Children & Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY), can be tailored to the needs of a variety of audiences -- special educators, general educators, state special education directors & administrators, parents & others.

The training package can be ordered from NICHCY (for $175) by calling 1-800-695-0285 to request an order form, & is available online at:

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/IDEA/train.html



LETTERS TO THE WEBMASTER

On a daily basis, we are flooded with emails from people seeking help with educational crises. Ninety percent of these crises relate to factual situations and issues that are referenced in our articles at the website.

Other requests for specific legal information can often be answered by utilizing the search engines of the Internet and various listserves.

Pete maintains a full time practice as a trial attorney representing children with disabilities and also provides consultations to parents. Too often, as we mention at our website, the "presenting problem" and question that is asked by the parent is really the wrong question to ask.

In some instances, because of the unique and or general nature of the question, Pete will answer questions on the website by posting the question (after disguising the identity of the individuals) and the answer.

Sometimes, we receive letters from individuals who have expanded on one of our topics, or who take issue with our positions and opinions. Differing views, tactics, strategies, beliefs, opinions, prejudices, make interesting reading.

Law is always changing. Attorneys always seek new fresh ideas and perspectives on the same facts, the same law. We encourage emails that may take different positions and stir debate.

We will be establishing a new section on the web site called "Letter to the Webmaster." We welcome your input. Do you have a favorite tip, tactic, or ploy that you would like us to share with readers? Do you take issue with points in our articles? Can you present a fresh new perspective on an old tired worn out concept? Write to us at webmaster@wrightslaw.com.

 

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Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
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