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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
November 11, 1999

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Issue - 49

ISSN: 1538-3202


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1. "Help! We Are Having Transportation Problems With The School"

Many parents of children with disabilities write for advice about how to handle transportation problems with their schools. 

Newsletter subscribers will recall that in September, a letter from a Georgia Mom led us to harness "the power of the Internet" and sponsor our first Creative Solutions Contest. In that case, a 3 year old child with cerebral palsy and autism was supposed to receive early intervention services. The school refused to provide transportation because he lived on a private road that "might not be safe when it rains." 

For information about the problem

The Georgia Momís transportation problems were resolved after Georgia advocate Becky Milton and New Hampshire psychologist John Willis stepped in to help. 

You can read the "inside story" in the October 21 1999 newsletter

We receive many emails from parents whose disabled children are not being transported to and from school. For example, this week, a parent wrote: 

"I would appreciate some advice on the transportation of our special needs child to school."

"In the afternoon, my son is transported from school in a small bus that pulls into a parking lot next to the house. In the morning, they send a big school bus that has no ramp or aide. The transportation department say they canít use the small bus in the morning because some kids would be on the bus too long."

"In other words, the school cannot transport him TO school but will transport him FROM school." 

"They want my son's grandmother to drive him to school. She is elderly and this would be a hardship on her. Do you have any suggestions?"


2. Creative Solution: How One Parent Advocacy Group Dealt With The "Challenge" 

When the parents of disabled children unite and work together, they are a powerful force. 

Parents in Tidewater Virginia formed an advocacy group called PIER (Protecting Individuals with disabilities Education Rights). Working together, PIER dealt with transportation problems in their school district. 


3. OCR Complaint (December, 1998)

In December, 1998, PIER filed a compliant with the Office for Civil Rights alleging that Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) discriminated against students with disabilities: 

"Students with disabilities were routinely dismissed from school before the end of the instructional day, required to use separate bus loading and unloading areas, arrived to school late in the morning, rode segregated buses, and endured unreasonably lengthy bus rides." 

"Students with disabilities who are dismissed before the end of the school day are given no meaningful opportunity to cover or makeup the instruction, knowledge or benefits they have been denied due to early dismissal."

"Consistent with School Board policy, nondisabled students receive a minimum of 6.5 hours of instructional time per day. In violation of this same School Board policy, students with disabilities are guaranteed only 5.5 hours. "

PIER supported their claims by conducting a series of observation of the schools: 

"To document the early departure of students from schools, members of the community conducted organized observations of school bus departures from school property at 39 randomly selected VBCPS schools. Documented observations by PIER and data provided by VBCPS revealed that at 35 of the 39 observed schools, school buses transporting only students with disabilities departed from schools before the ending time of the instructional day . . "

PIER advised the school district that they were making observations

"Throughout the observation period, PIER kept the VBCPS administration appraised of the fact that observations were being conducted. In late spring VBCPS was verbally reminded that PIER intended to file a complaint regarding the early dismissals. Final observations were scheduled, and occurred on June 15, 1998."

"The morning of June 15, PIER telephoned VBCPS to inform the school district that observations would be occurring that day." 

At that point, the school district initiated a "cover-up." As you see, the "cover-up" backfired: 

"When PIER observers arrived at the schools on the afternoon of June 15, they observed buses being rerouted back to school parking lots by security guards and heard announcements on PA systems and bus radios that buses were not to leave school property until the general education students were dismissed." 

"Students with disabilities were observed to be waiting outside of the school building or sitting on buses for up to thirty minutes until the end of the school day for nondisabled students."

"PIER faxed a handwritten note to VBCPS the next morning, after being unable to reach VBCPS Administration by telephone the afternoon before. The note informed VBCPS that PIER was halting observations because of the hardship placed on the students with disabilities the day before while waiting outside in the heat and on stifling hot buses."

"Apparently, instructions had been sent by VBCPS Administration to schools on June 15 informing the schools not to allow buses to leave the school property early. However this directive merely stopped buses from leaving early, not students with disabilities from being dismissed before their nondisabled peers."

In their OCR Complaint, PIER made several allegations: 

"VBCPS has a predetermined policy that students with IEPs will have a 5.5 hour program as evidenced by the VBCPS's current IEP form that states, "All students should have the availability of receiving a full (5.5 hours) program if determined appropriate by the IEP committee and included in the student's IEP."

"Parents are not advised during IEP meetings or at any other point that their children with disabilities are entitled to a school day of 6.5 hours as provided to nondisabled students."

"VBCPS discriminates against students with disabilities by applying a more limited length of the school day for students with disabilities as compared to the length of the school day provided for nondisabled students . . . The majority of students with disabilities need intensive remediation and services in part due to prior mis-education and denial of equal educational opportunity . . . With this intensive need it is inappropriate to shorten the school day for students who perform poorly on State-based testing . . . Indeed a strong argument can be made under Section 504 that these students are entitled to additional, supplemental services in order for them to attain outcomes expected for all students."

You can read the full OCR COMPLAINT at

http://helios.whro.org/cl/eci/bbs/messages/124.html


4. Press Release (November 8, 1999)

(A portion of the PIER press release is quoted below.) 

VIRGINIA BEACH SCHOOLS AGREE TO RESOLVE ALLEGATIONS OF DISCRIMINATION

"Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) has entered into an agreement with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to address allegations of discrimination of students with disabilities. Protecting Individuals with disabilities Education Rights (PIER), a local community group, filed a complaint with OCR in December alleging VBCPS systemically discriminated against students with disabilities who required transportation services."

"Students with disabilities were routinely dismissed from school before the end of the instructional day, required to use separate bus loading and unloading areas, arrived to school late in the morning, rode segregated buses, and endured unreasonably lengthy bus rides."

"In 1998 PIER conducted observations at 39 randomly selected schools. Ninety percent of these schools dismissed students with disabilities before the end of the instructional day. PIER observed 347 incidents of buses leaving school before the end of the instructional day. VBCPS provided documentation indicating that all of these buses were used to transport students with disabilities."

"VBCPS has agreed to take additional steps to resolve the complaint."

"The agreement with OCR requires VBCPS to modify the school district's individualized education program procedures to include a particular written plan to address transportation issues, to provide transportation information to parents through a newsletter, and to develop a brochure to notify families of transportation requirements."

"The agreement by VBCPS to resolve the complaint closes this phase of the OCR investigation initiated in February that included a four day on-site investigation by OCR staff in May."

"Some students with disabilities may need separate transportation services, a shortened school day or other special transportation services. PIER fully supports the right of parents to have these needs met through the IEP (individualized education program) process."

"The resolution agreement between OCR and VBCPS will advance the civil rights of students with disabilities. PIER is pleased that VBCPS has agreed to resolve the complaint rather than continue with an even more lengthy and expensive OCR investigation. Cooperation by VBCPS with parents will result in more dollars being spent on education and fewer dollars being used for administrative and legal fees. Children with disabilities have won a significant battle to receive equal educational benefits." 

"Parents of children with disabilities who continue to experience discrimination can contact PIER at 757-461-8007 or OCR at 202-208-7670."

The full text of the Press Release is at http://helios.whro.org/CL/eci/bbs/messages/128.html


5. Wrightslaw Creative Solutions Award . . TO PIER!

The members of PIER are parents of children with disabilities. Working together, these parents challenged the school districtís policies and prevailed. They were patient and determined. Hundreds of disabled children will benefit because of their efforts. 

We are pleased to announce that PIER will receive the WRIGHTSLAW CREATIVE SOLUTIONS AWARD. We are sending FIVE copies of WRIGHTSLAW: SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW to this group to help them with their advocacy efforts. 

Congratulations!

For more information about this parent advocacy group, go to 

http://helios.whro.org/CL/eci/bbs/


6. This Weekend: The Act Now Conference In Pittsburgh

Donít forget to register for the ACT NOW Conference, Sheraton Inn Station Square, Pittsburgh PA, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1999.

The ACT NOW Conference (Achieving Communities Together Now) is being planned and implemented by parents. The Conference will focus on special education, IEPs, inclusion, health care, mobility, planning for the future, and lobbying - issues that parents of disabled children deal with every day.

PETE WRIGHT will give the Keynote Address. 

The ACT NOW Conference is sponsored by the Center for Creative Play and the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

For information about the Conference, call Kathy Bauer at 412-343-4379 or send an email to Kathy Bauer at bauer_house@adelphia.net

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