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1. Update on WITTE V. CLARK COUNTY BD. OF EDUC. CASE
In our Alert about the Witte v. Clark County case (December 3, 1999), we posed several questions. Who knew about these practices? It seemed impossible that this abuse could take place unless other people knew but looked the other way.
Clark County Public Schools are in Las Vegas Nevada. On Saturday, we spent a couple of hours in the archives of the Las Vegas Sun. During this cursory investigation, we learned about events that answered some of our questions in this troubling case. Here is a short list culled from the archives of Las Vegas Sun:
In 1996, the special education department of Clark County submitted to an independent audit. In their 1996 report, the independent auditors identified 13 "specific violations of law, most involving the destruction or alteration of student records . . ." (Las Vegas Sun, June 29, 1999)
Illegal actions included "document destruction by top-level administrators, illegally drafted individual education plans [IEPs], violations of placement policies, improper counseling programs and a boondoggle in adaptive physical education." (Las Vegas Sun, July 21, 1996)
USE OF "AVERSIVES"
"Also under fire is CCSD's 'aversive behavior management' which authorizes personnel to force restless pupils onto treadmills and strap weights to their ankles to limit motion." (Las Vegas Sun, July 21, 1996)
After the auditors released their report, top-level special ed administrators destroyed documents, stonewalled, and attacked the auditors.
The director of special education threatened to sue a parent advocate on claims of defamation and conspiracy. The advocate's crime? She wrote a letter to the School Board about intimidation and civil rights violations. (Las Vegas Sun, June 28, 1996)
These assertions about intimidation were substantiated by the auditors who found that:
"Staff were ordered to change records, keep information out of a file, and/or not speak to anyone about the issue."
"Organizational paralysis is evident in the division. Staff often fear reprisal for their actions." (Las Vegas Sun, June 27,1996)
Finally, in January 1997, Clark County administrators had to "release a three-inch bundle of documentation backing up allegations made by special education auditors that the district is in violation of state and federal laws." (Las Vegas Sun, January 29, 1997)
WHO KNEW? THE FEDS, THE NEVADA LEGISLATURE, THE NEVADA DEPT. OF ED.
Although special ed administrators tried to dismiss the audit findings, "comparisons with state and federal complaints show that the school district as put on notice for breaking state and federal laws as far back is 1991."
"These allegations are substantiated by an investigation of the school district begun in October 1995 by the Office of Civil Rights . . .Public records show that the state Department of Education investigated the school district for a complaint filed in March 1996 . . ." (Las Vegas Sun, January 29, 1997)
In 1998, at least one parent testified before a committee of state legislators about "aversive discipline" of her 7 year old son who was a special education student in Clark County. "The legislators said they were deeply troubled and discussed finding out how common [her] story might be."
"There is a clear line between abuse and strict discipline, several lawmakers said." (Las Vegas Sun, April 1, 1998)
In 1997, the parent of an 8 year old special education student filed suit against Clark County. The allegations in that case were similar to those in Shawn Witte's case: abuse, assault and battery, violation of the child's civil rights. The teacher was accused of forcing the child to walk on the treadmill while wearing leg weights, forcing the child into restrictive holds, spaying water in his face as punishment. This child also attended Variety School. The principal "backed the teacher" and "denounced the allegations." (Las Vegas Sun, November 14, 1997)
One more thing: Clark County has been under OCR supervision since 1991. The beat goes on.
2. New From Wrightslaw: Tactics & Strategy Manual
The ADVOCACY PAK has been completely revised into WRIGHTSLAW: TACTICS & STRATEGY MANUAL. The TACTICS & STRATEGY MANUAL (140 pages, 8.5" x 11", loose-leaf, 3 hole punch) is divided into three sections.
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Chapter 1. Emergency! Crisis! HELP!
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Chapter 5. Tactics & Strategy:
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To order on the Wrightslaw Store, follow this link, scroll down to find the link to order the Advocacy Pak.
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Click here for more information about the new TACTICS AND STRATEGY MANUAL
3. 8th Circuit Issues Adverse Decision In Autism Case (December 2, 1999)
Grace is a 6 year old child who has been diagnosed with a severe brain injury and autistic behaviors. When Grace was two, her parents took her to a Philadelphia Institute for a comprehensive evaluation. After this evaluation, the Institute devised an intensive, home-based training program for Grace that included 12 hours of individualized therapy a day by the child's parents.
When Grace turned three, she qualified for services under IDEA. At that time, her parents requested that the school district fund the cost of the intensive (and expensive) therapy program. Not surprisingly, the district balked.
The District advised Grace's parents that they would have to perform their own evaluations on Grace before deciding on her educational program and placement. Six school employees completed various evaluations on Grace.
Subsequently, a meeting was held to determine eligibility and develop an IEP. At this meeting, the District decided that Grace was eligible for special education services because of "developmental disabilities."
The District brought a "draft IEP" to the IEP meeting. This "draft IEP" included present levels of educational performance and IEP goals and objectives. The District announced their intention to place Grace in a "reverse mainstream class." Upset at this turn of events, the parents left the IEP meeting.
What is a "reverse mainstream class? Good question.
"Reverse mainstream" is "not mainstreamed." Some "reverse mainstream" classes may have one or two "typically developing" children. Is "reverse mainstream" a new "politically correct" term for "self contained" or segregated classes?
Grace's parents requested a due process hearing. In Missouri, due process hearings are held before three member panels. This panel ruled against Grace and her parents. The parents then appealed to the U. S. District Court which reversed the panel. The school district appealed to the Eighth Circuit.
Amicus briefs on behalf of Grace were filed by Missouri Families for Effective Autism Treatment and the St. Louis Learning Disabilities Association.
Yesterday, the Eighth Circuit reversed the U. S. District Court'. This adverse decision was written by a U. S. District Court judge from Minnesota.
In the decision, the Eighth Circuit described the Institute as "controversial." By leaving the IEP meeting when they realized that their daughter's placement had been (pre) determined, the Court ruled that the parents "truncated" their rights. The Eighth Circuit disposed of the parents' assertion that they did not understand their role at the IEP meeting as "unfortunate" but not due to "any wrongdoing on the part of the School District."
Read "Blackmon v. Springfield R-XII School District" in the WRIGHTSLAW LAW LIBRARY:
4. Searching For Something? Use Our New Sitemap!
Have you ever tried -- and failed -- to find an old issue of The Special Ed Advocate? Have you tried to find a "Letter to Wrightslaw" that you read last year, then given up in frustration?
WHERE did the Wrightslaw folks hide the special education regulations?
At our end, we spend lots of time answering emails from people who are looking for a particular article, letter or case.
Navigating web sites can be frustrating, even when you finally find what you're hunting for. The numbers of requests for help told us that we had to devise a clearer navigation system.
Today, we added a SITEMAP to the Wrightslaw site. If you use the sitemap, it should be easier to find what you're looking for at Wrightslaw. Add the sitemap to your Bookmarks!