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Public Hearing on IDEA 2004 Regulations:
Lessons Learned
Law & RegsGuidance l Articles l News l Publications
 Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004

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Dateline: Washington, D.C.
             July 12, 2005

Photographs by Sandy Spencer, parent from Michigan

The night was dark and stormy. Wind whipped the trees, scattering branches and limbs onto the road. Sheets of rain obscured my view. The sky was splintered by blinding bolts of lightening. (At one point, I thought about putting on sunglasses). Roads were flooded.

The weather radio predicted tornados and large hail. As Pam monitored the storms from home, we stayed in touch by cell phone. This long frightening 3-hour drive ended a very long day. The last public hearing on the proposed IDEA 2004 regulations ended at 10:15 p.m. It was 2 a.m. when I arrived home.

Signing Up Kellog Conference Center at Gallaudet College

At 10:30 am on Tuesday, July 12, participants began signing up to speak at the U.S. Department of Education Public Hearing (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) at Gallaudet College in Washington D.C. Over 300 people attended the hearing; 126 individuals signed up to speak before the panel. I was #76.

Hearing Begins

The Hearings began at 1:00 p.m. and continued until 10:15 p.m., with two 10 minute breaks and one 20 minute break. The Hearing Panel consisted of John Hager, Troy Justesen, Joan Mele-McCarthy, and JoLeta Reynolds. (Mr. Hager was called away in mid-afternoon.)

Each speaker was limited to five minutes. A timekeeper to the side displayed a flash card at three minutes, two minutes, one minute. A beeper sounded at the end of five minutes.

“Please Be Specific”

IDEA 2004 Public Hearings in D.C.Dr. Justesen opened with a few remarks. He said he hoped speakers would provide specific comments about a particular regulation and the changes they wanted in that regulation. In other words, “Please provide the regulation number first, then the words that you would like to see deleted and /or the words you want added.”

Many speakers began their comments by expressing appreciation about the fast-track issuance of the proposed regulations and the hearings around the country.

The Speakers

Speakers came from places far beyond the greater Washington DC /Baltimore area. The audience was diverse and included:

* The ARC of Denver, CO
* Norm Geller, psychologist, Richmond, Virginia
* A special education director from McHenry County, Illinois
* School person from Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia
* A special education director from Springfield, Missouri
* Paul Marchand, on behalf of The Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy
* Dennis Findley, a parent from Fairfax, Virginia
* Donna Martinez, a parent & highly qualified teacher in Virginia, doctoral candidate
*
Jean Lokerson and Justine Maloney, the Learning Disabilities Association of America
* Emerson Dickman, a special education attorney from New Jersey
* Stephen Spector, Chadd
* Selene Almazon, an attorney with the Maryland Center for Inclusive Education
* Jess Butler, a parent from Virginia
* Parent from Seattle, Washington
* Sandy Spencer, a parent from Michigan
* Bill Brownley, a special education attorney from Northern Virginia
* Elizabeth Greczek, the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems
* Jamie Ruppmann, TASH

War Stories

Many speakers offered war stories about successes and failures, and shared their personal experiences. These stories had common themes, depending on the speaker’s role.

Many educators testified that their school district is in full compliance with the law, is doing a good job, that children with disabilities are benefiting, that they are committed to success.

Many parents told a different story – that their school district had little regard for the law and that their children had been damaged. One parent described how a child with a hearing impairment was suspended from the school bus because the child used sign language on the bus which was prohibited.

Catharsis

Catharsis, catharsis, catharsis – that word echoed through my mind as I listened to the speakers. At times, I felt bad for the panel members because so few speakers provided specific comments about changes they wanted in a regulation and the basis for their recommendation.

Many speakers advised that they would provide more detail about their recommended changes in the written comments they intended to submit -- later.

Hot Topics

Many comments focused on these topics:

* Response to intervention
* LD discrepancy formula
* “Research based instruction”
* Requirements for consultations between public schools and private schools
* Requirements for highly qualified special education teachers

Regulations Cannot Conflict with the Statute

Many individuals wanted a regulation stricken or revised substantially. From my perspective, it seemed that many people did not realize that a large portion of the regulations tracks the statute, almost verbatim. In these instances, the U. S. Department of Education would not delete or significantly change a regulation so it would be in conflict with the statute.

Dr. Justesen explained that he and his staff had been working through the weekends, poring over comments received at that point. He advised the audience that they were also working on the proposed regulations for Part C of IDEA and hoped these regulations would be available soon.

Dept of Ed Staff Attentive

Dr. Justesen often asked a speaker, “Didn’t I hear you speak in San Antonio / Nashville / Sacramento?”

Although, a few people had testified at other hearings, most responded, “No, I was not there, but Ms. Jones from our (agency / organization / parent group / school district) was there and she also addressed this same topic.”

From his questions, it was clear that Dr. Justesen recalled comments and affiliations of speakers at earlier hearings.

"We Need Your Written Comment"

Dr. Justesen often asked speakers if they had submitted a written comment in advance of their presentation. While some speakers had provided written comments in advance, many had not and replied, “No, but I am going to be sending them in.”

Dr. Justesen usually asked, “How soon can you get them to us?”

If the person responded, “We will have them in before the close of the comment period” he said, “How about next week or the week after?”

It was my impression that the Department of Education wants comments as soon as possible.

Comments

Here are links to some comments provided to Dr. Justesen and his panel:

By Elizabeth Greczek, NAPAS - http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/news/napas.pdf

By Janet Lerner, Professor Emeritus and "mother of learning disabilities" - http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/news/lerner.pdf

By Paul Marchand, ARC and UCP - http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/news/arcucp.pdf

By Pete Wright, special education attorney -
http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/news/05.0712.pw.testimony.htm

Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004

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Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004 (ISBN: 1-892320-05-3) by Peter W. D. Wright, Esq. and Pamela Darr Wright includes the full text of Parts A and B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) with analysis, commentary, cross-references, and resources.

Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004 is designed to meet the needs of parents, teachers, advocates, attorneys, related services providers, school psychologists, administrators, college professors, hearing officers, and employees of district and state departments of education.

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