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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
June 11, 2003


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ISSN: 1538-3202
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In this Issue


Why You Must Act Now

Your To-Do List

Don't Leave Us Behind - IDEA Rally (June 17)

Learn More About IDEA

IDEA Contacts

Subscribe & Contact Info



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Alert: Kids Need Our Help This Week


Please download and distribute this Alert: http://www.wrightslaw.com/nltr/03/al.0611.htm

Why You Must Act Now

In April, the House of Representatives passed H.B. 1350. At this point, our only hope of derailing several damaging amendments to the IDEA is in the Senate. Read More

The Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is drafting its own version of the bill. Legislative experts report that the situation in the HELP committee is fluid and uncertain. While several HELP members are in our corner, there is strong opposition from some quarters, including Senator Lamar Alexander's staff.

Plainly, the Senators are getting a great deal of their information from school districts. Senate staff repeat stories of "Cadillac services" coerced out of defenseless school districts by parents' lawyers who run "IDEA mills." These stories involve dolphins and horseback riding lessons. You get the picture.

It is absolutely imperative that all members of the Senate, especially the members of the HELP committee (names and states listed below), hear from their constituents - that's you!

If you are from Tennessee, your help is urgently needed since Senators Frist and Alexander are HELP members. If you are from Ohio, Kansas or Alabama, you need to educate Senator DeWine and Senator Roberts who are new to IDEA issues, and Senator Sessions who has shown some interest in the parents' positions.

Write about your child or children for whom you advocate. Write, call or e-mail, but please, please let your voice be heard.

As for what you should say to our Senators, here are some ideas.

1. Tell a simple, human story that anyone can relate to.

Personal stories are important. Explain how your child, or a child for whom you advocate, will be hurt by the proposed changes.

Don't focus on diagnosis or specialized interventions. Talk about denial of access to quality education, about lack of opportunity for educational progress. It is important to tell our stories in terms that all Americans can relate to.

Explain why this bill will turn back the clock, harm children, or lead to increased costs to society if children with disabilities do not get the education they need to "prepare them for employment and independent living" (§1400(d) Purposes of IDEA statute)

2. Emphasize how difficult it has been to get the most basic services for your child or the children for whom you advocate.

We need to counteract the stereotype that we are whiny upper-middle class parents who want outrageously expensive services at public expense because we have a sense of entitlement.

Stress that you are a middle class parent who is struggling to ensure that your child receives the medical and educational services - and that you don't know why this has to be such a battle. If you are an advocate, emphasize that you advocate for parents who are often unaware of their rights, whose children have been denied the most basic services, who are poor, who try hard in school but who have received very little specially designed instruction and whose prospects in adult life are dim as a result.

3. Advocates and attorneys need to counteract the myth that we are operating "IDEA mills."

Most attorneys who represent children with disabilities are solo practitioners, public interest lawyers and members of small firms. We often handle IDEA cases on not much more than a wing and a prayer.

We need to emphasize the positive role that parents' lawyers can play as problem solvers, especially in situations where school districts are advised by lawyers from the beginning.

List of HELP members:

Senator Judd Gregg (NH), Chair
Senator Bill Frist (TN)
Senator Edward Kennedy (MA), Ranking Member
Senator Mike Enzi (WY)
Senator Christopher Dodd (CT)
Senator Lamar Alexander (TN)
Senator Tom Harkin (IA)
Senator Christopher Bond (MO)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD)
Senator Mike DeWine (OH)
Senator James Jeffords (I) (VT)
Senator Pat Roberts (KS)
Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM)
Senator Jeff Sessions (AL)
Senator Patty Murray (WA)
Senator John Ensign (NV)
Senator Jack Reed (RI)
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC)
Senator John Edwards (NC)
Senator John Warner (VA)
Senator Hillary Clinton (NY)


2. Your To Do List


Be a hero - speak up for the kids! (How often do you have a chance to be a hero? Think about it!)

* This Week: Call, Write or Email your United States Senators

When you write to your Senator, your letter will be far more effective if you describe a real situation with your child or in your school, classroom, or district. Lack confidence in
your letter-writing skills? Read 12 Rules for Writing Great Letters.

Read good advice about Communicating with Elected Officials by phone, letter and email from the National Center on Learning Disabilities.
http://capwiz.com/ld/issues/basics/?style=comm

To send an email to your Senators, go to the NCLD Legislative Action Center. When you enter your zip code, you will go to a page that allows you to send an email to your Senators. http://www.capwiz.com/ld/issues/alert/?alertid=2086276&type=CO

* June 11 & 12: National Call-In Days (Toll-Free #)

ASHA (the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) is sponsoring a toll-free call-in day to Senators on Wednesday June 11 and Thursday June 12 between 9:00-5:00 Eastern time. The number you can use to call in toll-free on those days is 1-800-760-3014.

Theme: Retain IDEA "Highest Qualified" Provider Language So Our Kids Can Get the Support They Need

The focus of this initiative by ASHA is to urge the Senate to retain the current IDEA requirement that our children receive treatment/therapy from the "highest qualified" providers. I.e., our children should remain entitled to help from certified, qualified speech/language pathologists (SLP's), as well as other professional such as occupational therapists (OT's), physical therapists (PT's), etc. If less qualified individuals are allowed to provide treatment, that could hurt our kids by providing them with substandard care.


3. Don't Leave Us Behind - IDEA Rally in Washington DC - June 17, 2003

Don't Leave Us Behind, a national rally and press conference to Preserve Civil Rights under IDEA for Students with Disabilities, has been organized for June 17, 2003 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Room G50.

Learn about the IDEA Rally: http://www.wrightslaw.com/news/2003/idea.rally.htm

More information:

East Coast: Sue Hetrick at (866) 885-5733 or by email shetrick@abilitycenter.org.

West Coast: Julia Epstein (510) 644-2555 or email jepstein@dredf.org


4. Learn More About IDEA Issues

H.R. 1350 Will Not Accomplish the Goals of Its Proponents is a short article by disability rights advocates that focuses on whether the House version of IDEA (HR 1350) meets the goals its proponents intended.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/news/2003/idea.disrights.advocates.pdf

These goals include:

1. Strengthening accountability and results for students with disabilities.
2. Restoring trust between parents and schools.
3. Reducing the paperwork burden.
4. Reducing litigation.
5. Increased flexibility for school districts to improve early intervention services.

If you are the parent of a child with a disability, you need to know about proposed changes to the IDEA that may affect your child. For news, resources, alerts, please go to our

IDEA Reauthorization Page
:
http://www.wrightslaw.com/news/idea2002.htm

Many reports and studies have identified the strengths and weaknesses of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and our current system of educating children with disabilities. Read these reports. Familiarize yourself with the issues at the -

Resources & Reports Page
: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/idea2002.resources.htm


5. IDEA Contacts The information in this Alert comes from several organizations, including:

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates - www.copaa.net

Action Alert - News about federal legislation that may affect your child. To subscribe, go to http://www.capwiz.com/ld/home/ and click ACTION E-LIST

The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh - www.achieva.info/familysupports

Our Children Left Behind - http://www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com


6. Subscription & Contact Info

The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, and tactics and strategies. Subscribers receive "alerts" about new cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books.

Law Library - http://www.wrightslaw.com/law.htm

Advocacy Library - http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc.htm

Free Newsletter - http://www.wrightslaw.com/subscribe.htm

Newsletter Archives - http://www.wrightslaw.com/archives.htm

Seminars & Training - http://www.wrightslaw.com/speak/index.htm

Yellow Pages for Kids - http://www.fetaweb.com/help/states.htm

Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043
Website: http://www.wrightslaw.com
Email: newsletter@wrightslaw.com


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