The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
July 5, 1999

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Issue - 34

ISSN: 1538-3202

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1. News Flash! West Virginia Jury Awards More Than $300,000 To Parents of Autistic Child

"It took state and federal judges two years to decide if a Mingo County family's claim that their autistic son had been abused had merit. It took a Kanawha County jury two hours to reach the same conclusion."

"A $338,928 verdict was returned by jurors in the case of Ronnie Lee Spaulding -- an 11-year-old mentally handicapped boy who was strapped to his desk by teachers."

"Jurors agreed Monday evening that Spaulding had been mistreated and neglected while in the special education programs at two Mingo County grade schools, Williamson Elementary and Lenore Elementary."

"Specifically, they determined that Spaulding's teachers, aides and administrators had committed assault and battery, violated the boy's human rights and provided negligent supervision. Jurors also provided cash awards for the Spaulding family's pain and suffering."

To read more about this jury verdict and the story behind the story, visit Wrightslaw.

2. News! U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Decision in Olmstead v. L.C. & E.W.

On June 24, 1998, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling on behalf of two disabled women in Olmstead v. L.C. & E. W.

After the decision, ADAPT, a national disabilities rights organization issued a press release:

"This ruling will dramatically affect how the civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), can be used to assure that people with disabilities and their families have the right to choose where they live and receive support services . . the ruling upholds a key civil rights provision in the ADA, known as the 'integration mandate', which maintains that individuals with disabilities must be offered services in the 'most integrated setting'."

"The high court, in upholding the mandate, has reinforced the fundamental intent of the ADA, which is to prevent discrimination and promote the integration of people with disabilities into our communities."

"Specifically, the Supreme Court ruling supports lower courts rulings that Georgia's Department of Human Resources may not segregate two women with mental disabilities in a state psychiatric hospital long after the agency's own treatment professionals had recommended their transfer to community care."


ADAPT: http://www.adapt.org/

Justice For All: http://www.jfanow.org

3. News! U.S. Supreme Court To Resolve Split Among Circuits in Education Funding Case

Last year, in Mitchell v. Helms, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down a federal program that provides elementary and secondary religious schools with educational materials on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state.

This ruling was contrary to an earlier Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the same program.

The high court agreed to decide whether computers and other instructional materials purchased with taxpayer money can be used by religious schools. One analyst described this case as "the most important church-state dispute to reach the court in two decades."

The court's decision in this case may affect school vouchers, financial help from the government for families whose children attend religious and other private schools. The ruling also may determine the scope of federal efforts to connect every American classroom to the Internet.

We will keep newsletter subscribers posted on developments in this important case.

4. California Judges Fed Up, May Sue Schools

Thanks to Suzanne of California for sending us this article. According to a 6/16/99 article in the L. A. Daily Journal:

"Santa Clara County supervisors decided to hire new "legal staff" to ensure that school districts meet their obligation to provide individualized attention to students who need special education - even if this means suing the school districts."

"County Counsel Ann Ravel soft-pedaled the possibility of filing lawsuits against school districts that fail to meet their legal obligations. "Our office always attempts to mediate and discuss before any lawsuit is filed" she said."

"Still, the threat of litigation is clearly designed to get the districts’ attention."

"Collaboration has had limited success," said Supervisor Pete McHugh.

Click here to read this article.

5. Determined Mom Gets Services For Son

A few months ago, The Special Ed Advocate subscribers read a "Letter to Wrightslaw" from Kate who asked "How can I get the school to provide my son with appropriate special education services?"

"My son began special education during his second grade year. He is now in fifth grade. When he entered special education, his reading level was 1.3. After 30 months of special education, his reading level is 2.3. He is falling further behind, not closing the gap."

"I am tired of fighting with them. I feel like giving up but my son is too important."

We sent Kate a detailed response and put both letters up on the Wrightslaw web site:

"To get your son the kind of help he needs, you need to have an independent expert who can say that your son needs a program that is "structured, systematic, sequential, repetitive and phonologically based."

"To find an expert who understands the educational needs of dyslexic children, contact the International Dyslexia Association. The International Dyslexia Association has an excellent web site."


"The revised IDEA places schools under increased pressure to use educational programs that work, i.e., that have a track record of success. "What works" for dyslexic children are reading programs that are based on Orton-Gillingham principles."

The Orton-Gillingham approach was used 45 years ago to teach Pete Wright how to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic. The Wilson method incorporates many Orton-Gillingham principles.

What happened next?

Kate sent us an update about her son.

Dear Pete and Pam:

I wrote you in the fall of 1998 and explained the problems I was having with our school district. The district did not want to provide my son with an appropriate reading program, one that was structured, systematic and phonologically based.

At your suggestion, I contacted organizations for recommendations about an appropriate place to have Paul evaluated. He was evaluated at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. This testing confirmed that Phillip is dyslexic and needs a structured, systematic, phonologically based reading program that is consistent and repetitive.

After the evaluation, the evaluators had a feedback session with us and the school district. They advised the school that Paul needs consistent reading instruction at least five days a week. After this, the district began providing Paul with instruction in the Wilson Reading Program, five days a week.

Last week we received the results of his most recent Woodcock Johnson Test. In October, his score in basic reading skills score was at the 1.9 grade level. His score is now at the 5.6 grade level.

I have been writing letters and going to meetings for more than three years. I was very tempted to give up in frustration. My son will attend middle school next year. I will need to continue to advocate for him so his need for an appropriate education is fulfilled.

Thank you for your continued support and help through this wonderful web site.

Dear Kate:

Thanks for taking the time to let us know what has happened with your son. Paul made extraordinary progress in a short time. As you say, you need to keep going with remediation - I expect his skills are still tenuous.

The school may use his progress to support a position that he doesn’t need daily remediation any longer!

We will mention your update to help parents understand the need to get an outside expert involved. As you learned, parents are rarely successful in getting good services for children unless an outside expert is involved. The outside expert must be willing to meet with school staff and tell them what the child needs - and NEVER use the four letter word "best!"

Click here to read Kate’s original letter and our reply.

6. Editor's Choice From the Bookstore

When we decided to build the Advocate’s Bookstore on the Wrightslaw site, we asked attorneys, advocates and experts to recommend their favorite books. Here are some of the most highly recommended books:

Educational Care by Mel Levine. Recommended by everyone!

Dyslexia: Theory & Practice of Remedial Instruction by Diana Brewster Clark and Johanna Kellogg Uhry

The Dyslexic Scholar by Kathleen Nosek.

Look for these and other good books in the "Education" section of our bookstore


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