Child Find: It's Not Optional - It's Mandatory;
Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools

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September 26, 2007

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 405
Subscribers: 53,701

In This Issue:

Class Action! Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools

Judge Orders Sanctions Against School District, Remedies for Kids

Wisconsin DPI - No Teeth in Its Bite!

The Child Find Mandate: What Does it Mean to You?

Singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park

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On September 11, a federal judge issued a decision in Jamie S v. Milwaukee Public Schools, et. al. The judge found that Milwaukee Public Schools violated the Child Find provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Judge also found that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction violated the IDEA by failing to discharge its supervisory responsibilities.

This decision sends a strong message to all school districts and all state departments of education that "making an effort" is not enough. Compliance with the Child Find mandate is not optional - it's mandatory.

In this issue of the Special Ed Advocate, you'll find a new article about the Child Find Mandate - what it is, who it is designed to protect, how it is to be implemented, and more.

You will find a special treat at the end of this newsletter. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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Judge Orders Sanctions Against School District, Remedies for Kids

Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools (E.D. WI, Case # 01-C-928) began in September 2001 when the plaintiffs filed a complaint against Milwaukee Public Schools and the Wisconsin Department of Instruction (DPI).

In Judge Orders Sanctions Against School District, Remedies for Kids, Pete and Pam Wright will walk you through the case from the beginning. You'll see how the case became a class action case and what happened at trial.

In the first trial, the judge received reports and testimony from expert witnesses. Who testified for the children? Who testified on behalf of Milwaukee Public Schools? Which witnesses did the judge view as credible?

Next came the fact-finding trial with 48 witnesses. You'll meet Melanie, Ryan, Jamie, Desmond, Bryan and Tennessee - children in the class. These children's problems and experiences may sound familiar to you.

In Judge Orders Sanctions, Remedies for Kids, you'll learn that the school district suspended children with emotional and behavioral problems, and failed to refer them for an evaluation. You'll find out why teachers were reluctant to refer children for special education evaluations. You might ask yourself if you would act differently if you were in their shoes.

Although Milwaukee took a few reluctant steps to correct these failures, the court found this was not enough. Data showed that in 2004-05, over half (61.5%) of Milwaukee Public Schools fell short of their goals for assessing children.

The facts don't lie: 978 past due evaluations, evaluations taking more than 600 days, high rates of suspensions greater than 10 days...and more.

What happens next?

Remedies and Sanctions

In his decision, Judge Goodstein described the need to "address the issue of what sanctions/remedies are appropriate ... since these students may have suffered educationally as a result of Child Find failures, are they entitled to some form of compensatory education?" The judge also discussed strong sanctions to bring Milwaukee Public Schools into compliance with the law.

Judge Goodstein scheduled a conference with the parties on September 27, 2007 to discuss sanctions and remedies. He urged them "to attempt to resolve the case with a mutually agreeable solution" and pointed out the benefits of such an agreement.

For the story behind the story, read Judge Orders Sanctions Against School District, Remedies for Children.

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Wisconsin Dept of Public Instruction: "No Teeth in Its Bite"

The Court found the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) violated the IDEA and state statutes by failing ensure that Milwaukee Public Schools corrected problems within specific timelines.

Although the DPI attempted to get Milwaukee to comply with the law, it set no deadlines for doing so. When the DPI developed corrective action plans, they were ignored. When the DPI ordered Milwaukee to correct errors "without undue delay," nothing happened. The DPI did not impose any sanctions or punishments for these failures.

In his decision, the judge posed this question: "Did the DPI do all that was reasonably required to ensure that Milwaukee Public Schools complied with the law?"

His answer: "It appears to this court that the underlying problem was the failure of DPI to put any teeth into it's bite. DPI required new procedures, but failed to impose appropriate sanctions when the acronym programs did not product satisfactory compliance."

The judge had other concerns. Because the DPI didn't impose sanctions when Milwaukee failed to comply, Milwaukee grew confident that there would be no consequences for their continuing failure to correct problems.

Judge Goodstein wrote, "the underlying problem was the failure of DPI to put any teeth into its bite ... To this court...something is wrong with a system that is unable to correct the problem.."

Read the decision in Jamie S. v. Milwaukee Public Schools.

More special education cases.

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The Child Find Mandate: What Does it Mean to You?

Before Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, millions of children were not allowed to attend public school.

Now each state is responsible for ensuring that children with disabilities are identified and receive special education services (See 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

All states must:

  • identify
  • locate and
  • evaluate

all children with disabilities. This obligation applies to children from birth to 21, children who are home schooled, homeless, migrants, wards of the state, and children who attend private schools. The requirements apply to children who receive passing grades and are "advancing from grade to grade."

In The Child Find Mandate: What Does it Mean to You?, Pam Wright answers your questions about Child Find. What is the Child Find mandate? Why is it necessary? Who is it designed to protect? How is it implemented?

Get your own copy of the Child Find Statute. In Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition you'll find the IDEA 2004 statute and regulations regarding Child Find requirements, along with extensive commentary by Pete Wright.

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Singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park

If the facts in the Jamie S. case are cause for concern, you need a lift.

It's Disability Awareness Day at Fenway Park, time to stand up, take off your hat, and sing the National anthem.

This video
will make you want to stand up and sing along.

Don’t miss it.

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