Articles in the Special Education category

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

NJSBA report proposes statewide plan for improving special education

A new report from the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) calls for statewide efforts to reduce special education classification by diagnosing children’s learning problems early and intervening with multi-tiered levels of support.

“Special Education: A Service, Not a Place” says such early interventions – which can often focus on students’ needs within the general education classroom – have proved to be effective in reducing the number of students later classified as needing special education services.

The report was written by NJSBA’s Special Education Task Force, which spent more than a year studying ways public schools could reduce special education costs while maintaining the quality of programs and services. The task force report makes 20 recommendations addressing such issues as funding, staff training, and the importance of early intervention.

In recent years, New Jersey school districts’ special education costs have increased much faster than the costs of general education, something Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA’s executive director, said has “often divided school communities into two opposing camps: special education and general education.”

“That’s not a healthy situation for any of our students.” Feinsod said.

Two major trends affecting special education costs since 2007 are “frequency of classification” and “severity of classification,” the report said. For example, between school years 2008 and 2012, the number of students receiving special education services increased 4.9 percent, while total public school enrollment fell by 1 percent.

To help school districts more accurately assess children’s needs and avoid over-classifying those requiring special education services, New Jersey should develop a multi-tiered system of supports that includes programs such as Response to Intervention, Intervention and Referral Services, and Positive Learning Supports, the report said. These types of programs would help school district identify children’s learning needs at an early age and provide strategies for intervening in the general education classroom.

Echoing the title of the task force report, Feinsod said school districts need to view special education as part of a range of services public schools provide to students, not a “place” where children are assigned.

“Public education should not be viewed as two separate systems – general education and special education – but rather as one continuum of instruction, programs, interventions, and services that respond to individual student needs,” Feinsod said.

Lawrence Hardy|April 23rd, 2014|Categories: Special Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

NSBA encourages Congress to support full funding for IDEA and Title I

The National School Board Association (NSBA), along with other education organizations, signed on to coalition letters urging Congress to maximize education investments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by establishing a path toward fully funding the federal share promised more than three decades ago. The groups also urge Congress to strengthen investments in Title I grants for disadvantaged students.

NSBA believes that investing in public education is one of the single most effective ways to not only help students succeed in an increasingly competitive global workplace, but also a way to help stabilize and grow the nation’s economy.

Title I ensures that critical federal education dollars reach and support students with limited resources and provides additional educational supports for more than one million students that have disabilities. Special education and related services generally cost about double what it costs to educate a student without disabilities. Since 1975, IDEA has included a commitment that the federal government to pay up to 40 percent of this excess cost to help local school districts appropriately educate children and youth with disabilities. Today, the federal share is less than 16 percent.

Funding for competitive grant programs should be weighed against the need to address Congress’ promise to fund the federal share of a 39-year-old mandate for IDEA that has superseded other local budget priorities for the majority of school districts and communities. For both IDEA and Title I, local school districts still need capacity-building support for professional development, curriculum development, course materials and instructional changes to meet federally sponsored standards and assessments.

Alexis Rice|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, School Boards, Special Education|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s COSA Seminar examines civil rights, school choice issues

Civil rights enforcement, vouchers, employment, bullying, and disability law are the hot topics this week at the National School Boards Associations’ (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) annual School Law Seminar in New Orleans taking place April 3-5. The hashtag for the seminar is #COSANola.

In the opening discussion, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, will cover the scope of civil rights issues in our nation’s schools and the work that Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is doing to ensure equal access to high-quality education for all students. Lhamon will cover the latest OCR research and the charge to protect our nation’s students against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, and age in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions nationally. Lhamon will be joined by Anurima Bhargava, Chief, Educational Opportunities Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, who will take questions on the recent guidance issued by both departments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline.

“The annual School Law Seminar gives COSA attorneys and attendees the chance to get updated on crucial school law trends and challenges our school board clients are facing,” said Greg Guercio, the 2014-2015 COSA Chair and Seminar Committee Chair.  “This is our largest Seminar.  It brings in 350+ school attorneys.  We really look forward to connecting with our colleagues and getting updated on the legal advocacy work of NSBA, as well.”

COSA sessions will be led by experienced school attorneys on relevant issues such as “What the Louisiana Voucher Litigation Means for You and Your Clients,” “Your Top Ten FERPA Questions – Asked and Answered,” and “The Alpha and the Omega: An Anti-Christ to Yoga Update on Litigation Affecting Student Religious Rights in Public Schools.”

Alexis Rice|April 1st, 2014|Categories: Leadership, School Climate, School Law, Special Education, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA President urges U.S. House of Representatives to invest in public education

NSBA President David A. Pickler testifies on education funding

NSBA President David A. Pickler testifies on education funding

On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, National School Boards Association (NSBA) President David A. Pickler testified on education funding issues before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Pickler was the only witness selected from the K-12 community to address specifically the funding needs of America’s public schools.

In his testimony, Pickler, a 16-year member of the Shelby County Board of Education in Memphis, Tenn., spoke on challenges confronting public schools, including the impact of federal budget sequestration on schools, issues concerning competitive grant programs, and the need for the federal government to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Although much of the funds affected by federal budget sequestration have been restored in Fiscal Year 2014, many school districts have suffered a significant loss of resources. K-12 programs and Head Start were affected by a reduction of almost $2.8 billion in Fiscal Year 2013. Pickler noted that strong public schools are essential to America’s economic stability and global competitiveness and encouraged Congress to develop a plan to protect the nation’s educational investment.

“Our school districts have weathered the storm; but the storm cannot and must not continue,” said Pickler. “Looking to Fiscal Year 2016, we urge you to proactively develop a plan that will protect education investments as a critical asset for economic stability and American competitiveness.”

Pickler noted, “The increase in competitive grants programs has prompted significant concern, in that new programs are being created while foundational programs with proven success–such as IDEA and Title I grants for disadvantaged students–are at stagnant funding levels. Increasing the federal share of funding for these key programs is paramount.”

Pickler was one of 22 witnesses invited to testify. Other education groups represented include colleges, health organizations, charitable groups, and various health and human services organizations.

Following Pickler’s testimony ranking member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) thanked Pickler for his testimony and acknowledged the massive drop in the federal funding for public education.

Pickler’s full submitted testimony is available on NSBA’s website. You can watch Pickler’s testimony, but due to some audio issues, while Pickler’s remarks begin at 02:27:05 timestamp, audio is not corrected until 02:31:47 timestamp.

Alexis Rice|March 25th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs. Title I is similarly underfunded.  In order to adequately meet needs of the 10 million disadvantaged children who qualify for the program, the federal government would need to increase its Title I appropriation by more than $30 billion, according to the Committee for Education Funding.

Among the president’s proposals are $500 million to help states improve early childhood programs, and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for states that would be targeted toward reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those from middle-class and wealthy families.

Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Race to the Top (RTTT), Special Education|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and AASA express concern about new restraint and seclusion bill in U.S. Senate

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued a joint statement today in response to new legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The new bill would reduce the authority of states and local school districts to decide the appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. Restraint and seclusion are used as a last resort in situations that may endanger the safety and welfare of students, teachers and other school personnel.

We agree with Harkin that routine use of restraint and seclusion is indeed inappropriate. However, we believe this legislation is a federal overreach—it fails to recognize the need for local school personnel to make decisions based on their onsite, real-time assessment of the situation. This includes school officials’ consideration of lesser interventions before making the decision to use restraint or seclusion. Our primary concern must be the safety of all students and school personnel.

Seclusion and restraint are only exercised to protect students and school personnel when other measures fail. A 2011 survey of AASA members found that 70 percent of districts invest local funds in annual training to ensure that school personnel use seclusion and restraint judiciously, first engaging in de-escalation techniques and other nonviolent crisis intervention strategies.

Of equal importance, we’re also concerned that the bill would allow parents to go to court without first exercising administrative procedures afforded to them under the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This bypass encourages litigation and diminishes congressional intent that parents and school districts collaborate to address student special needs. We’re also concerned that the federal court system does not have the capacity to take on these additional cases.

Even with limited funding, local school board and school administrator policies continue to demonstrate best practices beyond state requirements on the use of seclusion and restraint. This is further supported by a 2011 survey, in which nine out of 10 superintendents said their school districts would benefit from additional funding to implement school-wide positive behavioral support and intervention systems and nonviolent crisis interventions.

We urge Harkin to reconsider his position and work closely with local school boards and superintendents to develop legislation that ensures maximum authority to local school districts while ensuring safety for all students.

Alexis Rice|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA urges federal courts to correctly apply IDEA

Working with two state school boards associations, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has signed on to amicus briefs in cases that would impact school districts’ ability to provide special education services to students.

These amicus briefs—one filed in the U. S. Supreme Court in two California cases, the other in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dealing with a Kentucky case—ask the courts to reconsider rulings that misinterpret the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In the Supreme Court brief, which addresses two consolidated cases, Tustin Unified School District v. K.M. and Poway Unified School District v. D.H., NSBA and the California School Boards Association encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear these cases, contending that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit misapplied the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), rather than correctly applying IDEA, to a case involving a California student with a hearing impairment.

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit deferred to an interpretation of the ADA urged by the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that school districts have additional obligations under the ADA’s “effective communication” regulation, even when they have put in place Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that meet the IDEA’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

“It is important for the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case, as the Ninth Circuit opinion ignores 20 years of precedents on special education law and represents yet another example of a federal agency exceeding its authority over educational decision making,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

In each of the California cases, the school district denied the request of a high school student with hearing disabilities to use a word-for-word translation service in the classroom, but offered other accommodations. In each case, both the administrative hearing officers and the district court found that the school district had fully complied with the IDEA. However, the Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiffs, saying that the ADA imposes additional obligations not covered under IDEA.

Under IDEA’s cooperative team approach to assessing the appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities, a multidisciplinary IEP team determines a student’s educational needs based on comprehensive evaluations by specialists in the field.  Under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, NSBA argues, school districts must give “primary consideration” to the parents’ desire for specific services, programs, placements or supports—regardless of whether they are appropriate.

In a third case, Boone County Board of Education v. N.W. , NSBA is joining with the Kentucky School Boards Association in urging the Sixth Circuit to reverse a district court decision involving a student with autism and a speech disorder. The issue before the court is whether a school district must  pay for a private school placement unilaterally chosen by the student’s parents when the district has made a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) available to the student.

“The decision in Boone County Board of Education v. N.W., as it stands, would force cash-strapped school districts to bear the high costs of private placements during litigation, even when a court ultimately rules that the district has made FAPE available in a public school setting,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “The lower court’s decision sets a terrible precedent that prolongs due process and court proceedings and discourages informal resolution of special education disputes through mediated settlement. It must be reversed.”

 

Alexis Rice|February 4th, 2014|Categories: Federal Programs, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

School boards urge federal appeals court to follow precedent regarding harassment cases

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to follow standards—carefully developed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings—for determining a school district’s liability in cases of harassment.

NSBA and TASB filed an amicus brief in Lance v. Lewisville Independent Sch. Dist. that maintains school districts should not be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of disability, in instances where school officials tried but were unsuccessful in completely stopping the harassment.

The amicus brief asks the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that follow long-established standards to hold a district liable under federal anti-discrimination laws.  Those cases hold schools liable only where school officials with appropriate authority deliberately refuse to take action to respond to known actions of harassment. NSBA and TASB caution the court against using the informal guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) in an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter as the legal standard to impose monetary damages in such cases.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is advocating for an expansive standard of liability that would hold schools responsible in virtually all cases where harassment was not completely eliminated despite the district’s efforts to protect students,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “That is not what the law intends, and it would be an unprecedented change from previous Supreme Court rulings.”

The lawsuit was brought by parents of a student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, who committed suicide at school when he was in fourth grade. Although the school had provided a full psychological evaluation and responded to complaints of harassment, the parents sued the school district on allegations that the school district’s failure to do enough to stop the continuing harassment of their son. Recognizing longstanding precedent, the lower court ruled that the parents could not demonstrate that any district employee had intentionally discriminated against the student solely on the basis of his disability.

“While this case stemmed from a tragic situation, courts should refrain from adopting OCR’s ‘national standard’ and continue to defer to the judgment of educators who are knowledgeable about their communities, work closely with students in their schools, are aware of community resources, and understand the educational and emotional needs of the children entrusted to their care,” said TASB Executive Director James B. Crow.

Read more insights on NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|August 7th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA encourages U.S. Supreme Court to clarify school district responsibility for student’s mental health treatment under IDEA

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that school districts are not required to pay for a student’s mental health services in a residential care facility if those services are not needed primarily for educational purposes.

In an amicus brief, NSBA and the Colorado Association of School Boards are asking the High Court to review Jefferson County School District R-1 v. Elizabeth E.,  a case from the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and clarify the limits of the tuition reimbursement provision of the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“School districts are dedicated to educating children with disabilities, but federal law should recognize that they are not designed or funded to function as medical care providers,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Districts should not be required to pay for expensive health services that are needed primarily for medical treatment of mental health issues, not educational needs, because those would be beyond the scope and intent of IDEA.”

The case involves Elizabeth E., a student in Jefferson County, Colo., who was diagnosed with several mental health conditions. Until the eighth grade, she attended a private school, for which the Jefferson County Public Schools agreed to pay half the tuition. When Elizabeth’s behavioral disabilities began escalating, her parents unilaterally placed her in a residential treatment center out of state and sought reimbursement from the school district.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the parents were entitled to reimbursement under IDEA. The appeals court reached its decision by creating an entirely new standard that added more turmoil to an area of law in which other courts have already devised several conflicting standards, leaving no clear guidance for school districts.

“We urge the High Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s ruling which would require public schools to bear mental health care costs under the IDEA in a manner unintended by Congress,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel. “The high costs associated with such an interpretation of the IDEA could ultimately undermine the ability of public schools to provide educational services for all children.”

Learn more about the case in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , |
Page 1 of 512345