Schools Discipline Special Ed Students At Higher Rates

August 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Advocacy

Nate Robson’s report is focused on Oklahoma, but the problems he describes are not unique to Oklahoma:

In Jenks Public Schools, campus police physically restrained and handcuffed a second-grade special education student.

His crime? He ran to the playground to escape a noisy classroom.

At Tulsa Public Schools, officials called a father and told him to pick up his 6-year-old daughter, who was having an emotional meltdown. He arrived to find four armed campus police officers holding her down, saying she assaulted one of them.

In the Deer Creek School District in Edmond, a member of the school staff slapped an autistic child on two occasions, but a judge tossed out the federal lawsuit, saying the employees acted out of frustration.

Read more on NewsOn6.

School’s Re-opening: Protect Your Child’s Privacy

August 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Advocacy, Featured, Tips

As children return to school, parents are often swamped with forms and informational packets. One of them, however, is something that you really need to pay attention to if you want to protect your child’s privacy.

Under FERPA, schools that receive public education funds must notify parents every year as to what types of information the school district considers “Directory Information” that they can share with others – without your knowledge or consent – unless you opt out of information sharing.

Given how massive databases compile more and more data about ourselves and our children, and given that you do not know how that information may be used against your child in the future, you may want to be cautious and opt your child OUT of sharing of directory information.

Remember: if you do not actively opt your child out by returning the opt out form, they will be able to share lots of information about your child without your consent throughout the school year. Read the form they provide and then decide what is best for your child.

Keep in mind that opting out of sharing directory information has nothing to do with opting out of Common Core testing. They are totally separate issues.

For more information on the dangers of directory information sharing, see this informative site from the World Privacy Forum.

If your child is over the age of 18 or attends college, they will receive the notice about directory information and the opt-out form. Remind them to look for it.

Washington State Legislature Moves to Limit Schools Pinning Down and Isolating Kids

April 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Advocacy

by Annie Waldman ProPublica, March 10, 2015, 11:31 a.m.

A bill that would limit Washington public schools restraining or isolating students is working its way through the state Legislature, making it at least the fourth state to move to limit restraints in recent months.

Last year, an analysis of government data by ProPublica and NPR revealed that educators frequently pin down kids and isolate them. During the 2012 school year, these practices were used on students more than 267,000 times. Nearly three-quarters of the reported restraints involved children with disabilities. Hundreds of children are injured each year during restraints and at least 20 have died as a result.

Washington’s House of Representatives passed the restraints bill earlier this month and the state Senate is expected to vote on it in the coming weeks. It would prohibit pinning down kids or isolating them unless a student’s actions could lead to the harm of a person or property. Such interventions would also no longer be allowed in the pre-approved behavior plans of special needs students.

State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, who supports the bill, said she hopes it will decrease the dropout rate, in particular for students with special needs.

“Some districts use handcuffs and some use scream rooms,” McAuliffe told ProPublica. “Many of these children have a fear of isolation and restraint and I don’t think they’re going to want to go back to school.”

Several other states have also moved to decrease schools’ reliance on restraints and seclusion.

Virginia legislators passed a bill earlier this year requiring state leaders to set limits on the use of these practices in schools. In Massachusetts, new rules will be enacted by the end of 2016 requiring educators to get permission from principals before giving students “time-outs” that last more than 30 minutes. New York City, which in the past has faced criticism for its lack of transparency on restraining kids in schools, recently reformed its discipline code to mandate the tracking of such interventions.

According to federal data, Washington children were restrained or isolated more than 10,500 times during the 2012 school year. Although the reporting of restraints is required under state law, exactly how and when the techniques could be used was not clearly defined in the statute.

“Districts were using this as a form of punishment,” Arzu Forough, the founder of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, said in an interview. “It was intended to be an emergency response.”

The new bill clarifies that restraints should only be used as a last resort.

Not all legislators support the proposed reforms.

“Let’s be honest, some of these children are very large and very strong,” State Rep. Brad Klippert told Tacoma’s News Tribune. “I do want to be able to give our teachers the latitude to protect everyone.”

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N.H. special education school faces abuse allegations

October 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Advocacy, Commentary

James Vaznis reports:

Two families filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a highly regarded residential and day school for special education students in New Hampshire, alleging that several staff members verbally or physically abused their children.

In one instance, a classroom aide at the school run by the Crotched Mountain Foundation, in Greenfield, N.H., is accused of taking a picture of a naked 7-year-old boy on a toilet and posting it temporarily on the Internet while another aide laughed about the picture with colleagues, according to the civil lawsuit filed in the federal courthouse in Concord, N.H.

Read more on Boston Globe.

The allegations are horrifying, but as I read the news story, I found myself also wondering about what the U.S. Education Department (USED) might do over what appears to be allegations of violating the child’s privacy by uploading a picture of him naked to the Internet. Will they say that the picture is not an “education record,” and therefore it’s not a FERPA issue? I suspect they might.

Will the USED Office of Civil Rights open an investigation and possibly deny federal funds to the school for violations of students’ civil rights? They could, I think, but I somehow doubt that they will.

In any event, such abuse, if the allegations are true, does need to be prosecuted criminally. And schools need to be sued civilly to ensure they properly screen, train, and monitor aides.

Why Can’t Teenagers Go to Sleep Earlier? And Why Don’t Schools Accommodate That?

Lynne Lamberg  explains that puberty is associated with delays in nocturnal melatonin secretion, resulting in teens staying up approximately two hours later than pre-pubertal children. But since teens still need as much sleep as prepubertal children, they suffer a sleep deficit if school starts early.

We’ve known this for decades, but even now, most school districts continue to start (too) early.  Think of how you function if you do not get enough sleep. Is it any surprise that teens who are sleep-deprived will be more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems or have more difficulty focusing, learning, and producing? Why, oh why, don’t schools just start later?

Lamberg recaps some of the available research in her article on Psychiatric Times:

When school starts later, academic performance and other health indicators improve, said Kyla Wahlstrom, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI).

Wahlstrom led CAREI’s three-year study of about 9,500 students in grades 6 to 12 in eight public schools in Wyoming, Minnesota, and Colorado following start-time delays. In schools that started at 8:35 a.m., her group found, about 60 percent of students slept eight hours or longer on school nights. In schools that began at 7:30 a.m., only 34 percent of students got that much sleep.

Grades rose in first-period classes in the core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies. State and national standardized achievement test scores also rose, the CAREI team reported earlier this year. “We found a proportional benefit for a proportional delay in start time,” Wahlstrom said. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Worries that students will stay up later when schools delay start times are unfounded, Wahlstrom said. Students maintain their previous bedtimes and get more sleep.

An earlier CDC study, using data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found students who slept less than eight hours a night on average were more likely than those who slept longer to report that they drink, smoke cigarettes, use marijuana, are sexually active, and had at least one physical fight in the preceding year.

Yet after all the research and all the decades, most schools continue to start school too early.

This past year, I’ve seen parents become more active advocates for their children’s privacy and data security. Those are serious issues,  but most parents still are not actively involved in advocating for later school start for teens. If we really want to improve educational outcomes and decrease behavioral and emotional problems – in school and out of it – we need to stop starting school for the convenience of the districts and working parents, and start school at an hour that works for the students.

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