July 27th, 2009

NEWS FLASH! SpedEx: new resolution model!

Please visit the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at www.doe.mass.edu/bsea

Scroll down to the June 15, 2009 SpedEx launch.

SpedEx is the innovative way for schools and parents to resolve disputes about special education placements–keeping the child’s need for a FAPE (free appropriate public education) front and central.

SpedEx is the new game in town. Check it out! For more information, please contact us at www.specialeducationday.com or at www.doe.mass.edu/bsea, or by contacting rconnolly@doe.mass.edu.

If other states are intereted in learning more aboutSpedEx, we’d love to hear from you.

Again–let’s keep our students’ need for a FAPE front and central when we resolve special education disputes.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

July 25th, 2009

Let's have a beer! www.nytimes.com.

How about this.

If the President, Professor Gates, and Sergeant Crowley can sit down and have a beer at the White House, how about parents of students with disabilities and school personnel–sitting down just to talk with and listen to each other. When the President mentioned that idea at his impromptu news briefing yesterday, didn’t the nation breath a bit easier?

Surely worth trying. Talking and listening to move forward together might work better than the endless battles we now have about special education.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

July 23rd, 2009

Dual and dueling laws: www.ed.gov

As I think about how we do special education in the U.S., sometimes reality stares us in the face; yet, we overlook it.

The better regular education is, the less special education we need. That is the way it is. Rock bottom solid reality.

A bit of history. Back in the 1970’s, the law seemed to create two systems–regular and special. Special education was going to ‘fix,’ ‘cure,’ ‘educate’ students identified for IDEA services. Often it succeeded and students benefited. But, over the years, Congress came to believe that special education was educating to low expectations and not holding students with disabilities to high standards. Thus, in 1997, Congress revolutionized how we do special education. It mandated that students with disabilities be educated in the general curriculum–and meet state and local standards, along with their regular education peers. Since then, regular education teachers and someone knowledgeable about the general curriculum are mandated to attend IEP Team meetings.

So where are we now? We still run two systems. www.ed.gov.

It makes no sense. One, regular education/the general curriculum/NCLB, is driven by state and local standards and state and district wide assessments for accountability under the NCLB. The other, is driven by the IDEA’s focus on a FAPE.

It’s not a happy marriage. Often these laws collide. And amazingly, in this day of ‘research-based’ instruction (mandated by the NCLB and now in the IDEA), NO research was undertaken to prove that this dual (and dueling) approach is the best way to educate our students–regular and special education.

It’s time to fix this!

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

July 20th, 2009

Massachusetts launches dispute resolution SpedEX!

As a co-founder of Special Education Day (http://www.specialeducationday.com/), I am so happy to let you know that one of our holiday’s reform efforts, SpedEx, is now launched. Supported and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), SpedEx is ready to help parents and schools resolve disputes about special education and a FAPE (free appropriate public education) to students.

For information, please visit http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/spedx

We wish SpedEx much success as a trailblazer in rebuilding trust between schools and families and providing a FAPE to students.

Please forward this information to others with an interest in special education. Here’s the ESE description.

SpedEx is: a dispute resolution pilot project that will be available after a hearing request has been filed. It (a) isdesigned to assure that a child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE);(b) is voluntary and will build trust between parents and schools; (c) is expedient; (d) involves a jointlyagreed-upon independent SpedEx consultant chosen from a list maintained by the BSEA, who can assist parties to determinethe program the child needs to assure a FAPE in the LRE. The parties are not bound by the consultant’s report and recommendation.If the parties do agree, the hearing request is withdrawn and the SpedEx consultant observes the child in the program to assurethat FAPE is being provided in the LRE. If the parties do not agree, the parties may pursue their due process rights.
Key features:
Use of an independent, neutral educational SpedEx consultant jointly agreed-upon by family and school whose fee willbe paid by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE)
Placement of students by agreement within 30 days with post-placement observation by SpedEx consultant
Decisions made through joint school-family knowledge and cooperation
ESE has solicited and selected an administrator of the SpedEx Program, Dr. Alec Peck, Professor of Education at BostonCollege. Professor Peck will set up a database to administer the program, maintain schedules, contract with the SpedEx consultants,conduct satisfaction surveys, and develop data to assess the efficacy of the pilot project.
Applications for inclusion on the list of SpedEx consultants will be accepted throughout the life of the pilot project(i.e., three years). Persons who may wish to be included on the list of SpedEx consultants must have at least a Master’sDegree and three years experience in their field of expertise. In addition, a SpedEx consultant must (a) hold the appropriatelicense or certification in their area of expertise; (b) should possess an understanding of the legal basis of FAPE – a freeappropriate public education – and LRE – least restrictive environment; (c) be prepared to review and recommend programs thatmeet the needs of the student, that is, provide FAPE in the LRE; (d) be able to maintain strict neutrality and work expeditiouslyto gather necessary information from all parties; (e) seek to promote dispute resolution through cooperation and trust betweenschools and parents; and (f) be willing and able follow up agreements with an on-site visit to the child in the agreed-uponprogram. Additional information may be found at the Commonwealth’s contract solicitation site, http://www.comm-pass/,key word “bsea.”
This a three year pilot project, with limited funding (eight cases) for each fiscal year. Requests for this option aftera hearing request has been filed will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Please direct any questions to: Richard E. Connolly, Esq., DirectorBureau of Special Education Appeals; 781-338-6402;rconnolly@doe.mass.edulast updated: June 10,2009.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments

July 3rd, 2009

More on that Supreme Court decision, Forest Grove…

Am I the only person who was taken aback by the Court’s decision to grant the parents reimbursement for their private placement (even though the child had not received special education in the public school) for several reasons, including the fact that the legal process takes too long! Oh my. Where is the justice for all?

The timing:

Parents sought a due process hearing in 2003.
The District Court issued its ruling in 2005.
And here we are in 2009, with the Supremes–almost a year after the student graduated from high school!

A ridiculous scenario, of course. We all know that. See lots of good work by Common Good on these issues. www.commongood.org.

The due process review is ponderous, says the Court, so it decides to ‘avoid detriment to the child’s education’ and grant the parents reimbursement.

We all know the process is onerous for everyone. So what to do? Change the process. Get rid of it. Streamline it. Do something systemic….

We should not put one hand on the scale for one side (parents) but not the other (our public schools). Schools did not create this flawed and out-of-control due process system. Congress did, more than 30 years ago. The courts continue it, adding layers upon layers.

We need to change the process–not use it to create further injustice.

Post by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D. | No Comments