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IDEA in practice

By Mary Beth Klotz

Focus on Learning Disabilities

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities’ (NJCLD) most recent report, "Learning Disabilities: Implications for Policy Regarding Research and Practice," was officially released on May 23 at a symposium held at the headquarters of the American Speech–Hearing Association in Rockville, Maryland. NASP is one of the 12 member organizations of the NJCLD.

The report states that the construct of learning disabilities (LD) represents a valid, unique, and heterogeneous group of disorders, and that recognition of the construct is essential for sound policy and practice. The paper addresses points of general agreement in the field of LD, common misperceptions, unresolved issues in scholarship and practice, and recommendations for policies and activities. The NJCLD strongly recommends the continuation of federal laws and regulations that maintain specific learning disabilities (SLD) as a separate eligibility category in IDEA, ensure equal access to high-quality instruction and services that support the needs of individuals with LD through the life span, and promote improved practice through sustained funding for research and training. See http://www.ldonline.org/njcld.

Related NASP Resources

"Position Statement: Identification of Students With Specific Learning Disabilities" http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/positionpapers/Identification_of_SLD.pdf

Restraint and Seclusion Bill Reintroduced

Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Education and Workforce Committee in the House of Representatives recently reintroduced the "Keeping All Students Safe Act" (H.R. 1381). This legislation would limit the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools receiving federal dollars, except in cases of emergency. A 2009 investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found hundreds of allegations that children had been abused, and in some cases had even died, as a result of misuses of restraint and seclusion in schools. The GAO report also indicated that these interventions were used disproportionately with children with disabilities. Unlike in hospitals and other facilities that receive federal funding, there are currently no federal laws that address how and when restraint or seclusion can be used in schools and no consistent reporting of data. The bipartisan legislation was first introduced in the House in December 2009, but lapsed at the end of the last Congress as the companion legislation failed to be voted on in the Senate. H.R. 1381 would establish minimum safety standards in schools; require states to establish their own policies, procedures, monitoring, and enforcement systems; ask states to provide support and training to prevent the need for emergency use of behavioral interventions; improve the culture and climate of schools by providing grants to help provide professional development, training and positive behavior support programs; and require state to collect and report data annually on use of restraints and seclusion to the Department of Education. For more information and a link to the text of the bill, "Keeping All Students Safe Act," see: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/blog/2011/04/keeping-all-students-safe-act.shtml.

Related Resource

"The Cost of Waiting," a new report on the abuse of seclusion and restraint practices with students with disabilities that was released this spring by TASH, documents the high cost of waiting to protect children as a result of failing to pass the 2010 restraint and seclusion legislation and outlines the reasons why federal legislation is needed (http://tash.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TASH_The-Cost-of-Waiting_April-2011.pdf).

In Court

The U.S. Supreme Court recently asked the Obama administration for their views on the issue raised under IDEA in the Supreme Court case, Compton Unified School District v. Addison (Case No. 10- 886). The case involves an appeal of two lower court rulings that the mother had a valid claim under IDEA that the Compton Unified School District in California failed to identify her daughter’s disabilities. When the student was in 10th grade, her teachers became increasingly concerned that her work was significantly below expectations and that she had failed every class. Rather than accepting a referral (from a community mental health counselor) for a special education evaluation, the district promoted the girl to 11th grade. The mother later made a request for an evaluation and an IEP for her daughter, and the district determined the student was eligible for special education services for a learning disability. The mother brought an administrative claim under IDEA based on the school district’s failure to meet the law’s "child find" requirement to identify the girl’s disability and need for special education sooner. After losing several previous court rulings, the 9th Circuit panel again rejected the school district’s arguments that IDEA did not authorize claims where there was no affirmative refusal to act on the part of district officials. The majority held that there was "willful inaction" on the school district’s part in the face of numerous red flags about the student’s disabilities. The response from the solicitor general’s office to the Supreme Court is expected within a few months. Source: Education Week.

Mary Beth Klotz, PhD, NCSP, is NASP Director, IDEA Projects and Technical Assistance.