Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas Everybody: Dreamin' of a White X-box; Lawyers, HOs & Reindeer!

Christmas in the post-War United StatesImage via Wikipedia

I was giving some thought to my Christmas message.  I will be spending the next ten days or so with my family, so I thought a big message would be impressive before I left.   I had even thought about writing a parody challenging the increasingly commercial nature of Christmas.  The possibilities were exciting...just imagine..."I'm Dreamin' of a White X-box"...  This could have been fun!

I had written parodies before.  Going back to high school when I penned "I've Got a Black Magic Marker" to that amazing Santana tune, "Black Magic Woman."  So there was some hope.  (Remember Cubs fan... delusional optimism..., etc.)

Luckily you were spared from this ordeal.  A colleague wrote a parody that is way better and shared it with me. The imagery is impressive.  But first the legal disclaimer:  this is not my work and the opinions expressed are solely those of the author. The characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  No animals were harmed in the making of this post.  (I could go on all day, but for additional legalese, please see the permanent disclaimer on the lefthand side of the blog!)

Here is a new version of Twas The Night Before Christmas, with a distinct special education due process hearing flavor:

Twas the night before [insert holiday of your choice],
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Just a hearing officer* and a mouse.
The exhibits were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that some insight would soon be found there.

The HO family was nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of [insert holiday symbol of your choice] danced in their heads.
And the HO in her** jammies, with draft Findings in her lap,
Knew that the pesky decision due date would preclude a nice nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
The HO sprang from her desk chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, the HO flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of  mid day to objects below.
When, what to the HO’s wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight attorneys (those dears!)

With a mind like a steel trap, so lively and quick,
The HO knew in a moment it must be a trick!
More rapid than eagles those attorneys they came
And the HO whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Susan!  Now Mary!  Now Lisa ! (and other vixen)
Now William! Now James! Now Robert!  (but no one named Blitzen)
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the attorneys they flew,
With a sleigh full of extension requests, and legal arguments too.

And then, in a twinkling, the HO heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little attorney hoof.
As the HO drew in her head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney the attorneys came with a bound.

They were dressed all in business suits, from their heads to their foot
And their clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of extension requests they had flung on their back,
And they looked like a peddler, just opening her pack.

Their eyes-how they twinkled! Their dimples, how merry!
Their cheeks were like roses, their noses like cherries!
Their droll little mouths were drawn up like a bow,
And the pallor of their faces was as white as the snow.

The remnants of an adult beverage they swished around in their teeth,
As the alcohol vapors encircled their heads like a wreathe.
Their sweet earnest faces and flat little belly,
Were covered with ashes and soot, but yet not the least bit smelly!

They were cordial and amicable, exuding great class and great wealth,
At the pinnacles of their careers, the picture of health!
A wink of an eye and a twist of a head,
Soon gave the HO to know she had nothing to dread.

The attorneys spoke not a word, but returned straight to their work,
Engaging in “consensual rescheduling”, then turning with a jerk
They struck a compelling, attorney-like pose,
Then gave a nod to the HO, and up the chimney they rose!

They sprang to their sleigh, to the team gave a whistle
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But the HO heard them exclaim, ‘ere they drove out of sight,
We all want extensions, dear HOs, so for the HOs……….
A Good Night!

·         *The generic use of “HO”, rather than a name, is used to protect the confidentiality of the HO.
·         ** It is this Author’s preference to use the pronoun “she” or “her” rather than to engage in the cumbersome she/he, her/him dichotomy or to succumb to the traditional, sexist use of “him”.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Mediation vs Hearings: SpEd Dispute Resolution

MediationImage by TomNatt via Flickr

This week I finished a decision from a due process hearing and I conducted a mediation.  Dangerous combination.  This got me to thinking about dispute resolution under IDEA.  I have long contended that mediation is a better way to resolve special education disputes. 

A due process is increasingly like a court trial.  Very adversary in nature; lots of venom.  There is of course plenty of place for venom in our society.  (Otherwise we wouldn't really need lawyers would we?)  I'm just not sure that the education of a child is one of them.  Don't get me wrong, I love doing hearings.  I have been doing some type of work as a hearing examiner, hearing officer, administrative law judge as a part of my job since 1979.  I train hearing officers, special ed and others; I am a certified hearing official.  But this is really not about me, it is about those kiddos with disabilities.

Mediation unlike the adversary hearing offers the possibility of repairing the troubled relationship between parent and school officials.  Because education demands cooperation and collaboration between parents and the schools, mediation can really be a good way to go in the long run.  I have talked to parents who won a due process hearing, but still felt like they had lost.  There is an emotional cost in using the hearing process, and it can be significant.

There are situations that require the hearing process, but from my vantage point, mediation is often a better road.  

What do you think?
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

New FERPA Regulations

privacyImage by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

The United States Department of Education has issued new and revised regulations pertaining to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, better known as FERPA, on December 2, 2011.

You can read the federal Register version here.  A guide to the new FERPA regs for school districts and state departments of education may be found here. A similar guide for parents and children may be found here.

One of the forces behind the changes was the reform principle that states and districts should be able to analyze school performance without FERPA rules getting in the way.  Clearly I'm summarizing, but you get the idea.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Santo; Injustice; Service Dogs; Diabetes

Cubs retired flag for Ron SantoImage via Wikipedia

You may have to read for a while, but this post does have something to do with kids (and adults) with disabilities.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have one sports addiction- I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908.  They have not even been in the World Series since 1945.  It has been suggested to me that we have our own category in the DSM-IV, something along the lines of "delusional optimist."  Cub fans generally learn patience, to root for the underdog, the little guy, to appreciate small victories.

So it was with great delight that I learned on Monday that Ron Santo had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  It was one of the great injustices in the history of sports that Ron Santo had been previously denied HOF status.  He was the heart and soul of the Chicago Cubs.  He could hit and field.  Spoiler alert...if you hate sports statistics skip to the next paragraph... He was one of the best third basemen of all time.  He had 2,254 hits, 342 homers and 1331 runs batted in.  He got theses hits while facing pre-Expansion era pitchers, scary people like Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale. He also won five Gold Gloves as the best fielding third baseman in the national league. 

After his playing career, he became one of the radio broadcasters for the Cubs.  His keen insights and honest appraisals were refreshing and fun.  He described the game with the same gusto with which he played the game.  

It was a travesty that he had not previously been inducted.  A serious injustice has now been righted, unfortunately a year after Ronnie died. But now the world is a more just place.

What many  people did not know was that Santo achieved everything while having Diabetes.  Santo played a major league sport at the top level while battling blood sugar problems.  He became an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund after he stopped playing. He found corporations who would contribute every time a Cub played drew a walk or got a hit; who else could do that?   He raised more than 60 Million Dollars for JDRF.  He wanted people to know that you can live with, and succeed despite, having Diabetes.

After Ron Santo died, his family learned about Alert Service Dogs.  Apparently there are service dogs that can warn people when their blood sugar is either high or low.  As I have said here before, service dogs are truly amazing.  The Santo family is now trying to get the work out about these blood sugar sensitive service dogs.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

International Day of Persons With Disabilities 12/3/2011

Seal of the United States National Council on ...Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow, December 3rd is the 19th International Day of Persons with Disabilities which was created by the United Nations.  A press release by our friends at the National Council on Disability describes the occasion more eloquently than I could.  Here is their statement:

  – The National Council on Disability today released the following statement on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2011:

NCD observes the 19th International Day of Disabled Persons, first recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992. The theme of this year’s observance is “Together for a better world for all:  Including persons with disabilities in development.”

Why is meaningful involvement by persons with disabilities in international development important?  The United States invests billions of taxpayer dollars into foreign assistance programs that foster international diplomacy and development annually, aimed at improving the quality of life for people around the world. These programs develop economies, promote democracy and governance, provide humanitarian assistance, build new infrastructure, and advance and protect human rights. Given that 15 percent of the world population is made up of people with disabilities, and growing, the United States cannot effectively accomplish the goals of foreign assistance programs unless it ensures programs are accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities.

Conservative estimates by the World Health Organization suggest more than one billion people, an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population, have a disability. 80 percent of these individuals live in developing nations. Although people with disabilities make up a large segment of the global population, they continue to face worldwide discrimination and segregation at alarming levels. Moreover, numbers are likely gravely underestimated because people with disabilities are typically shunned, hidden from public view by their families, and commonly excluded from community activities.

Exclusion from the built environment prevents use of necessary services and resources that non-disabled populations take for granted. These barriers have a negative, spiraling effect. Physical barriers also keep people with disabilities from using voting centers, polling places, courthouses, administrative agencies, schools, and embassies.

Those who aren’t hidden by families or communities of origin are often left to languish in institutions – further removing them from civic and social engagement. Conflict and poverty continue to increase the incidence rates of disability in less developed and industrialized economies alike.  Already significant numbers are rising due to a variety of factors including aging, poverty, armed conflict, as well as improved data collection.

Overseas economic development will not be successful unless people with disabilities are included.  If development is not inclusive, the significant numbers of people with disabilities in developing countries will hinder the very economic growth the U.S. seeks to facilitate.  NCD recommends both micro-level solutions to spark income generation in coordination with large scale interventions to create the kinds of legal and regulatory structures to better serve and benefit from the contributions of people with disabilities.

As the world observes the 19th International Day of Persons with Disabilities, NCD welcomes the opportunity to focus greater attention to workable solutions to concerns faced by people with disabilities, their families and the diverse communities people live in around the globe.

About NCD: Founded in 1978, the National Council on Disability is a small, independent federal agency comprised of 15 Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Council Members and a small staff, who advise the President, Congress and other Federal agencies on disability policy, programs and services.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

NAHO Conference

Santa Fe, New MexicoImage by gholmes via Flickr
The conference of the National Association of Hearing officials was the final stop on the Jim Gerl 2011 tour.  The conference was held in mid November at the historic La Fonda hotel in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.   

The meeting was a great opportunity to see old friends and to meet other hearing officers.  The educational sessions were top notch and the participation by the New Mexico justice system was very helpful.

NAHO is an organization of administrative hearing officers.  It includes representatives from welfare agencies, DMVs, unemployment agencies, workers comp agencies, special education agencies, retirement boards, condo associations, environmental protection agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Parole Commission,  and everything in between.  It is a good mix of people who do all sorts of hearings. The conference is a great opportunity to talk to others who do administrative hearings and to learn from what they do.  

I have served on the faculty of the NAHO annual conference for the last seven years.  This year I presented three sessions.  The first was my favorite How to Conduct an Administrative Hearing.  The second was Dealing With Difficult Lawyers and Parties.  The last on was a Nuts & Bolts Approach to Due Process.  My sessions were well attended and those who attended actively participated.  They went well.

A subsequent post will cover some of the other sessions.
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