Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Great Session on Restorative Justice

I attended a great breakout session at the OSEP Conference this morning on restorative justice. There are some exciting possibilities for replacing ineffective discipline techniques like zero tolerance. Also there are some effective anti-bullying uses of the technique where the victim confronts the bully and the bully acknowledges the impact on the victim.

Restorative justice like mediation has the ability to change relationship problems. It also has the goal of slowing the school to prison pipeline, which adversely affects kids with disabilities.

Jim Gerl

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

OSEP 2013 IDEA Leadership Conference Materials Abailable

Whether or not you are attending the 2013 OSEP IDEA Leadership Conference now underway in DC, you can read the conference materials. They are available on the conference website and you can read them here:

Please tell me what you think!

Jim Gerl

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Monday, July 29, 2013

OSEP Conference Underway

The 2013 IDEA Leadership Conference is underway in DC.

Here's a quick quote from the keynote by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to whet your appetite:

"Some politicians seem to think that education is an expense that can be cut in tough economic times. I disagree. Education is an investment and the best investment we can make in tough economic times."

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Friday, July 26, 2013

ADA 23 Years Old: Fun Facts About People With Disabilities

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...
This is the internationally recognized symbol for accessibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Americans With Disabilities Act is 23 years old today.  To celebrate, we're sharing data provided by our friends at the Census Bureau regarding people with disabilities in America:

Population Distribution
56.7 million
Number of people with a disability living in the United States in 2010. They represented 19 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Disabilities include, for instance, having difficulty seeing, hearing, having speech understood, walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home, or doing housework, having Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, cerebral palsy, or dyslexia, and being frequently depressed or anxious.
By age —
• 8 percent of children under 15 had disabilities.
• 21 percent of people 15 and older had disabilities.
• 17 percent of people 21 to 64 had disabilities.
• 50 percent of adults 65 and older had disabilities.
Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

Percentage of females with a disability, compared with 17 percent of males. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

Where They Live
Percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in West Virginia with a disability ─ the highest rate of any state in the nation. Utah, at 9 percent, had the lowest rate. Source: 2011 American Community Survey, Table R1810

Specific Disabilities
7.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who had a hearing difficulty. Among people 65 and older, 4 million had difficulty hearing. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

8.1 million
Number of people 15 and older with a vision difficulty. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

30.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who had difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

3.6 million
Number of people 15 and older who used a wheelchair to assist with mobility. This compares with 11.6 million people who used a cane, crutches or walker. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

2.4 million
Number of people 15 and older who had Alzheimer’s disease, senility or dementia. Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

12.0 million
Number of people 15 and older who required the assistance of others in order to perform one or more activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, doing housework, and preparing meals.Source: Americans with Disabilities: 2010 <

On the Job
Percentage of the civilian noninstitutionalized population 18 to 64 with a disability who were employed. Source: 2011 American Community Survey, Table B18120 <

Percentage of the civilian labor force with a disability who worked as either service workers (except protective services), with 18.2 percent, administrative support (15.1 percent), sales workers (10.4 percent) and management, business and finance (8.9 percent). Source: Disability Employment Tabulation, from 2008-2010 American Community Survey, <

The number of janitors and building cleaners with a disability ─ the most common occupation for people with disabilities. Among occupations with 100,000 or more people, dishwashers had the highest disability rate, with 14.3 percent. Source: Disability Employment Tabulation, from 2008-2010 American Community Survey,<

Earnings and Poverty
Median earnings in the past 12 months for people with a disability. This compares with $30,285 for those without a disability. Source: 2011 American Community Survey, Table B18140 <

Number of employed people with disabilities earning $100,000 or more annually. This amounts to 4 percent of all people with disabilities who were employed, compared with 8 percent of people without a disability who were employed. Source: Disability Employment Tabulation, from 2008-2010 American Community Survey, Table Set 7A <

Percentage of people with a disability who were in poverty. By comparison, those without a disability had a poverty rate of 15 percent. Source: 2011 American Community Survey, Table B18130 <

Government Assistance
Among people who received income-based government assistance, the percentage who had a disability; 18 percent of assistance recipients had difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Source: Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011 (from American Community Survey) <

Percentage of assistance recipients with a disability who received only in-kind assistance. By comparison, 2 percent received cash assistance only and 41 percent received both kinds. Source: Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011 (from American Community Survey)<

Among people who received both cash and in-kind assistance, the percentage who had a disability. Source: Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011 (from American Community Survey)<

The percentage of income-based assistance recipients in West Virginia who had a disability, which led all states. Arizona ranked the lowest, at 25 percent. Source: Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011 (from American Community Survey) <

Health Insurance
Percentage of people with a disability who lacked health insurance. Those without a disability were more likely to be without coverage (16 percent). Source: 2011 American Community Survey, Table B18135<

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Breaking: OSEP Issues New Guidance on Dispute Resolution

The federal Office of Special Education Programs, an arm of the US Department of Education, has issued new guidance on dispute resolution in special education. The new guidance includes extended questions and answers on mediation, state complaints, due process hearings, resolution sessions, and expedited due process hearings.

I will be attending OSEP's IDEA Leadership Conference, which will include a session on the new dispute resolution guidance, next week.  We will have more posts on the new guidance as the conference proceeds.

In the meantime, the memo and the extensive question and answer documents are available on the CADRE website here.  If you work in this area, you should review these documents

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bullying of Kids With Disabilities - Part VII

Some states of the United States have implemen...
Some states of the United States have implemented laws to address school bullying. Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation School regulation or ethical code for teachers that address bullying of students based on sexual orientation Law prohibits bullying in school but lists no categories of protection No statewide law that specifically prohibits bullying in schools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullying remains the hottest of hot button issues in special education law.  In the first installment of this series, I explained the early cases laying the conceptual groundwork for the proposition that failure to react to bullying can constitute a denial of FAPE under IDEA.  In later installments, I have discussed the seminal decision of TK & SK ex rel LK v. New York City Dept of Educ 779 F.Supp.2d 289, 56 IDELR 228 (E.D.N.Y. 4/25/2011).  This case is important not just because it analyzes special education law principles involving bullying, but also because it provides a thorough review of the social science literature on bullying. You should read this case and you can do so here.

Here is more from the court...these are not my words:

3. How Bullying Differs Between Boys and Girls

Children of both genders experience the gamut of bullying behavior. Olweus, supra, at 18. Boys are more likely to bully and to be bullied than girls. Id. When they do bully, boys are inclined to engage in direct bullying such as hitting or taunting, while bullying among girls most often takes the indirect forms of social exclusion or rejection. Id.; Macklem, supra, at 55; Devoe, supra, at 4. Boys physically striking one another and girls harassing with their words has become "an accepted part of peer culture." Rodkin, supra, at 35. Girls often bully by slandering a classmate, spreading rumors about her, and manipulating friendships to harass their target. Olweus, supra, at 19. Because bullying among girls is most often more subtle, it is underreported. Macklem, supra, 55. Girls know that these actions are "mean," but they are unlikely to report them as bullying.Id. Such harassment enables the bully to have "power over others by controlling relationships and friendships." Macklem, supra, at 56. This form of bullying brings with it the ability to damage the victim's reputation or status within the peer group. Id. It is a behavior among girls developed early. Children are able to use this method as early as five years old, and as they get older continue to rely on it. Id. at 57. This may be because it is the most effective and tolerated form of bullying. Id. "Girls use relational bullying earlier than boys, which may be due to the more sophisticated nature of relational aggression." Id. at 60.

4. Why Kids Bully

Children interact in various settings: school, home, church, neighborhoods. Within each there are risk factors. Swearer, supra, at 3. How children interact in these various backgrounds helps to define bullying and why children engage in it. Id. "There is no one single causal factor for bullying." Id.
When asked why certain children are selected for ridicule, students typically point to external differences such as "obesity, red hair, an unusual dialect, or wearing glasses." Olweus, supra, at 30. Research does not support this conclusion. Id. The one external characteristic that is likely to play a role in whether a male child will be bullied is lack of physical strength. Id. This does not hold true for girls, however, who are more likely to bully those who are actually physically stronger than they are. Macklem, supra, at 55. Differences among students in areas such as religion, disability, or ethnicity have the ability to affect the struggle for power among young people and lead to a student being singled out as an object of harassment. Rodkin, supra, at 35.
Several other factors play a major role in determining what makes students more likely to bully. One is the climate of the school. When a school is not supportive or is negative, bullying thrives. Swearer, supra, at 5. When teachers downplay bullying or view it as kids being kids, bullying rates are higher. Macklem, supra, at 27-29.
One study suggests that the aura of the school with respect to bullying has more to do with whether bullying occurs than the behavior of the victim. Id. at 26. The school's atmosphere includes the disciplinary system, preventive policies, the architecture of the building itself, resources, support services, and morale. Id. School control is at its worst when staff and dominant students model this behavior, bullying is ignored or reinforced, or it is accepted as normal and expected. Id.
Parents play a role in determining whether someone is likely to bully. Bullies tend to come from homes with "low cohesion, little warmth, absent fathers, high power needs [that] permit aggressive behavior, physical abuse, poor family functioning, and authoritarian parenting. [Those who are both bully and victim] come from families with physical abuse, domestic violence, hostile mothers, powerless mothers, uninvolved parents, neglect, low warmth, inconsistent discipline, and negative environment." Swearer, supra, at 6. See also, Macklem, supra, at 15-20 (discussing the potential correlation between family environment and bullying.)
Bullying may also be the result of a life cycle where students believe it is simply their turn to play the abusing role. Kathy Liguori, Time to Get to the Heart of Bullying, Newsday, March 21, 2011, at A36 (quoting a student who explained he was bullying a younger student because he thought it was his turn to do so). Children use bullying to demonstrate to their peer group that they are able to dominate. Olweus, supra, at 35; Macklem,supra, at 38-39; Rodkin, supra, at 33. In this way, bullying becomes a social event where the dominance of the bully is put on display for an audience. Research demonstrates that in 90 percent of observed cases, a bully was playing to an audience. Rodkin, supra, at 36. See also, Deborah A. Pepler et. al., Peer Process in Bullying,in Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective 472 (2010) ("Even though a vast majority of students report that they find it unpleasant to report bullying, the vast majority of bullying episodes have an audience."). "Thus the problem of bullying is also a problem of the unresponsive bystander, whether that bystander is a classmate who finds the harassment to be funny, or a peer who sits on the sidelines afraid to get involved, or an educator who sees bullying as just another part of growing up." Rodkin, supra, at 36.
For those students who are connected with their social group, bullying serves as a way to control their peers.Id. at 33. For those bullies who are excluded by their peers, bullying represents a way to lash out at a social system that keeps them on the periphery. Id. A majority of bullies who are marginalized are male; students being controlled by their peer group are evenly split between both genders. Id. at 34.
These bullies who are integrated within their peer social groups are easy to ignore or mischaracterize—leading two researchers to describe them as "hidden in plain sight." Id. at 36. They have a variety of friends and possess strengths such as good social skills, athleticism, and attractiveness. Id. at 34.
Culture is weighty in determining why someone will bully. Television, video games, and the Internet may be linked to increased aggression and an increased likelihood for bullying behavior. Macklem, supra, at 21-23. These influences, if they have any affect at all, are not as strong as other cultural influences such as the neighborhood and the environment in which the child is raised. Id. at 24.
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

English: This is a high-resolution image of th...
English: This is a high-resolution image of the United States Declaration of Independence (article (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Independence Day!

Here is a post from our archives that expresses our feelings on this holiday:

 The Fourth of July is a big holiday for our country, and these days we really need a big holiday. Independence Day is also a time to reflect on the concept of independence. 
For people with disabilities, independence is an important goal. Congresshas stated that encouraging independent living for people with disabilities is the policy of the United States government. IDEA, Section 601(c). Indeed, one of the purposes of special education is to prepare children with disabilities for independent living. IDEA, Section 601(d)(1)(A). 
Before passage of the EHA, the predecessor of the IDEA, in 1975, education of children with disabilities, who were then called "handicapped," was iffy at best. According to the legislative history of the EHA, which is quoted in the seminal Rowley decision by the Supreme Court, millions of children with disabilities were then either totally excluded from school or were warehoused until they were old enough to drop out. Bd. of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 191, 103 LRP 31848 (1982). At the time, it was estimated that of the eight million children who required special education, only about 3.9 million were receiving an appropriate education. Bd. of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 191, 103 LRP 31848 (1982). 
These numbers are shocking. 1975 was not long ago. Yet we have made real progress since then. Special education may have its detractors, but it is now widely accepted. Very few children with disabilities are now excluded from school. Some still do not receive an appropriate education, but there are now remedies available when that happens. We have come a long way!
I realize that we are not finished. I do not advocate the display of a banner reading "mission accomplished." But as we look forward on this Independence Day to how we can do a better job of educating children with disabilities and preparing them to live independently, let us also look back for a moment and congratulate ourselves on the excellent progress we have made in what in public policy terms is truly a very short time. 
Happy Independence Day.
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