Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bullying of Children With Disabilities The Series- Postscript IV

David M. Walker (U.S. Comptroller General)
David M. Walker (U.S. Comptroller General) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After we finished this series, the  Government Accountability Office issued a report on school bullying that was loaded with information. You should take a look at it.  Here are some additional items from the report.

Bullying at school is pervasive.  After reviewing the research on school bullying, the report notes that between 20 an 28percent of student report that they have been bullied.  That number is way high!

Bullying is costly. Among the results of peer bullying are the following: suicide; violent actions against others; depression; loneliness; low self-esteem; anxiety and higher risk for physical health consequences; and increased behavioral issues.

From a special education law perspective, the report notes significantly that the literature finds that victims of bullying often have academic difficulties.

49 states had bullying statutes at the time of the report, but the protections, and even the definition of bullying, varied widely from state to state.

The GAO applauds some of the collaborative efforts of the Department of Education and other federal agencies, such as the joint website Stop Bullying. But the GAO felt that the agencies could coordinate their efforts better and develop an assessment of the protections afforded by the various state civil rights laws.

Here is a summary of the GAO report.
You can read the entire 64 page GAO report here.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Breaking: Our Linked In Special Edcuation Law Group Will Soon have 10,000 Members!

Nederlands: Linked In icon
Nederlands: Linked In icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Special Education Law Group that we started through this blog over on LinkedIn is just 20 short of 10,000 members.  (That is not a typo! We just surpassed 7,500 in May of this year!) You should go to the group's site and take a look. There are always good discussions- sometimes even heated disagreements. If you lose this post, there is always a link to our LinkedIn group on the lefthand side of the blog. It is a part of our effort to use social media to spread good impartial information about special education law. Check out this rapidly growing group.

For those with long memories, we also used to have a Facebook group.  At some point Facebook got all corporate in our face and "archived" our group because we were not constantly issuing nonsensical posts about what mood we were in after lunch, etc. The group still exists, but it is cumbersome. You can join by requesting membership.

There are also many other resources available on the lefthand side of the blog.  You can sign up for a free subscription to the blog (three kinds of them.) Please subscribe; numbers are important in the blogosphere.

You can view the CADRE interview videos of me. (If the written word is not enough!)

You can also finds links to all sorts of other helpful websites, including CADRE, the IDEA statute and federal regulations, NICHCY - the information clearinghouse, and OSERS- the federal special ed agency.  We also have links to some other great blogs.

We are always looking for new impartial resources to share.  We don't recommend sites that favor either parents or school districts, even though there are plenty of good ones.  We try to be impartial here. Let us know if you have any other recommendations.
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Friday, October 18, 2013

Bullying of Children With Disabilities - Postccript III GAO Report.

Government Accountability Office
Government Accountability Office (Photo credit: dcdan)

After we finished the series on Bullying, the federal Government Accountability Office issued a report pertaining to school bullying.  The title of the report is "SCHOOL BULLYING:  Extent of Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups Needs to Be More Fully Assessed." This relates to the hot button issue in special education law although bullying affects more than just special education students. The GAO reviewed research on the prevalence and effects on victims; and analyzed state bullying laws, and school district bullying policies.

After looking into the school bullying problem, the GAO made several recommendations. The recommendations included: that the Department of Education compile information about state civil rights laws and procedures that relate to bullying, and inform complainants about state legal options; that the Departments of Education, HHS, and Justice develop information about bullied demographic groups in their surveys; and assess whether legal protections are adequate for these groups.  Here is a summary of the GAO report.

You can read the entire 64 page GAO report here.
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Testify Before Legislature; Sometimes My Job Is Very Cool

I was asked to testify before a committee of the Vermont legislature earlier in the week.  The topic was Executive Branch Hearing Officers.  In addition to special education law, my expertise is in administrative hearing systems.  The Vermont Legislature is considering whether to adopt various systems/ changes, and I was asked to testify about advantages/disadvantages of various systems and about training considerations for hearing officers.  The questions showed that the committee members were carefully studying the matter and that they apparently had no preconceived results in mind.  It was a great experience.
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bullying of Children With disabilities - The Series Postscript Part II

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...
English: this is my own version of what bullying looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I have mentioned here, at the  excellent conference at Seattle University, I was lucky enough to present a half-day session on Bullying and IDEA. It is rare to get to discuss these important topics in such depth, and I thank the Institute as well as the participants who were incredibly helpful during the presentation.

In a previous post, I mentioned our detailed discussion of the definition of bullying.  In this post, I'm going to summarize our discussion of the public policy question. (Yes, I guess that there is a reason why I got that masters degree in public policy after all.)

Some participants questioned whether the school districts should have a role in bullying, ie is there a government interest?   Most participants felt that bullying, which as we know from the definition requires a power imbalance, requires intervention. A number of participants, however, felt that dealing with bullies is one of the life lessons that one has to learn.  They pointed out their own school bullies, as well as judge bullies and others in later life.  We also discussed our popular culture images regarding this issue.  Pick almost any movie with bullies and the victim eventually gets ticked off and does in the bad guy.  The best example is "A Christmas Story," the popular Christmas movie in which Farkus bullies Ralphie until one day he gets possessed and beats the heck out of him while imitating his father's bad language.  Most other movies involving bullies have a similar plot line.

But most participants felt that bullying is different because of the power imbalance.  What do you think? What exactly is the role of government, here the school district, with respect to bullying?
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Breaking: Congress Holds Breath, Turns Blue

English: The western front of the United State...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the U S Congress needs a good second grade teacher to whip them into shape.

Seriously though the shutdown of the federal government, if it lasts more than a week or so, could adversely affect children with disabilities.  The Department of Education has ensured that federal IDEA money will be available at least for now, but any delay of a week or more will seriously cut into the flow of other federal money going to school districts and colleges.  The timing couldn't be worse coming on the heels of the 600 million dollar cut to special ed funds under the sequester (an odd name for Congress' meat cleaver approach to deficit reduction.)  Here is a great analysis  of the situation by our friends at the policy division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Here is the U S Department of Education's official contingency plan.

Here's hoping that the "grownups" come to their senses soon!
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