Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekly Question!

It's time for the Monday question. Each state department of education must have state complaint procedures. In your state how effective are state complaint procedures for resolving systemic issues? We are collecting information on this topic; what have you got?


  1. I am the founder of SPEDWatch, a MA based non-profit fighting to secure the educational rights of all schoolchildren with special needs.

    In 2007, the MA SEA Special Education Director stated that reduction in noncompliance with special education law is not possible because of the high turnover rate in the profession and the fact that special education is so highly regulated. Read her letter here

    In 2008, the SEA abdicated its responsibility for reducing noncompliance by stating that the SEA has no direct control over day-to-day LEA operations. See comments here:

    In 2009, SPEDWatch sat down with MA Gov. Deval Patrick, and SEA authorities. Again, we laid out the numbers: high levels of repeated noncompliance, and correspondingly high failure rates among capable students with special needs. The Governor gave the SEA marching orders to work with SPEDWatch on this matter.

    Subsequently, in 2010, we made what we felt was a reasonable request of the SEA: wherever a single reported complaint involved a matter that had the potential to have harmed other students in an LEA (for example, discovery of a LEA policy that speech therapy is not available to students at the high school level), that the LEA be required to locate and help potentially affected students. The SEA refused to impose this requirement on LEAs because such a proactive effort "exceeds what is required under federal and state law and regulation." See the SEA letter here
    A year later we tried again, with the same result. See SPEDWatch letter here

    Parents in one Massachusetts LEA, Hudson Public Schools, mounted a similar effort recently. Here the LEA was found to be noncompliant because they were using the generic descriptor "SPED Staff" to denote who the service provider would be for any number of student services. The SEA ordered the LEA to be more specific in describing assigned service providers. Realizing the use of the label "SPED Staff" was a widespread practice affecting hundreds of IEPs within the LEA, and thousands within the state, Hudson parents asked the SEA to require Hudson to immediately locate and change the IEPs of other affected Hudson students. The SEA denied this requested as too "administratively burdensome."

    Currently, I have a complaint pending against the Boston Public Schools for practices which I believe inappropriately limit a parent's access to an IEE. Interestingly, the practice in question was sanctioned by John Veere who recently left Boston to become the Special Education Ombudsman in Darien, CT. His job there is to ensure the district complies with all special education laws.

    So I feel confident in stating that the MA complaint procedure, and all other SEA monitoring procedures, are completely ineffective in resolving systemic issues. A root cause is the fact that SEAs need not comply with the law in order to receive IDEA funds. They only need to ensure that noncompliance, once identified, is corrected within one year.

    And what happens to the children while all this is going on? Apparently our government doesn’t care.

    In 2010, I put my distress about this situation to Ken Kienas, Ph.D., the OSEP liaison to Massachusetts. His comments to me at the time sum up the federal government's attitude about supporting disabled students perfectly. He said:

    "Ellen: It has always been the Department’s position that the law requires 100% compliance. This is a standard that we expect States to maintain. However, we must also recognize that in implementing these laws districts will make mistakes, oversights will occur, imperfect humans will make errors, people won’t always act in the best interest of the students they serve, etc."

    'nuff said.

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    (978) 433-5983

  2. The old Imperfect human excuse. WOW! From the top of the Board of Education to the Governer and school Principal, all who ignore our children and the miserable lies and gossip they spread should be ashamed of themselves. I bet if their children or pay checks we involved in anyway they would be better at helping not hurting our children .Parents keep pushing until we can make them do the right things.