Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bullying of Kids With Disabilities - PS IV The GAO Report Continued #bully

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

The 2012 Government Accountability Office report on school bullying is loaded with information. You should take a look at it.  Here are some of the items from the report.

Bullying at school is pervasive.  After reviewing the research on school bullying, the report notes that between 20 an 28 percent 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 that the literature finds that victims of bullying often have academic difficulties.

49 states currently have bullying statutes, but the protections, and even the definition of bullying, vary 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.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekly Question!

We are continuing our series on bullying of kids with disabilities. What else should school districts do to prevent the serious problem of bullying?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Lunch With Ernie Banks

English: black and white photo of the bronze s...
English: black and white photo of the bronze statue of Ernie Banks (Mr Cub) at Wrigley Field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK so this post has little to do with special education law.  Except maybe that my only sports addiction, the Chicago Cubs, is all about rooting for the underdog...  Anyway let's call it a point of personal privilege.

Ernie Banks died yesterday.  He was my favorite player. When I was a kid, he was the big star on a long series of bad teams.  I saw him hit a few home runs at Wrigley Field, and every time he came to the plate, there was hope. He was our hero.

He was amazingly good.  The first African American to play on the Cubs; he began in the Negro League.  He was a slick fielding shortstop and later a good first baseman.  But wow how he could hit. He led the league in home runs twice.  Twice he was voted the Most Valuable Player despite playing on losing teams. He hit over 500 home runs, and he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Here is a video by the Cubs remembering Ernie Banks. Here is an ESPN look at his life. Here is Ernie receiving the Medal of Freedom last year.

More than anything though, he was an optimist- a breath of fresh air.  In stark contrast to the big money and performance-enhancing drugs that have lessened the popularity of baseball today, Ernie would encourage unnecessary double-headers by stating... "let's play two." It is sad that he did not livelong enough to see the Cubs win a World Series.

When I worked in Chicago, I knew one of Ernie's lawyers.  He arranged for me to have lunch one day with Mr. Cub.  It was one of the big thrills of my life.  He was an incredibly nice guy- down to earth and a great storyteller. I'm sworn to secrecy about what he said concerning his favorite manager, Leo Durocher. What an amazing treat.  We will miss you Ernie.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bullying of Kids With Disabilities - PS III GAO Report #bully

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

The federal Government Accountability Office  issued a report in June of 2012 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 current 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.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekly Question!

We are continuing our series on bullying of kids with disabilities. What else should school districts do to prevent the serious problem of bullying?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bullying of Kids With Disabilities - Postscript II #bully

In My Room from the Bully Series
In My Room from the Bully Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in the last post in the series, I have given a number of presentations on Bullying and IDEA over the last few years, ranging from one-half day to one hour.  The participants in each session were very engaged in the presentation.

In the previous post, I mentioned our detailed discussion of the definition of bullying.  In this post, I'm going to summarize our discussions of the public policy question. (Yes, 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?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Breaking: Our LinkedIn Special Education Law Group Now Has Over 18,000 Members: Tech Update

English: A special education teacher assists o...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our goals in creating this blog was to provide both discussion of special education law topics from an impartial perspective and to provide resources where interested persons can find more information.

The impartial perspective is very important.  I have never represented or advised parents or school personnel on a special ed matter.  I am a hearing officer, mediator and complaint investigator for a number of states.  I also advise states and train their personnel. I frequently present at conferences on special education law from an impartial perspective. That is why when parents or school personnel contact me, I cannot help them.  They generally understand.  The disclaimer on the blog explains this point in more detail.

The breaking news involves one of the resources we created: the Special Education Law Group that we started through this blog over on LinkedIn. The Special Education Law Group now has over 18,000 members.  (That is not a typo!) The number of members has doubled in the last year and a half. 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.

For those with long memories, we also used to have a Facebook group.  At some point the Facebook overlords went all corporate in our face and "archived" our group because we were not constantly issuing nonsensical posts about what we ate for breakfast, etc. The group still exists, but it is cumbersome.  We also started a Ning group, but they have since disappeared from the internet.

We also offer a lot of resources for parents, teachers (both regular ed and special ed), principals, school psychologists, hearing officers, mediators, complaint investigators, monitors, special ed directors, academics, advocates, SEA personnel, LEA personnel, paraprofessionals, lawyers (both parent and school district) as well as other special ed law junkies of all types.

On the left-hand side of the blog, you can sign up for a free subscription to our blog.  You can choose between receiving posts by email or in a reader by RSS feed.  You can also get a widget to insert this blog directly into your own website or blog. Subscriptions are important because numbers have meaning in the blogosphere.  Please sign up for a subscription.  NOTE: A few subscribers have complained that they have difficulty when they open their email subscription, there is either a long delay or else they are redirected to another website. The problem is mostly, but not exclusively, with people who open their emails with MS Outlook. I have contacted the company that I use as a tool in blogging regarding this issue but have not heard back yet.  I'll keep you posted but in the meantime please let me know if anyblody else is having this problem.

Also on the left hand side are a series of embedded YouTube videos of interviews of me on dispute resolution topics by Marshall Peter, Director of CADRE. (Many other videos and resources pertaining to special ed dispute resolution are available on the CADRE website - there is a link under resources.)

Many readers follow our headlines on twitter.  Check out our twitter activity here. Other readers follow our headlines on our Tumblr mini-blog here.

There are many links to websites and other important blogs on the lefthand side of the blog.  Also the search bar is just for this blog. So if you are interested in one topic, say bullying, just type it into the search bar and you can find all of our posts on that topic.

There are many more valuable resources on the blog.  Please explore it and take advantage of these other sites. Also, we are always looking to improve. If you know of other impartial resources, please suggest them.  

In the meantime, we appreciate your support.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekly Question!

We are continuing our series on bullying of kids with disabilities. What else should school districts do to prevent the serious problem of bullying?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Breaking: New Guidance On English Language Learners

Seal of the United States Department of Justice
Seal of the United States Department of Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice today released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential.
"Four decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Lau v. Nichols that all students deserve equal access to a high-quality education regardless of their language background or how well they know English," said ED Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. "Today's guidance not only reminds us of the court's ruling, but also provides useful information for schools as they work to ensure equity for students and families with limited English proficiency."
"The diversity of this nation is one of its greatest attributes," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. "Ensuring English learner students are supported in their education supports all of us. Today's guidance—40 years after passage of the landmark Equal Educational Opportunities Act—will help schools meet their legal obligations to ensure all students can succeed."
The guidance includes the following(all of which are linked here):a toolkit, a fact sheet about schools obligation under federal laws to ensure meaningful participation by students, and a fact sheet about shcools obligations under federal law to communicate in a language that ELs and their parents understand. #ELL, #EnglishLanguageLearner
Concerning EL students with disabilities, the guidance made the following points:
 EL students with disabilities must be provided both the language assistance and
disability-related services to which they are entitled under Federal law.
 EL students who may have a disability, like all other students who may have a
disability and may require services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, must be located, identified
and evaluated for special education and disability-related services in a timely manner.
 To avoid inappropriately identifying EL students as students with disabilities because
of their limited English proficiency, EL students must be evaluated in an appropriate
language based on the student’s needs and language skills.U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department
 To ensure that an individualized plan for providing special education or disabilityrelated
services addresses the language-related needs of an EL student with a
disability, it is important that the team designing the plan include participants
knowledgeable about that student’s language needs.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekly Question!

We are continuing our series on bullying of kids with disabilities. What else should school districts do to prevent the serious problem of bullying?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

English: Seal of the United States Census Bure...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the year turns, it's time for reflection and resolutions.So think back upon last year and get ready for the new one,  and most importantly chew the black-eyed peas carefully.

If anybody has a good special education resolution, we'd love to hear it. Please share.

In the meantime, take a look at this pdf for some fun numbers from the Census Bureau concerning the population of the areas near the four college football teams involved in the championship playoff:

To all of our loyal and fantastic readers, Happy New Year!