My Son

My Son

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Blame Game!

Are School Problems the Kids' Fault?

The Blame Game!
Are School Problems the Kids' Fault?
Pamela Darr Wright, M.A., M.S.W.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

They think Brian’s school problems are my fault. When I said he needed more individual help from the LD teacher, they shook their heads. They only "do collaborative" now. They told me I shouldn’t use the word "dyslexia" because it sounds hopeless. Then they asked how my husband and I wre getting along! (Denise, mother of a boy diagnosed with emotional problems, later found to have severe dyslexia.)
The school psychologist said Shannon's learning problems were her fault, that she was lazy and unmotivated and we had to pressure her to work harder. We didn’t allow her to watch television. We didn't allow her to go out with friends. Homework took hours to complete, even when we helped her. She got terribly depressed. We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t want to raise a lazy child. (Emory & Elaine Carter before they learned Shannon had dyslexia and ADHD. See Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7, (1993)).

The Blame Game

Parents of special ed kids often say that they are intimidated, patronized and made to feel guilty and inadequate by staff at their children’s school. These parents feel helpless, frustrated, and defensive.

Not surprisingly, parents behave exactly like other human beings when they are blamed or attacked. Feeling threatened and uncomfortable, most parents try to explain and justify their position, in hopes that they will be understood. A few go on the offense, firing volleys of blame back.

Many parents find these experiences exquisitely painful and humiliating. If they withdraw and try to avoid school functions, they find that they've been labeled as "uninvolved parents." Again, they are blamed for their children’s learning problems.

Sometimes, emotions get out of control. Feelings of anger, bitterness, and betrayal consume parents and school personnel - who are then unable to work together to make educational decisions. In these cases, everyone loses. The child is usually the biggest loser if the parents and educators cannot work together effectively.

What is the basis for these negative experiences? Are parents too sensitive? Do they misperceive and misunderstand what happens in their contacts with educators? Or are parents just over-protective of their children, as many educators claim?

If you are a "special ed" parent, you know that it's hard to fight - and almost impossible to bail out. If your child receives special education services, you have to attend school meetings and you have to cooperate in developing your child’s IEPs. How can you do this?

And here's another question: If the school staff believes that you or your child are responsible for your child’s problems, how can you work with them so your child’s interests are protected? How can you ensure that your child gets a good quality education?

School Culture

If you have run into a "brick wall" of resistance when you tried to obtain changes in your child’s educational program, you need to understand how schools really work. You need to learn about "school culture" and the beliefs held by many educators, school psychologists, administrators, and guidance counselors.

Dr. Galen Alessi, Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University, conducted a fascinating study on school psychologists. Dr. Alessi’s study illustrates why so many parents have problems dealing with schools. Dr. Alessi’s article is "Diagnosis Diagnosed: A Systemic Reaction" published in Professional School Psychology, 3(2), 145-151.

The primary role of the school psychologist is to evaluate children to determine the reasons for learning and behavior problems. According to Dr. Alessi, when a child has trouble learning or behaving in school, the source of the child's problem can usually be traced to one or more of five causes.

First, the child may be misplaced in the curriculum, or the curriculum may include faulty teaching routines.

Second, the teacher may not be implementing effective teaching and/or behavioral management practices.

Third, the principal and/or other school administrators may not be implementing effective school management practices.

Fourth, the parents may not be providing the home-based support necessary for effective learning.

Fifth, the child may have physical and/or psychological problems that contribute to learning problems.

School psychologists from different areas of the country were interviewed and asked to complete an informal survey. The school psychologists were asked if they agreed that the five factors listed above play a "primary role in a given school learning or behavior problem." (Page 148) The school psychologists agreed that these factors, alone or together, played a significant role in children’s learning problems.

The school psychologists were surveyed about the number of children they evaluated during the past year for learning problems. The average number was about 120 cases (or kids). These numbers were rounded to 100 cases for each of the 50 psychologists for a total of 5,000 cases.

Alessi asked these psychologists how many reports they wrote in which they concluded that the child’s learning problem was mainly due to curriculum factors. "The answer was usually none. All cases out of the 5,000 examined confirmed that their schools somehow had been fortunate enough to have adopted only the most effective basal curricula." (Page 148)

Next, he asked how many reports concluded that the referring problem was due primarily to inappropriate teaching practices. "The answer also was none. All cases out of the 5,000 examined proved that their districts had been fortunate enough to have hired only the most skilled, dedicated, and best prepared teachers in the land." (Page 149)

Then, he asked the psychologists how many of their reports found that the problem was due mainly to faulty school administrative factors. "The answer again was none. All cases out of 5,000 examined demonstrated that their districts had hired and retained only the nation’s very best and brightest school administrators." (Page 149)

When asked how many reports concluded that parent and home factors were primarily responsible, the answer ranged from 500 to 1,000 (10% to 20%). These positive findings indicated that we were finally getting close to the source of educational problems in schools. Some children just don't have parents who are smart, competent, or properly motivated to help their children do well in school.
Finally, I asked how many reports concluded that child factors were primarily responsible for the referred problem. The answer was 100%. These 5,000 positive findings uncovered the true weak link in the educational process in these districts: the children themselves.

If only these districts had better functioning children with a few more supportive parents, there would be no educational difficulties. (Page 149)

Dr. Alessi noted that in IEP disputes, "family factors are invoked most often when the parent does not attend the meeting, or if the parent is involved in a way deemed ‘inappropriate’ by the school staff. Otherwise, child factors alone seem to carry the explanatory burden for school learning and behavior problems." (Page 149)

Based on the results of these 5,000 reports prepared by school psychologists, "the results indicate clearly no need to improve curricula, teaching practices, nor school administrative practices and management. The only needs somehow involve improving the stock of children enrolled in the system, and some of their parents." (Page 149)

Alessi expressed serious concerns about his findings. If school psychologists define children’s learning problems as existing solely within the child, "it is equally unclear how school psychologists can help resolve this kind of problem. School psychologists seem to define school problems in ways that cannot be resolved."

When Dr. Alessi shared these findings with the school psychologists, many protested that "all five factors are indeed responsible for school problems in the cases they studied, but that informal school policy (or ‘school culture’) dictates that conclusions be limited to child and family factors.

Many feel that they could lose their jobs were they to invoke school-related factors. Certainly, they claim, their professional lives would be made very uncomfortable . . . The fact remains that no school psychologist in the group had determined that any existing problems were due to school-related factors." (Page 149)

The "Child-as-the-Problem"

Dr. Alessi discussed several additional reasons for the prevailing "child-as-the-problem" perspective of school psychologists. Graduate school programs focus on child problems and ignore or exclude school-related factors. Workshops and papers presented at school psychology conferences share the "child-as-the-problem" focus. Most school psychology journals focus exclusively on child factors.

School psychology textbooks have a clear "child-as-the-problem" bias. After examining several "mainstream" school psychology texts, Alessi found that when assessing children’s reading problems, school factors were mentioned as a factor between 7% and 0% (zero) of the time. "Child factors" were held responsible for reading problems between 90% to 100% of the time.

Citing a classic book on reading disability, Alessi noted that it included no chapters about the connection between reading problems and school factors. The entire book focused on "child factors." (Page 150)

The "child-as-the-problem" bias also pervades school psychology research and practice. Alessi referenced one work that presented an extensive review of the research on learning disabilities. "Of the approximately 1,000 studies reviewed, not one examined the relation between school factors and learning disabilities." (Page 150)

In conclusion, Alessi observed that "Parents trust school psychologists not to adopt assessment practices that are inherently biased in ways that could hinder, rather than help, their children." (Page 148)

"Ethical Burdens" on Psychologists

Dr. Alessi discussed the "ethical burdens" on school psychologists:

As this body of research grows, school psychologists will increasingly face the burden of deciding whether they work for the schools or for the children, in cases where the interests clash. (Page 150) 'We end with a discussion of the ethical burdens on school psychologists to be forthright and honest when reporting their findings.'

He posed some questions: (Page 150)

Are we really helping children by concluding that children alone are responsible for their educational problems?

Are we helping the school system at the expense of the children?

How do we balance the rights of those who pay for our services against those who receive our services, when interests clash?

Is the role of the school psychologist to label children to help schools avoid improving faulty educational practices, or to help schools improve faulty educational practices to avoid labeling children?


As the parents of a child with special educational needs, what does this study tell you?

If you believe the staff at your child’s school are not willing to look at what they need to do differently to help your child learn, you may be right.

If you believe that you and/or your child are being blamed for your child’s learning problems, you may be right.

And if you believe that school factors (i.e., an inappropriate curriculum, faulty teaching, ineffective school administration and management practices) are contributing to your child’s problems, you may be right.

Now what?

What are the implications of this study for you, the parent of a special needs child? Your job is to work with the school system to secure educational services for your child.

To make good decisions about your child's educational program, you need accurate information about your child's educational difficulties and educational needs. You will find this information in psychological and educational evaluations of your child. If you cannot rely on evaluations by school district personnel for this information, what can you do? Should you ask the school for an "independent educational evaluation?"

You have learned that many people who work in schools share the belief that the problems they have teaching children have little or nothing to do with the curriculum, their own training and experience, or school administrative factors. Instead, they believe that the child’s problems are caused by the child himself.

Many people who work in schools -- school psychologists, guidance counselors, principals, and special education directors -- share this belief. Because school staff associate with other school staff, they continually reinforce the view of the "child-as-the-problem" in their dealings with one another.

As a parent, can you force educators and school psychologists to change their beliefs? No. This view of the "child-as-the-problem" exists and persists because it serves a purpose.

What would you think if the next time you attended an IEP meeting, the school staff told you that your child’s worsening problems were caused by an inappropriate curriculum? Inadequately trained teachers? An incompetent principal? This won't happen.

As the parent of a special ed child, your job is to negotiate with school staff and secure a good quality special education program for your child. In your role as a negotiator, what do you need to know?

As a negotiator, your single most important tool is to understand and be able to explain the position of the "other side" as well or better than your own!

Once you understand the beliefs and perceptions of the school staff, you will be in a stronger position. You are more likely to accomplish your objective. When you understand how school people think and what they believe, you'll be able to generate "win-win solutions" that meet your child's needs -- and theirs.


To accomplish your objective of getting a good educational program for your child, you must have accurate information about your child. This information includes the results of different psychological and educational tests. If you don't have good quality private sector diagnostic evaluations, you wont' be able to develop an appropriate educational program for your child. Knowing that school psychologists are often biased, what options do you have?

Independent Educational Evaluations

Parents ask: "Why can’t I tell the school that I want an independent educational evaluation done on my child? Money is short. Private testing is expensive. Aren’t we are entitled to this?"

Before we answer your question, let’s change the facts.

If you belong to a managed carehealth plan, you have a primary care doctor. This person entered into a contractual agreement with your insurance company, and agreed to abide by certain rules. The most important rule is that this doctor agreed to hold medical costs down by managing care.How does this work?

In managed care,your primary care doctor acts as a "gatekeeper," regulating (limiting) your access to medical treatment. If you go to a specialist without an appropriatereferral by your primary care doctor, your insurance company does not have to pay for your treatment. If your doctor is successful in holding costs down, the insurance company will reward him or her with financial bonuses. If your doctor isn't willing to play by these rules, the insurance company will probably cancel his contract. He will lose you and many other patients – and his livelihood.

Now, let’s assume that you have a sick child. You take your child to your primary care doctor who is associated with the managed care company. Although the doctor makes a diagnosis and prescribes treatment, your child gets sicker. You ask for a referral to a specialist. After discussion and disagreement, the doctor refers your child to a specialist – who is also a member of the managed care plan.

This specialist signed a contract with the managed care entity in which he is forbidden to fully inform you about the treatment options for your child - this is called a "gag order." If you learn about these treatments, you will want them for your child. The best solution from the insurance companies perspective is to keep you ignorant about these treatment options. because your HMO or managed care group does not want to pay for them.

Do you want your sick child treated by doctors who are not permitted to inform you about certain (expensive) treatment options? Of course not! Your child’s health is at stake.

Now, let’s return to your question about independent evaluations. Earlier in this article, you learned that most school psychologists officially consider only child or family factors when they assess children’s learning and behavior problems. Aren’t things different with independent evaluators?

The relationship between independent evaluatorsand school districts is often similar to the relationship between managed care specialists and insurance companies. In many jurisdictions, people who are on the approved listof independent evaluators have agreed to abide by certain rules. When they perform evaluations on children, they are paid by the school district.

As a parent, you have to ask yourself this question: If my evaluator is paid by the school district, how independent can he or she be?

In our practice, we see cases in which an independent educational evaluator recommends that a child receive more or different special education serves than the district wants to provide. After making pro-childrecommendations, these diagnosticians were dropped from the school district’s approved listof evaluators.

Private Sector Evaluations

Get a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation of your child from an expert who is truly independent. The evaluations used to make educational decisions must contain accurate information about what your child really needs – including changes that need to be made in curriculum, teaching methods, and/or school structure. The only people who will provide this information are experts in the private sector.

Low-Cost Evaluations

Many parents of kids with disabilities are financially strapped. Where can you get a quality psycho-educational evaluation of your child - without breaking the bank?

Contact local colleges and universities - if the school has a psychology program, you may be able to get an low cost or free evaluation of your child by a graduate student who is supervised by a professor.

Call child guidance clinics and community mental health centers. Ask about sliding fee scales.

Visit your state Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for evaluators, academic tutors, advocates, and others who help parents get services for children.

Ask other parents - they are often your best resource. More advice about finding and working with evaluators and consultants.

A Personal Message from Pete & Pam Wright

If you are the parent of a child with special educational needs, you must learn about school culture - how schools work and beliefs held by many school personnel. When you understand school culture, many of the obstacles you face when you advocate for your child will be clear.

Children can do without many things they want and not be damaged. But your child needs an appropriate education. The most meaningful gift you can make to your child is the gift of a good education. This gift will pay dividends for the rest of your child’s life.

Focus on what you need to learn and do to obtain an appropriate education for your child. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How To Avoid Special Education Lawsuits
to Avoid Special-Ed Lawsuits

Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:08:35 AM

Last week, I reported on how parents of special education students in
the Lee's Summit School District were ready to picket a state
education conference on autism because they were upset that Lee's
Summit's Director of Special Education, Jerry Keimig, had been
selected to give a presentation.

I was never able to confirm this, but as near as I can tell, the last
time Missouri school administrators heard a presentation on autism was
ten years ago. The point of that program? To help them avoid lawsuits
filed by parents who are angry about their autistic children's education.

Back in 1998, the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA)
annual law seminar included a section titled "Special Education for
Early Childhood Autistic Students -- How to Avoid Parent Demands for
LOVAAS/TEACH Methodologies." (In this case "TEACH" is a typo; it's
supposed to be TEACHH, an acronym for Treatment and Education of
Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children.) That program and
LOVAAS (named for the doctor who invented it) are now considered among
the best methods for teaching young autistic students. The notes on
the pictured copy of the law seminar's program were written by Kansas
City attorney Kim Westhusing, who has represented several parents of
autistic children in due process cases against metro school districts.

After a page and a half of running down what LOVAAS and TEACHCH are –
and noting that students in early childhood special education programs
can have their services 100 percent reimbursed by state funds instead
of individual school districts – the document goes into detail about
increases in litigation over special education, test cases in which
parents won, and how a district can deny education services while
avoiding litigation.

Even though this seminar program is ten years old, it is the last time
MASA chose to address the issue of special education for autistic
students, according to Stephanie Sappenfield, an administrative
assistant with the group. She told me there had been no other programs
on autism education in the past decade.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Fight Continues/Parents Protest R-7 Official's Autism Presentation

Parents protest R-7 official’s autism presentation

By Brett Dalton, The Journal Staff

A series of meetings that may have eased the tension between the R-7 School District and the Lee’s Summit Autism Support Group have been put on hold after members of the LSASG protested a conference at which an R-7 official was speaking.

After Sherri Tucker, co-founder of the LSASG, was unsuccessful in her bid for a seat on the R-7 Board of Education earlier this year, R-7 Superintendent David McGehee reached out to Tucker in hopes the two groups could find at least some common ground.

Tucker and other LSASG members have been consistently outspoken about what they feel is a lack of proper services and programs within the school district for children with special needs. In fact, Tucker admitted freely that she ran in the April election solely on the issue of benefiting students with special needs. And she pulled no punches when criticizing the school district.

While McGehee said there are some issues on which the two sides will always “agree to disagree,” he had hoped that meeting with Tucker on a somewhat consistent basis would help each side understand the other and perhaps common ground could be met — and it worked for a while.

“We had met a couple of times and there were even a couple things that came out of those meetings and we’re now looking into how to get better at those things,” McGehee said. “So I think they were productive — to a point.”

However, on Aug. 4, LSASG members, Tucker included, protested the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Cooperative Conference for School Administrators, which took place at Tan-Tar-A, a family resort in Osage Beach.

Tucker said they protested because Jerry Keimig, R-7’s director of special services, was chosen to speak at the conference based on the school district’s “outstanding programs for students with autism.” Tucker said she was appalled not only to hear that Keimig was chosen to speak but also because of the reason he was chosen. She even accused the school district of lying about why Keimig was chosen.

“They said it was because of their outstanding programs,” Tucker said. “That’s not why they got picked.”

To back up her claim, Tucker points to a recent article in The Pitch detailing the ongoing struggle between the R-7 School District and members of the LSASG. According to the article, which published July 10, Heidi Atkins Lieberman, assistant commissioner of special education for DESE, said she chose Keimig to speak after talking to “people who were very knowledgeable about autism education, and they all said Jerry would be great.”

“So basically Heidi Lieberman asked a few friends about who should speak at the conference,” Tucker said.

Lieberman told the Journal on Thursday that she chose Keimig based on several recommendations from reliable sources.

“Based on recommendations we received from numerous sources, I selected the Kirkwood School District (St. Louis County) and the Lee’s Summit School District to outline their programs,” she said. “Both districts have well-established programs, and they have in-district autism consultants who were trained by Project Access.” Last Monday’s protest was peaceful and consisted of parents, including Deb Shaumeyer and Joyce Lindsey, sitting in lawn chairs for six hours in front of a large sign that read, “Lee’s Summit R-7 & Mo. Dept. of Education Are leaving our Autistic Children Behind.”

Tucker said the protest was perfectly legal and the parents did receive permission from Osage Beach’s chief of police.

But while the protesters were greeted somewhat positively by cars passing by, R-7 officials weren’t amused.

McGehee said he decided to “take a break” from his meetings with Tucker following the protest because he thought the protest proved their meetings to be unproductive. He said he didn’t expect the meetings to end Tucker’s criticism of the school district, but he was hopeful that by gaining a better of understanding of each other, the public attacks would no longer be necessary.
McGehee said the two sides may revisit their discussions in the future, but added that at this time, he doesn’t want to take time to hold meetings that aren’t accomplishing their objective.
“My time is limited, all of our time is limited,” he said. “This is just one of many, many issues we deal with. And it is a very important issue and one I’m continuing to try to learn more about and gain a better understanding of. But at this moment, it’s time to take a break because they didn’t seem to be very productive.”

Tucker said she appreciated the chance to meet with McGehee, but never intended to “remain silent” as a result of their discussions.

“My voice is the only tool I have to help advocate for the children that are affected by autism,” Tucker wrote in a reply to the school district’s letter informing her that the upcoming meetings have been cancelled. “I truly hoped we could work together. I am and have always been willing to give it a try. However, I can not be made to be quiet in the hopes that the situation will work out in favor of our children. It’s a gamble that is too risky and too many lives are at stake.”

Enforcing Your Child's Civil Rights - a parent's hard learned lesson

Try to get as many special education parents together as a group and as a group:

file OCR complaints
file State complaints
file OSEP complaints
meet with Child and Family Services and advise them the district is using them to intimidate parents who are fighting for their children's rights
Go to the newspapers.
Tape each and every phone call or meeting, take quotes from those tapes and blog them
Send quotes from schools staff where they give parents misinformation, along with relevant sections of IDEA to local newspapers in the form of letters to the editor.
File ethics complaints against anyone with a license who is not acting in the best interest of the children.

Here is some more specific information:Parents of special needs children are sometimes so myriad within the confines of IDEA, that they forget or never realize their child's rights are also protected under other laws. If you believe your child has been a victim of a civil rights violation, there are steps you can take to address the issue. Sometimes by failing to provide you child FAPE a district is violating your child's civil rights. If so, you probably want to file a complaint regarding this violation.

Discrimination and Your Child

You may be wondering why I am talking about discrimination in relation to your disabled child. It's because our children with disabilities are often discriminated against. Frequently, they are discriminated against by peers, often they are discriminated against by callous neighbors, occasionally they are discriminatedagainst by ignorant or narrow minded family members. Almost always they are discriminated against by our public institutions which seem view them as a burden to bear rather than as worthy beings who are suffering coping with disabilities.

So, does your disabled child have any rights in the United States? Yes, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects your child, as does Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Unfortunately, these laws are basically just words on paper, until and unless you the parent pursue their enforcement.

This means the responsibility falls to you to read the laws or have them read to you. To question friends, other parents of disabled children, legal aid, protection and advocacy, special needs coaches until you understand the protections that are supposed to be afforde to your child. Basically as I understand it the maindifference between these laws is 504 applies to agencies that receive money from the federal government, and the ADA applies to public entities. A public school is a public agency, and if they accept public funds is also a recipient of federal funds, and therefore is usually held accountable under both laws.

What's the difference?

The main difference between the two laws is that one applies to the recipients of grants from the federal government (Section 504) and the otherapplies only to public entities (Title II). A school or college may be both a recipient of federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education and also apublic entity. In such cases, the institution is covered by both laws.

Who is protected?

Both laws, not only protect your child, but they also protect your rights as a parent of a disabled child. Another interesting aspect of these laws is that they don't only cover your child's education. They cover any program offered by these agencies. That means extracurricular activities and sports, as well.

What are the protections?

Some of the tangible protections are things like the fact that all buildings covered by these laws built after 1977 have to be fully handicappedaccessible. These laws also say that schools are required to give disabled children appropriate academic accommodations, aids and related services so that the disabled child has the same access to all programs the school offers as a non disabled child. Of course, what is considered appropriate is where the debate arises. But, examples of the types of supports or aids your child is entitled to if needed are text books on CD's, someone to take notes for them, someone to interpret for them, someone to read material to them, specialized computer equipment and programs, touch screens so forth. Schools do NOT have to supply medical devices like hearing aids or wheelchairs or therapy dogs, but, they do have to permit the disabled child to use them.

Free Appropriate Public EducationAs most parents of disabled children know, schools have to provide disabled children Free Appropriate Public Educations (FAPE) based upon their uniqueeducational needs. This may mean giving occupational therapy, counseling, parent training, physical therapy, speech language therapy, or cognitive rehabilitation. It may mean that your child is provided homebound instruction if a medical or psychological problem prohibits them from attending school. It may mean they are entitled to modification of tardiness and truancy rules. It may mean they get program modifications like extended time to learn material, tests read to them, or the opportunity to type answers rather than write them. What is provided is suppose to be based on what your child needs not upon what the school has available, usually does or prefers to do.

Protection from Harassment

One of the important protections afforded your child under these laws is protection from bullying and harassment because of their disability. But, as mentioned above, none of these rights are valid unless you insist on their application. Not insisting on your child's right is like having the right to vote and never going to cast your vote. The right becomes meaningless unless exercised. That is why court cases have held parents accountable when school districts failed to educate their disabled children because the parents failed to challenge the school districts, or couldn't document that they challenged them and pursued their child's rights through State and Federal Complaints, Mediation, Resolution Meetings and Due process.

File but don't expect enforcement

For most cases involving civil rights violations, one of your options is to file a complaint with the government at the federal or state level, and allow a government agency to take steps to enforce your civil rights. Filing a complaint will theoretically trigger an investigation into your claims by the agency, and the government may take further action on your behalf. Unfortunately, at this time in America we seem to be functioning under a "Survival of the Fittest Mentality". In other words, no one - least of all the government - seems to care if the disabled, the elderly, the poor the undereducated are protected. So, while there are laws in place to protect disabled children, there is very little enforcement.

File, File, File some more

Despite this prevalent attitude by people in positions of power the important issue is for you to file your complaint. File a NCLB complaint if that is relevant. File at the State Level. File at the Federal Level. File it at the Public Level. By this I mean, send a copy of your complain to the local newspaper. Ask for free radio time to read your complaint on air. Send a copy of your complaint to all the TV stations that you can. Blog your complaint on the internet. The more people who know the facts, the more likely that someone will finally help you rectify the situation.

Moral Pressure

Be careful though, when you send your complaints to an agency or an individual. Don't let them know that you are also sharing your complaint with others. When the realize there are others that you have also filed your complaint with, it is as if you have given them permission not be responsible, but to instead pass the responsibility to someone else. It is like when someone is mugged in a crowd. Everyone stands around watching, but no one helps because they believe someoneelse will do something. But, if they are the only one there, then they feel a moral obligation to respond. So, let each agency you file with believe they are the only one that you contacted. Let the moral responsibility to do something weigh upon them.

File a lawsuit

If you think your child has been the victim of a civil rights violation, you probably have the option of filing a lawsuit against those responsible for any harm suffered as a result. For instance, I filed an OCR complaint when my five year old Asian daughter was denied OT services because she was tiny and the OT assumed she was three years old and on target for that age rather than bothering to actually evaluate her. Unfortunately, OCR didn't even bother to respond to my complaint. But, Ididn't stop there. I also filed for a due process; which without the help of an attorney, I won and my daughter was awarded a full year of private OT servicesat the school district's expense. What I learned was that as parents trying to ensure our children's rights we may have to pursue multiple avenues of complaint.

Go to Court

If you decide file a lawsuit for a civil rights violation, one of your first considerations will be where to file: in federal or state court. In either case, a complaint has to be filed, and because your child's interests are considered to be your interests, you can file on behalf of your child even if you can't afford an attorney. Youdon't need to be real intelligent or know a lot about the law to file a complaint on behalf of your child. School attorneys and hearing officers may attempt to intimidate you or make you feel like you need to be an attorney. But, that is not the truth. You simply need to be a parent and to clearly state your complaint and to present your proof.

Pace Yourself

When you feel your child is discriminated against, file complaints until you get an appropriate response. But, be careful when doing this. Don't let the complaint process exhaust you physically, mentally,emotionally, or spiritually. Look at it as a job. A job that you will be doing a bit at a time over a long period of time, taking one small step at a time towards correcting a wrong. Don't view it as a sprint where you exert massive amounts of energy all at once. View it as a marathon where you need to pace yourself because the goal is simply to survive the race. If you don't take this perspective and pace yourself, you will ruin your mental and physical health and perhaps your marriage

Education Consumer Beware

Proof: that is where most parents I know fail to meet the mark. They take educators at their word. They don't confirm conversations in writing. They don't put their objections in writing. Basically, you need to view your interactions with the school district, the way you would view your interactions with a sly used car dealer. Constantly practice the maxim of "Buyer Beware". Use this maxim to guide all your dealings with a school district, and you'll automatically do the things you need to do. You'll ask for everything in writing, you'll read everything you get or have someone else read it to you, and you will confirm everything you say in writing. When dealing with school district personnel and trying to ensure your child's rights, never accept a handshake deal.

Remember that you are acting as your child's agent, and that you need to protect your child by being vigilant, by being constantly on the alert fordeception, understatement, misstatement, errors of omission and errors of commission. Be aware, Be Proactive and Be an Educated Consumer of EducationalServices.

Learn More:

The Government's Role in Civil Rights Enforcement

Filing a Government Claim Before a Lawsuit

Presented as a community services by a non lawyer, parent of a disabled child and special needs coach based upon my experience in advocating for my ownchild's educational rights.
S. L. Crum, B.S.,M.S.,Ph.D.Special Needs Coach
Susan. L. Crum, B.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Special Needs Coach
Able2LearnVoice & fax: 863-471-0281Email: Able2learn@live.comWebsite:

Sheltered workshops question funding

Camden County, Mo. -

Lake Area Industries, of Camdenton, is one of a group of workshops across the state that has challenged a recent decision by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to pay workshops at less than the rate demanded by statute.

Six workshops, representing a cross section of Missouri’s nearly 100 workshops for people with developmental disabilities, agreed to join and proceed with litigation to ask the court to direct the DESE to pay all Missouri Workshops at the correct statutory amount of $17 per diem.

The focus of their action is a letter from two legislators that directed DESE’s Special Education Administration to pay sheltered workshops at last year’s rate of $15 per diem or $75 per work week. The workshops noted that statute says without qualification that the department “shall pay” the $17 per diem for the 2008-2009 budget year.

The six workshops are Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises in Columbia, Mo.; Valley Industries in Hazelwood, Mo.; Harrison County Sheltered Workshop Association in Bethany, Mo.; Lake Area Industries, Inc.; Sheltered Industries of the Meramec Valley Inc. in Sullivan, Mo.; and Vocational Services, Inc. in Liberty, Mo.

The workshops are all members of the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers. They filed an independent legal action last month requesting that the Department of Education fund workshops at the level designated in Missouri statute, which was passed by a vote of the legislature in last year’s session. That amount represents $17 per day for each worker with a disability that completes a six-hour work day. However, a letter from the two legislative finance chairmen of the house and senate directed the department to only fund at last year’s, $15 per diem.

“We understand the legislature has to balance the budget, but this is not about the amount of funds appropriated. We are concerned that most legislators don’t realize that state statutes were being overridden without their vote,” Randy Hylton, executive director of Vocational Services, Inc. said. “A lot of legislators may not know this, but it’s fiscally very serious for workshops that have only had one increase in 10 years.”

Missouri’s sheltered workshops derive most of their income from contract labor for business services such as packaging, original products and services. The state funds provide key support to help workshops provide supervision and training for their workers with developmental disabilities while remaining competitive with their business services.

The legal action filed last week asks the DESE to fund the per diem as approved in the 2007 legislative session at the designated 2008-09 funding level of $17 per diem or $85 for each standard workweek. “We believe the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must pay sheltered workshops from the funds appropriated at the rate set forth for 2008-2009,” Hylton said. “We also don’t think that two legislators speak for the entire Senate and House or that they can negate laws that have been voted on, passed and been signed by the governor.”

Contact this reporter at

Public Attendance For Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Special Education Advisory Panel Meetings

ADVISORY PANEL - Meetings of the Panel

The panel shall hold at least four (4) scheduled meetings each calendar year.
A quorum shall consist of the members present. A quorum must be present in order for business to be conducted.

Members shall give prior notice to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or the Secretary when they will not attend the meeting of the panel. Two (2) consecutive unexcused absences or three (3) consecutive excused absences from scheduled meetings shall be deemed as a resignation from the panel.

Proxy voting shall not be permitted and panel members may not send alternates to the meetings.

All meetings of the panel shall be open to the public except as provided in Chapter 610 RSMo.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall be responsible for assisting the Chairperson in securing meetings sites, preparing facilities, recording and preparing minutes and other administrative functions as necessary.

Next scheduled meetings of the Panel:

December 12, 2008
Governor Office Building, Room 400

March 5, 2009
Truman Building, Room 400

June 12, 2009
Truman Building, Room 400

Missouri Families Need To Unite and Stand Up and Say, "We're mad as heck and we're not going to take it anymore."

Missouri Families Need To Unite and Stand Up And Say, "We're mad as heck and we're not going to take it anymore."

Aren't you tired of playing the game by the rules when the other side doesn't? The odds of winning a due process, in Missouri, are little to none. The odds are stacked against you before you start filling out the papers. There are three hearing panel officers. One the district picks, one DESE picks, and one the families pick. There are only two or three family friendly officers on the panel.

There are people on the hearing panel that have been dismissed because of misappropriation of funds. They aren't hearing cases, but they are taking up a spot so that a family friendly person can't get on.

The SEAP panel is made up of mostly school district employees. There are only a few people on the panel that are parents of children with disabilities. The rest are district employees that might have a child with a disability. Do they ever advocate for our children? Nope. They advocate for DESE and their school districts. I know! I'm on the panel. I was told that the panel runs best when parents aren't on there advocating for children.

It's time to make Missouri do what is right. Why should our children receive less just because they live in Missouri? Why should our districts get away with whatever they want just because the system refuses to hold them accountable?

I know of two families that tried due process. One spent $12,000 and the other spent $13,000. Neither one of them made it to the hearing. One had an attorney that quit a week before the hearing (with no explanation) and the other got a stay put that lasted one year. They had the same issue the next year and ended up putting their kid in a private school. Attorneys don't even want to take cases in Missouri because they know that they can't win.

Are you as tired of all of this as I am? I tried OSEP. They keep saying to file for due process. Hello?!! I just told them that you can't win.

Let's hold our legislators accountable. They need to do something about the education in Missouri. Heck, Missouri ranks 47th in 4th grade reading and 48th in 8th grade reading. And that is regular education.

Come on. Let's get together. Let's take an army of tired parents to Jefferson City and let DESE and the Capitol know that we are through being pushed around. Let's let them know that we are willing to fight for our kids and they can join us or they can face our wrath.

Who is with me?

Policy Limits Corporal Punishment To Last Resort

Policy limits corporal punishment to last resort

by Alonzo Weston Saturday, November 1, 2008

When Don Lentz was a school principal, he didn’t believe in swatting kids on the hands for misbehavior. He preferred the backside.

“If I slap a kid’s hand and send him back to class, that hand’s going to hurt and he can’t write,” Mr. Lentz said. “I used a paddle because I figured they could at least stand and listen and write.”
As a high school teacher for 20 years and middle school principal for 13 years, Mr. Lentz said he’s only paddled two students. That was only as a last resort. And it worked.

“The few children I paddled I felt it was an extreme measure,” he said. “They never came back to the office and they were never a discipline problem for me again so I think there’s some merit to it.”

The general rule was then like it is now. The St. Joseph School District policy on corporal punishment is that it only be used in extreme measures.

School board policy states that: “Corporal punishment as a measure of correction is permitted. It shall be used only when all other reasonable means have failed, and then only in reasonable form and with the authorization of the principal. If found necessary, it should be administered, preferably by the principal or principal’s designee, in the presence of the teacher. It should never be inflicted in the presence of the student’s class or without an adult witness. Principals should make every effort to inform parents when corporal punishment has been administered. A complete report of each case must be filed in the Principal’s Office.

Corporal punishment shall be administered preferably by swatting the buttocks with a paddle, or swatting the hands is also acceptable.”

But the policy also has a provision for self defense. A teacher may use reasonable force against a student for the protection of person and property.

Dr. Jaime Dial, assistant director of secondary education for the district, said she can’t remember the last time a student got a paddling for misbehavior in the St. Joseph school system.

“I think we have much more successful means in dealing with student misconduct than corporal punishment,” she said.

She listed some of those measures as: detention, in school and out of school suspensions and conferences with parents and school counselors.

A recent article cited a report from the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union that said more than 200,000 children were spanked or paddled in U.S. schools during the past school year.

The highest percentage of students receiving corporal punishment was in Mississippi, with 7.5 percent of students. The highest number was 48,197 students in Texas.

According to the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, as cited in the study, corporal punishment in schools is legal in 21 U.S. states. It’s used more frequently in Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.

“Every public school needs effective methods of discipline, but beating kids teaches violence, and it doesn’t stop bad behavior,” said Alice Farmer, author of a joint report from the article. “It fails to deter future misbehavior and at times even provokes it.”

Mr. Lentz said he believes in paddling to some extent, but not beating a child. That’s a different matter. It ultimately comes down to gaining respect, he said.

“You have to earn respect, you can’t command it from kids,” Mr. Lentz said.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at

Where Have All the Lawsuits Gone?

Read the whole article at :

In this chapter, I assess the role and effects of the courts in implementing the IDEA. Perhaps the most surprising empirical conclusion is that courts do not have much of a role in implementing the statute.7 As I will show, there is very little litigation under the IDEA. In some class action cases—such as the Jose P. case that Sandler and Schoenbrod highlight—the effects of judicial intervention have been significant (for both good and ill). But, by and large, the courts have made little direct difference in the treatment of students with disabilities. Courts have a somewhat greater indirect effect on the education of students with disabilities, as their (relatively rare) decisions cast a shadow over the (much more frequent) decisions of school administrators. Those decisions have, at the margins, exacerbated one of the problems commentators have attributed to the IDEA—an excessive focus on process over substance. And they have created and maintained a system of public reimbursement of private school tuition that may appear necessary in individual cases but raises substantial equity concerns nonetheless. Considered overall, however, both the strengths and the weaknesses of the IDEA have less to do with the actions of the courts than with those of Congress and the Executive Branch.

There are two possible ways the courts might affect education when they implement the IDEA. They might do so directly, by ordering schools to take or refrain from taking certain actions as a remedy for a proven violation of the statute. Or they might do so indirectly, as their legal rulings cast a shadow over the actions of educators, students, and parents. In this section, I discuss the indirect effects of legal doctrine in this area. The following two sections discuss direct effects of judicial intervention.

Special Education Advisory Panel And How Parents Can Make It Work

Things to do to make it work as it can –

· It is a public meeting. Get a steady number of parents to attend, month after month. The great thing about parents is that they work as legislators, newspaper reporters, website designers, attorneys, newspaper publishers, whatever you need. Talk to the other parent members and convince them to attend all meetings. Encourage additional parents to apply for membership. Give them all copies of the 2 laws that apply and a copy of the open meeting laws so they all know the parameters within which they will need to work.

· Be nice, quiet, under the radar as needed, and keep at it.

· Read your state open meeting laws and see that the panel follows them.

· Minutes of public meetings are public. Provide a link to the Panel website from your autism website. Post the laws there too so more parents may become interested in the Panel.

· Don’t let anything get personal.

· Do not think in terms of them and us. Think in terms of what the laws say the make-up, transparency, and work of the panel needs to entail.

· Read both the federal law and state law that cover your state advisory panel. Make sure all of it is running as it should. I took a day a while ago and made a list of all the advisory panels that have websites or a webpage on their state website. See what other states do. Your Panel looks pretty well designed.

· One thing that may help is to offer a public comment period at the beginning of every meeting. The easiest way to get this approved is to have several parents quietly and nicely attend a few meetings as spectators, then have one of the Panel members suggest the policy of offering a brief public comment at the beginning of each meeting, and a process for written public comment. NH offers that. Check the NH SAC website on the list below and see if you like that wording.

· Start making motions. Get decisions and discussion into the minutes and into the public.

· If you are not good at leading this “take-over” find someone who is better at it and work with them. There will be enough work to go around.

It is our law. We need to make it work. It is embarrassing that there are millions of parents of disabled children and this is all we have been able to do. We need to think in terms of The Tipping Point . We need to quietly plan to take over the system that can give our children what our laws entitle them to.

Obama did not win the election by doing one thing or working in one direction. He did all the jobs, the big ones, the small ones, the very difficult, time consuming, the expensive, the very inexpensive, the easy, the repetitious, whatever it took. You need to “take over” your state, your panel, your work, as if failure is not an option. You will fail most of the time. That is why no one else has fixed it yet. Just ignore that. I read somewhere about how many thousands of failures Thomas Edison had before he invented the light bulb. How many people have thought the Berlin Wall was permanent? You need to be the crazy person that plans to change what other people have given up on. They just were not as motivated or persistent as you are. Or maybe they were. Maybe they worked to get these laws passed in the first place and now all we need to do is see that they are implemented.

Forget about what other people on the Panel are doing that is not useful. Concentrate on what you will do, both on and off the Panel, to empower yourself and others to make the Panel work as it should, because the Panel is one part of making the system work as it should,

List of all Panel websites I was able to find.

Link to open meeting laws