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My Son

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.

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