A new group has formed in Delaware called The Coalition for Fairness & Equity In Our Schools. This group is looking for one thing in our schools, as per their Facebook page:
Diverse group advocating for statewide changes to discipline practices to eliminate suspensions for low-level offenses and adopt a restorative approach.
This group was convened by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware to help eliminate the “school to prison” pipeline coming out of many of our schools in Delaware, specifically the Wilmington schools. You can read more about them here.
To this end, they have started a petition which can be found below, and I strongly encourage all to sign in support of this petition. As a special needs father, I have seen first-hand what disproportionate discipline can create, and so much of what these children are exhibiting are manifestations of their disabilities. This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, but it also doesn’t mean punish whenever you want, which leads to social stigma that is very damaging for so many students with disabilities. I have always promoted a simple mantra: work with the disabilities, not against them. When anyone tries to fight something that is natural, it becomes stressful for all involved. This can make a minor situation become infinitely worse. It isn’t just about social groups for students either. The adults have a HUGE responsibility in this as well.
I have seen multiple videos from other countries where students disabilities are celebrated, not hidden. The classes and staff are educated on them, and this creates a much more tolerable environment for all involved: the student with disabilities, their classmates, the teachers, the staff, the admins, and the entire school. Aside from all this, there are very specific laws regarding disproportionate punishments and manifestation determination. In Delaware, and also under IDEA and Section 504 law, if a student is suspended more than ten times during a school year, the IEP team or 504 team must convene to determine if a behavior was a result of the disability. A parent can also request this if they believe this to be true in a discipline situation.
What should result from this is the stakeholders involved get together, talk about the issues and behaviors, and the school psychologist should do a functional behavioral analysis. Based on the results of this, a behavior intervention plan should be established with all parties agreeing, not just the administrators of the school. And I would caution parents to be very careful about the wording of these BIPs as they are called. I highly recommend knowing your child’s disability to the best of your ability, and find out what is typical or atypical behaviors associated with the disability.
When all efforts have failed, and a parent feels their efforts for their child are not being met, that is the time to take further action. There are numerous things you can do, but one I do NOT recommend is taking that action through the Delaware Department of Education. Their best solution seems to be “mediate” which is good, but this can also stifle your rights for your child. Sometimes, as many special needs parents can attest to, you have to fight for your child. The DOE methods of resolution do not have the best odds of working to your child’s benefit. I’m sure they would disagree with me, but the bare fact that there have been NO due process hearings in Delaware for two years and a smattering of administrative complaints over a ten year period is testament to this fact. Their way just doesn’t work.
Furthermore, the number of special education lawsuits when parents reach their wits end (not to get rich quick, that is NOT what happens with these lawsuits) has skyrocketed in Delaware over the past few years. This is a more proven resolution method for far more parents than the DOE has ever helped over the past decade. In fact, many of the curriculums and specific IEPs the DOE wants (which are not part of approved federal IDEA law as brought before the U.S. Congress but resolutions and regulations tacked on by the US DOE with no Congressional approval), will wind up being more harmful to many students in the coming years as they are forced to adapt to national standards that are controversial at best, culminating in standardized assessments that on the surface purport to close the achievement gaps, but will in actuality further widen them. This will in turn bring in more “consultants” and “non-profit companies” who need to help these “failing” students. All the while, teachers who don’t have the proper resources and are dealing with very large classrooms will be evaluated based on these high-stakes assessments. This is why I don’t trust the DOE, and why any special needs parent should be very wary of them.
But back to this coalition, I am in full support of this group, and this is very needed in our state. I just wish I had known about it sooner! I would strongly encourage this group to take a very strong look at various disabilities and the neurobiological events that take place when so many of these “behaviors” occur, as well as the exponential increase of them when unneeded stress is placed on these students from the adults in the school.
6 thoughts on “The Coalition For Fairness & Equity In Schools Needs YOUR Help!”
May I suggest that you speak to teachers about the “school to prison pipeline”? You’ll find that quite a number object to what this implies.
Do you Recall that a Wilmington councilperson blamed schools for the shootings in Wilmington?
And lawsuits? I can say with certainty that they are not always warranted. Neither are all settlements deserved.
This is going to be one of my “Rubicon” moments where I wholeheartedly and with good faith to all involved continue my plea for a special education overhaul in this state. Call it whatever you want, school to prison pipeline, disproportionate discipline, what have you. It exists. It’s real. I am in no way saying teachers are the cause of that. But I will say many administrators are. They set the policies in our schools. They lay down the law. Unfortunately, when it comes to students with disabilities, far too many of them don’t have a clue. And I am willing to bet there are many MORE students with disabilities in our schools than are diagnosed. I know several folks who say there are TOO many IEPs out there, but these are often by individuals who sit atop a lofty perch and aren’t in on the ground floor day in and day out. I know many teachers, and I know many of them want what is best for students. With that being said, the very nature of the “behaviors” going on in schools are all too often manifestations of disabilities that added stress makes worse. I do not view teachers as racist at all. Nor do I think teachers can stop the ills of society going on outside school doors. But I firmly believe, when any student is within school walls, it is EVERY adult in that building’s responsibility and duty to do the best for students. When special education matters crop up, I think EVERY adult in the school should know about it. I think EVERY adult should be educated on each student’s disability. Other countries do this, and it works very well for them. I can predict the response already “That’s all well and good, but when do we have time for that.” And I agree, you don’t have time which makes it far worse. Which is exactly why we need to get rid of this standardized testing craze as well as the Common Core curriculum it is based on. We ALL know it is not for the benefit of the students. It is a huge money-making venture designed to make the extremely wealthy even more wealthy, and the most disadvantaged of our society even more disadvantaged. Don’t believe the hype that spins out of the DOE (I know you don’t but far too many in our state do) and demand change. Loudly, and publicly. This whole article and my comment to you now is very indicative of why I fully support the opt-out movement. Not just because I don’t want my special needs son to take this meaningless stress-inducing assessment, but because it is opening up MANY eyes and causing people to question ALL of this. I certainly don’t blame schools for outside shootings in Wilmington. I won’t get into ALL of that, but schools should not be blamed for all that goes on outside school walls. But I do believe schools should build the foundations, as well as parents, that can prevent (in the long run), so much of this. But the biggest hurdle to all of this is our legislators, passing bill after bill, and budget after budget, that over the long run does not solve these issues, but merely sets them up for their next election.
And do you know what occurs in a school when there is no more “law”?
Mass exodus. Watch it happen.
Who said anything about no more law? To hear it from some people, this is the case now, and that mass exodus has already happened. Or what I like to call, many of the cherry-picking charters in your neck of the woods. There needs to be law and order in schools. The key is getting to the order part. If the adults cannot get a firm grasp on neurobiological conditions and how they manifest themselves and the catalysts that make them worse, then this situation will NEVER change. This is the key to what I will estimate to be 75% of the “behavior” issues in our schools, especially the ones with all three of the big “sub-groups”. Hell, you have students that fit into all three of these groups. We need to accept this reality, and from that will come understanding. From understanding comes miracles waiting to happen for so many of these students. And they have been waiting a long time, whether they know it or not.
In “some” schools this approach to behavior has resulted not in “laying down the law”, but in “no law”.
The mass exodus is not complete, and has been re-energized by this phenomenon.
I am constrained from saying anymore.
As a SPED teacher who has worked with numerous students with BIPs, I’m glad to see this happening. I hope one of their goals is to give support and mentoring to SPED teachers who aren’t familiar with the many different disabilities and manifestations of behavior that may occur. Some of the things that have helped me in my own classroom are (1) having studied psychology/behavioral science/social science in my undergrad, (2) poring through my students’ IEPs and researching anything unfamiliar, (3) meeting with the parents and child to talk about the disability and ways we can help each other, and (4) obtaining permission from the parents on how to educate the rest of the class as to what to expect and how to react to the manifestations of the disability. I think the latter is the most important. When the students themselves know what to expect, they are extremely adaptable and helpful.