Autism Delaware Gives Clarification On DAP Situation

Autism Delaware released a fact sheet today on the debacle involving the Delaware Department of Education, Christina School District, the Office of Management and Budget, and Governor Carney’s office.  This should answer many questions folks are having based on the Delaware Public Media article as well as my own last night.

If this is how it was supposed to happen, someone dropped the ball big time.  A lot of fingers can be pointed at Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg for failing to notify the district’s Board of Education (which is the governing body for the district and hired him in the first place).  As well, Governor Carney’s administration goofed big time by not putting certain funding for training personnel in their FY2020 budget proposal.  A lot of this comes down to communication.  We live in the 21st Century where communication is instant.  This kind of stuff shouldn’t happen!

State Rep. Kim Williams wrote the following on Facebook today:

OMB, Controller’s Office and DOE are setting up a meeting with Christina next week. The schools are not changing anything, they will still report to their current district. Teachers and staff will not be affected by any of this. They need to hire the two specialists and those specialists need to report to someone. They need to hire someone to oversee the specialists and the statewide program. The meeting this week will work all those details out.

Thanks to Autism Delaware for getting some facts out on this matter!

Delaware House Passed Very Important Autism Bill

On Tuesday, the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously passed an Autism bill that will delight many parents and advocates in The First State.

State Representative Earl Jaques released the following statement on the House vote:

The House has unanimously passed my bill to enhance services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. HB 292 would focus on implementing parent and family input through the enactment of the Parent Advisory Committee, along with additional review boards.

We want to help all students have a quality, inclusive education experience, and this bill will help accomplish that. The hope is to better help children get the Autism services they need in their local communities. The legislation also has the net benefit of creating more educational autism specialist jobs.

This is the synopsis for HB #292:

This Act implements the recommendations of the March 2015 Autism Educational Task Force report regarding § 1332 of Title 14, the Program for Children with Autism and its Special Staff. Enacted nearly three decades ago, this law established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. However, the current model does not reflect current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education, and parents’ desire to have their children educated in their local communities. In addition, the increase in students with an educational classification of autism spectrum disorder (“ASD”) has made it difficult for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services and support that once was offered. This Act establishes the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director and enhances the current mandatory committee structure to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review Board, to increase family input, monitoring, and protections. This Act creates a 3 year pilot program that revises the concept of DAP toward a system in which the statewide Director will work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. It allows for and provides adequate resources for all students with ASD in Delaware by eliminating the distinction between DAP-approved programs and other in-district options and by providing in-state experts at a lower cost than out-of-state residential treatment and consultants. The pilot program created under this Act makes changes that recognize and support the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students who attend them. The pilot program created under this Act establishes a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions). The fiscal mechanism to support the pilot program will be accomplished through mandated district participation that is consistent with the current needs-based funding system in Delaware and by redirecting state spending towards lower cost, community-based supports from out-of-state residential placements. The number of training specialists will be phased in over several years or until the pilot program ends. Finally, this Act is known as “The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law” in memory Alex Eldreth, who passed away unexpectedly on November 24, 2017, and his dedication to this work.                    

Congrats!  The bill was also released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday.  It has not appeared on the Senate agenda but I anticipate final passage of this bill by June 30th.

The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law Would Bring Big Changes To Delaware Autism Program

It must be education legislation pre-file day today!  State Representative Earl Jaques with a Senate sponsorship by Senator Margaret Rose Henry pre-filed House Bill #292.  This legislation is very similar to the 148th General Assembly’s Senate Bill #92 which failed to get out of the Appropriations Committee due to state budget constraints.  The key difference between HB #292 and SB #92 is the fiscal note was lowered for the new bill.  I love that Alex Eldreth, a longtime advocate for students with Autism in Delaware, is honored with this bill.  Eldreth, from Autism Delaware, passed away in November of 2017.

This Act implements the recommendations of the March 2015 Autism Educational Task Force report regarding § 1332 of Title 14, the Program for Children with Autism and its Special Staff. Enacted nearly three decades ago, this law established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. However, the current model does not reflect current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education, and parents’ desire to have their children educated in their local communities. In addition, the increase in students with an educational classification of autism spectrum disorder (“ASD”) has made it difficult for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services and support that once was offered. This Act establishes the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director and enhances the current mandatory committee structure to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review Board, to increase family input, monitoring, and protections. This Act creates a 3 year pilot program that revises the concept of DAP toward a system in which the statewide Director will work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. It allows for and provides adequate resources for all students with ASD in Delaware by eliminating the distinction between DAP-approved programs and other in-district options and by providing in-state experts at a lower cost than out-of-state residential treatment and consultants. The pilot program created under this Act makes changes that recognize and support the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students who attend them. The pilot program created under this Act establishes a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions). The fiscal mechanism to support the pilot program will be accomplished through mandated district participation that is consistent with the current needs-based funding system in Delaware and by redirecting state spending towards lower cost, community-based supports from out-of-state residential placements. The number of training specialists will be phased in over several years or until the pilot program ends. Finally, this Act is known as “The Alex Eldreth Autism Education Law” in memory Alex Eldreth, who passed away unexpectedly on November 24, 2017, and his dedication to this work.
To read the full legislation, please go here.

Seaford Mother Outraged Over Potential Abuse From Seaford Teacher Towards Her Child With Autism

Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum.  The mother explained what happened.  When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:

“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”

Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:

Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.

This is unacceptable.  I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School.  The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet).  I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.

The district will not respond to any of this.  They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher.  People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good.  Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me.  You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about.  This is a travesty.  Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent.  Instead, they are covering their asses.

A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department.  They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s).  I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened.  It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.

I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report.  Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year.  Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1.  In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students.  But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint.  If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault.  Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents.  But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help.  Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.

I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property.  If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked.  The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents.  Or saying you have it but then you don’t.  You reap what you sow with that kind of logic.  In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records.  If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it.  But is surveillance video considered an educational record?  That will be the argument here.  But I don’t care.  If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent.  Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.

This should NOT happen in our schools.  Tonight, I am very pissed off.  At this.  At Caesar Rodney.  At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools.  So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now.  Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms.  Guess what?  The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued.  How does that work out for you?

Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-

Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA.  Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.

 

High Five Park For Children With Autism Opens In Newark! Preston’s Playground Coming Soon!

Newark is taking care of kids!  One park for children with Autism opened up last week and another park for special needs children is on the way!

Rob and Elizabeth Scheinberg have a daughter with Autism.  Two years ago they found out there were no playgrounds for children on the Autism spectrum.  As the Newark Post wrote today, the parents contacted the county and after two years, their dream became a reality: Delaware’s first playground designed exclusively for children with Autism.  Located at Glasgow Park, the park has many features that help children with Autism in what are otherwise sensory unfriendly environments:

Every piece of the park has meaning, from the large mirrored sphere at the entrance to the music area with chimes, xylophone, drums and interactive sound boards.

Elizabeth Scheinberg said children with autism love mirrors because they are visually and sensory stimulating, and playing music encourages kids to work with their hands and learn how to grasp. She said they also like circles and circular movements, so the never-ending paths that meander throughout the park and around the perimeter really appeal to them.

“The lines in this park don’t end,” she said.

The paths are made of squishy artificial turf, which helps children learn to maintain balance, as do the stand-up spinners, hammocks and basket swings throughout the playground.

Another inclusive playground for special needs children in Newark is under development.  Preston’s Playground will open at The Reservoir.  They are still looking for donations, so if you have the means, please consider donating for this excellent cause!  They are shy of their goal for this so every bit helps!
I think it is really awesome folks are getting together and making awareness around having playing areas for kids with disabilities.  Every child wants to feel like they are part of something.  But for many of these kids, the existing structures are not conducive to their needs or abilities.

Emails To Delaware Superintendents From DSCYF Confirms Definitive Discontinuation Of Services Was Planned

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families sent two emails to Delaware Superintendents regarding the discontinuation of day treatment centers in Delaware.  I submitted a FOIA request to five Delaware Superintendents last evening to obtain these emails.  One of them got to me first so I canceled the other requests.  Both these emails give very definitive timeframes for when this was going to happen.  The State of Delaware reversed course on this issue, but make no mistake, this was going to happen prior to that decision.  One important thing from the second email is the glaring fact that TODAY is the last day for any district or charter school to make a referral for a day treatment center in Delaware.  So my question would be that if this change is on hold, is today still the last day for any referrals?  The second email had a lot of attachments included in the FOIA request.  Apparently there will be public meetings where they will present this.  One of them already happened in New Castle County on September 8th, but I would highly recommend they have another one since this story just broke in mainstream media two days ago.

Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 8/26/16

Follow-Up Email sent to Delaware Superintendents 9/9/16 and Key Information

 

Governor Markell To Sign Autism Legislation On 9/14

Autism advocates fought for this bill.  Now, after a long summer, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will finally sign Senate Bill 93 at Autism Delaware, 924 Old Harmony Rd., Ste. 201 on Wednesday at 9am.

An act to amend Title 16 of the Delaware Code related to creating an interagency committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism

markellsigningsb93

Senate Bill 93 was one of two Autism bills sponsored by Delaware Senator Margaret Rose-Henry which were introduced on May 12th, 2015.  After more than a year, Senate Bill 92 died as the 148th General Assembly ended on July 1st.  But Senate Bill 93, with its amendments, finally passed in the House in the late hours of June 30th after amendments passed.  Senate Bill 93 will give hope for better coordination of Autism services for the many parents of children and adults with Autism in the First State.

The history behind this legislation goes back a few years.  In 2013, Autism Delaware, with the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies and the Delaware Department of Education, released The Blueprint for Collective Action.  In the last days of the 147th General Assembly, an Autism Task Force was created.  Led by Senator Rose-Henry, the Autism Task Force created what eventually became the original bills, Senate Bill 92 and 93.  Senate Bill 93 was co-sponsored by Senators Catherine Cloutier and Bryan Townsend and State Representative Earl Jaques.

Delaware Autism has been the leading organization in Delaware for decades to help those with Autism.  To see a copy of their most recent newsletter, click here.

To see exactly what this bill will do for people with Autism, please see the below engrossment of the legislation which is exactly how it will be signed by Governor Markell.

Why Hasn’t Governor Markell Signed Some Key Education Legislation?

For Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a great deal of time is spent during his summer months signing legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly.  But some legislation has not received a signature by the Governor.  Three education bills, in particular, all show what can only be seen as resistance to many of the policies and agendas Governor Markell, Rodel, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and the Delaware DOE have put forth in Delaware the past eight years.  The Governor has nothing on his public schedule this week.  That doesn’t mean he won’t sign bills this week.  But when he has nothing, that usually means he isn’t in Delaware.

House Bill 399 w/House Amendment 1, Senate Amendments 1 and 2

This is the controversial teacher evaluation bill that stretched into the wee hours of July 1st this year.  Coming out of the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee recommendations, this bill generated a lot of heat after Senator David Sokola butchered the intent of the bill.  It was originally designed so other state-approved assessments could be used as a measure in Component V of the DPAS-II teacher evaluation system.  By forcing the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores to factor into teacher evaluations, the Delaware DOE and Markell got a ton of heat the past few years.  The bill was supposed to change that.  But Senator Sokola decided to intervene with a lot of help from ex-DOE employee Atnre Alleyne and the usual suspects over at the DOE and State Board.  So why hasn’t Jack signed the bill yet?  Rumors circulated at Legislative Hall that Markell did not like this bill.  We all know what happened the last time Jack “didn’t like” a bill.  Engrossed version of bill.

House Bill 408 w/House Amendment 2

The school breakfast bill, which would also give free breakfast to students in Delaware, caused a lot of controversy with a part about charter schools not being included.  An amendment in the House made sure they were.  Gee, when did a charter school meal program last cause a lot of conversation?  Perhaps when they applied for a major modification and it came out their meal program was not what it appeared to be?  Hello Newark Charter School!  Engrossed version of bill.

Senate Bill 93 w/Senate Amendment 1 and House Amendment 1

This bill is awesome.  The Autism community in Delaware spoke loud and clear in support of this bill.  But when an amendment was tacked on in the Senate giving the Delaware DOE a seat at the table through the very controversial Special Education Strategic Plan, led by ex Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin, the Autism community was outraged.  An amendment in the House stripped the entire Senate amendment out.  Over two years after Governor Markell signed this Special Education Strategic Plan into the FY2015 budget, we have yet to see it.  I’m hearing it is due any time now.  I can’t wait to see what Rodel and the charter lobbyists comes up with for this one!  Engrossed version of bill.

I see confusion on Markell’s part.  Does he sign these or not?  If he does, what does that say to some of his key allies?  If he doesn’t, he invites the wrath of many.  He is a lame duck, but he still has political aspirations.  Depending on what they are, could signing some of these bills affect those plans?  What to do, what to do…

Delaware Horror Story Part 3

As David reached out his hand, the woman said, “No David.  You mustn’t.  You must never harm your grandfather.”  David knew what a father was but what made someone grand as a father?  The elderly man had bright blue eyes and white hair.  David had blue eyes as well.  But the lines on the old man’s face were deep, as if each year left a mark on the man.  The woman was young.  She had long red hair and deep green eyes.  She didn’t speak the same language as the man did at first, but he sensed some of it in her normal language.

“David, my name is Astrid.  And this is your grandfather, Jacob,” the woman said.  It was dark outside.  The streets were not normal.  Instead of being flat, they had round rocks.  David looked down at them, questioning why.  “These are cobblestones David,” Jacob said.  “From a time long before you and I.  We are in a country called Sweden.  And now we are in their city called Stockholm.  And this is one of the oldest parts of the city still standing.  We are in Gamla Stan, which means Old Town in our language.”

David looked at Jacob with a puzzled look.  He still didn’t comprehend this “grandfather” thing.  Jacob pulled out a picture of his father, when he was 14 years old.  “This is my son, William.  He is your father.  That makes me your grandfather.”  Jacob understood.  This old man was his father’s father.

The earliest memory David had been one of the magic place.  It was like a place with constant evolution.  One minute it would be snowing and the next it would be bright and sunny and warm.  This is where David lived most days.  He was comfortable there and it filled him with happiness.  The adventures he had in this place were beyond the imagining.  This was David’s home.  He didn’t like it when he dreamed of the real world.  He was in this real world dream now.  There were always questions and nothing made sense.

David heard of this man Jacob.  When he dreamed of the real world, he would hear his mom and dad talking about him.  His mother would tell his father he needed to let it go and they had to concentrate on David.  He remembered one time when his mother told him, “David, one day you will need to wake up.  You will have to become one with the world and survive.”  When David got to the mountain, he dreamed about the real world the whole time.  He wasn’t able to be home, in the land where nothing stayed the same.  To dream was to survive.

“Astrid,” said Jacob. “David looks very confused.  He needs to eat.  We need to take him down to the bistro before the roll call begins.  He may look normal now, but if anyone sees the number on him, they will know.  We didn’t do all of this just to lose him now.”

Astrid reached out her hand to David.  David trusted her for some reason.  She seemed familiar to him but he couldn’t place it.  He touched her fingers as they curled around his.  David looked up at her.  An empty stare with no emotion.  He wanted to tell her how he felt.  That she was okay to him.  But he couldn’t.  Not unless he was home.  When he dreamed of this place, he could never talk.  Just watch.  And listen.  And absorb.  And react.  He felt trapped, like the Beast of Leaftear at home when the creature was defeated in the Battle of Leaftear Ending.  The Beast threatened them all.  He wanted to take over the city of Leaftear and kill them all.  David saved the day when he beat the Beast at a game of Kaleidoscope.  The Leaftearians knew they didn’t have the physical strength to beat The Beast so they relied on their greatest hero in a game of wits.  Afterwards, the Beast sat in his cage for all time and never made a sound.  It ate food, it breathed, and it would even snore at night sometimes, but no words ever came out of his mouth.  That was how David felt when he dreamed of the real world.

****************

William woke up to a loud pounding on his door.  “MEF #313056, you have ten minutes to get dressed and shower.  Breakfast at 0500.”  William grabbed the towel and uniform and made his way to the showers.  They smelled like ancient mildew but the water coming out of the showers felt like hot on a warm summer day.  He got dressed and went to the Convening Room on the sub-levels.  The Colonel gave the daily orders to the MEF.  William received his: “Disinfectant Recognition”.  Inside the packet was a list of instructions for the duty.  William felt his stomach turn inside out.  He remembered this technique from an old television show he watched on something called YouTube.  Some show called Breaking Bad.  The body would be placed in a barrel with acid.  It removed any trace of identity from the victim.  The 12 families called this “extra assurance”.  Not that any parent of one of the Specials could ever claim the body or sue the MEF.  Most of them didn’t even know about the Mountain.

William didn’t know if he could go through with this.  He had to find David in here, or find out if…  the thought was too much for William to handle.  At times like this, William’s self-instinct took over with a fight or flight mechanism.  To escape the impending feeling of a loss too terrible to cope with, William would count to 32.  He came this far and he knew if he couldn’t find the location of his son here he never would.  One of the guards came into the room and whispered to the Colonel.  William couldn’t hear it, but he heard the letters AU at the end of it.  The Colonel shouted “That is impossible.  What do you mean he is gone?  That doesn’t happen.  Not here.  Find him.  NOW!”

“We have a new problem,” claimed the Colonel.  “One of the Specials is missing.  An autistic boy, 12 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes.  #112877AU.  He disappeared two days ago.  There will be no disposal today.  All non-molding staff are to actively search for this boy and find him.  The first person to find him will get an extra hour for lunch or dinner.  The first daughter of the Markell family is coming to the Mountain later today and we are ruined if word gets out we can’t account for one of them.”

****************

Jax sipped the water very slowly.  At 103 years old, she knew she didn’t have much time left.  She had to make sure they understood.  There wasn’t much time left before the purging videos came out.  She carefully placed agents into the Mountain to show the world what was happening there.  Even though the people couldn’t see them, the word would spread.  Fifty-five percent of the population, either dead or on a timetable for execution.  She looked out the window to see what used to be Legislative Hall.  Spread out over the entirety of the Green, it was home to the Markell family of Delaware.  One of the Twelve.  The rulers of the world.  She missed her friends, those who fought so gallantly to prevent this.  She remembered the dying breath of the unions when President Markell signed the order.  By that point, the unions were just minions of the Twelve anyways.  She had been kicked out years before it was official.  During the Red Clay-Christina riot, she watched as the Markell guards beat her friends into submission.  She did not escape unscathed.  A bullet tore into her left kneecap with such velocity it would never be the same again.

Delaware became an island unto itself during the Great Icescape Melt of 2042.  The Markell family built the polymer walls stopping the waters from taking over.  It was too late for Southern Sussex County.  The wall stood south of Milford with nothing but a liquid graveyard to the south of it.  That was the last time she saw her friend, the blogger.  He went down there to find someone, but no one ever saw him after that.  But he left very careful instructions for her.  About what to do if anything ever happened to William, his grandson.  It was Jax who supplied William with the knowledge of what came before.  The device was a treasure trove that explained everything.  All the information the people in power conveniently laughed at and ignored until it was too late.  She missed the resistance.  They came so close.  It would have stopped everything that came to pass.  They let him in thinking he had changed, that he was no longer brainwashed by the Markells.  They were wrong.  Trusting Earl was the worst mistake Jax ever made…

Part 1

Part 2

Editor’s note: I began this story last fall.  It became very dark, very quickly.  Faster than I could take.  As the Every Student Succeeds Act became a reality, I saw this potential future unfolding right in front of me.  A system designed to offer so much promise to the unsuspecting, but laced with poison.  Right now, regulations coming from ESSA are being discussed by politicians, policy-makers, educators, and corporate education reformers throughout the country.  For those who have followed this blog, some of the names in here are very familiar.  But the reality is that every single state has those who opposed what is happening to public education.  This is a story of the last heroes of Delaware in a potential future.  It is meant to be a warning sign of grossly exaggerated proportions.  One hundred years ago, someone could have written a similar story of a whole group of European Jews who were summarily executed just for their faith.  Many would have laughed and ridiculed such a notion.  Not in our time… history is filled with such apathy towards itself.  It is merely a cycle of cascading events with a rise and fall, over and over again.  It is also filled with those who try to fight the future and prevent the same cycle from repeating itself.

Comment Rescue Regarding Rodel, Autism, & Special Education

Well, this is mighty interesting.  Marie-Anne Aghazadian, the former Executive Director for the Parent Information Center of Delaware from 1989-2014, a former member of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, and the founding President of the Delaware Autism Program, wrote a comment on an article I published over a year ago about the introduction of Senate Bill 92.

I, too, find it highly suspicious that Paul Herdman is now interested in improving special education. A group of students he had disdained for years. But then things have been rather quiet for Rodel since the demise of the RTT grant and the unsuccessful Mark Murphy reign.

And what better way to get into the fray again than to suggest interest in special education. Really?

I have found that Matt Korobkin (with whom I have worked on the Autism Advancement Package aka SB92/93), although well-intentioned, has indeed little spec. ed. background and seems to be pushing Delaware to replicate the education collaborative model prevalent in Massachusetts and other states.

Until society values students with disabilities as much as their AP students and is willing to pay forward to ensure their success as productive and self-sufficient adults, we will continue to waste time, money and children’s lives on costly, trivial pursuits such as studies and lawsuits brought on by legitimately frustrated parents.

Aghazadian raised several talking points.  Why is Rodel, in the past couple of years, dabbling in special education.  Dr. Paul Herdman, the Executive Director of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, did teach special education once upon a time.  But the policies Rodel pushed over the past ten years seem to be special education killers and not helpers.  I agree 100% with what she wrote.  I would love to chat more with her about all of this as she seems to know the history and education of Delaware education better than most based on her vast history in the system.

This is what we need more of: those in a position to speak out and actually doing it!  Nothing will change if more people don’t speak up.  Use your voice.  You have it for a reason!

Delaware House Education Committee Releases Two Autism Bills But Kills Controversial Amendment

The Delaware House Education Committee released Senate Bills 92 and 93 yesterday at their weekly meeting.  The unanimous release was expected, but an amendment on Senate Bill 93 was taken off by the committee.  If the full House passes Senate Bill 93, it will go back to the Delaware Senate since the amendment previously approved by the Senate was taken off.  Since there is a fiscal note for both bills, they are going to the House Appropriations Committee.  The amendment that was removed by the House Education Committee states the following:

AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by deleting lines 58 through 60 and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

14) A representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education;

15)  A representative appointed by the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services;

16)  A parent or caregiver of a child or adult with ASD from each  county in Delaware;

17)  An individual with ASD.

FURTHER AMEND Senate Bill No. 93 by inserting the following after line 102:

(t) The Network and the Network Director shall collaborate with the Delaware Collaborative for Education Services (DCES), an entity to be created out of recommendations from the Special Education Strategic Plan, a plan directed by language in the FY15 Budget, Section 307 Epilogue.    The collaboration shall begin after the DCES is formed.  In particular, the Network shall collaborate  with DCES to develop coaching, professional development, and technical assistance in areas where there is overlap with services provided to people with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well low incidence disabilities, including but not limited to visual or hearing impairments, or simultaneous visual and hearing impairments; significant cognitive impairments; or  any impairment for which a small number of personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge are needed in order for children with that impairment to receive early intervention services or a free appropriate public education. 

 

SYNOPSIS

           This amendment adds a representative from the Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services (DCES) or, until DCES is created, the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware Department of Education as a voting member of the Interagency Committee on Autism (ICA).  It also adds a new paragraph (t) at the end of the bill containing provisions for the collaboration between the Network and the Network Director and the DCES, after it is created.

Many members of the Delaware Autism community did not like this amendment and felt the Delaware Department of Education was overstepping quite a bit.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago.  Apparently the legislators in the House Education Committee agreed.

Live From The Delaware House Education Committee

First up, House Bill 161, the Parent Empowerment Savings Account.  State Rep. Deb Hudson is talking about the bill.  She said it would not be a tidal wave of students that would be able to participate in the program.  She said there are only 12 students eligible for the program in Delaware right now.  She said the funds would be put on a debit card for parents to choose for whatever education program they wanted for their exceptional child.  She said the parents would almost become like a contractor in the state.  There are restrictions on what the parent could use the debit card for.  WaWa is out, Hudson said.

State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques asked if there is a fiscal note for the bill.  Hudson said no.  She is explaining the money follows the child.  Jaques is saying it could be very labor-intensive for school districts.  These funds would only be used from state funds.  The local share of funding would stay in the district according to Hudson.  She wants the child’s name to stay in the district.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if this includes all children.  She said that was deleted and the description is included in the amendment.  Matthews said it seems like this bill would be in conflict with the State Constitution if funds were used in a religious school.  Hudson said it could also be used for tutoring and not just a religious school.  She said this would stand up in a court of law like it did in Arizona.  She didn’t want to write a bill that would wind up in the courts.  Matthews is asking if ALEC was the initiator of the legislation.  She said no, it was the Goldwater Institute.

State Controller Mike Jackson said the fiscal note is indeterminate based on the small amount of students.  He said the impact would be there since much of the state funding goes towards enrollment and affects teacher salaries.  She said the districts get to keep the local funding so it evens out.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked about the debit card policy with a pre-determined amount of money.  She said it isn’t a Visa card.  It would be put out by the State Treasurer’s office.  It wouldn’t be able to be used at a WaWa according to Hudson since it is illegal.  She said there would be accountability behind it.  Williams said nothing could stop someone from using the debit card at WaWa.  A gentleman with the Goldwater Institute said there are merchant codes on the card that would prevent the user from using the card for non-educational purposes.  The card would be rejected if it didn’t match the merchant codes.  Williams said the State is already obligated to pay for speech therapists for all students up to age 5.  She said this could overlap and would cause problems.  Hudson said it is neutral and would be paid from either source.  Williams stressed the state already pays for it so why would they make parents pay for it?  Williams asked how additional resources would be given to families if funds can be sent to college savings plan.  Hudson said she hasn’t read the synopsis lately and she is more focused on K-12 students.  The Goldwater Institute gentleman said parents spend the funds based on the resources and additional services needed for each child.  Williams asked if a parent could put all the money into a college plan.  Hudson said if she were leaving it up to the Delaware Dept. of Education, they would weigh in on the decision.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley said the education of students with disabilities is near and dear to him.  He said IDEA is administered by the school districts.  He asked how IDEA would be able to factor into this if a student goes to a private school.  The Goldwater man said a student would have to already be on an IEP to be able to qualify for the program.  Then Hensley asked about the IEP team.  Would the IEP team come to an outside school if a parent uses this program.  He said in Arizona some parents went back to the district and others did not.  He also said there are private providers that can develop the IEPs in Arizona as well.  Jaques said private schools don’t have to follow IDEA or even grant IEPs.  Goldwater man said the private provider could develop the IEP.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan said IDEA provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided for any student w/a disability up to age 21.  She said if FAPE cannot be provided for a student a parent has a legal right to file for due process to have school district fund private education if funds cannot be met at a public school.  She said this bill is a voucher system to fund private schools because their enrollment is down 35% in Delaware.  She is in opposition to the bill.  Hudson said she doesn’t care where the child goes to school.  She just wants parents to have a choice on where they send their school in order to meet the needs of the child.  She said this is not a voucher system but a savings account.  Hudson said she does not agree with the voucher system herself.  Heffernan stressed the part about FAPE and that a parent would sue the charter school or district to be able to get FAPE for their child.  She said this bill is, her fear, that it will become a voucher system.

Jaques asked about the several mentions of the Delaware DOE in the bill and if she coordinated with them.  She said she didn’t and believes they are capable of handling it.  Hudson said the DOE would get 3% of the savings account funds for administrative purposes.  Jaques said in addition to the student not getting the local funding, now they are getting even less.  Williams said the State Treasurer would also get a percentage of funds.  Hudson said they would get 3% as well.  Williams said we have a system in place where these students get additional funds for their IEPs based on the need.  Hudson said it would be determined based on the existing IEP.  Williams asked who is going to determine that funding.  She said a student could already be in a private school.  Hudson said the DOE would determine that.  Hudson said she doesn’t visualize a student already in a private school being able to use these funds.  Williams said she appreciates the intent of the bill but she is very confused.  Hudson stressed the DOE is capable of handling this.  If she never met with the DOE how in the world would she be able to determine that?  She said the DOE is able to meet the needs of all children.  Williams expressed disappointment that collaboration with the DOE didn’t occur.  Hudson said she doesn’t mean to give a Smart Alec answer but we institute policy all the time as legislators and then work out the details later.  Williams said it is her job to understand the bill and to make sure all the resources are in place.

State Rep. Harvey Kenton asked how many teachers would lose their jobs because of this bill.  He said he has family that are teachers and he thinks this is a step to destroy public education.  He stressed it is federal and state mandated but he can’t support it.  He said all 19 school districts have contacted him and none are in favor of the bill.  Matthews said the definition of participating schools is non-governmental school and he is looking at the allowable expenses for the bill.  He asked what it means about “allowable curriculum”.  He said he never heard of anyone having to buy a curriculum.  She said that is more for homeschool students where parents sometimes have to buy a curriculum.  Goldwater man said all those expenses don’t have to be bought once a year.  Heffernan asked if any other state agencies would be involved in this private school initiative.  She said the state and the school districts have the obligation to provide FAPE.  She said the DOE can’t get the private school to do anything.  Who would the parents sue if a student doesn’t get FAPE at the private school?  Would the public school still get sued if they can’t get the private school to do anything?  Hudson said the DOE would have to approve the curriculum.  Hudson said the DOE would be able to oversee the curriculum at the private school and if it changed they could let the private school know.  She fails to realize how public education versus private schools work.  Matthews asked if the DOE is currently able to tell private schools what to do?  Hudson said no.  Matthews said this would expand the DOE’s authority and they don’t have this authority.  Matthews asked if the DOE could deny which school a student with disabilities goes to?  He looked at several DOE employees who said no.  Goldwater man said the object of the language here is to protect the private school autonomy so the DOE can’t change it.  Goldwater man said there are a lot of possibilities.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked what the Blaine Amendment is.  Goldwater man said there are 37-38 states that have language in their constitutions that allow for these programs.  Baumbach said the law in Delaware’s constitution would not allow for this bill to be used since we would be breaking the law.  Baumbach said:

The State Constitution forbids this legislation so I would recommend the committee not release this bill.

Secretary of Education Godowsky said he would be willing to work with Hudson on the bill but he can’t commit to the resources needed for the bill.  Bill Doolittle gave public comment said protections under IDEA are safeguards for our children.  He said giving up those safeguards is something that shouldn’t be done.  He said if it isn’t choice for everybody, it isn’t choice.  He said most parents cannot afford a private school placement even after this savings plan.  He said it is not equitable for low-income families.  Sandra Spence with the League of Women Voters opposes the bill and said the bill would take more money out of public education.  John Marinucci with the DE School Boards Association echoed the previous sentiment and said they don’t support taking more money out of education especially to pay administrative fees.  He said they oppose this being tied to a blurring of state and religious schools.  He mentioned equalization funds which would affect the fiscal note of the bill.

Mary O’Connell, a teacher at Concord High School, talked about her own son with a disability.  She said her son was supported by the Bush School but wasn’t at Carrcroft.  She said they were denied the services he needed.  Her son’s anxiety level was so high and their psychologist recommended he be removed from the school.  He wound up in a regular class with 26 students.  Whenever his teacher was out the substitute would call and she would have to pick him up.  He is now at the College School and she has never had to pick him up.  She stated he is thriving at the school now.  She said she is not a strong supporter of inclusion programs.  She said public schools cannot always help these students.  She is here to support the needs of the students.  A young girl who attended a public school but now attends a private school said she doesn’t think she could read at the level she reads at now if she had to go to public school.  She gets nervous about testing and public speaking.  She attends the College School.  Another student who also attends the College School, a bit older than the previous student, said she has dyslexia.  She said she learns better in small classrooms.  She just started there in January.  A public commenter named Laurie Smith said her children attended the Northstar school.  She begged for help and she didn’t get it.  The mother was very upset.  She didn’t qualify for occupational therapy and had to pay out of her pocket.  She said the speech therapy her child gets is better than what the public school system is able to give.  She said that is where she needs to be able to pay for these services.  She said many parents are paying out of pocket for services for their disabled children.  She saved money for college for her daughter but she has spent all those funds already.  Her daughter is going into 5th grade and she doesn’t know how they can afford the expenses.  Another commenter said she has children in the Pilot School who are thriving.  She said the small classroom sizes allow for a better environment for her children.  She is in favor of this bill.   Martha Henley, another commenter, said she is in support of the bill.  She hears the concern of private vs. public schools.  She said she started out in private schools and that school was not able to meet the needs.  She is talking about the costs involved and how students sometimes have to go to more than four years of college.  A gentleman who gave public comment said his son doesn’t fit into any category and that the category of FAPE just doesn’t work in public education.  A little boy came up to the podium who said “I’m scared”.  His mother said her son is autistic and that he attended the Brandywine School District.  The teacher said it was not the right place for her child.  She had to get an evaluation out of pocket and had to use all their savings.  She said this is about the parents and working with the teachers and all the counselors.  Her son goes to Centreville now and they are able to accommodate his needs and has a very small class.  She said there about 20 kids in Delaware that are intelligent and high-functioning that fit into this category.  Another parent said her child’s learning differences are very rare and she is the mom that is always there and is pushing the school to get the services her child needs.  She supports this bill and she knows he will do better in a small classroom.  She needs to be able to help him and he needs a chance.  Cathy Morris said she is in favor of the bill.  Her grandson has multiple learning disabilities, a numbers type of dyslexia, attention-deficit, and other disabilities.  When he was in public school they were told he chose not to learn.  He is now at the College School and repeated 4th grade and has made tremendous strides.  He had to get out of the mindset where he felt like he was failing.  She wants other parents to be able to have the choice.  She wants to transfer him into a vocational school but also have options to have supplemental vocational training or services.  Martha Durham with Garnett Valley PTA said she had to move to Garnett Valley to get the services her son married.  She spent her whole life in Delaware.  Her son has multiple diagnoses.  Her son was put into public school and started having suicidal thoughts in weeks.  She said Delaware has great schools but there are some kids who just can’t make it.  Her son is important to her.

Kevin Carson with Delaware Association of School Administrators and also on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association said the funding mechanisms already in place cause both to stand opposed to the bill.

Jaques put forth a motion to table the bill.  8 in favor.  The bill is tabled.  Hudson said she wants to continue working on this bill and said it shouldn’t be about well-to-do parents being able to get these kinds of services.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point.  The meeting didn’t even start until 3:30 or so.  I will update or write another article when I find out what happened with the other four bills on the agenda.  But I will say this.  What I witnessed at this meeting broke my heart.  I saw many desperate parents, some spending their entire savings to get their children special education services they should be entitled to by law, speak from the heart today.  Whether I agree with the bill or not, it is more painfully obvious than ever that Delaware is not doing the right thing for special needs children.  Something has to change…

 

 

Delaware House Education Committee Today Promises To Be VERY Controversial

The House Education Committee has been updated and will include the following: House Bills 161, 333 and 349 and Senate Bills 92 and 93.

houseedcommagenda5416

Vouchers, Autism, Student Loans and School Boards!  I am hearing from several different sources that there will be fireworks over a few of these bills.  I can’t believe they crammed all these in for one meeting.  If you plan on going, I would get there early!  The meeting starts in less than an hour folks!

Next Week In The House Education Committee: Autism, Vouchers, & School Board Terms

I wrote earlier this week  about the massive amount of education meetings going on next week. Add one more to the list: The House Education Committee on Wednesday, May 4th.  On tap is House Bill 161 sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson which covers The Parent Empowerment Education Savings Act (school vouchers for special needs students), Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep Earl Jaques’ Senate Bills 92 and 93 dealing with autism, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s House Bill 333 which looks to lower school board terms from five to three years.  Hudson’s bill was on the agenda a few weeks ago but disappeared.  The Senate Education Committee meeting will take place at 3pm, but as usual, no agenda is up for it.  That usually doesn’t happen until the day before.

HouseEducCommMtg5416lkj;lk

 

As Legislation For Autism Pass In Delaware Senate, Very Strange Rodel Connections Sneak Into Special Education

Last week, the Delaware Senate passed both Senate Bill 92 and 93.  The legislation, dealing with Autism, passed unanimously in the Delaware Senate.  I wholeheartedly support this legislation as originally written, and I hope the House of Representatives passes it very soon.  The children and adults with Autism of Delaware have waited long enough for more support.  But what concerns me are the amendments added to both bills during the Senate vote last week.  Below are the original bills and the amendments.

With the amendment on Senate Bill 92, this takes away the authority of the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to provide training and technical assistance for students with autism.  This will shift to the University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies.  The funding for the training specialists comes from the appropriations act AND possible tuition fees from the local school district.

The amendment for Senate Bill 93 references things that aren’t even in existence at present.  Upon doing a Google search, there is no established entity called “Delaware Collaborative for Educational Services”.  I did find reference to similar groups in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but none for Delaware.  How can legislation provide for an organization that doesn’t exist anywhere in the public domain?  But while we are waiting for the creation of this mythical initiative, the representative on the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism will be the Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at the Delaware DOE.  Who is this person?  That would be Matthew Korobkin.

Korobkin came to the Secretary of Education’s office in March of 2015.  I first found out about him last summer when I was discussing special education with Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  She mentioned Korobkin and how he was going all over Delaware to find out best practices with Delaware special education.  She suggested I reach out to him to discuss my concerns with special education.  I emailed him but never received a response.  I found out soon after where Korobkin came from: the Rodel Foundation.

This is where things get very strange with this bill.  Korobkin’s history shows more of a slant towards special education technology.  How does someone who has a very brief tenure as a special education data teachers and an administrator position that is more a Technology Curriculum role than a true administrator become the key person in Delaware’s special education strategic plan?  Simple: he came from Rodel.  If you do a Google search on Korobkin in Delaware, you see many links to his functions at Rodel.  But for the DOE, you see his role as a member of the Statewide Educational Data Task Force come up the most.  He appears somewhere in the below picture.

EducDataTaskForce

I find it somewhat frightening that a data person would be put in charge of a statewide special education plan, much less someone who came from Rodel.  During his time at Rodel, he ran the Rodel Teacher Council.  He even gave his own biography in 2012 after he joined Rodel.  I can think of hundreds of other people in Delaware who are immensely more qualified than Korobkin for this key role that was snuck into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget epilogue:

SB255Sec.307

 

I did find a link to the minutes of the February 2016 meeting of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens.  Korobkin gave a presentation on the progress of this special education strategic plan.  Even more interesting was the attendees part of the minutes.  Both Hopkins and CEO Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel attended this meeting.  I would imagine it was to see their former employee/current DOE plant give his big presentation.

I also linked to this Korobkin’s proposed Strategic Plan when he gave a presentation to the State Board of Education at their Spring Retreat last Friday.

Like I said in the first paragraph of this article, this legislation is a must.  But why do we have Rodel poking around in special education?  This non-profit organization doesn’t support a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes testing, helped Governor Markell and the DOE win our first-round win in the Race To The Top competition, supports Common Core and personalized learning, and heavily supports charter schools at the expense of traditional school districts.  And now they want to get involved in special education?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  Their activity in Delaware education is not good for any student, much less students with disabilities.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House Education Committee meeting on these bills.  And I plan on viewing this Strategic Plan due in May of 2016 the second it comes out!  Parents of children with Autism should have concern about some of the language in these amendments, specifically Senate Bill 93.

 

 

Governor Markell’s FY2017 Education Budget Gives Funds For WEIC, SAIL, Autism, & Early Childhood Education But Stiffs Basic Spec. Education For K-3 Students

Provide greater support and accountability to Priority Schools and ensure the State and districts collaboratively intervene in failing schools.

 

Once again we have the Delaware Governor and his Department of Education labeling schools as “failing”.  This is based on standardized test scores.  It doesn’t take into account the high number of low-income/poverty students, students with disabilities, and the students who bear witness to horrible violence which has a severe impact on their ability to learn.

Governor Markell put in $6 million for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan and $1 million for the SAIL (afterschool) program.  Charters have the recommended $500,000 for their “performance” fund which is the same as last year.  $2.5 million would go towards “school improvement” funds (priority schools, focus schools).  The Governor is recommending $4 million for “teacher compensation reform”.  He nixed nearly $10.7 million in base teacher increase pays, but allowed for $5.3 million to cover inflationary costs.  This is a $57 million dollar increase from the FY2016 budget for personnel costs so I am a bit confused on that one.

From what I can see, it looks like the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE is losing some funds.  Secretary of Education Godowsky requested an increase from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but Markell is recommending $1.75 million.  Godowsky also wanted to double the state funding for technology operations from $2.8 million to $5.7 million, but Markell is looking at $3.6 million in his budget.  SEED scholarships, which increase scholarships for Delaware students going to Community College, has a proposed $1.6 million increase.

What I do see is a $10 million increase in special needs programs.  Although it doesn’t explain the increase, I am assuming this is to cover the funding for Basic Special Education for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware.  Currently, there is no state funding for these students with disabilities.  This was one of the main recommendations from WEIC and is also pending legislation from State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30.  It looks like, upon inspection of Senate Bill 175, which breaks down everything in the budget, these funds are going towards early education.  Since the Race To The Top for Early Childhood Education ended, Markell is putting $11.35 million towards this.  So Basic Special Education funding doesn’t get funding, but we are going to pay for early childhood “intervention”.  I will have MUCH more to say about this one later.  Many other special education programs remain the same, including alternative settings.  Allocations for out-of-school placement, like Day Schools and Residential Treatment Centers looks the same as last year, even though costs for these programs have skyrocketed over the years.

On the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, Markell is looking to increase funding for Autism by only $500,000.00, which is much less than the funds requested through Senate Bills 92 and 93.  Altogether, the fiscal notes for those two bills totaled $1.3 million.

Many of the increases from the previous year are based on inflationary measures.  In the below document, I’m not sure why the first page has all the black on it, but I will attempt to fix it later. Updated 4:58pm: I’m just going to put a picture of it in here…

DOEProposedBudget1stPage

And the detailed version, giving a full breakdown of where the money would go…

Red Clay: Your Inclusion Plan Is NOT Working. This Needs To Stop…NOW!!!!!

Last year, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education approved an inclusion plan for students with disabilities.  Instead of paying for students with severe and intense difficulties in their own educational setting, as required by federal law under IDEA, they decided to stick them with all the regular students.  The results have not been kind to these students.  I’ve been following this story for a while now, but with everything else going on I haven’t been able to give it the attention it deserves.  This changes now.  If I have to fight multiple fronts, I will.  This post put up by a sister of a Red Clay student with Autism was put on Facebook.  This should not be happening at all.  I am begging the Red Clay board to put a stop to this now.  If it means you don’t have funding for WEIC, so be it.  If you can’t handle your own, than you definitely shouldn’t be taking more.  I like some of you as people, but if you can’t get your act together as a whole for students with disabilities, all bets are off.

Today, my mom got a call from one of my sister Juliana’s teachers at Conrad. Her teacher told my mom that Jule was being horribly mocked and teased because of a pair of boots she liked and decided to wear to school today. Juliana is bullied and tormented every single day that she goes to school because she is autistic and she functions differently than other 7th graders. However, today was especially hard to hear about because she came home saying it was “one of the best days of her whole life.” When we asked her why, she said it was because her boots caught everyone’s attention, they were “complimenting” her, and even taking pictures. This honestly broke my heart because anyone would know that those kids weren’t really trying to make her feel good about herself in any way, and those pictures most likely ended up on Instagram or snapchat for everyone to mock. I just don’t understand how kids can be so cruel, especially to someone with a learning disability that doesn’t recognize sarcasm and thought all of their comments were serious. It breaks my heart to see her go through this every day of her life but today really struck something. If you have kids, please teach them kindness. It can be all someone like Juliana needs to know they’re not alone. My sister is a 12 year old girl living with autism, and she’s fucking amazing. Any kid that wants to at come for her, has to come through me first.

Is this really the environment Red Clay wants in their schools?

DOE Report On Physical Restraint Of Students Is Very Disturbing

I read a lot of reports the Delaware Department of Education puts out.  Probably more than is healthy for a normal human being.  This one though…it got to me.  The last two times I felt like this was when I read the reports from the last couple of years on the Inter-agency Collaborative Team.  That group decides which students go to treatment centers, either in Delaware or out-of-state.  This report on Physical Restraint of Students has been out since October 6th, and it represents the total number of physical restraints in Delaware schools for the 2014-2015 school year.  The timing on this article could not be better given recent events that have occurred in Delaware and other states with adults acting very inappropriate to students.

In my eyes, physical restraint should be an absolute last resort with any student.  Other categories, which by regulation are not allowed, can be used through a “waiver request” with the Delaware DOE.

While the regulations prohibit the use of chemical restraint, mechanical restraint, and seclusion, the latter two are subject to use if authorized through the Delaware Department of Education’s (DDOE) waiver granting process. In addition to permitting and prohibiting uses of restraint and seclusion, these regulations require training for public school, private program or alternative program personnel, documentation and reporting of incidents of restraint and seclusion, requirements of notification to parents, and waiver procedures for the use of mechanical restraint or seclusion. These regulations provide for the safety of all students in our public school system.

I would love to know who approves these at the DOE.  Is it the head of their climate and discipline area?  The head of the Exceptional Children Resources Group?  The Secretary of Education?

The report goes on to talk about how no mechanical or seclusion waivers were accepted by the DOE.

Please note, no seclusion or mechanical restraint waivers were approved during the 2014-2015 school year. Although there were no approved waivers for mechanical restraint or seclusion, one LEA reported the use of mechanical restraint. The DDOE addressed the unauthorized use of the mechanical restraint with the LEA.

And why was this not made public?  A school violates the law in a severe way, and we have no mention of how the DOE addressed the issue?  Really?

And what does the DOE and Delaware law describe as chemical, mechanical, and physical restraints?  And seclusion?

“Chemical restraint” means a drug or medication used on a student to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement that is either not medically prescribed for the standard treatment of a student’s medical or psychiatric condition or not administered as prescribed. (Authority: 14 Del.C. §4112F(a)(1)).

“Mechanical restraint” means the application of any device or object that restricts a student’s freedom of movement or normal access to a portion of the body that the student cannot easily remove.

“Physical restraint” means a restriction imposed by a person that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move arms, legs, body, or head.

“Seclusion” means the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room, enclosure, or space that is either locked or, while unlocked, physically disallows egress.

So how many times were students in Delaware physically restrained?

In total, 2,307 incidents of physical restraints were reported during the 2014-2015 school year to the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).

And how many of these were students with disabilities?

For the 2014-2015 school year, districts and charter schools in Delaware restrained a disproportionate number of students with disabilities (77%) who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

And how many were African-American?

The number of Black or African-American students restrained was also disproportionately high at 54%.

As I surmised, the amount of physical restraints was much higher for male students than female students.

More males than females – 77% vs. 23%, respectively – were restrained.

Out of these 2,307 incidents, we learn later on in the report that it was actually only 507 students who were physically restrained.  Which means it happened multiple times to some students.

What kills me is the next part.  The age group with the most amount of physical restraints was students aged 6-8 with 153 students.  Then 9-11 with 128 students, and 12-14 with 121 students.  15 students aged 3-5 were physically restrained.  Out of the 392 students with disabilities, 135 were students with Autism.  101 had an Emotional Disturbance classification, and 57 were considered “other-health impaired”.  115 regular students without special education status were physically restrained.

In Table 6 of the below document, the DOE makes a MAJOR error in their synopsis of their data.  They indicate 1,022 students were physically restrained at five minutes or less for a total of 44%.  877 students at 6-9 minutes for 38%, and 408 students at 10 minutes or more for 18%.  The DOE’s major blunder occurs in the part they write after this:

Table 6 displays the duration of all physical restraints. The majority of physical restraints were less than or equal to 5 minutes.

No they weren’t DOE.  If you add 877 and 408, you get 1,285.  Last time I checked, Common Core or not, 1,285 is more than 1,022.  Therefore, the majority of students were physically restrained for more than five minutes.  Imagine, if you will, you are wrestling with someone.  They pin you down.  To win the round, they have to hold you down for ten seconds.  Imagine that for a minute.  Then imagine five minutes.  And if that is too much for you to stomach, imagine that happening for ten minutes.  Or imagine you are really mad.  Someone tells you to calm down.  Someone bigger and stronger than you.  How much time is excessive?  How hard are they holding the student down?  At what point does your body give up as well as your mind?  If you have reached that point but they are still holding you down, what does that do to a person?  To a child?

For the 2014-2015 school year, the month with the most physical restraints was October with 345.  I found this to be particularly telling.  Many students with IEPs have issues in a new school year.  At what point does it get to be too much for some students?  Looks like October.  Things seem to calm down in November and the number decreased to 189.  In December, there were 250.  Keep in mind, schools are off for about 1/4 of the month, so on average, December isn’t much better than October.

The next part I want to talk about shows the special education limits on charter schools.  Many charters won’t take Autism kids.  With few exceptions, it is very hard to find ones that do aside from Gateway Lab School.  Out of the 2,307 incidents, only 9 happened in Delaware charter schools.  Some would take this is “Oh, charters in Delaware seem to handle things better, I should send my disabled child there.”  No, you shouldn’t.  Like I said, they don’t take many kids with severe disabilities.

The report next goes through each school district and the charters to show how many happened at each school.  But this is one of the most insulting parts of the whole report, because the almighty “n” # of 15 rears its ugly head, and most schools don’t show the actual number because it is 15 or less.  None of the school reports show the time the child was physically restrained either.  Are there any particular schools or districts that are doing this for longer periods of time?  That is something that should be reported and investigated to find out why.  But we don’t know that because the DOE didn’t bother to put it in the report.  What we do know is out of the 2,307 students, 1,589 were in New Castle County, 334 in Kent County, 392 in Sussex County, and 9 in charter schools.

When I first read this report, I assumed a lot of these incidents could occur at the residential treatment centers.  Nope.  Only 29 students who attended these facilities in Delaware or out-of-state were physically restrained a total of 187 times.  Which means the other 2,120 happened in public schools.

The DOE states these situations happen when a student is a danger to themselves or others.  But I also have to wonder how many times situations escalated because adults involved either were not properly trained or were just having a bad day and made a situation worse.  To me, the most disturbing aspect of this whole report is the appendix B at the end which shows what kind of data the DOE collects for a mechanical restraint waiver.  I’m glad they didn’t grant any of these, but it doesn’t show how many applications they received with a lot of personal data about a student.  All of the data for this is stored on E-School Plus, which is run by a company called Sungard.  They also run IEP Plus, with all of the special education data for every single student that has an IEP in the state.  But the training for this is administered by another company called Schoology.  Sorry, I just don’t trust the DOE and all this data running through their hands.  I know, there are laws meant to protect this information but there are many loopholes in those very laws which can allow for other companies or vendors to obtain data for “educational instruction” and whatnot.

In terms of physical restraint, I had a long sidebar conversation with Kilroy tonight over these kinds of issues.  We talked at length about the SRO in another state who threw a female student across the room.  The girl wouldn’t leave the room, and apparently it was over a cell-phone.  We can all argue about what happened with the desk, but the way he threw her after, that was abusive in my opinion.  And I’m not sure how many of you have sat in those kinds of desks.  It is very easy, if someone pushes you, to go down with the whole desk because your legs are somewhat pinned in them unless you go to get up.  Kilroy posted a great article yesterday about the role of State Resource Officers in Delaware schools and a News Journal article on it.  This needs to be part of the conversation as well.  The physical restraint laws do not apply to police.  If they see someone in danger to their self or others, they are obligated to act.  Should schools have more SROs in them?  Probably.  The last thing we need is rent-a-cops.  But what happens if an SRO goes over the line?  What are parent’s choices then?

All I can say is this: if a school employee is laying their hand on a student, I would expect them to have done everything possible with the student’s IEP and behavior intervention plan and accommodated that student 100%.  If they haven’t, that is a huge part of the problem.  I do not have a child with Autism, and I understand there are instances where this could be needed with these students.  But once again, if an educator or school staff is part of the problem, and not the solution, this could play a huge part in a student’s behavior.

Everyone wants to always blame a school or district for discipline issues.  While it is certainly true they share some of the blame, there are outside factors that play huge parts in many districts.  The Wilmington schools show this the most in Delaware.  But we can also blame the DOE for many of their crippling policies and unreasonable mandates that do not allow for proper funding, their just-about crippling of teacher’s ability to provide a proper education to students (many do, but I think we can all agree many of them would like to do it different than what we currently have), and the DOE’s inability to understand special education.

My biggest concern out of all of this: are parents always notified when this happens?

You can read the full report below.

Delaware Teacher Abused 6-Year-Old Child With Autism At School

It appears that if you physically abuse a student with Autism, you can get out with a $500 unsecured bail.  The News Journal just reported this.  Anne Gullo, a teacher at Etta J. Wilson Elementary School in Newark, turned herself in.  On October 16th, Gullo pushed the student and he fell into a bookcase and had a “minor injury” to his back.  The school called the police on October 19th, and Gullo turned herself in yesterday after an arrest warrant was issued.  Why did it take a week for her to turn herself in?  And why are some Delaware teachers thinking it is okay to physically abuse children with disabilities?  Finally, why was the bail set at $500?  That seems very low to abuse of a student.  Is she still employed at this school?

This needs to stop.  This is the second time this year I have heard about this, but I never heard about an arrest warrant for the teacher that kicked a young boy with Autism at the Academy of Dover.  What is the difference here?  These students need compassion and understanding, not the anger boiling over from adults who should know better.