Friday, February 24, 2012

SCREAM Rooms in Arizona

Did you know Arizona schools have seclusion rooms? For all the talk about positive behavior interventions in schools, there are still rooms that are nothing more than padded cells. Thanks to KPHO reporter Elizabeth Erwin for informing the... public about "scream rooms" being used in our schools. She highlights a scream room used in the Deer Valley Unified School District where one seven year old was locked up, according to Deer Valley, 17 times, without informing his parents. While Arizona does not have any law regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, Deer Valley claims to have adopted some recommendations made by a task force concerning best practices in special education and behavior management. Did it even follow its own policies? Arizona is one of only six states without any laws on restraint and seclusion in schools. Guidance is provided through the recommendations of a task force, the "Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management." The task force was created under a 2009 Senate Bill, SB 1197, to examine, evaluate and make recommendations concerning the best practices for managing the behavior and discipline of students with disabilities. The nine member task force -- chaired by Michael Remus, the special education director of the Deer Valley Unified School District -- submitted a written report of its findings along with best practices recommendations to the governor and legislature in August 2009. The legislature required each school district and charter school to review and consider the adoption of the best practice recommendations by June 30, 2010. School districts and charter schools could adopt some, none or all of the recommendations, and could modify any they adopted. But there is no oversight, no penalty for violations of any restraint and seclusion policies adopted. There is no enforcement agency. The task force recommendations have no teeth, and no school district is bound to comply with any policies it has on restraint and seclusion. As a parent, you ought to ask if your child's school district or charter school has a policy on restraint and seclusion, ask for a written copy of it and also where it can be found on the district's or charter school's website, and discuss (especially at IEP meetings) alternative behavior management techniques to seclusion. If your child is being placed in a seclusion room once too many times, and one time may be too many, perhaps a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is needed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Parents' Bill of Rights

Did you know Arizona has a Parents' Bill of Rights?  In 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to protect the right of parents “to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”  In enacting the law, the legislature pronounced that such right is “fundamental” and free from governmental intrusion.  (Arizona Revised Statute Sections 1-601 and 1-602; see also ARS Section 15-102.)  As a parent, the law protects certain specified rights, including (subject to certain exceptions) the right to:   
  • Direct the education of your child
  • Access and review your child’s medical and school records (which is also a right under other federal and state laws);
  • Direct the upbringing of your child;
  • Direct the moral or religious training of your child;
  • Make health care decisions for your child;
  • Be informed of the intent to perform a biometric scan and the requirement that written permission be obtained before a biometric scan is performed on your child;
  • Provide written permission before any record of your child’s blood or DNA is created, stored, or shared;
  • Provide written permission before any videos or voice recordings are made of your child (except for school and school bus safety and surveillance, “legitimate academic or extracurricular activities,” a purpose related to “regular classroom instruction,” and photo id cards);
  • Be notified promptly if there is suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed against your child
  • Access information about a Child Protective Services investigation involving you and your child. 
(A.R.S. 1-602.)
The law promotes parental involvement in their children’s education by requiring school district governing boards to consult with parents, teachers and school administrators to adopt a policy providing for parents to:
  • Participate in the schools;
  • Learn about course content and review learning materials;
  • Withdraw their children from any school activity, class or program that contains material they find harmful and/or which questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion;
  • Provide consent before their child may participate in sex education;
  • Be notified in advance and be given the opportunity to withdraw their child from any instruction or presentations regarding sexuality in courses other than formal sex education curricula;
  • Learn about the nature and purpose of clubs and activities;
  • Be advised of their parental rights and responsibilities under the laws of the state, including being advised of:
Ø  The right to opt in to a sex education curriculum if one is provided by the school district;
Ø  Open enrollment;
Ø  The right to opt out of specific assignments;
Ø  The right to opt out of immunizations;
Ø  Promotion requirements;
Ø  Graduation requirements;
Ø  The right to opt out of instruction on AIDS;
Ø  The right to review test results;
Ø  The child’s right to participate in gifted programs;
Ø  The right to access instructional materials;
Ø  The right to receive a school report card;
Ø  Attendance requirements;
Ø  The right to review courses of study and textbooks;
Ø  The right of the child to be excused from school attendance for religious purposes;
Ø  Policies related to parental involvement;
Ø  The right to seek membership on school councils;
Ø  The right to participate in a parental satisfaction survey;
Ø  Information about the student accountability information system (SAIS);
Ø  The right to access the failing schools tutoring fund.

The law provides that the governing board may also include the following components, although it is not required to do so:
  • Inform parents of district's parental involvement policy;
  • Inform parents of their rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act  (“FERPA”) relating to access to children's education records;
  • Inform parents of their right to inspect the school district policies and curriculum;
  • Encourage the development of parenting skills;
  • Communicate to parents techniques designed to assist the child's learning experience in the home;
  • Encourage access to community and support services for children and families;
  • Promote communication between the school and parents concerning school programs and academic progress;
  • Identify opportunities for parents to participate in and support classroom instruction;
  • Support and train parents as shared decision makers and encourage parental membership on school councils;
  • Recognize diversity of parents and the develop guidelines that promote widespread parental participation and involvement;
  • Develop preparation programs and specialized courses for certificated employees and administrators that promote parental involvement;
  • Develop strategies and programmatic structures at schools to encourage and enable parents to participate actively in their child's education;
  • Provide parents information in an electronic form.
The law further provides that:

A school principal or school district superintendent has ten (10) days to respond to a parent’s written request for information about the school district’s policies relating to the parent bill of rights.  The principal or superintendent must provide the information that was requested or a written explanation of the reasons for the denial of the requested information. If the request for information is denied, or the parent does not receive the requested information within fifteen (15) days after submitting the request for information, the parent may submit a written request for the information to the school district governing board, which shall formally consider the request at the next scheduled public meeting of the governing board if the request can be properly noticed on the agenda. If the request cannot be properly noticed on the agenda, the governing board shall formally consider the request at the next subsequent public meeting of the governing board.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Upcoming Presentation on Special Education Law: May 17, 2012

Hope Kirsch will be speaking on Special Education Law at CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), a national non-profit organization providing education, advocacy and support for individuals with ADHD.
Contact Erica Schwartz at (480) 563-5588 or for more information.

Special Education Law
Date:Thursday, May 17, 2012
Start Time:6:00pm
Location:On-Track Tutoring, 9811 East Bell Road, Suite 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Speaker(s):Hope Kirsch, Attorney at Law
Contact:Erica Schwartz

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Wonder of Service Dogs

Today's NY Times magazine profiles the bond between a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and his service dog, and how service dogs can relieve the anxiety level to free up cognitive energy for thought and speech.
Another resource for parents, educators and students:  The International Journal of Special Education.

Articles and research related to instruction.