Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Office of Civil Rights on Bully Guidance

Bullying disproportionately impacts students with disabilities and must be addressed in every single case

Washington, DC – As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated – including against America’s 6.5 million students with disabilities. In response COPAA releases the following statement:

“The strong leadership and guidance of The Office of Civil Rights is timely and meaningful.  By acknowledging the disproportionate impact of bullying on students with disabilities the U.S. Department of Education is creating enhanced and heightened awareness as well as putting schools on notice that every vulnerable child – especially those with disabilities as qualifying under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) – are to be protected by the adults responsible for them.  The Dear Colleague is quite clear in explaining to schools that no time should elapse, nor should a child’s safety and well-being be disregarded when an incident is suspected or may have occurred" said Denise Marshall, Executive Director.

The OCR Letter goes a long way in informing schools of their responsibilities under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act. OCR also articulated what the elements are for proving an administrative complaint for violation of Section 504's Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirements.  Selene Almazan, COPAA Legal Director, reminds COPAA members and colleagues: "While very useful tool for advocates and families, the standard for the Courts remains deliberate indifference and that remains a large hurdle.  That said, it is good to see the seriousness with which they are treating the issue and gratifying to see the standard for delivery of FAPE spelled out."  

Data and experience show that children with disabilities are too often the target of bullying and harassment – whether it be through overt physical behavior or verbal, emotional, or social behaviors – and schools, together with families must strive to ensure that every child feels safe and supported at school, on the bus, during recess/lunch and other extracurricular activities.  COPAA thanks the Department and Assistant Secretary Lhamon for sending an unequivocal message that schools must do everything possible to protect access to a FAPE for every student with a disability and ensure both suspected and known violations are investigated and dealt with in accordance to the law.

For more information and the guidance:  
Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to America’s Schools

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's been 69 days since Exectutive Special Education Director McWilliams was placed in a time out.

Really,  69 days on PAID leave! What is she doing with all the free time?

Is SPS thinking we will forget what McWilliams did and didn't do? Perhaps they are thinking she could just lie low for a few months then come back like nothing happened.

Here's a little chit chat going around between OSPI and SPS

From: Doug Gill
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 12:39 PM
To: 'Nyland, Larry L'; Randy Dorn
Cc: Tolley, Michael F; Jessee, Wyeth; Wright, Charles E; Rogers, Lesley A;; Scott Raub; Valerie Arnold
Subject: RE: Seattle Special Education Response

Dear Dr. Nyland,
Thank you for your email below accepting the conditions associated with the (1) designation of Seattle Public Schools (SPS) as a high risk grantee and (2) the withholding of $3,000,000 in federal IDEA Section 611 and 619 funding for the 2014-15 school year. I appreciate your pledge of full cooperation in this matter, and your commitment to improving special education services in Seattle.
As I indicated in my letter of September 18, our intent is to consolidate resources at the local, regional, state and national levels to assist SPS in improving district capacity to systematically provide appropriate programs and services on behalf of students eligible for special education services. I also indicated that there would be a three-tiered approach to consolidating these resources.
Step one involves monthly meetings with staff from OSPI, the PSESD and the external consultants selected by the district. I am attaching a schedule for these monthly meetings that will begin in October (see attachment).  Just as a reminder, a primary role of the external consultants is to establish benchmarks identified in the RC-CAP against which SPS progress will be measured during the school year.
As a second step, I am also instructing Scott Raub from our office to begin scheduling weekly meetings with your interim executive director of special education and whomever else you think appropriate, beginning in October as well. Mr. Raub will contact Mr. Jesse within the next few days to set up a regularly scheduled weekly on-site meeting in the district. The focus of these weekly on-site meetings will be on the overarching concerns addressed in the July TIERS report (communication, data utility, access, staff supports, etc.).
Step three involves quarterly meetings with staff from the United States Department of Education, together with our staff, PSESD staff and the external consultants, to verify that adequate progress is being made to justify periodical, incremental releases of the funding that is currently being withheld from the district during the 2014-15 school year. The dates of the quarterly visits by DOE are not yet established, but as soon as the dates are finalized, we will notify the district immediately. You should also take the opportunities within the RC-CAP to fully engage the district identified RC-CAP implementation team.
Once again, I sincerely appreciate your cooperation in this matter and am encouraged that the SPS school board has identified special education as a top priority for the 2014-15 school year. We look forward to resolving these issues in the most efficient and effective way possible so that the results that are achieved, are sustainable in the district on a long-term basis.

From: Nyland, Larry L []
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 6:01 PM
To: Doug Gill; Randy Dorn
Cc: Tolley, Michael F; Jessee, Wyeth; Wright, Charles E; Rogers, Lesley A
Subject: Seattle Special Education Response

Sept. 22, 2014
Dear Dr. Gill,
Thank you for your detailed letter of September 18. We understand and share your concerns about the progress Seattle Public Schools needs to make for our students in special education. Please know that since I joined the district in June, I have been meeting with our team regularly and I am personally dedicating significant time to meeting the needs of each and every student receiving special education services.
The district accepts the conditions of the letter, and we look forward to working together on the additional oversight mechanisms, including weekly meetings with an on-site compliance officer. We are confident we will satisfy your requirements this school year.
Progress we have made
Earlier this month the Seattle School Board selected four governance priorities for the 2014-15 school year, and I am pleased that one of those priority goals is a focus on special education. We are working diligently on meeting the requirements of the Revised Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (RCCAP). We have also worked hard to get classrooms ready for the 2014-15 school year, with materials and supplies ready to support instruction. While we have not yet been able to staff each special education classroom, we continue to make hiring those staff members a priority.
In addition, we are working on increasing the stability and capacity of the department. We have hired an additional program specialist in each region to support the special education staff at each school, and also improve our relationships with families. We are also in the process of hiring a special education ombudsman to help improve our engagement with and responsiveness to families. This is the first time in five years that we had a fully staffed central office leadership team for the special education department. Wyeth Jessee is currently serving as Interim Executive Director, stepping in to provide stable leadership while Zakiyyah McWilliams is on administrative leave.
Addressing your concerns
As I mentioned earlier, we acknowledge your concerns and we look forward to our continued partnership with OSPI to address these issues.
We will meet weekly with our on-site compliance officer and host monthly meetings with our third-party contractor, OSPI program review staff and identified staff from the Puget Sound ESD. In addition, we will host quarterly reviews for both OSPI and the U.S. Department of Education to review our progress on the RCCAP.
I am confident that we will meet the performance indicators set forth by OSPI and that the restriction indicated in your letter of $3 million will be released as we demonstrate adequate progress
Moving forward
We are completing the bidding process to hire our third-party consultant, and we look forward to their support and recommendations.
At your earliest convenience, we look forward to pulling together all parties to determine next steps and continued partnership on behalf of our students.

Dr. Larry Nyland
Interim Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools

Monday, October 13, 2014

87 days out from the TIERS group meeting, 255 days to meet FAPE compliance.

It's now been 87 days since the July 22nd TIERS group's "Forgive and forget" meeting, so what's improved?

It's hard to gauge how well the district is doing on the revised C-CAP, because the district doesn't openly communicate its progress to families. To me SPS sees families as secondary in the process.

So, let look at some outside indicators.

In 2013 SPS had a total of 5 citizen complaints filed with OSPI  for IDEA related violations.
As of October 2014 SPS has a total of 13 citizen complaints filed against them for IDEA related violations.

In 2013 SPS had a total of 7 due process hearings filed for IDEA related issues.
As of October 2014 SPS has 18 due process hearings filed for IDEA related issues.

As of October 2014 SPS has a total of 5 US department of education civil rights violations investigations pending against them.

It appears based on the above numbers that things are possibly worst, but in no meaningful measurable way have improved.  I cant imagine SPS has a chance with only 259 days left.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dyslexic Henry Winkler comes to Seattle to promote his books.

Winkler is co-author of a series of popular children's books featuring a boy named Hank Zipzer: the World's Greatest Underachiever.
Standing with students, Winkler said, "I cannot believe that my name is on a book."
Fifth grader, Iris Dimpsey is a fan of Winkler's books. She said, "Well, the books are really cool because they are about dyslexic kids and I'm dyslexic."
And so are other students at Hamlin Robinson. It's the only school in the Puget Sound area designed for children with dyslexia, a condition that makes learning words difficult.

Read it carefully according to KING5 and me Hamlin Robinson is the ONLY school in the Puget Sound area designed for children with dyslexia! There are at least 2,000 students in SPS diagnosed with dyslexia and another 2-3 thousand undiagnosed. SPS does not serve dyslexic students SPS makes dyslexic students suffer through ineffective curriculum and teaching methods.

Maybe Mr. Winkler should pay a visit to SPS and ask why SPS doesn't use Hamlin Robinson's methods for teaching students with dyslexia.   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

So who is Seneca Family of Agencies and what are they going to give SPED for $421,000?

SPS administration is asking the Seattle School Board at its Wednesday meeting to approve a contract for about $421,000 with a California-based consultant, Seneca Family of Agencies. This group is to replace the TIERS group after officials found issues and possible contract tampering by SPS administrators. More on that soon.

I guess it's time to start digging into Seneca Family of Agencies.

Here's something:

Public School Partnership Programs

Seneca partners with school districts and charter schools, most often located in urban areas to provide these culturally rich and diverse communities access to educational services that accelerate academic progress and develop the skills needed to successfully transition back into a public school setting. Seneca also partners with local school districts to provide Outpatient Services in the form of therapeutic classrooms and mental health services on public school campuses. Each student’s unique needs and goals are addressed through a personalized treatment plan that includes individual, group, and family therapy, supported by intensive case management and crisis intervention services. Program services are designed and tailored to enable each student to make the most of his/her education.

Wait until they get a load of SPS SPED OMG, I predict they will use up the $421,000 and run for the hills.