Tuesday, November 25, 2014

School hopes to actually change the brains of students, eliminating the disability altogether.

REDMOND, Wash. -- A new school in Redmond might change the way we think about learning disabilities. Instead of teaching kids how to accommodate a difficulty, the school hopes to actually change the brains of students, eliminating the disability altogether.

Daily class work at the Eaton Arrowsmith Academy is like nothing you've seen before. Students rotate through exercises like tracing symbols and speed reading time on a clock.  They are intense brain exercises, done 35 minutes at a time before rotating to the next task.  They are meant to translate into better skills in traditional subjects.

Ten year old Aidan James said in his public school, he was always the last one to finish math assignments. "Not very fun. Horrible," he said, describing the work. "English and math are my favorite subjects now."

Many of the students have been diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia.  Some are mild, moderate or severe cases, mixed together in classrooms where each child works on their own program.  "Let's look at the child's neurological, cognitive profile and figure out what kind of program, what exercises need to be put in place and then implement them," said Howard Eaton, a founder of the school.  "We're not so interested in the label. We're more interested in the cognitive profile of the child's brain."

While the Redmond academy is the first in the U.S., the school is well established in Canada.  It got the attention of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife Anu, as they looked for a program for their daughter.  She started at the Vancouver branch of the school and has grown into a confident learner.

"As parents, we can tell our children, 'you're great and I love you and you're the best and we know you can do it.' But I think until the child senses it for themselves, I don't think it makes a difference in their learning process," Anu Nadella said.

The Nadella's are such strong believers, they invested $100,000 in a research project at the University of British Columbia, studying the effects of the program. Several dozen children had baseline brain scans at the beginning of their schooling. They are being measured again now, three months in and will have a final MRI after one year.  "What we're able to do is look at how thick or thin parts of the brain are and how that's changing in response to the intervention," said Dr. Lara Boyd, neuroscientist at UBC.

Researchers know the brain can change. That's called neuroplasticity. "I'm absolutely confident we'll find benefit. But is there a profile of a student who benefits most? I think that's really where we're going to go," Dr. Boyd said. "If you do really focused behavior and lots of practice with these certain exercises, do we see both brain plasticity and then changes in cognition and educational achievement? We don't know yet."

Science might not know, but plenty of people already say the answer is yes. Barbara Arrowsmith designed the exercises to change her own brain, after constant struggles in school and social situations. "There just are some areas in the brain that are a little bit weaker in functioning and there should be no stigma attached to that," Arrowsmith said.  "There's a piece here we just need to tweak and improve, then that will be in place and the learning can go forward.  The possibility of this work is, it will open multiple doors and give these individuals a different trajectory.  A lot of these children and myself, we shut our dreams down at a certain point because we didn't really see a viable future for ourselves."

It is hard work with brain exercises in class and at home.  Most students spend around three years at the school. When there's a breakthrough, it's like blinders coming off.    

"Amazing, yeah, it's been very life changing," said 15 year old Molly Langton.  "It's been incredible because I've been here a short period of time and it's changed so much of my life."

Langton and her mother moved to Vancouver from Sydney, Australia so she could attend the school.  Molly could read words, but stories didn't make sense.  Recently, for the first time in her life, she read a novel.  "I used to come home thinking I was dumb. I'm not going to make it anywhere in life, I'm not going to succeed. Coming here, you change your confidence."

Does that change in confidence come from a changing brain? Families here are believers after seeing students who once struggled in school, daring to dream.

"She, skies the limit for her. Which I think is beautiful," said Nadella of her daughter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Sandy Hook Report Emphasizes Need to Fully Fund and Implement the IDEA

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) is a national organization whose members work with schools and Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams every day on behalf of the 6.5 million children with disabilities in the United States. Because of our work, we feel intense and personal pain over the tragedy that occurred in Newtown in 2012, and again today in reading the sad, all too familiar tale of failure to serve expressed within the Office of the State of Connecticut Child Advocate Report on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
We express our deepest condolences to all of the families involved and the entire Newtown community, as the facts contained in this report must surely resurface or amplify feelings of loss, frustration and anger.  The reporthowever, provides us with facts to use in evaluating our educational and mental health systems.
Since 1975 federal law, the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), has required school districts to identify, evaluate and implement individualized programs for children with disabilities. By design, our local schools are the first service community. As parents, advocates and attorneys with and working for children in the special education process, we are especially familiar with the struggles of families to obtain appropriate services for their children and the many issues that come with raising a child with a disability. We also know the dilemmas faced by schools to provide learning environments that are safe, positive, and secure for all students and educators.
The Child Advocate report documents Adam Lanza's deep emotional issues and the lengthy inaction of Newtown Public Schools to properly address his needs.  Sadly, instead of providing services, the district removed him from school, providing only limited educational services without any oversight to ensure his needs were being met. Although the Yale Child Study Center made specific recommendations in 9th grade to address his emotional needs, the district ignored them.  By 10th grade, he was again withdrawn from school.  While the Child Advocate is certainly correct that "no direct line of causation can be drawn," between these lapses and the horrific actions in Newtown it does provide us with a clear picture of the school system’s failure to meet their obligations to properly consider important educational and mental health information; to properly identify needed educational and mental health issues; and, to provide critical educational services as required by the IDEA.  
The report also documents decision-making on the Parents' part that appear to have contributed to an already untenable situation.  As noted in the report and witnessed by our members, many parents of students with disabilities become isolated, and struggle to find help between the educational and mental health systems.  The IDEA creates an affirmative obligation on school districts to offer parent counseling and training to parents for this very reason.  This is consistent with the recommendations contained in the report “to increase access to therapeutic services, psycho-education, and peer support for families who have children with specialized needs.” This legal protection and service apparently was not provided by the school system.
The inability or refusal to meet the needs of students with mental health needs is something regularly seen and experienced by our members. We must take seriously the need to strengthen and coordinate our country’s education and mental health systems. We must also recognize the need for stringent accountability to ensure that all students with disabilities, including emotional disabilities, are identified and provided with individualized and effective services to which they are entitled under the law.  We are encouraged that the Newtown Public Schools now has different special education leadership from the decision-makers in place during the events outlined in the Child Advocate's report. We hope this report results in a more effective approach to these crucial issues in Newtown and across the nation.
The IDEA can make a positive difference, if it is fully funded, and when educators work collaboratively with families to utilize its broad range of tools so that all students can progress through school with the supports and services they require to be responsible and contributing members of their communities. 
To read the report visit:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Is SPS legal dept now writing IEPs?

I've been told IEP decisions and IEP content is being directed by SPS legal dept and SPS special education supervisors , this is in violation of IDEA LAWS. Here are some guidelines to know before your IEP meeting.



What is an IEP?


IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It’s a legal document which is a written agreement between you and the school. This annually written plan is a “map of your child’s
education services”. The IEP defines the special education and related services that your child with disabilities will receive. The IEP ensures that your child’s unique needs will be met. Every
child receiving special education must have an IEP.

Who writes an IEP?

The IEP is written by a Team. The Team works together, collaborates, and decides by consensus not by vote. Everyone on the team has an equal voice.

Who makes up the IEP team?


• Parents/Guardians Parents are equal partners in the IEP process and critical members of the decision-making team. Parents should be actively involved with developing, reviewing and revising
the IEP. Parental input and attendance at all meetings is one of your rights!
• Your child (when appropriate)
• At least one general education teacher of your child
• At least one special education teacher of your child
• A school or district administrative representative (such as the school administrator or the Intervention Specialist)
• Someone qualified to explain assessments and evaluation reports (such as a psychologist or speech pathologist)

The school and/or parents may request other individuals to ttend the IEP meeting. For instance, it may be helpful to invite someone who can provide additional information, support, or expertise about your child such as a neighbor, relative, friend, private therapist or parent advocate. Please
keep in mind that these guests may provide valuable input about your child.



Parents, you are your child’s best advocate! By learning to be a
good advocate, you will help ensure that your child receives the
appropriate education to which s/he is entitled under law.

What must an IEP include? 


• Description of your child’s abilities (strengths & needs) and present level of performance
• List of goals for the year that are meaningful, specific and measurable. No goal should last
forever. If progress is not being made, the IEP team must meet to review the IEP and, if needed, to revise it.
• Description of related services that your child will receive such as speech, occupational therapy,
physical therapy, assistive technology etc. This description should include how often, when and
where the services will be received
• Description of how your child’s progress will be measured and by whom. The data collected on
progress will be reported back to parents at regular intervals
• Description of how much time your child will spend in a general classroom, known as Inclusive Practices or Inclusive Education. The goal is to keep your child in the Least Restrictive Environment which means that according to federal law, students with disabilities must be educated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate based on the students needs.
• Details about necessary accommodations or modifications. Accommodations do not change
curriculum. They only change the way your child is taught or allowed to respond or test (such as in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation of assignments). Modifications do change the type and/or amount of curriculum taught and are used when the student is expected to learn less or different content. Modifications can include less content for struggling students. Modifications help customize assignments, tests, worksheets, and other classroom materials.
• Transition Planning after high school (begins at age16)
• Whether your child will receive ESY (ExtendedSchool Year)
• IDEA does not include the Functional Behavioral
Intervention Plan (FBIP) as a required component of the IEP; it merely states that problem behaviors must be addressed by the IEP team.

Key points


• The purpose of the IEP meeting is to focus on the child’s educational services and work towards
finalizing and agreeing upon goals. Parents should receive a copy of both the IEP and the meeting minutes.
• The IEP is reviewed at least once a year, or more often if needed, to see if revisions are needed
• The child is re-evaluated at least every 3 years (Triennial), or more often if needed, to determine if
child still has a disability and what are the educational needs
• No changes can be made to the IEP unless parents have had the opportunity to participate in the decision making process and have received Prior Written Notice of the IEP team’s decision. All changes must be supported by current data
• If concerns have not been fully addressed and agreed upon, parents need to request that this is documented in the meeting minutes with a plan for follow-up resolution
• By signing the IEP, it is only an indication you were present and participated in the IEP meeting

Be prepared


Before IEP meeting parents should

• Be proactive
• Organize and collect your own data
• Communicate with other members of the Team ahead of time, including your own child
• Review child’s current IEP (if applicable)
• Make a list of child’s academic and functional strengths and needs
• Consider what motivates your child and what is your child’s learning style
• Create a list of desired goals that you would like for your child to achieve
• Submit all of your lists to the Service Coordinator at least 2 weeks prior to the IEP meeting
• Request that you receive a copy of the IEP “Rough Draft” prior to the actual IEP meeting
so that you can keep working on continued concerns or desired changes. Remember, this is only a draft
• Be prepared to work as an integral part of the Team in order to best meet the needs of your child
• Be realistic and think “outside of the box” During IEP meeting parents should
• Bring copy of IEP “rough draft”, along with questions and concerns that you may still have
• Ask for a copy of the IEP Meeting Agenda
• While not an official part of the IEP, ask who is taking the minutes for the meeting so that you may obtain a copy before leaving
• Take personal notes to include concerns, as well as positive feedback
• Address these 5 areas:
Where are we now?
Where are we going?
How are we going to get there?
What does success look like?
How will progress be reported?
• Ask for a copy of the finalized IEP and meeting minutes
• Be assertive, not aggressive
 * stay calm, be proactive, and focus on the needs of your child *

After IEP meeting parents should

• Periodically review IEP to compare it with class work and child’s progress
• Continue to communicate with other Team  members
• Frequently talk with your child about school and encourage your child to learn self-advocacy skills
• You can request a meeting at any time if concerns arise
• When things are going well, tell your Team members

 When should I request a formal IEP meeting?


Not all concerns require a formal IEP meeting with the entire  Team. First try to communicate and resolve concerns by calling, emailing, writing the appropriate teachers, therapists, etc. Perhaps
an informal conference with the appropriate people will remedy a concern.

Some reasons to request a formal IEP meeting:
• To discuss unresolved concerns and CHANGES that need to  be made in your child’s program/IEP such as: child has met a goal, child does not appear to be making progress, you feel additional services are needed or services are no longer needed, child has experienced a major change such as illness, surgery, injury, death of a family member.
• To request that school re-evaluate your child

Practical Dispute Resolution
• Attempt to address the issue with teacher(s) first
• Document concerns and efforts you made to resolve problems
• Use the following road map after you have talked with your child’s teacher and feel there are still unresolved
Talk with your child’s service coordinator
Talk with your child’s IEP Team Intervention Specialist
Talk with your child’s school principal
Request an IEP review meeting
Work with your IEP Team
• Request your school’s Student Support Services Facilitator come to a formal IEP meeting
• If after following the above road map there are still unresolved problems contact one of the Student Support Services Managers or the Director of Student Support Services.

Formal Dispute Resolution


Mediation – is the most informal dispute resolution option. Mediation is a voluntary process that is held only if both parties (the parent and the district) agree to mediate. OSPI contracts with a company called Sound Options Group to provide mediation services to parents and districts. Sound Options uses mediators who are trained in conflict resolution techniques and help parties communicate to focus on problem solving. The mediators are neutral third parties and do not act as advocates for either parents or school districts. They also have training in state and federal special education law and regulations.

File Citizens Complaint – Administrative complaints must be in writing, signed and filed with the OSPI. Complaint investigators have authority to investigate alleged violations of state and federal special education laws. Once a complaint containing all the required information is received by our OSPI, an investigator is assigned to the case and has 60 days to complete the investigation and issue a Letter of Findings.

Due Process Hearing Is the most formal of the dispute resolution options, Parents, districts or attorneys for either party submit a signed, written request for a special education due process hearing. A written request for a due process hearing is made by a parent or district relating to issues about the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of Free Appropriate Public Education to a student. Requests must be made within—and allege violations that occurred not more than—two years before the date you knew or should have known about the allegation. Only an administrative law judge may allow an exception to the two-year timeframe.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A CALL TO ACTION - Let Governor Inslee know it's time for a change.

Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 4:35 PM
Importance: High


Last week, the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds released their final report and recommendations regarding the creation of a Commission to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in our public schools.  If you have not reviewed the report, it is attached to this email.  As advocates, parents and educators you know it is time for Washington state to take an intentional look at how we educate students with disabilities.  We need the Governor to understand that this issue is important to you, to know that there is an immediate need for this work, and to know that he should support it.  Feel free to write your own personal message or you can edit and use the message below.  If you are a parent of a student with a disability please mention that in your message.  Also… please send out to your networks!

Remember that your voice and your story are powerful advocacy tools.  Please use them and join us in this effort!

Sample Message:

Dear Governor Inslee,

As a parent of a student with a disability (or advocate of students with disabilities), I am writing to ask for your support in the creation of a Blue Ribbon Special Education Commission for Washington State.  

Our systems of general education and special education are not meeting the needs of students with disabilities.  I have read the report from the Office of the Education Ombuds and stand behind its recommendations.   I ask you to do the same.  Disability does not discriminate and students with disabilities are in all areas of our education system across our great state. Any work to improve outcomes for them, will also benefit all students in our schools.  

Please take leadership on this opportunity.  Lend your voice, and support, to Washington’s Blue Ribbon Special Education Commission, so that when we say “All students", we truly mean “Each and Every Student” in our state.  

Thank you for the work you do and for being an advocate to ensure that all of Washington’s students, including those with disabilities, have the opportunity to achieve personal and academic success.


Your Name

You can send the Governor an email message at  or you can write or call him at:

Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98054-0002

TTY/TDD users should contact the Washington Relay Service at 711 or 1-800-833-6388 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Did SPS follow it's OWN FERPA policies ?

Is parental consent required for a school district to provide a due process hearing officer with a child’s pupil records?

No prior consent from the parent is required before the child’s pupil records are disclosed
directly or redisclosed through a school district’s attorney to a due process hearing officer.
However, the disclosure must occur in the course of the school district’s presentation of
evidence at the due process hearing, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department
of Education, Letter to Stadler (2/21/96).

This typically means the disclosure's "subject relevance" is tested and in this case SPS would fail the "subject relevance" test since the majority of the documentation was not relevant to the case nor was
it information the district was intending to use in it's defense and therefor should have NEVER been passed to the outside law firm.

How does a school district protect the confidentiality of information from pupil records of children with disabilities?

Each school district must protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information
from pupil records at the collection, storage, disclosure, and destruction stages. One official
at each school district must assume responsibility for ensuring the confidentiality of pupil
records. All persons collecting or using information from pupil records must receive training
regarding policies and procedures relating to pupil records. Each school district must
maintain, for public inspection, a listing of names and positions of employees who may have
access to pupil records, 34 CFR 300.623
If any pupil record includes information on more than one student, the parents of those students have the right to inspect and review only the information relating to their child or to be informed of that specific information, 34 CFR 300.615

Institutional Service Designation Criteria

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to “school officials with a legitimate educational interest.”
A “school official” has a legitimate educational interest in an education record if the official needs to review the record to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
FERPA defines “school official” to include “a contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions,” if the outside party:

  • ·         Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees;

  • ·         Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records;

  • ·         Is prohibited from using personally identifiable information from education records for any purpose other than to provide the institutional service; and

  • ·         Is prohibited from re-disclosing personally identifiable information from education records 
 As read " Is prohibited from re-disclosing personally identifiable information from education records" means the law firm of Preg O’Donnell & Gillett is not allowed to forward or re-disclose the information.

The person who received the documents says in his letter "that he brought the issue to the district’s attention a few weeks ago when he’d received a few documents with sensitive information, but nothing was done and the law firm then emailed a much larger batch."
If the District was notified weeks earlier of another problem like this and did nothing, then that’s on them as well as the law firm.

Below is the standard release SPS should send out to parents if your students information is requested by a third party or agent of SPS.

Dear <<PARENT NAME(S)>>,
Consent to Release Education Records forms from the Seattle Public Schools are attached. By signing these forms, you are granting the School District permission to share your student’s academic information with <<<ORGANIZATION>>. <<ORGANIZATION>> uses your student’s information to ensure that your student is receiving the best possible services in our program, and to monitor and improve our program’s effectiveness for all students. Seattle Public Schools has two mechanisms for sharing your student’s information, and two separate consent forms. These are explained below:
·         The Source: The Source is the Seattle Public Schools’ web-based communication and collaboration tool. <<ORGANIZATION>> uses The Source to monitor your student’s academic program and progress. The attached form allows the <<ORGANIZATION>> program staff member who is working with your student to login to The Source during the 2013-2014 school year.  This keeps the staff member informed about your student’s current school attendance, homework assignments, grades, and test scores, and helps the staff member to connect his or her work to your student’s experiences during the school day.
·         Automated Data Report (ADR): Like The Source, the ADR helps <<ORGANIZATION>> design programming to meet your student’s academic needs. By looking at your student’s progress over time, we can better understand how our program activities affect their success in school. The attached form allows <<ORGANIZATION>>’s program administrator to receive an automated report showing your student’s enrollment, performance, attendance, and discipline history alongside that of other students in <<ORGANIZATION>>’s program.
Seattle Public Schools and <<ORGANIZATION>> take your student’s privacy very seriously. Your student’s information will not be shared with anyone other than those named on the attached consent forms, and will be destroyed by <<ORGANIZATION>> after one year.
We thank you for partnering with Seattle Public Schools and <<ORGANIZATION>> to support your student’s success.

It is possible a child in SPS or parent is being protected and a release of this type could place them in danger.

Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is rampant in the United States.  Survivors of domestic violence must take extra precautions to proect themselves from abusers who use identity as a means of power and control.  Abusers may use survivors' credit cards without their permission, open fradulent new credit cards in survivors' names (ultimately ruining their credit) or open credit cards in children's names.  Misuse of survivors' social security numbers is also common in the context of domestic violence.  Abusers may fradulently use survivors' social security numbers to stalk, harass or threaten survivors.  Read more to learn how to protect yourself if you are experiencing this type of abuse.
Survivors experiencing abuse should contact their local domestic violence program for immediate support.  Check your local yellow pages or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (operated by the Texas Council on Family Violence) at 1-800-799-SAFE to be connected to the program in your area.
Steps to Take to Protect Your Identity
¨     Relocate.  Moving across town, across the state or across the country puts physical distance between you and the abuser.  Be sure to obtain an unlisted phone number and be aware of the Full Faith and Credit provisions in your restraining order, which make the order valid when you travel to another state or tribal jurisdiction.
¨     Apply to the address confidentiality program in your state.  These types of programs allow individuals who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other types of crime to receive mail at a confidential address, while keeping their actual address undisclosed.  Rules and eligibility vary from state to state.  Click here to see a list of address confidentiality programs in states across the country.
¨     Open a post office box to receive mail.  Abusers may be able to open fraudulent credit cards by responding to credit card offers received in the mail.  A post office box may prevent this if only you have access to it.  Be wary of the confidentiality policies of non-government post office box centers such as Mail Boxes, Etc…and the fact that it may not be possible to remain anonymous in rural towns while accessing the post office.
¨     Protect your incoming and outgoing mail.  Shred all credit card offers that come in the mail along with other documents that have your name, address and/or social security number on them.  Mail bills and other sensitive documents directly from the post office instead of from the mailbox on your porch or at the end of your driveway.  Call 1-800-5OPT-OUT to stop receiving credit card offers in the mail.
¨     Guard your social security number.  Do not use your social security number as a general ID, PIN or password.  Request to have your social security number removed from documents you receive in the mail and ID cards for health insurance, driving, work, etc…  Click here to read about changing your social security number.
¨     Check your credit report.  The best way to determine if someone has committed fraud against you is to check your credit report with all three credit bureaus at least once per year.  Visit to obtain a free yearly credit report.  You can also make a request to have a fraud alert placed on your credit report.  Click here to find out how to contact the credit bureaus.
¨     Report suspected fraud.  Contact local law enforcement if you know of or suspect fraud and ask to file a report.  Check and/or close accounts you believe have been tampered.  File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT and the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.  File copies of police reports with credit bureaus. 
¨     Protect information you give out.  Never give any identifying information over the phone or through email or the internet unless you initiated the call or have verification that the website or email communication is secure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

We need FERPA citizen complaints filed NOW!

OSPI needs to hear our rage and by rage I mean Citizen Complaints. It's a very easy process and I would be more than happy to fax out them for anyone who needs help.  Replace the red text in the example below with your information then fax to the district at 206-252-0053 and OSPI at 360-586-0247

Your Name                                                                                          November 18, 2013
house number
Seattle, WA zipcode
Phone number

Attn: Special Education
P.O Box 47200
Olympia, WA 9504-7200
Fax: (360) 586-0247

Delivered via fax to the Seattle Public school district office on 11/18/2014 (206) 252-0053

To OSPI investigators,
I am writing to inform you of a situation concerning compliance with FERPA for my student name  who is attending School Name in the Seattle School District. On or about November 13th 2014. Seattle Public schools or it agents released FERPA protected information to a privet citizen.
It appears this release was the entire roster of special educational students along with students IEPs and evaluations pertaining to every student with an IEP attending Roosevelt High school in school for school year 2013-2014.
The Recipient of the information confirmed to local media outlets on November 15th that my students FERPA protected  information was included in the information released by the district or it’s consultant Preg O'Donnell & Gillett.


your name and signiture

Saturday, November 15, 2014

District claims FERPA violations isolated

The district is now running in damage control mode implying the latest illegal release of protected student information was an isolated incident, but I believe it to be chronic problem.

 Any parent/guardian who has fought the district while advocating for their child can tell you it's not easy. If you are going to file a citizens compliant, due process hearing request or Office of Civil Right compliant you usually need copies of student's educational records, special education compliance file and copies of district emails with attachments.  The first two are handled by the student records dept, but to get emails and other documents require you to make a public records request. You can obtain the student records usually in less then 10 days, but emails could take up to 90 days.

So fast forward to the delivery of documents in response to your public records request, you can expect records to come in two forms, either electronic or physical. Electronic forms are usually in PDF format, but I have also seen text or word docs. 

The district is suppose to redact any other students Personnel Identifiable Information (PII), they do this by blacking out the text electronically or on physical documents using white out to cover over text then sending you the photo copied version with the redacted text gone.

Over the last two years while advocating for my children I have received over 3,000 pages of information via public records request. Most of the documents are properly redacted,but occasionally
you will find other students information.

Here's a list of what I describe as FERPA violations I found in my public records request:
  •  Other students educational records embedded as an attachment in a PDF file. 
  • White out redacted emails that you could view the redacted text by holding the document up to light.
  • An email containing PII that was forwarded by a district employee to a non district person.
I have received such a large volume of  PDF  documents  that I have not been able to completely view all the embedded attachments, so it's possible there are even more FERPA violations.

So, what are your personal experiences with FERPA violations?

Keeping Student Data Private - what CTOs think.

Five CTOs discuss their data privacy concerns and reveal how they are working with teachers, students and the community to safeguard student information.

When it comes to privacy of student data, what are the issues that K-12 educators need to be concerned with?

Districts are required to protect student data under the federal FERPA guidelines. But guidelines or not, they owe our students the right to privacy of their confidential information. y. Very few districts are lucky enough to even have a dedicated IT security staffer. 

Read the entire article here: 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New state report details failures of SPS special education

"The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime."

In 2013, only 54.4% of students with disabilities graduated from high school on time; and only 62.4% within 5 years.
 Only 1.5% of districts met the state’s Annual Measurable Objectives under NCLB for students with IEPs.
 In several large districts, LIKE SEATTLE students with IEPs are between 2 and 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers.1

 Graduates with disabilities continue onto higher education at less than half the rate of their peers.2
 Over 1/3 of students who had IEPs are “not engaged” in employment, post-secondary education or training one year after graduating from high school.3
 The U.S. Department of Education has determined that Washington state is in “need of assistance” to meet new federal results-driven outcome measures for students with disabilities.4

The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

There is a need for statewide coordination and leadership to identify best practices and scalable models that will connect education as a whole to other systems that support the welfare of children in our state, and improve educational outcomes for all students with disabilities.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thousands of FERPA violations- SPS legal consultant releases vast amounts of SPED student information.

A legal firm used by Seattle Public Schools to fight against parents who advocate for their children has illegally emailed out :

Multiple lists that name every student in special education in the district, their date of birth, what school they go to and their district disability designation (SM1a, SM2, medically fragile, etc) among other things

Sp-Ed transportation lists with student names, addresses, pick up locations and disability

Copies of 173 consent for reevaluation forms with student and parent names and addresses for various students throughout the district

Complete IEPs for 38 Roosevelt High students, these appear to be the entire case load of one IEP manager at RHS

Several different lists of RHS students that had disciplinary action taken against them, these lists included the students names, date of and type of infractions, disciplinary measures taken and the race of the students

Multiple lists of the entire RHS student roster with their end of course exam scores, AP scores and other test scores.

300.572 Safeguards.
(a) Each participating agency shall protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information at collection, storage, disclosure, and destruction stages.
(b) One official at each participating agency shall assume responsibility for ensuring the confidentiality of any personally identifiable information.
(c) All persons collecting or using personally identifiable information must receive training or instruction regarding the State's policies and procedures under ¤300.127 and 34 CFR part 99.
(d) Each participating agency shall maintain, for public inspection, a current listing of the names and positions of those employees within the agency who may have access to personally identifiable information.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(8), 1417(c))

¤300.577 Department use of personally identifiable information.
If the Department or its authorized representatives collect anypersonally identifiable information regarding children with disabilities that is not subject to 5 U.S.C. 552a (the Privacy Act of 1974), the Secretary applies the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 552a (b)(1)-(2), (4)-(11); (c); (d); (e)(1), (2), (3)(A), (B), and (D), (5)-(10); (h); (m); and (n); and the regulations implementing those provisions in 34 CFR part 5b.

So who calls the shots at SPS when it comes to choosing outside legal consultants?

Maybe this is a clue?


From: English, Ron
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2014 4:31 PM
To: Banda, Jose L
Cc: SchoolBoard
Subject: Re: Conflict of interest in the legal dept.
I have forwarded this to the City Ethics Office for their action. I will note that we have spent
about $1 million annually on outside legal fees of all kinds and that I made the decision to
hire the Curran firm.
I welcome a review of our litigation management practices.
Ron English
General Counsel

Below is taken from SPS web site, it describes the legal dept areas of responsibility 

Office of General Counsel


The General Counsel’s Office provides legal services to the Seattle Public Schools, including the School Board, Superintendent, and District Administrators, to ensure legal compliance across all District operations and reduce potential liability. 
Staff attorneys represent and counsel clients on a variety of practice areas:
• Ethics Policy Compliance ... WOOPS
• School Board Operations
• Open Public Meetings Act Compliance ....WOOPS
• Litigation Management and Tort Claims ...WOOPS
• Facilities and Capital Projects
• Contracting and Procurement
• District and School Operations
• Policy and Procedure Development and Compliance ...WOOPS
• Property Management & Property Sales
• Legislative Analysis
• Labor and Employment Issues
• Educational Operations Issues
• Student 504 Accommodation ...WOOPS
• Special Education ...WOOPS
• Student Issues
• Public Records and Student Records Compliance  ... WOOPS
• Risk Management (Risk and Loss Prevention)
• District Safety and Security
• Constitutional Issues

Here's the SPS response to the FERPA violations.

Dear Seattle Public Schools families,

Late Tuesday night Seattle Public Schools learned that a law firm retained by the district to handle a complaint against the district inadvertently sent personally identifiable student information to an individual involved in the case. The district promptly removed the law firm from the case and is working to ensure that all improperly released records are retrieved or destroyed.

Protection of student privacy is of critical importance, and this inadvertent release of student information is unacceptable. Confidential information about several thousand of our students was improperly released. They are primarily Special Education students. Seattle Public Schools is reporting the release of student information to the U.S. Department of Education and is asking for their assistance in investigating how this happened.

Seattle Public Schools is looking into the exact extent of the disclosure and will be sending follow-up communications to affected families.

We appreciate the action of the individual who received these documents in reporting this to the district so that we could quickly move to retrieve the student information and notify families.

Dr. Larry Nyland
Interim Superintendent

Seattle Public Schools letter to parents:

November 14, 2014
Thank you for your email regarding the unauthorized release of student information by an outside law firm contracted by the district. We fully appreciate and acknowledge the concern this has created for you and your family.
We realize our initial communications with families may not contain sufficient information to help alleviate your concerns and that is because we are currently in the process of confirming which students and families are impacted, what type of information was shared, and working to retrieve and destroy these information files. However, we did feel it was important to inform parents of the situation as soon as possible and for them to hear directly from us regarding this important matter.
We do want to confirm a few important facts for you:
1. The student information that was shared by the law firm was given to a family member who is representing the student. At this time, we believe no other individuals have access to this information. We immediately requested that files be returned or destroyed.
2. A large majority of the student information released involves special education student files.
3. We have removed the responsible law firm from this case and have been in contact with the appropriate state and federal agencies to confirm the appropriate course of action.
Families should know that the district takes this incident very seriously and are working quickly to confirm more details in order to communicate directly with our parents and families. Families of impacted students will receive a subsequent communication, and all families will get an update on the districts response to this issue.
We appreciate your support and patience as we carefully investigate and respond to the critically important need to protect student information.
Dr. Larry Nyland