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As the concept of chronic absenteeism gains traction across the country, some people are under the impression that it’s just a politically correct way of saying truancy. However, the two terms describe different aspects of our absenteeism problem and require different approaches to bringing students back to school every day.
First, let’s take truancy, a term that generally refers to unexcused absences. In the past, federal law required states to track truancy but left it to states to come up with the definition.
With its focus on unexcused absences, truancy naturally leads to a focus on compliance with the rules. Students are missing school without an excuse, skipping school and violating mandatory attendance requirements. Fixing the problem becomes a question of ensuring compliance, often left to front-office administrators, and in the most severe cases, to the legal system. Policymakers often recommend punitive consequences for truancy – such as suspensions, jail time and fines – for children and parents. Some communities and courts have devised effective approaches to reducing truancy, but in other places, punitive efforts are pushing students out of school.
Chronic absenteeism, on the other hand, incorporates all absences: excused, unexcused and suspensions. The focus is on the academic consequences of this lost instructional time and on preventing absences before students miss so much school that they fall behind. It recognizes that students miss school for many understandable issues such as asthma or homelessness or unreliable transportation, for which a punitive response is not appropriate.
Like truancy, chronic absence has no common definition, though many researchers and schools monitor how many students are missing 10 percent or more of the school year. That’s about two days a month, or 18 days in most school districts.
Too often public schools do not have, within their educational structure, someone who is trained to provide direct one to one tutoring, nor do they have the staffing to provide such.
Tutoring is typically provided at least one period per day if the child attends a private special education school, such as one of the Orton-Gillingham based (reading) programs around the country. This period of tutoring is not viewed as either an accommodation or modification, but a direct educational service.
Tutoring and/or direct one to one remediation of a required academic skill, such as reading, is clearly supported in IDEA 2004.
If you do not have an IEP, I think it can be argued as necessary as part of a 504 Plan in that the child needs to be taught how to read in order to be able to access the curriculum in the same manner as typical non special education, regular education children.
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) announced this month its release of a Question and Answer (Q&A) document addressing the Endrew F. decision. OSERS is issuing this Q&A document to provide parents and other stakeholders information on the issues addressed in Endrew F. and the impact of the Court’s decision on the implementation of IDEA.
The Q&A explains the case and provides a summary of the Court’s final decision and prior case law addressing the FAPE standard. The document also explains how FAPE is currently defined, clarifies the standard for determining FAPE and addresses how this ruling can support children with disabilities.
My child has a learning disability. Her teachers want her to enroll in advanced classes. She is eligible based on her test scores and school performance. The School will not let her enroll her because she has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). What are her legal rights?
Wrightslaw.com says: Your child has an IEP because she is a child with a disability that adversely affects her education.
Because of her disability, she needs special education and related services.” 20 U.S.C. § 1401 (3). Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed., p. 49.
Children with IEPs receive protection from discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504).
“Your child is gifted and needs special education?” Many parents are all too familiar with this kind of comment. You may hear it from friends. From family. Even from some teachers and doctors.
Yet there are lots of people who have exceptional ability in some academic areas and significant learning difficulties in other areas. Educators use a special name to describe students who qualify for gifted programs as well as special education services. These children are referred to as “twice-exceptional” learners.
“Some organizations estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of twice-exceptional learners in U.S. schools.”
Consider Tessa: She’s a bright, insightful and enthusiastic fourth grader who is reading at a 12th-grade level. At the same time, she can’t pass her spelling tests, and writing is a huge struggle.
Consider Jamie: At 16, he knows everything about the Civil War, writes beautifully, and can talk endlessly about politics. Yet he needs a calculator to help him with even the most basic math. And he couldn’t tie his shoes until he was in seventh grade.
Every child with a disability has a right to attend general education classes and to have accommodations and modifications so they can be successful in those classes. These can include changes in the method of instruction, the curriculum, and the environment. Accommodations and modifications are important tools for a child to successfully accomplish Individualized Education Programs (IEP) goals and objectives and participate actively with other students in classroom and school activities.
If your child is eligible for special education services, you may worry he’ll be placed in a different classroom than other kids his age. But most kids might be place in classrooms that are known as inclusion (or inclusive) classrooms.
In an inclusion classroom, the general and special education teachers work together to meet your child’s needs.
This is key. As Carl A. Cohn, Ed.D., executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, points out, “It’s important for parents to realize that special education students are first and foremost general education students.”
Many schools have inclusion classrooms. In part, that’s because the IDEA says that kids who receive special education services should learn in what’s called the “Least Restrictive Environment” (LRE). That means they should spend as much time as possible with students who don’t receive special education services.
Myth #1: Inclusion is easy.
Fact: Inclusion requires effort from all involved parties, and even then, it’s not a guaranteed success. Some of the steps you can take to make sure your child is included are:
- Scouting out welcoming venues and making sure the sensory environment is appropriate.
- Carrying a sensory toolkit to reduce anxiety in certain situations.
- Identifying the times when extra assistance or patience are needed, and explaining your child’s needs to others.
- Walking your student through his/her school schedule in an empty school the week before school starts.
- Introducing your child to his teachers and helping him create an introductory portfolio.
- Rehearsing situations and teaching etiquette proactively.
When a child with a disability engages in behavior or breaks a code of conduct and the school proposes to remove the child, the school must hold a hearing to determine if the child’s behavior was caused by his disability. This hearing, a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR), is a process to review all relevant information and the relationship between the child’s disability and the behavior.
Consequences for problem behaviors should not discriminate against a child based on his disability. Yet, schools continue to suspend and expel students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities.
Based on practical experience, Attorney Bill Brownley provides a “how to” guide attorneys (and parents) can use during the review to determine if the child’s conduct was “caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability.” (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, p. 264). This guide describes how strategy, preparation, and documentation demonstrate a connection between the behavior and the disability, keeping the issue out of the hands of the school’s disciplinary officer.