IMPORTANT Information of IDEA Ammendment

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-01-2003
IMPORTANT Information of IDEA Ammendment
1
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 4:41pm


I am passing along a NAMI - E-news that I get to let you all know what is going on with the IDEA. I have emailed those of you I have email addresses for with this so ignore this post if you already got it. This is very, very important and could have a very serious and far reaching impact on our children.

Debbie

______________________________________________________________________________

NAMI E-News May 2, 2003 Vol. 03-22

________________________________________________________________________________


House Passes Special Education Bill Eroding Important Protections

for Students with Mental Illnesses


Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1350, the

"Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act of 2003", by a

vote of 251 to 171. NAMI strongly opposes HR 1350, which reauthorizes the

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), providing special education

services to over 6.5 million children with disabilities, because it erodes

critically important special education protections and threatens the fundamental

rights of students with mental illnesses to receive an appropriate education.

House members considered 14 amendments to H.R. 1350 before the final vote on the

bill. NAMI joined with other advocacy groups yesterday in expressing outrage at

2 of those amendments that would likely result in fewer students with mental

illnesses receiving appropriate educational services. The 2 amendments reinforce

the stigma and stereotypes that too many children and adults with mental

illnesses and their families are forced to live with.

The first amendment, offered by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) suggests that children

are over-identified in the emotional disturbance eligibility category ? which

includes students with mental illnesses -- and they can be better served with

positive discipline and classroom management. This implies that childhood mental

illnesses are not real illnesses and flies in the face of extensive scientific

developments and years of research on mental illnesses. The amendment also

expresses the sense of Congress that students should be diagnosed by a physician

or person certified by a state health board to receive special education

services. There is currently a national crisis in the profound shortage of

children's mental health professionals and this requirement will therefore erect

a barrier that would prevent many students with mental illnesses, who would

otherwise qualify for special education services, from receiving those services.

Despite strong advocacy efforts by NAMI and other groups throughout the day this

amendment passed by a voice vote.

NAMI and other advocacy groups also worked hard to strongly oppose another

amendment offered by Rep. Thomas Tancredo (R-CO). The amendment would have

dramatically narrowed the definition of specific learning disabilities to

disorders due to a medically detectable and diagnosable condition. Our advocacy

work paid off and the amendment failed by a recorded vote of 54 to 367.

The focus now shifts to the Senate. Members of the Senate Health, Education,

Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) have been working on a bipartisan IDEA

reauthorization bill that is expected to be introduced before the Memorial Day

recess. NAMI will continue to closely monitor developments and will advocate

strongly to ensure that the critically important protections that currently exist

in IDEA remain intact.

ACTION REQUESTED

We urge NAMI members and advocates across the country to contact their Senators

and express concern over the provisions included in HR 1350. NAMI members should

express opposition to including provisions in the Senate bill that are similar to

those included in H.R. 1350 ? including the following:

*OPPOSE PROVISIONS THAT WOULD STRIP AWAY THE EXISTING DISCIPLINE PROTECTIONS -

The existing law contains important protections that prohibit schools from

suspending or expelling students with disabilities without meeting well-defined

procedural and substantive mandates. The existing IDEA discipline protections

were added in 1997 because school districts were routinely inappropriately

removing students with disabilities from the classroom, many times for

manifesting behaviors consistent with their disability. H.R. 1350 strips away

those protections and allows school districts to unilaterally remove students

with disabilities from school for any violation of a school's "code of conduct" -

which could include violating dress code, kicking lockers, or chewing gum. It is

fundamentally unfair to roll back the IDEA discipline protections and return to

the days when students with disabilities were routinely excluded from our

nation?s classrooms.

*OPPOSE PROVISIONS THAT WOULD ELIMINATE BENCHMARKS AND SHORT-TERM OBJECTIVES IN

THE IEP PROCESS - Existing law requires that an annual individualized education

program (IEP) be developed for students who qualify for special education

services -- complete with benchmarks and short-term objectives. H.R. 1350

eliminates the requirement for benchmarks and short-term IEP objectives and

allows IEPs to be renewed every 3 years instead of every year. Parents and

caregivers of students with mental illnesses require information about their

child's progress in meeting short-term objectives and benchmarks and should not

be forced to wait three years to determine whether their child is receiving an

appropriate education.

*OPPOSE PROVISIONS THAT WOULD PERMIT FUNDS TO BE DIVERTED AWAY FROM SPECIAL

EDUCATION - The House bill allows states and local school districts to divert

funds away from direct special education services for students with disabilities

for several other programs and purposes. Under this legislation, the fiscal

crisis at the state and local levels of government will likely lead to funds

being freely diverted away from special education services and students with

disabilities - including those with mental illnesses.

*REQUEST THAT CONGRESS FULLY FUND IDEA - The House bill fails to ensure that the

federal government will provide full funding for IDEA through the reauthorization

or the 40% of federal funds that the Administration and House Republicans

promised last year and that Congress promised when the special education law was

written. To date, the federal government has only covered up to 18% of the cost

of special education.

*OPPOSE PROVISIONS THAT THREATEN TO RESTRICT OPEN COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SCHOOLS

AND FAMILIES ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS ? Teachers and school professionals are

often the first to notice the early warning signs of a mental illness. Federal

law should encourage, not discourage school personnel to openly communicate with

parents and caregivers about legitimate mental health and other health concerns.

*REQUEST PROVISIONS THAT WOULD ENSURE THAT STUDENTS WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE

SCREENED AND IDENTIFIED AND RECEIVE APPROPRIATE TREATMENT AND SERVICES --Children

and adolescents with mental or emotional disorders must be identified and

guaranteed a free and appropriate public education. Far too many children and

adolescents with these disorders who qualify for special education services under

IDEA are not being identified as eligible for services. Schools should be

required to develop a screening, assessment and identification process to ensure

that children with mental or emotional disorders are properly identified in the

early school years, just as schools identify children with hearing and vision

needs.

*REQUEST PROVISIONS THAT ENSURE THAT SCHOOLS EMPLOY PROFESSIONALS THAT ARE

QUALIFIED TO TEACH STUDENTS WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES.

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll

free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or by going to the policy page of the

NAMI web site at www.nami.org/policy.htm and click on "Write to Congress."

District and Washington office numbers can be found in your local phone book or

through http://www.congress.org/.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 05-02-2003 - 6:28pm
thanks debbie, I hope you don't mind but I copied and am pasting it

on the PDD board. This is very important for the parents over

there as well. Rebecca