Congress Bill Hurts DD kids IEP rights
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|Sat, 03-29-2003 - 9:18am|
LET CONGRESS KNOW NOW THAT THEY SHOULD VOTE AGAINST OR AMEND H.R. 1350. Congress needs to know how parents feel. Right now, parents have been silent while school districts have lobbied hard. Congress thinks we don't care. The House of Representatives is going to consider this bill in early April so it is very important that you send your message to Congress quickly. Do not wait; do it now. Just write what you feel. It can just be a paragraph or two. You can contact your Congressman at http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and your senator at http://www.senate.gov. Be sure to say you are writing about H.R. 1350.
Here are some things to think about in writing your letter, You don't have to write about all of them. If you want to copy any of these ideas, go ahead.
1. H.R. 1350 does not provide full funding for the IDEA. Does your child receive therapy services in a big group? Does your child need 1:1 services, a tutor, aide, ABA, or other services or equipment your district isn't providing? How does this affect your child? You might want to explain this to your Congressman and explain why full funding is so important: because it would enable school districts to fix this problem. Be sure to explain how not getting these services or therapies hurts your child.
2. Right now, the IDEA gives school districts money that has to be spent on disabled kids. H.R. 1350 will let schools spend the money for other purposes. Money should not be taken away from disabled children, even if for a good purpose. Tell your Congressmen why this is a bad idea. Explain to your Congressman that the IDEA pays for therapies for your children that they need to learn, pays for special equipment, pays for aides (and anything else you can think of that the school provides your child). Without these things, your child cannot learn. If school districts can spend their IDEA money on other things, it will shortchange our children and the IDEA will be toothless. (Even if things are bad now, they would be worse if school districts could take the money and spend it on other things. What if your child didn't get speech therapy so they could buy fancy computers for another class?)
3. H.R. 1350 would take away many protections for parents' rights that are in the IDEA, called the procedural safeguards. It is important for schools to give parents their rights before every IEP meeting, so parents can use them to make sure their children get a good education. H.R. 1350 would prevent this. When you sign an important contract, you get notice of your rights. It should be the same way with IEPs. H.R. 1350 would let schools to give a short description of rights to parents. They could use a misleading statement or leave important things out. Congress should require schools to fully explain these rights to parents like they have to now. Why are the schools so afraid for parents to know their rights?
***A LOT OF TIMES, PARENTS ARE ABLE TO GET MORE APPROPRIATE PROGRAMS FOR THEIR CHILDREN BECAUSE OF THESE PROCEDURAL RIGHTS. THEY MAY SEEM BORING, BUT THEY PROTECT CHILDREN.****
5. H.R. 1350 will end the protections disabled children have when they are disciplined. It would let a teacher misuse discipline procedures to take disabled children out of her room. Right now, under the IDEA, children who are a danger can be removed from the classroom. Other disabled children get a hearing, to make sure that a teacher isn't just getting rid of disabled children from her classroom because she doesn't want them there. H.R. 1350 would punish children for behavior that they cannot control, like children who cannot sit still or obey every command. Children will be put into alternative schools that become permanent parking lots where they do not really learn. Right now under the IDEA, schools have to perform a Functional Behavior Assessment if a disabled child is removed from the classroom. The assessment ensures that the school finds out what is causing the child to misbehave so they can fix it. The new bill gets rid of this requirement. If there are positive behavioral interventions that would resolve the problem, schools should have to figure them out and use them and that's what a Functional Behavior Assessment is all about. Tell Congress to put this back to H.R. 1350.
6. H.R. 1350 gets rid of short-term objectives and benchmarks from IEPs. Children in regular education receive regular report cards. Children with disabilities should also receive regular reports on their progress on their IEP goals. And, instead of annual IEPs, schools can give parents the option of a 3-year IEP. This means that the IEP is revised only every 3 years or when a child transitions into elementary school, middle school, and high school. Parents will feel forced to accept this and won't understand that they can ask for a one year IEP. If parents are pressured to accept a three-year IEP, schools won't be accountable. An IEP for a 6 year old is not appropriate for an 8 year old; kids change a lot over 3 years! Because H. 1350 changes the procedural protections for parents, the schools will not be required to fully explain to parents their right to a one year IEP. Schools only have to do a triennial re-evaluation if they want to or if the parent asks. If the parent doesn't know to ask, you don't get one. What if your child changes and you need things re-evaluated?
7. H.R. 1350 changes the "Prior Written Notice" portion of the law so schools can ignore changes that parents request. If a child is not making progress in school, under the IDEA, schools have to consider all options and explain why they are rejecting the ones they don't choose. This makes sure that schools really do consider those options. So, if you ask for an aide or speech therapy 1:1 for a child who has great difficulty communicating, or special equipment, and the school district denies your request, it has to tell you why. Tell Congress to keep the Prior Written Notice Provisions in the law. Without them, schools will not be accountable. Isn't accountability what the No Child Left Behind Act was all about? The new bill also contains a provision, 615(c)(2) that would make the prior written notice portion toothless: it would prevent parents from suing if the school doesn't give prior written notice. Tell Congress to get rid of 615(c)(2).
How to contact your Congresspeople:
(A) go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and put in your zipcode. You will be able to write to your member of the House of Representative. If the system asks for your 9 digit zipcode and you're not sure of it, go to http://www.usps.gov (the post office site) and put in your address and zipcode (20500). It will give you your 9 digit zipcode (20500-0300).
(B) Next, write to your Senator. Go to http://www.senate.gov Click on choose your state, it will list your senators and how to contact them. If you use regular email to write to your Senator, BE SURE TO PUT IN YOUR HOME ADDRESS because Senators only pay attention to email from people who really live in their states. Many have computer programs that reject email from people who don't give full addresses and zipcodes.
(C) Finally, send a COPY of the email you wrote your own Senators and Congressmen to Joe.Novotny@mail.house.gov. He works for Congressman George Miller, who has worked hard to defend disabled children and the IDEA. This way, Congressman Miller can have a big stack of letters to use. ***BE SURE TO SEND AN EMAIL TO YOUR OWN CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS AND JUST SEND A COPY TO JOE. YOUR OWN CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS ARE THE IMPORTANT PEOPLE: they need to know to vote against H.R. 1350.**********
PLEASE SHARE THIS EMAIL WITH ANYONE YOU WANT AND RE-POST IT. GET EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO WRITE TO CONGRESS: your child's relatives, your friends. Congress needs to hear our voices.