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 Article of Interest - IDEA

The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA
from Patty McGill Smith,, National Down Syndrome Society, December 2, 2002

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The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA has been created to marshal the support of parents from across this Nation to ensure that the basic guarantees in IDEA are protected. The National Coalition of Parent Centers and the National Down Syndrome Society are spearheading this effort to organize and communicate strong parent support to protect this most important law.


Please review the attached position paper concerning the discipline provisions contained in IDEA. We invite you and other groups that advocate and support IDEA to sign on to this Position Paper. The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA will deliver this Position Paper to Members of Congress and to the Bush Administration. We ask you to take the Position Paper with all the collected signatures to your Congressional Representatives in his or her district office. If possible, visit personally with your Representatives and discuss the Position Paper.


In addition, we ask you to disseminate our request for sign-ons by putting the Paper on your organizational websites and faxing or e-mailing it to potential people who will sign it. We are interested in sign-ons by National, state and local organizations as well as by individual supporters of IDEA. We would also like to collect the signatures of any high profile supporters of IDEA that you might be aware of in your state. 


Please fill out the information below and e-mail or fax it to one of the three addresses listed. Please return by Thursday, December 12, 2002

YES, our organization will sign on to this document:

PERSON AUTHORIZING THE SIGN ON ________________________________________________

NAME OF ORGANIZATION__________________________________________________________

INDIVIDUAL SIGNING ______________________________________________________________

ADDRESS _______________________________________________________________________

CITY_______________________________________ STATE _____ ZIP______________________


FAX__________________________________ E-MAIL____________________________________

IMPORTANT: Please return by DECEMBER 12TH to one of the following Organizations:

Patty McGill Smith
Fax: (402) 551-0709
National Down Syndrome Society

Kathryn Erickson
Fax: (701) 837-7548
National Coalition of Parent Centers

Sandy Loehnis
Fax: (952) 838-0199
PACER Center and National Coalition of Parent Centers

This material was prepared with private funds.

DATE: 12-02-02

The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA represents millions of parents and families who are unified across the country to protect the educational guarantee required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The National Coalition of Parent Centers and the National Down Syndrome Society are spearheading the effort to organize and communicate strong parent support to protect this most important law. This effort is based on the belief that our children's lives depend on this law.


As Congress contemplates the reauthorization of IDEA this year, consideration is being given to changing the language of the Act with regard to school discipline procedures for students with disabilities. The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA urges Congress to refrain from making such changes because the changes made to the law in 1997 are working and the need for further change does not exist. 


Following the adoption of the changes to the law in 1997, the General Accounting Office (GAO) was asked to assess the discipline provisions in IDEA. In a report released in January 2001, the GAO found that IDEA discipline provisions do not hinder school officials in disciplining students. In the study, principals generally rated their school's special education discipline policies under both IDEA and local policies as having "a positive or neutral effect on school safety and orderliness." The report also refuted concerns about the so- called "double-standard" between students with and without disabilities or, what we refer to as "the safety net."


Under IDEA, behavior of students with disabilities is required to be addressed as an education matter so that all children, including those who have behavior issues or whose disabilities involve behavioral manifestations, are able to learn in the least restrictive environment. When a student's disability-related needs include behavior challenges, special education and related services must be provided in a manner consistent with the child's IEP to address the student's unique needs. As clarified by the IDEA Amendments of 1997, when a child's behavior impedes the learning of him/herself or others, the IEP team must consider strategies, including positive behavioral interventions and supports, to address that behavior.


The experience of thousands of parents affiliated with The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA indicates that these types of interventions have worked well to help students with disabilities meet their behavioral needs in school. Teachers, administrators and parents, working together, have been successful in assessing when behavioral or other interventions are necessary and in providing ways to address inappropriate behaviors.


This does not mean that students with disabilities cannot be disciplined. On the contrary, regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education currently permit schools to suspend students protected by IDEA for up to 10 school days in a given school year without providing educational services or placing them in alternative educational settings. The regulations further permit students with IEPs to be suspended for more than 10 days or expelled if their infractions are not deemed manifestations of their disabilities. However, in such instances, they must continue to be provided their right to free appropriate public education. This means there must be no cessation of the education programming and services they receive, or may need additionally to receive, to participate fully in a preschool, elementary or secondary curriculum that is consistent with state education standards and their IEPs.


Provisions added to the law in 1997 state that school personnel can remove students with disabilities for up to 45 days to an alternative setting who possess or carry a firearm to school or knowingly possess, sell or distribute illegal drugs in school or at a school function. In addition, the school, through a hearing officer, may seek to remove for up to 45 days a student who exhibits behavior that "is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or others."


As Congress reviews the discipline issue, The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA, ask that it consider the following:

1. Through its own investigation, the GAO finds that no problem exists. The burden should be on those advocating for change to show that a pervasive national problem exists that cannot be effectively addressed under current law, including working with parents through the IEP process;


2. Any proposed statutory change that permits teachers/school administrators to unilaterally remove students with disabilities from their educational placement for such subjective determinations as "disruptive behavior" is overly broad and will punish students for behaviors that are disability-related, in violation of their civil rights under section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and;


3. IDEA ensures a free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities - including those with mental retardation, autism, and mental illness. Some of these children may have behaviors that interfere with their ability or the ability of other children to learn. These behaviors must, under the law, be addressed as education issues. These children were the intended beneficiaries of Public Law 94-142, the predecessor of IDEA; they must not be excluded from school based on a subjective determination of a school administrator, teacher or administrative hearing officer.

The National Committee of Parents Organized to Protect IDEA strongly concur that the current discipline provisions in IDEA are sufficient to ensure school safety. On behalf of the thousands parents who are affiliated with our organizations, we urge Congress not to amend the current IDEA discipline provisions in the next reauthorization.

This material was prepared with private funds.


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