Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.

4/24/08

What Is Going On In Virginia???

PhotobucketThanks to Ian Shapira of the Washington Post for giving this national attention. The Virginia Board of Education is trying to change their special education laws, giving even less power to the parents. I know many of us have struggled at I.E.P. meetings, not always seeing eye to eye with the school district. For some, it's an even bigger battle--one where the school refuses a physician's diagnosis, denies services, or worse still, employs use of restraints, and the list goes on. It's become common practice for families to hire advocates, and all too often parents end up in court to fight for their child's right to an education. From the Washington Post article:

A proposed revision of Virginia's special education rules is triggering widespread protests among parents of disabled students, who say it would strip them of power in negotiating their children's education.

Currently, school systems must obtain parental consent before eliminating such services as speech or occupational health therapy. But the state Department of Education is proposing that schools be allowed to suspend them without such consent. If a parent objects, the service would be maintained until the matter is settled through dispute resolution.


So now Virginia wants to make it even more difficult for us parents to have a say in the matter (of our own child's education!). These new "rules" would mean that the school can take away services without parental consent. As you take away the rights of parents, this opens a can of worms. If you don't need to have a meeting or discussion with the parents to discontinue speech therapy--who's to say the school will claim they don't need the parents' consent to use restraints? Honestly, who thought this change was a good idea? The last thing the state or school districts need are more say when it comes to our children's IEPs.

The parents in this town are protesting this new proposal. I don't blame them at all, and I certainly support them. Hopefully their voices will be heard (yours can be heard here). If you live in the area, the article lists information on public hearings:

The department, which has received 3,000 comments on the proposal, has scheduled public hearings across the state, including one from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 15 at Freedom High School in Loudoun County and another from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 2 at Oakton High School in Fairfax County.
The good news, for the parents in Virginia, is that their governor has answered their calls, and has many concerns with this plan:

I have reviewed the proposed regulation on a preliminary basis. ... I would like to express some concerns that I have – concerns that parents across the Commonwealth have shared with me. Virginia has long been a leader in the area of parental consent and involvement in the special education process. I have concerns about proposals in this regulation that reduce parental involvement in key decisions made about their children. These include, but are not limited to:
1. Elimination of parental consent prior to partial or complete termination of or changes to special education and related services.
2. Elimination of parental consent before providing special education services for transfer students.
3. Removal of parents from the Functional Behavioral Assessment team.
4. Addition of an option for the Local Education Agency to refuse a parent’s request for an Individualized Education Plan meeting if the LEA considers the request unreasonable.
5. Reduction in the number of regular progress reports given to parents on their child’s Individualized Education plan.
I do not currently see any circumstance under which I would approve a final regulation reducing parental involvement in these ways. I urge the Board of Education to take this and other public comments into account regarding these provisions and to act accordingly prior to submitting a final regulation for my approval.

Hopefully, the governor keeps his word, and this will be a proposal that goes nowhere. It's likely that in the end, the only harm will be wasted time, paperwork, and money. We can't forget the unnecessary raising of stress levels for the parents involved. All this, thanks to the Virginia Dept. of Education's ridiculous attempt at being more efficient. Right.

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