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Handicapped Children Act

 

1. The IDEA (previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was enacted in 1975 – 46 years ago!! We have never had to apply the IDEA to a pandemic. This is an open thread on anything you want to share about education for students with disabilities during this pandemic. For example: how are schools meeting the needs of students with disabilities? How could they be doing better? Do we need to update the IDEA to address public health emergencies?

2. Do you agree with the decisions in Rowley and Endrew F.? Do you think Rowley would be decided the same way today? Do you agree with the Court’s shift in the Endrew F case?

3. Scenario about student Jimmy
Jimmy is a four-year-old boy who is transitioning to Kindergarten in September. Jimmy has a great sense of humor and loves to be with his friends. He has cerebral palsy (a physical movement disability), uses a wheelchair and while he is verbal and does communicate, his communication skills are very limited. Jimmy has no fine motor skills and cannot write.

 

Jimmy attends a preschool classroom where half the class has disabilities and the other half does not. Due to Jimmy’s disabilities it has been difficult to formally assess his skills and it is unclear as to whether he knows all his numbers and letters. However, his preschool teachers watched him thrive and continually gain more skills over the year. For example, he has developed a consistent way of saying yes by looking straight at the person speaking to him and saying no by looking away from his communication partner.

 

Jimmy’s mother is very anxious about her son’s transition to Kindergarten. She really would like to see Jimmy in an inclusive classroom with typically-developing children and provided related services (speech, occupational and physical therapy) as well as other supports and accommodations. In preparation for discussing his Kindergarten placement, a school psychologist from the Department of Education observed Jimmy in his preschool class and met with him 1-on-1 for a few hours. In both situations the psychologist was unable to observe any of Jimmy skills, although he did somewhat interact with his aide who was present.

 

When his mother meets with the Department of Education to discuss a Kindergarten placement, the DOE questions Jimmy’s abilities and believes it is more appropriate for Jimmy to be in class with just kids with disabilities. The school psychologist explain to Jimmy’s mother that in the class Jimmy can focus on building his skills and developing a better communication system beyond yes/no responses. He would have access to all his related services and be in a school where he may have access to nondisabled peers but it is unclear as to how much time he will spend with nondisabled peers. Jimmy’s mother is very skeptical of the DOE’s placement and believes it would not be appropriate for her so she seeks your advice.

Questions:

Pursuant to Endrew F. what is the DOE is obligated to provide Jimmy? In what ways would the DOE be meeting its obligations by placing him in the setting they propose? Is providing Jimmy placement in a general education classroom with the appropriate supports and resources equivalent to providing him the best education?
In what ways can Jimmy’s mother argue that the DOE is not meeting its obligations under Endrew F and the proposed segregated classroom is inappropriate?
What additional facts do you need/want to know to analyze this situation?

 

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