The father of a child represented by this firm forwarded information about a very special kibbutz in Israel. As you may know, an Israeli kibbutz is an agricultural communal settlement whose residents collectively live and work together. The kibbutz this client forwarded information on is called Kishorit, and it is unique because it is designed to meet the needs of adults with developmental disabilities.
In the United States, parents agonize over finding appropriate placements for their adult children in the community which will enable them to function as independently and productively as possible. Kishorit is different, even among the kibbutz movement. Its 140 residents are expected to engage fully in the kibbutz community. Almost 97% of the residents are employed, either through the micro-enterprises run by the kibbutz, or in nearby communities. Staff and volunteers eat, work, and socialize with the residents.
Despite the unique program offered at Kishorit, Israel is behind the United States in its efforts to meet the needs of the disabled. Dr. Joav Merrick, the medical director of the Division of Mental Retardation of the Ministry of Social Affairs and chairman and medical director of Israel’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, immigrated to Israel some 20 years ago. Upon his arrival in Israel, he was shocked to find 5-year-old children with Down’s syndrome effectively warehoused in neonatal hospitals—abandoned at birth by their parents with no other placement options available. It’s been an uphill battle since then to get Israeli’s to change their attitudes toward the disabled.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report indicating that Federal intervention is needed to ensure that students with disabilities have access to their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education in the charter school setting. Charter Schools must adhere to Federal law, including the IDEA. However, the report indicates that fewer students with disabilities enrolled in public charter schools (8.2%) than enrolled in traditional public schools (11.2%). Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with intellectual disabilities (0.84% compared to 0.45%).
We have seen this problem in our office with the influx of charters being granted by strapped school districts. Unfortunately some charter schools misrepresent their ability to program for students with disabilities and some students are losing a year plus of a FAPE because they are not being appropriately supported in the charter school setting. The situation can also be confused further because every state has different laws as to who is the LEA (local education agency). When school districts get sued for the failure to provide a FAPE in a charter school, the finger pointing can often begin. The Department of Education said in response to the report that it would issue new guidance to charter schools on their obligations to serve all students.
It is extremely difficult for youth who have been living in correctional facilities to return to their communities, families, schools, and employment. Because the youth are very likely to be returning to the very same environments into which they got into trouble in the first place (e.g., poverty, chaotic schools, substance abuse issues, or dysfunctional families), their rate of recidivism is extremely high. According a new report from Project Forum released last December, approximately 55% of youth return to detention facilities or prisons within 12 months of their release. And that number is even higher for youth with disabilities. As one researcher commented, “the most difficult part of many youths’ experience in the juvenile justice system is not being confined, but returning home.”
How many youth are incarcerated in our country, and what disabilities do they have? In 2007, more than 87,000 youths were held in juvenile correctional facilities; an additional 3,650 were in state prisons. Of these numbers, youth with disabilities are overrepresented. One study showed that whereas only 9% of youth in our nation’s schools are eligible for special education services, an estimated 37% of youth in the juvenile justice system receive services under IDEA. Some reports suggest that the number of incarcerated youths with special needs in fact ranges from 30 to 70% of the population. Of incarcerated youth, between 65% and 90% could be diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder. Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 10% of incarcerated youth have learning disabilities, 50% have emotional disorders, 12% have intellectual disabilities, and as many as 50% have AD/HD.
These youthful offenders have likely been served poorly by their home schools. They have also likely been served poorly through the educational programs offered by the juvenile justice system. Even though incarcerated, students who receive special education services are still entitled to FAPE (free and appropriate public education). But the provision of FAPE can be problematic for youthful offenders. Incarcerated youth can be moved frequently, IEPs and educational records (if they are even obtained from home schools) do not always follow the offenders, families are minimally involved with educational planning, and some of the disciplinary procedures used for offenders are unhelpful to them educationally. This is regrettable, because we know that youths who progress academically while incarcerated will have lower recidivism rates.
Despite the glum numbers, we know youth with disabilities who are engaged in work or school during the first three months of their release are 3.2 times less likely to return to custody and 2.5 times more likely to remain working or enrolled in school 12 months after leaving the correctional facility. These youth can successfully be returned to society. Thus, it is imperative that good transition programs are developed for these youth to ensure successful outcomes for them.
To that end, Project Forum conducted a review of programs in four states (Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, and Oregon) that offer what are considered “best practices” in their reentry programs for incarcerated youths. Historically, re-entry programs for youth tend to be fragmented, and too many offenders fall between the proverbial cracks of the system. One of the main problems is that youth leaving correctional facilities are aging out of child-oriented social programs and being funneled into adult-oriented services. Many of these adult programs are developmentally inappropriate for youthful offenders, who can be left floundering.
To address these gaps in service, each state identified by Project Forum offered comprehensive, multi-disciplinary wrap-around programs to ensure that the needs of youth are met upon release. Key to each of the programs is the use of a transition coordinator, who establishes relationships with the youths before their release, ensures that community-based services are set in the community upon release, and then continues to follow the youth once they are back in the community. In addition, each state is addressing the educational, employment, social and behavioral, substance abuse, housing, and transportation needs of recently released youth.
It is not inevitable that incarcerated youth will return to detention facilities, but the odds are stacked against them. But as demonstrated by the Project Forum report, youth can be successfully transitioned back into their communities. However, it will take a lot of effort on the part of the juvenile justice system, communities, and social services agencies as well as the released youths and their families to succeed.
A mother in the Bronx is arguing against the social promotion of her 11-year-old son with special needs because she believes he is not ready for 6th grade. What the mother is asking for seems reasonable—if her son has failed to master 5th grade work, why would he be able to do 6th grade work? Yet, the school’s desire to socially promote the student is unusual. But is the alternative, grade retention, a more viable option?
Social promotion became popular in the 1970s due to fears that its alternative; namely, retention, led to issues with self-esteem for those students who were “flunked” a grade. However, social promotion fell into disfavor in the 1980s with the recognition that students who were receiving high school diplomas were ill-prepared for either college or work. Social promotion went on to became a political issue when President Clinton, in his 1999 State of the Union Address, declared that, “No child should graduate from high school with a diploma he or she can’t read. We do our children no favors when we allow them to pass from grade to grade without mastering the material.”
The U.S. Access Board, a little known Federal agency that facilitates access to public buildings, has published guidelines and presented resources to make public spaces, specifically schools, more acoustically sound for students with disabilities. It is easy to overlook the importance of acoustics which center on two key concepts, Signal to Noise Ratio ("SNR") and Reverberation Time. SNR deals with how available sound is to a listener in an environment (classroom) and reverberation rates deal with the amount of sound reverberation that occurs even after a given sound stops. Download AcousticsTR.pdf
I often receive questions about requirements and resources for home schooling. These questions are a byproduct of the fact that parents sometimes withdraw their children from school instead of fighting annual battles with their local school district. I recently discovered this resource for Illinois homeschoolers, it may also be useful for others outside of Illinois as well except the statutory provisions will likely differ. This site does not deal with the limited obligations of school districts to parentally placed children under IDEA 2004.
According to the law special education is a set of services and is not a place. Well truer words were never spoken. It is not a place for many children that I represent, it is many places from year to year. I have numerous children who I represent that come to me having been in five different buildings, albeit in the same "program" in five years. It gives new meaning to the phrase "mobile classroom". When the parent protests they are of course told that special education is not a place...
Mislabeling students as mentally retarded is rampant in Fitchberg, Massachusetts according to the State Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education. [Download Mislabeled_Students.doc] Nearly one-fourth of all students in the district have been labeled mentally retarded which is nearly four times the state average. One investigatory report concluded the number of students who were mislabelled was "extraordinary."
In this posting, my colleague Deborah Pergament will detail the factors to allow parents to determine if a placement is indeed an aural/oral setting for a child with a cochlear implant, and the necessary criteria to determine the appropriateness of a placement.