Petition to support proposed NH legislation impacting special education

Update


Your Support is Needed to Pass Important Senate-  Special Education House Bill 766

 

Please Contact the Senate to Ask Them to Vote in Favor of House Bills 679 and 766.

Key issues in HB 766:

- Maintains short-term objectives for all IEPs, but allows the
 parent to decide that STOs are not needed for some or all
of their child’s annual goals (NOTE:  Even though short-term
 objectives are included in the proposed NH Rules, if they
are not included in RSA 186-C, they are at much greater
risk of being lost in the future),


- In the definition of “a child with a disability”, clarifies that
the definition includes children with acquired brain injury
who meet the criteria to receive special education.  Also
simplifies the eligibility process for a child with a
developmental delay,


- Promotes education in the least restrictive environment.
Provides an incentive
for school districts to build their
capacity to meet children’s needs within district,


- Strengthens the State Department of Education’s
oversight, monitoring, technical assistance and
accountability, with an increased emphasis on
educational and functional skill results rather than
just procedural compliance, 
 

- Better ensures that incarcerated children with
disabilities receive special education,


- Makes the language in the section on extended
school year services more clear, particularly in
regards to preschool children with disabilities,


- Allows courts to award reimbursement for expert
witness fees to a parent who prevails at a due process
hearing, but only “when the court determines that a school
 has not acted in good faith in developing or implementing
 the child’s individualized education program, including
appropriate placement”, and


- Improves coordination between schools and other
agencies serving children in order to avoid duplication
and prevent delays in children receiving services when
agencies disagree over who is financially responsible,
and to promote better transitions when children enter
school from early intervention and later when they exit
from high school to post-secondary, employment, adult
living and/or service systems.



Thank you so much to everyone for being so vigilant!!

of Education understand how the proposed NH Rules will affect real
NH children with disabilities and their parents.  Your love for your
children and your desire to be a fully involved participant in their
education was clear and compelling. 

Keep up the good work!!!





If you have questions or would like more information, or
to join the e-mail action alert list, please contact Dick Cohen at
the Disabilities Rights Center - richardc@drcnh.org /
228-0432, or Bonnie Dunham at home –
bsdunham@comcast.net
/ 424-4024. 

 

 

UPDATE: NH Special Education Laws and Regulations Being Revised

 

On January 16th, the NH House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in support of two important special education bills.  They voted to pass HB 766, which revises RSA 186-C, NH’s special education law by a vote of 224 to 108, and HB 679, which revises other laws (RSA 169, 193 &194) that affect children with disabilities by a vote of 221 to 110.  These bills are now in Senate committees, with the first hearing on HB 766 scheduled for April 1, 2008. 

History:  This process began when HB 1532 was introduced in January 2006, with the intent to make needed changes to NH’s special education statutes.  Because the House Education committee had a number of other similar bills, the committee chair appointed an ad hoc committee to review all of the bills and recommend revisions to NH’s special education statutes.  It was ultimately determined that a task force with broad based legislative and non legislative membership would be better equipped to take on this task, because of the time commitment required, and to take advantage of the knowledge and perspectives of representatives from all of the major stakeholder groups. 

This 33-member task force met more than 15 times over an 8-month period.  It included legislative membership not only from House Education, but also from child and family law, municipal and county government and finance committee.  The non-legislative membership consisted of parents, school district administrators, special education directors, principals, members of local school boards, special education and regular education educational associations, former and current members of the Department of Education, a representative from Parent Information Center, Disabilities Rights Center, and others.  Representatives from Corrections, County Jails, Health and Human Services and the juvenile justice court system also provided input to the task force.  A former chair of House and Senate Education committees and current employee of the US Department of Education attended some of the task force’s meetings, and while she could not take a formal position, expressed that she was supportive of both the process and the outcome.  All meetings were open to the public.  Further public input was obtained through 4 public forums (2 in the Northern part of the State and 2 in the Southern tier). 

The work of the task force resulted in 6 bills being introduced.  One of the bills, HB 661, which established an Executive Commission on Special Education to address, among other things, personnel shortages, pre-and in-service training and a lack of technical assistance to schools.  The other 5 bills were retained, with each being further reviewed by individual subcommittees of the House Education committee over a period of about 6 months.  During this process, additional public input was obtained.  The House Education committee then voted to consolidate the five bills into 2 main bills, HB 766 and HB 679.  Two other bills, each with a singular focus were also passed by the committee:  HB 678 to establish a committee to study issues related to cochlear implants, and HB 765 to establish a committee to study the financial liability for placement of a child with a disability.     

 

The NH Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities, NH’s special education regulations (Ed 1100) are also in the process of being revised, with the proposed NH Rules currently being reviewed by the State Board of Education.  The State Board will be voting on the proposed Rules at their April 9, 2008 meeting.

History:  In early 2005, in anticipation of the publication of the Final regulations to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), the NH Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education decided to take a proactive and inclusive approach to drafting their proposed revisions to the NH Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities.  

Beginning in the summer of 2005, two staff from the NH Bureau of Special Education met, along with a parent of a child with disabilities from the Parent Information Center and a Director of Special Education from a LEA (Bedford, NH) over a period of about 6 months to review the current NH Rules, section-by-section, identifying areas needing to be revised to comply with IDEA 2004, and to draft initial proposed language for each section.  The NH Special Education Bureau then hosted 7 public meetings from September through December 2005, to invite public comment on each section as it was drafted.  These meetings, all held at the NH Department of Education in Concord, were attended by a total of 133 people (duplicated count – 30 individuals attended meetings; some came to all, others to one).  The vast majority of the participants at these meetings were special education teachers or administrators, with at least 1 parent and 1 parent attorney at each meeting. 

Simultaneously, NH Connections, the NH Association of Special Education Administrators, Parent Information Center, NH Bureau of Special Education, and the State Advisory Committee on the Education of Children with Disabilities sponsored a series of 18 public forums in 11 locations around the state, with support from Local School Districts and Area Agencies.  A total of 159 people (63 parents, 59 educators/administrators and 30 others) attended these forums.

The NH Bureau of Special Education considered all of this early input when they drafted the proposed NH Rules.  The State Board of Education voted to enter rulemaking at their August 8, 2007 meeting.  The State Board, wanting to provide ample opportunities for public input, held 6 public hearings/meetings (2 sessions each, afternoon and evening, in the Northern, Southern and Central parts of NH). More than 175 people attended these public hearings, with more than 70 speaking about the proposed changes, and numerous others providing written input.  At their November 14, 2007 meeting, because of some minor differences between the version of the proposed NH Rules that was submitted to rulemaking by the NH Department of Education and the document that was used by the State Board of Education when they voted to enter into rulemaking, the process, the State Board voted to re-start the rulemaking process, including holding another public hearing on January 9, 2008.  They agreed, however, to also retain and consider all of the public input they had obtained up to that point. 

A Summary of the Key Issues

in HB 766, HB 679 and the NH Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities

 

HB 766 includes all of the changes proposed to NH’s special education law, RSA 186-C.  This bill:

«     Makes language consistent with Federal law and removes outdated references to Laconia State School and Training Center, as well as language that is in conflict with Federal and State law (“Eligibility for participation in an approved program of special education shall be determined by the school board of the school district under rules adopted by the state board of education”);

«     Brings NH law into compliance with IDEA 2004;

«     Clarifies and updates the purpose (to incorporate new language in IDEA) and reflects the high expectations set for children with and without disabilities under No Child Left Behind and state law.

«     Revises the definition of “a child with a disability” by adding a category for children with acquired brain injury and simplifies the eligibility process for a child with a developmental delay;

«     Includes short-term objectives or benchmarks as part of each child’s IEP, unless the parent agrees that they are not necessary for one or more of the child’s annual goals;

«     Promotes education in the least restrictive environment.  Provides an incentive for school districts to build their capacity to meet children’s needs within district;

«     Strengthens the State Department of Education’s oversight, monitoring, technical assistance and accountability, with an increased emphasis on educational and functional skill results rather than just procedural compliance;  

«     Better ensures that eligible incarcerated children with disabilities receive special education;

«     Makes the language in the section on extended school year services more clear, particularly in regards to preschool children with disabilities;

«     Adds facilitated IEP team meetings as an additional (and free) alternative dispute resolution option; 

«     Allows courts to award reimbursement for expert witness fees to a parent who prevails at a due process hearing, but only “when the court determines that a school has not acted in good faith in developing or implementing the child’s individualized education program, including appropriate placement”; and

«     Improves coordination between schools and other agencies serving children in order to:  (1) avoid duplication and prevent delays in children receiving services when agencies disagree over who is financially responsible & (2) to promote better transitions when children enter school from early intervention and later when they exit from high school to post-secondary, employment, adult living and/or service systems.

 

HB 679 revises other laws (RSA 169, 193 and 194) that affect children with disabilities, including those involved in the juvenile justice system and those enrolled in charter schools. This bill:

«     Requires that police and others involved in the criminal justice system notify the responsible school district when they are placing a child into a juvenile diversion program;

«     Mandates that juvenile courts ask court-involved children and their families about whether there is evidence of a disability, and then requires that children with disabilities consult with lawyers before giving up their rights;

«     Requires the school to investigate whether a child has a disability and needs special education when notified by a juvenile court that a student is involved in a juvenile case; and

«     Clarifies that public charter schools may not discriminate on the basis of disability.



Thank you to all of you who have been working so diligently to protect special education rights for children with disabilities and their parents.  This past November, after much thoughtful consideration, the House Education Committee voted in favor of keeping many of the important rights and protections that were included in the special education bills retained last session.  The key concepts in the retained bills were combined into two major bills:  HB 679 and 766.  A third bill, HB 678 establishes a committee to study issues related to cochlear implants.  These 3 bills will now be voted on by the full House of Representatives on January 16, 2008. 

What Can You Do?

 

Your involvement is critical!  More than a year has been spent getting these bills to the House floor.  Now, House Bills 679 and 766 face serious opposition from those who do not wish to do anything that exceeds the absolute minimum required by State and Federal law. 

 These bills will only pass if huge numbers of parents and advocates, including every one of you, contact their legislators and ask them to vote for these bills. 

You can find the contact information for your Senate at - http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/whosmyleg/

   

A 2-minute telephone call to each of your Senate is all you need to do!

 

What are the key concepts in House Bills 766 and 679?

HB 766 includes all of the changes proposed to RSA 186-C, NH’s special education law:

 

«      Revises the definition of “a child with a disability” by adding a category for children with acquired brain injury and simplifying the eligibility process for a child with a developmental delay;

 

«      Includes short-term objectives or benchmarks as part of each child’s IEP, unless the parent agrees that they are not necessary for one or more of the child’s annual goals;

 

«      Promotes education in the least restrictive environment.  Provides an incentive for school districts to build their capacity to meet children’s needs within in-district;

 

«      Strengthens the program approval and monitoring processes, with a focus on educational and functional skill results rather than just procedural compliance;

  

«      Better ensures that eligible incarcerated children with disabilities receive special education;

 

«      Makes the language in the section on extended school year services more clear, particularly in regards to preschool children with disabilities; and

 

«     Adds “facilitated team meeting” as a free and non-adversarial alternative to resolve disputes between parents and school districts.

 

Three issues were originally included in the proposed House Bills:   

«      Courts will be allowed to award reimbursement for expert witness fees to a parent who prevails in a due process hearing, but only “when the court determines that a school has not acted in good faith in developing or implementing a child’s individualized education program, including appropriate placement.” 

 

«      The proposed language that explicitly included mapping of a cochlear implant in the definition of “related services” was removed.  The committee instead voted to amend HB 678 to establish a committee to study issues related to cochlear implants. 

 

«     The committee also voted to amend HB 765 to establish a study committee to fully consider the issue of which school district is financially responsible when a parent places a child in a public school in another district.

 

HB 679 revises other laws (RSA 169, 193 and 194) that affect children with disabilities, including those involved in the juvenile justice system and those enrolled in charter schools. The House Education Committee voted “ought to pass” by a vote of 10-4.  This bill:

 

«      Makes changes to RSA 169-B (Delinquent Children law), RSA 169-C (Child Protection Act), and RSA 169-D (Children in Need of Services) to protect children who have, or are suspected of having disabilities;

 

«      Establishes how the district of liability is determined for such children, and

 

«     Clarifies that public charter schools may not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Floor Date:Wednesday, January 16, 2008 

 

House Bill (HB) HB679-FN-L (bill text)

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2008/HB0679.html

 

 

House Bill 766 HB766-FN (bill text)

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2008/HB0766.html



House Education Committee Supports Important Rights for Children with Disabilities and Parents

Please sign the petition in support of the following key concepts in the bills so they may move forward through the House and Senate processes.


When these bills go before the full House, and then through the legislative process in the NH Senate, your involvement will once be a critical factor in determining whether or not these bills become law. Please be sure to respond to any upcoming alerts on this very important issue.


In the meantime, please sign the on-line petition in support of the critical rights and protections included in these bills and ask others to sign too.



It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference; more than 810 people have already signed on. You should also forward it to your families, friends and neighbors, and ask them to also sign the petition. It is helpful to include a personal note explaining why these rights are so important: they support your right to be involved in your child’s education, and maintain critical protections for your child with a disability.


If you have questions or would like more information, or to join the e-mail action alert list, please contact Dick Cohen at the Disabilities Rights Center - richardc@drcnh.org / 228-0432, or Bonnie Dunham at home – bsdunham@adelphia.net / 424-4024.




Please Help Protect Special Education Rights for New Hampshire Children with Disabilities and Their Parents


There are several bills in the NH legislature that will maintain the rights and protections that children with disabilities and their families currently enjoy.   These bills will not result in huge expenditures for school districts; in fact, several have the very real potential to result in significant cost savings!  What the bills do, though, is provide increased clarity throughout NH’s special education law, update the language in the law to use the more respectful “people first” language, and take steps to ensure that the funds spent on special education in NH results in positive outcomes for children with disabilities.   For the most part, the bills maintain rights and protections that are at risk of being lost because of recent changes in the Federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). 
NH has never lowered our standards to the absolute minimum established by the Federal law, but without these bills, that may happen.  


There is a well-organized effort by individuals and organizations who support reducing NH’s special education rights and protections to the absolute minimum allowed by the Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA).  This is something that NH has never done – but it could still happen unless large numbers of parents and advocates speak out NOW! 

 



 

Key Points to be decided:

 

þ     Whether to include short-term objectives as part of the IEP for all children with disabilities

 

þ     Whether to keep or extend our current 45-day evaluation timeline (could become 60 days or even longer) 

 

þ     Whether transition services should begin by age 14 or not until later.

 

þ     Whether to include the “sufficiency statement” (whether the child’s progress is sufficient to meet the annual goal) as part of the regular progress reports to parents

 

þ     Whether to keep our current parental consent requirements for each step in the special education process

 

þ     Should we continue providing 10-day written notice before an IEP meeting (5 days for a manifestation meeting)

 

þ     Should a complete copy of the IEP be given to each of the child’s teachers/service providers and to the parents

 

þ     Whether to have a required timeframe for parents to consent to the excusal of an IEP team member

 

þ     Whether we should we adopt IDEA’s complicated and punitive discipline requirements (or modify them)

 

þ     Whether a court could order reimbursement of reasonable expert witness fees when a parent prevails at a due process hearing

 

þ     Whether “mapping” of a cochlear implan

The key points in each bill are:

House Bill 677:
w         Allows courts to award reimbursement for expert witness fees to a parent who prevails in a due process hearing (with some limitations); and
w         Adds “facilitated team meeting” as a free and non-adversarial alternative to resolve disputes between parents and school districts.

House Bill 678:    
w         Strengthens the program approval and monitoring processes, with a focus on educational and functional skill results rather than just procedural compliance;  
w         Makes changes to simplify the process of evaluating and identifying a child suspected of having a developmental delay;
w         Allows the mapping (programming) of a cochlear implant as a related service (this is similar to an audiology service provided to a child who wears hearing aids); and
w         Better ensures that incarcerated children with disabilities receive the special education services to which they are entitled. 

House Bills 679:
w         Includes short-term objectives as part of each child’s IEP, and w         Makes the language in the section on extended school year services more clear.  


The House Education committee may make a final decision on these bills early in the week of March 18th.  The complete bills may be found at: www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2007/HB0677.html 

 

Please sign this petition to register your support for House Bills 677, 678 and 679.

  
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