Vote NO on S.1248 sign now

In late March, 2004, the U.S. Senate will vote on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorization, Senate bill S. 1248. This bill eliminates many important provisions contained in current law (IDEA 97), provisions upon which students with disabilities have relied in obtaining a Free Appropriate Public Education. If passed, S. 1248 will condemn students with disabilities to struggle against the same segregation, neglect, and abuse they faced 30 years ago. We must NOT allow this to happen!

We, the undersigned, agree that it is crucial that S. 1248 contain all of the following provisions:

Short-term objectives: IEPs must contain short-term objectives/benchmarks in order to determine whether students have made progress in both academic and non-academic areas. Relying on yearly standardized testing is neither appropriate nor adequate.

Behavioral analysis and intervention plans: Schools must use functional behavior analyses (FBAs), behavior intervention plans (BIPs), and manifestation determinations before unilaterally removing a student from the classroom due to behavior caused by his/her disability (with exceptions for dangerousness or drugs/weapons).

"Stay put": Students must "stay put" in their current education settings (subject to exceptions for dangerousness or drugs/weapons) while proceedings (manifestation determination, parent/guardian appeal, etc.) are pending. Students are innocent until proven guilty, and should be treat accordingly.

Reasonable statute of limitations: Parents/Guardians typically are willing to work with their school for years, trying to resolve issues, before finally giving up and filing for due process. They must not be penalized for working with their schools in good faith. Placing a short statute of limitations on IDEA claims will put pressure on families to rush into expensive legal proceedings, to the detriment of both children and schools parents must have at least 5 years within which to initiate due process.

No attorney fee caps: The law must not allow states to set caps on the amount recoverable by a successful parent/guardian litigant in due process or court. Due process must be accessible to all parents/guardians, not just the rich who can afford to hire an attorney with their own money. Current studies show that parents are not filing frivolous suits. On the contrary, instead of providing services, many school districts are spending much more on litigation than the requested services would have cost.

No additional mandatory pre-due process meetings: Typically, due process is a parent's/guardian's last resort. They have had countless meetings with the school, making little or no progress. Families must not be further burdened with extra meetings.

Enforcement: The Department of Education must enforce the statute. Currently, the lack of accountability has led to a lack of compliance by State and Local Educational Agencies.

In the long run, the cost of not providing children with special needs an appropriate education is much greater than the cost of providing needed services. We therefore demand that the Senate vote NO to S. 1248 if it does not contain ALL of the above, in order to protect children with special needs.

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Edna GrossBy:
Entertainment and MediaIn:
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U.S. Senate

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