Although the Center for Disease Control issued their assessment in 2014 that 1 in 68 school-aged children are on the Autism spectrum, federal funding for the care of these Americans is in jeopardy. A person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or diagnosed with any of the many other related conditions may qualify to receive disability-related Medicaid benefits.
Analysis from Avalere predicts that Medicaid, which provides supports and services to disabled children and adults, could see a reduction funding of up to $215 billion should the Graham-Cassidy bill be passed.
Three Republican senators and all Democratic senators vowed to vote against the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, stalling the vote. The effort to change healthcare laws is not over. Parents and advocates of children and adults with special needs must get educated and involved in the healthcare debate. The Affordable Care Act has many problems that need to be addressed, but if you or a loved one is the recipient of Medicaid benefits, speak out to block a disaster and offer a solution.
Once your child with special needs comes off a Medicaid Waiver Program list, or becomes eligible for SSI on his or her own, it is of great importance to keep your child’s eligibility for benefits. If SSI is denied or lost, so is Medicaid.
Under certain circumstances, a SSI and Medicaid recipient who loses such benefits may be allowed to temporarily continue to be Medicaid eligible.
As many peaceful public protests are being held around the United States, we have recently witnessed tragedy can strike. The 1st Amendment protects citizens’ rights to peacefully protest, with the limitations that the government can regulate the time, place, and manner in which the protest is conducted. See United States Supreme Court case Ward v. Rock Against Racism.
How else might the government weaken the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters? On July 20th, prior to the horrific events at Charlottesville, Texas Representative Pat Fallon filed proposed legislation to protect motorists who hit demonstrators “blocking traffic in a public right-of-way” if the driver exercises “due care.”
As currently drafted, House Bill 250 would would not lessen criminal penalties for deadly hit-and-runs; however, an injured protester, who was found by a court to have been blocking traffic, would be unable to recover damages in a civil suit against a driver who was found by a court of law to have “exercised due care.”
CHAPTER 72A. LIABILITY ARISING FROM OPERATION OF MOTOR VEHICLE
Sec. 72A.001. INJURY TO PROTESTOR [sic]. (a) A person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury:
(1) the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and
(2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.
(b) This section does not affect a person’s liability for an injury caused by grossly negligent conduct.
This proposed bill will indirectly dilute the 1st Amendment protections of citizens by curtailing their ability to recover damages in the event of a civil lawsuit for medical treatment for fractures, amputations, traumatic brain injuries injury, spinal cord injury, and compensation for rehabilitation, lost income, scarring and disfigurement, pain and suffering. Currently in Texas, we have a type of comparative negligence law for cases involving pedestrians injured by drivers. Texas law allows pedestrian victims to recover for the proportion of fault not assigned to the plaintiff. Texas Rep. Fallon’s proposed bill would take the current law regarding injuries to pedestrians and apply a zero-liability result for drivers when their victims are participants of a demonstration.
I recently visited a popular job posting site and conducted a search for Special Education Teacher jobs in Houston, Texas. The results were amazing – 221 jobs in Houston waiting to be filled. Why so many? Has the general population not realized the growing need for qualified people to care for our children? Are our SpEd teachers burnt out from the extreme demands placed on them and have moved on? As I prepare to send my son back to school next week, I am relieved to know that his SpEd teacher is still at our school, but what about other schools in Texas?
In December 2015, the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”) with goals set to ensure students not only graduate from high school, but also attend college. In order for this federal Act to succeed, states are encouraged to be innovative accountable for results. According to their website, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) will attempt to fully implement ESSA by focusing on four goals: (i) improving our low-performing schools; (ii) tying high school success to a future with college and a career; (iii) getting back to basic reading and math; and most importantly (iv) “recruiting, supporting and retaining teachers and principals.”
As a parent of a child with special needs, your voice should be heard during this planning process. Provide feedback on the key policy decisions concerning your child’s education. We need keep our SpEd teachers from leaving their professions by paying these teachers proper compensation for all that they do every day with our kids. We need to attract additional skilled professionals and paraprofessionals.
ACT NOW – The Texas Education Agency is now accepting comments on the ESSA State Plan until August 29th.
All your work from years of ARD meetings, IEPs, and lawsuits will disappear once your student receiving special education services from public school uses vouchers for private school education. Private schools are not forced to follow the laws protecting your child’s education rights.
Click here to listen to the call from Filis Law Firm’s managing attorney Leona Filis to Pacifica Radio encouraging Texans to call their senators and tell them to vote NO to public school vouchers.
This segment was taken from the 7/24/2017 broadcast found at http://kpft.org/programming/newstalk/open-journal/
The Texas School Voucher proposal passed 19-12 in the state senate. The next step is the Texas House. Please contact your representatives.
As a parent with a child with autism and ADHD, I find myself joining many groups for parents of children with special needs. One such group is COPAA – Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. From time to time, I receive notifications and articles from COPAA discussing pending legislation that could potentially impact my family. Below I am sharing such a notification/alert.
Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities and their Families
(Please feel free to share this alert)
The U.S. Senate is currently negotiating a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. There is support in the Senate to follow the House and reduce federal Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing Medicaid funds through a block-grant or a per-capita cap, which would shift costs to states and cut Medicaid by $4 billion each year! COPAA has advocated against these cuts and we need you to act with us. Medicaid and Students with Disabilities
Medicaid permits payment to schools for certain medically necessary services provided to children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through an individualized education plan (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP). Schools are eligible to be reimbursed for direct medical services to Medicaid eligible students with an IEP or IFSP. In addition, districts can be reimbursed by Medicaid for providing Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Benefits (EPSDT), which provides Medicaid eligible children under age 21 with health screening, diagnosis and treatment services such as vision, hearing and more. Many schools and districts rely on Medicaid to provide services and to pay for certain personnel (e.g. school nurse, aides); to purchase and update specialized equipment; and to purchase and/or provide assistive technology and items needed for each child to access the school curriculum alongside their peers
Last month the 115th Congress was introduced to H. R 1120 called Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act by Pennsylvania Representative Matthew Cartwright.
Representative Cartwright previously introduced a similar bill in 2015; however, the 2015 bill was not enacted.
H.R.. 1120 focuses on the need to identify children who are deaf-blind, improve early intervention for affected infants and toddlers, and improve services for such children and their families. The proposed legislation would seek to serve children with a disability who is deaf or hard of hearing, with speech. This eligibility language could be more inclusive than states’ definitions of disability.
This week, many families with children with special needs celebrated the United States Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) protects children with disabilities through a mandate that each eligible student receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), by means of a uniquely tailored individualized education program (“IEP”). In this case, the Court found that student Endrew F. failed to receive an appropriate public education. Special Education and related services are to be provided so that the student may advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals from the IEP, and when possible, be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.
The Court noted in its opinion that at age two, Endrew F. was diagnosed with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder generally marked by impaired social and communication skills, “engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.” With this diagnosis, Endrew F. was eligible to receive special education services. Endrew F.’s parents were dissatisfied with the public school’s inability to provide and IEP different from any of the IEPs for the past few years. With no satisfactory results from the school district, Endrew F.’s parents withdrew him from school and enrolled Endrew in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism, where Endrew excelled.
Endrew F.’s parents sued the school district for failure to provide an appropriate public education for Endrew F. The Supreme Court noted that a IEP is unique for the circumstances of the child for whom it was created. The standard for the student’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, not merely more than de minimis progress from year to year.
Parents and advocates, when you are in attendance at an Admission, Review, and Dismissal meeting (“ARD Meeting”), argue with confidence so that your child to receive an education appropriately ambitious in light of your child’s circumstances.
Policies of the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) are under investigation by reporters and parents. It is alleged that there has been an organized effort to keep eligible students in Texas from receiving special education services in public schools. It has been argued that the goal was to save the TEA billions of dollars; however, this is at the expense of disabled students.
Earlier this year, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) stated it estimated 1 in 68 school-aged children in the United States have Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”). With diagnoses of ASD on the rise, the fact that Texas schools on average failed to reflect an increase in special education services is perplexing. Many parents over the past few years have been informed that their children were not eligible to receive special education services despite parental concerns and outside diagnoses.
Parents have to know their rights. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) was originally enacted by Congress in 1975; improved in 2004. Under IDEA, each state is charged with the obligation of identifying, locating and evaluating all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. Additionally, parents by referral, should identify their child as possibly needing special education and request an evaluation in writing. After parents give consent to have their child evaluated, the evaluation must be completed within sixty days.
If parents disagree with the evaluation, the next step is to request an Independent Education Evaluation (“IEE”) at the public’s expense. A new and independent evaluation of the student will evaluate the student. The school can reject the parent’s objection to the school’s evaluation and file a due process complaint.
Frustrated parents can choose to remove their children from public schools and home-school or place their children in private schools or Applied Behavior Analysis clinics. Without the supports and services in place for Texas students with disabilities, these students can lose the opportunity to reach their individual full potential as protected in IDEA.
There is a new focus on the alarming rise of special education student suspensions.
The U.S. Department of Education – Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a letter dated August 1, 2016 restating a goal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to offer eligible children with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The letter “serves to remind school personnel that the authority to implement disciplinary removals does not negate their obligation to consider the implications of the child’s behavior needs, and the effects of the use of suspensions (and other short-term removals) when ensuring the provision of FAPE.”
If your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP) has already been prepared for 2016, the new school year can mean you will have a new IEP team member, new classroom, and new teaching method. Your child’s IEP may need to be modified to address any new behaviors your child may have due to the changes in his or her classroom routine.
School is starting soon and parents are invited to meet the teacher. This is a great opportunity to quickly discuss some key points with the newest member of your child’s IEP team. Typically, schools will offer 15 to 20 minutes with your child’s new teacher so start the school year off right. Have a friendly introduction letter ready to hand off to your child’s new teacher so that he or she can later take their time to read and review the special details you determine are important for knowing your child. Offer proven strategies for the new teacher that may have worked with your child over the summer break to establish a safe, supportive learning environment, such as wearing head phones when in a loud environment. Point out what is important in the IEP. Add your contact information and make sure you answer the calls or emails in the event your child’s new teacher reaches out to you. Respect your child’s teacher’s time.
Stay current with new special education legislation and news. Parents of children receiving special education services in self-contained classrooms can write a letter to the school district to have cameras installed in the classroom. See an example letter. The Texas Education Agency has created a comparison chart of laws applicable to schools and students receiving special education services.