SpEd PTSA Board Letter in Support of Lowell Med-Frag Families

November 18, 2015

Seattle School District
Attention: Board of Directors
MS 11-010
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Re: Lowell Elementary School Start Time

Dear Superintendent Nyland and School Directors,

We are writing to you today concerning the proposed school start time for Lowell Elementary School. As you know, Lowell is an extraordinary school that serves many of our district’s most vulnerable students.  The start time for Lowell next year is 7:50 a.m. This is an hour-and-forty minute difference from the start time this year, which is 9:30 a.m.  This will have a disproportionate impact on students who receive special education services at Lowell, especially those who are medically fragile. Lowell has a population which is comprised of 40% special education students, over 30 of which are classified as medically-fragile.  Medically fragile students, by OSPI definition, are students with complex health care needs who daily face the possibility of a life-threatening emergency requiring the skill and judgment of a professional nurse.[1] Many of these students have severe seizure disorders, mobility issues, and/or congenital/hereditary defects. They are dependent on their families for complex monitoring and administration of medications, as well as care around tracheostomies, gastric tubes and urinary catheterization. Many of these students use wheelchairs to mobilize.  A morning routine for many of these students may last well over an hour and a half. This is fact.

All the bus routes for special education students who attend Lowell begin picking up students one hour and twenty minutes before the start of school.[2] If the start time is changed to 7:50 am, bus pick-up for these elementary students will start at 6:30 a.m. This means that some of the children who are picked up at Lowell will have to start their morning routine at 5:00 am. This places undue hardship on both the parents and the students, but more importantly, it is very likely that children may arrive at school either underfed, overly tired or inadequately treated, which will impact their health and their ability to learn.   For the same reason, many parents may decide to keep their children home until their child is awake enough, fed enough and treated enough to be able to benefit from their schooling. This is only possible for those families with wheelchair-accessible transportation. For parents who cannot afford a specialized van, the impact of a very early school bus time may mean that their child may completely miss many more days of school.  Missed school time may lead to district liability for compensatory education for these children.

The difficulties with the proposed new start time of 7:50 am will cause parents to have to choose between keeping their very vulnerable kids healthy, or have them access their education under circumstances unconducive to learning.  Bus trips of 1 hour and 20 minutes already do not conform to the spirit of the WAC.  How can two rounds trips of this length be considered reasonable?  Now compound that with a 5:00 am wake-up for nebulizer treatments, trach care, and enteral feeding.

The Special Education PTSA has heard from many parents of students at Lowell, who ask that the Superintendent reconsider his recommendation to place Lowell in the first tier.  We are in strong support of these parents and children.  This is a question of equity for our medically-fragile students.  Do not harm them.  Please direct staff to revise Lowell’s start time so that it allows parents to adequately care for their students and ensure they arrive at school ready to learn.

Sincerely,

Cecilia McCormick, President

Mary Griffin, Legislative Chair

Lori Hiltz, Vice-President

Ayn McNutt, Treasurer

Janis White, Parent Advocate

[1] Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission and Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Staff Model for the Delivery of School Health Services 9 (Apr. 2000, revised Dec. 2005), available athttp://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/6000/StaffModel.pdf.

[2] This is in excess of the time recommended by the Washington Administrative Codes, which states that wherever reasonably possible, no student should be required to ride more than sixty minutes one way. WAC 392-172A-02095.

Our new Best Friend

Due to numerous costly legal settlements and the departure of Ron English, it seems Seattle Public Schools appears to have committed to following civil rights laws.  Among these laws are: Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title IX of the Higher Education Act.

The new Civil Rights Officer for Seattle Public Schools was announced recently:

Kelli Schmidt is Seattle Public School’s student civil rights compliance officer. Schmidt is an attorney and has been actively involved in youth, education, and civil rights issues for 20 years.

Prior to working for Seattle Public Schools, Schmidt was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (ED-OCR) in their Seattle Region Enforcement office, which serves six states and the Pacific Territories.

As a senior attorney advisor with that Federal agency, she was responsible for enforcing Federal civil rights laws, leading investigation and compliance review teams, and providing technical assistance and presentations to help K-12 school districts, colleges, and universities understand their legal obligations and achieve civil rights compliance.

In May of 2015, Schmidt received the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Teamwork award for her work as a Steering Committee member of ED-OCR’s Employee Engagement Advisory Committee. She also received performance and special projects awards from that agency every year from 1999 through 2015.

Prior to working for the federal government, Schmidt worked for nonprofit, legal services organizations. She represented youth that are involved, or at risk of involvement, in the juvenile justice system for both the King and Pierce county offices of TeamChild.

At that organization, she worked with young people, their families, and caregivers to secure appropriate education programs, mental health services, and safe housing for her young clients. While in law school, she worked with the dependency division of a public defender agency and for Columbia Legal Services’ Institutions Project which focuses on the rights of persons in prisons, jails, and mental institutions. She has also spoken extensively on education and civil rights issues to parents, educators, academics, and other attorneys.

As a first-generation college graduate, Schmidt is passionate about equitable access to education. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her Juris Doctor from the University of Washington School of Law with honors.

She also earned a graduate certificate from the University of Washington’s Women Studies Program (now named the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies) and has studied film making and worked on films.

She is currently the chair-elect on the Executive Committee of the Washington State Bar Association’s Civil Rights Law Section and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Metrocenter YMCA, a unique branch that provides family and mental health services, youth outdoor leadership programs, and youth violence prevention and recovery programs.

Schmidt lives in Seattle, has a child in elementary school in Seattle Public Schools, and, with her free time she likes to camp, see/hear live music, and watch movies.

Her contact information will be posted in the near future.

PTSA Comments on OSPI’s Proposed Rules on Use of Restraints, Isolation

Attn: Special Education Section, OSPI

           Re: proposed  changes made to RCW 28A.155 and RCW 28A.600.485

 Dear Dr. Gill,

 The Seattle Special Education PTSA is the district-wide PTSA which represents families, special education teachers and staff, and students of the largest district in the state. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important issue. The proposed rules are a vast improvement over the rules that were proposed in June. However, two particular aspects of the proposed rules are still contrary to research and to the legislature’s intentions. First, the new rules inappropriately mandate that an Emergency Response Protocol be included in an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) if the use of restraint and isolation is planned.[1] Second, the rules require staff to be trained in the use, but not the prevention, of restraint or isolation.[2] As explained below, OSPI should amend these rules so that they are consistent with the legislature’s intent and with research on the use of restraint and isolation.

1. The Emergency Response Protocols provision should not mandate the inclusion of such protocols in an IEP when the use of restraint or isolation is planned. 

OSPI should revise this Emergency Response Protocols provision for four reasons:

A.     The text of the law does not have a mandatory construction. The text of the law, while vague, does not mandate that such a plan, if provided, be included in an IEP. Instead, it uses the words “must not,” and later, “unless,” which is a permissive construction.

B.     The IDEA requires evidence-based interventions. The IDEA of 2004 (IDEA) requires that the IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child.[3] There is no evidence that using restraint or isolation is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques.[4]

C.     Placing restraint and isolation language in an IEP legitimizes its use.

D.     The new law applies to all students, not just students receiveing special education.. By creating rules which state that the planned use of restraint and isolation in an Emergency Response Protocol “must be incorporated into a student’s IEP,” OSPI will be reinforcing the notion that this law only applies to students with IEPs, which it does not.[5] Making rules which apply the planned use of restraint and isolation only to students with disabilities may be violation of the American with Disabilities Act.

It is important that the rules reflect the intent of the statute and clearly apply to all students. For these reasons, OSPI should revise the rules to require that Emergency Response Protocols be developed as a separate document that applies to all students. This document should include informed parental consent, as defined in the WACs.

Even if OSPI does decide to include planned use of restraint and isolation in an IEP, the new rule does not define the meaning of “advanced educational planning,” which is unclear. OSPI should amend this language so that the rule is consistent with the legislature’s intent to limit the use of restraint and isolation intent. The language should clearly indicate to school personnel that any planned restraints or isolation should be limited in either choice of type of restraint or isolation or limited in duration or both.

2. The training and certification provisions should require staff to be trained in how to prevent the use of restraint and isolation.

OSPI should amend the training and certification provision for two reasons. First, the provision is contrary to the intent of the legislature. As amended by S.H.B 1240, RCW 28A.600.485 requires that any staff member who has used restraint or isolation to discuss and report in writing “what training and support the staff member needs to help the student avoid similar incidents.”[6] While the statute does not require training and certification, the plain language of statute indicates that the legislature intended staff to be trained in preventing the use of restraint or isolation. The legislature’s intent that school staff be trained in prevention is consistent with its prohibition of the use of restraint and isolation except as a last resort.[7]

Under the proposed rules, staff could be trained in the use, but not the prevention, of restraint or isolation. Such training would have the effect of promoting the unnecessary use of restraint or isolation.

Second, OSPI is best positioned to create training requirements that are evidence-based and consistent with the legislature’s concern with prevention. OSPI is better positioned than individual districts and trainers to create training standards. Indeed, it is part of the mission of the agency. OSPI has the resources to design training requirements that are evidence-based and the authority to create rules that ensure all staff will be trained accord to such standards.

This is not to say that OSPI should dictate the extract training requirements to all school districts. Rather, OSPI should establish minimum training standards to ensure that all school staff members are trained in how to prevent the use of restraint or isolation. Requiring training in particular preventative strategies will be consistent with the legislature’s intent and with research.[8] Education agencies from other states have created rules that could serve as a model for OSPI.[9]

For the above reasons, OSPI should revise the proposed rules to so that the Emergency Response Protocol is a separate document that applies to all students. Additionally, OSPI should revise the proposed rules to require staff to be trained in the prevention of restraint and isolation.

Sincerely,

Cecilia McCormick, President

Lori Hiltz, Vice President

Ayn McNutt, Treasurer

Mary Griffin, Legislative Chair

Lauren Feaux, Staff Representative


[1] Restraint or Isolation of Students, WSR (proposed Oct. 2, 2015) (to be codified as WAC 392-172A-02105(1)).

[2] Id. (to be codified as WAC 392-172A-02110(1)(f) et. seq.).

[3] 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (d)(1)(A)(i)(IV).

[4] U.S. Dep’t. of Educ., Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document at iii (May 2012), available at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/seclusion/restraints-and-seclusion-resources.pdf.

[5] RCW 28A.600.485(2), “The provisions of this section apply to all students.”

[6]RCW 28A.600.485(4)(b), (5)(f).

[7]WSR (proposed Oct. 2, 2015) (to be codified as WAC 392-172A-02110(1)(f) et. seq.

[8] Ryan, Joseph B., Reece L. Peterson, Physical Restraint in Schools, 29 Behavioral Disorders, 154, 164 (2004) (concluding after extensive review of research that training should include recognition of the cycle of aggression, verbal de-escalation strategies, and restraint and counseling procedures).

[9] See, e.g. 23 IAC 1.285(f)(2)(B) (Illinois Administrative Code requiring training in de-escalation and alternatives to the use of restraint)