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Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities in Delaware Schools

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-02-18 (Revised/Updated 2010-05-03) - Lieutenant Governor and State Legislators Unveil Legislation to Protect Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities - Delaware Disability News.

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Lieutenant Governor and State Legislators Unveil Legislation to Protect Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities - Bill Will Banish "Serviceable Chevrolet" Educational Standard from Delaware Schools.

Lieutenant Governor Matthew Denn, State Representative Quinton Johnson, and State Senator David Sokola unveiled proposed legislation today that would protect the educational rights of public school students with disabilities. The legislation, which would prohibit schools and school districts from using an artificially low standard in assessing the needs of students with disabilities, was praised by representatives of state organizations that advocate for those students.

The legislation will bar schools and school districts from providing students with disabilities with educational services that are the 'functional equivalent of a serviceable Chevrolet' - the actual legal standard that some districts now use - and require them instead to provide educational services that offer a real educational benefit to those students.

"It is completely unacceptable for us to tell the parents of most children that we want their kids to have the best public school education in America, while telling the parents of students with disabilities that their kids will receive the educational equivalent of a serviceable Chevrolet," Lieutenant Governor Denn said. "We have a legal and a moral obligation to these children to provide them with a meaningful education, and this bill is a first step to making sure that happens."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. S. Quinton "Quinn" Johnson IV, said that all children deserve a world-class education that will enable them to excel in a global economy, including students with special needs. However, some students have not been given the same opportunities and resources they need to succeed.

"Some districts have followed case law that essentially says that a special needs child is not entitled to a Cadillac-style education but one that is equivalent to a serviceable Chevrolet," said Rep. Johnson, D-Middletown. "This legislation would change the standard that has been followed - Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case law - to the appropriate case law from the Third Circuit of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Delaware.

"We must raise the bar of standards for these children. By raising the bar and ensuring that in fact all children are receiving a world-class education, we will be ensuring that more students with special needs will graduate and will be productive, taxpaying citizens of our society. These individuals will be citizens that are less likely to need financial assistance and state or federal services. It is our responsibility, as stated in the mission statements of school districts, to provide an education that does not limit students' ability to achieve success and allows them to meet their full potential."

"We should actively work against double standards in education that leave the handicapped at a disadvantage," said Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark North, the bill's Senate sponsor. "But that's especially true in today's increasingly competitive global economy where we need to make sure that everyone is maximizing their potential."

"The Governor's Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) is pleased that our Lt. Governor is diligently working to enhance the lives of our children with disabilities in educational settings," said Wendy Strauss. "This particular bill would assist parents/caregivers in receiving services they are truly entitled to so that their children can learn and grow to become self-sufficient adults. The dreams that parents of children with disabilities have are the same as parents of "typical children". They want the schools to teach their child at whatever level the child is at and provide whatever the child needs so that they can learn. Defining a "free and appropriate education" in a way that will provide "significant learning", and "confer meaningful benefit...gauged in relation to the child's potential" will help to ensure that our children with disabilities receive the services they need."

"State Council for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) appreciates the efforts of Lt. Governor Denn to protect the rights of students with disabilities and thanks Rep. Quinn Johnson and Senator David Sokola for sponsoring this important legislation," said Kyle Hodges. "SCPD endorses the bill since it will help ensure that children with disabilities receive the educational services to which they are entitled. The State Council for Persons with Disabilities is too often aware of students with disabilities who are systemically denied the educational services they need and the legal obstacles parents face in advocating for the rights of their children. This bill will help students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education that will help them maximize their potential and be more equal to that provided to other children. This is what we believe is the true intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act."

"For centuries, people with disabilities all over the world have endured the stigma and reality of living life, however short or long, as second class, if not third class, members of our world. Today, in America, people with disabilities continue to have to beg and fight for the same rights and freedoms that every other American enjoys," said Pat Maichle. "From the right to live in an accessible community without restraints and abuse, to the right to be gainfully employed and a contributing member of our society, to the right to a free appropriate education that truly prepares them for a productive adult life. Equal is what we expect. Equal is our right. Equal is what we will get. The Lt. Governor, Senator Sokola, and Representative Johnson are to be commended for sponsoring this bill. The developmental disabilities council strongly supports this change. It's about time!"

State Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery also praised the legislation. "A free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for every child is a basic and necessary right," Lowery said. "The legislation being spearheaded by the Lieutenant Governor will facilitate a statewide legal review and discussion as to the fidelity with which Delawareans will ensure that FAPE is suitably implemented in our schools. The Delaware Department of Education is looking forward to being a part of the vetting process."

The proposed Special Education Bill can be viewed at ltgov.delaware.gov/documents/20100218-DisabilitiesEducationBill.pdf



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