Stories and Grievances: Special Education
The Student Advocate Website Mobilizes New Jersey Residents to Support a Strengthened IDEA For All Children
A petition is released to maintain services and resources for children with special needs in New Jersey.
Petition on IDEIA 2004 Implementation :
We Stand in Agreement to Maintain Strong NJ Special Education Law
We the undersigned, residents of NJ, parents, students, professionals and other supporters of students with disabilities call upon the NJ Department of Education, the Acting Governor of NJ and the Legislative Assembly and Senate to continue to maintain and further strengthen NJ public special education law.
In response to the US passage of IDEA revisions in December, 2004, we believe that it is critical to the integrity of the commitment to all students with special needs, that the State of New Jersey fulfill the needs of students above those of lobbyists. While the federal legislation allows a weakening of educational law on a state by state basis, we call upon NJ to at the very least to hold the line to pre December 2004 revisions, and if changes are to be made, to elevate New Jersey's education of all students by strengthening the rights of students with special needs and their families.
Specifically, we stand in agreement around the following points of unity:
1. We are opposed to the removal of short term objectives or benchmarks in IEPs. Short term objectives and annual goals provide the action plan toward achieving any improvement and are the cornerstone of accountability needed to see if an educational program is meeting the elements of long term goals.
2. We oppose the possible election by NJ to become a pilot state for multi-year IEP review periods. Regular self evaluation is integral toward greater success, lengthening the review period can lead to stagnation and apathy.
3. We are opposed to the weakening of the rules governing who must attend an IEP meeting and to the allowance of participation through written document, phone conference or telecommunication. The current mutli-discipline decision process is critical to a global perspective of a students strengths and areas that need further development. Face to face interactions are integral to high quality, open team work meetings that are in the best interest of the students progress.
4. We support mid-year progress reports that reference the extent to which a goal has been met and extent to which progress is sufficient to meet the goal by the end of the year. Such reporting is an opportunity to be responsive to changing needs as well as being another measure of accountability that is essential toward the appropriate education of our children.
5. In disciplinary matters regarding students with disabilities, we are opposed to the shifting of the manifestation determination burden of proof to parents and call upon NJ to keep the current standards regarding when a behavior is a manifestation of the student's disability. Families are already the powerless partners in such disputes, up against challenges from school districts with far greater resources.
6. The stay-put provisions in matters of dispute must be maintained. The stay-put provision gives parents recourse to prevent district unilateralism.
7. We are opposed to the lengthening of the time for which a student with disabilities can be removed to an alternative educational situation. Students with disabilities need to be protected from unreasonably long disruption to their free, least restrictive and appropriate public education.
8. We are opposed to any reduction in the frequency of notification of parents of their rights and safeguards. Regulations are ever changing and parents need to have an up to date point of reference whenever new educational plan negotiations are transpiring.
9. We oppose the implementation of a statute of limitations on the rights of parents to hold a district legally accountable. The effects of the actions of school districts with regard to children with disabilities last a lifetime. Limits on accountability could encourage disregard for the best interests of our children.
10. We oppose the imposition of a state run resolution meeting once parents resort to due process proceedings. Offering such resolution assistance on a volunteer basis could be beneficial but forcing parents into that practice could deter parents from advocating in the best interests of their disabled children. If such sessions are to be offered or are made mandatory, the state must assure that they are meaningful by having them facilitated by a trained, independent and impartial mediator.
11. We oppose increasing the age of transition to 16 as many students with disabilities require several years to achieve the independent life and occupational skills needed once they move beyond the public education system.
Click here to read updated list of signers to petition.
Writing A Letter to Support Strongest Possible Implementation of IDEIA 2004 in NJ
(If you can help out with a Spanish translation of this petition, please let us know at Advocate@StudentAdvocate-NJ.org )
Who should sign the petition? Any NJ adult resident who agrees with it.
Is the petition only for parents of special needs students? No, the petition is for all who agree with it. We need support from all sectors of NJ.
Should I sign if I am a professional employed by a local school district, a school board member, an educator for a private school or service provider, a local government official? Yes, Ms. Gantwerk is seeking input from all quarters and particularly from educators so your joining us in taking this position will further strengthen our efforts.
What should I do if I want to protect strong special education law but I do not agree entirely with this petition as it is worded? Click here for tips on drafting a letter to Special Education Director Barbara Gantwerk.
What can my organization do about this situation? Organizations can sign on to the petition as an organizational endorsement of this position. Additionally, organizations can draft their own positions standing for the strongest possible NJ special education law. We can post those positions at this website or - if you post it at your own website - we can set up pointers to the position at your site.
How can I keep better informed and participate in a more frequent discussion on how best to prevent the weakening of NJ special education law? Join the low volume list serve NJStrongIDEA@yahoogroups.com by sending a message to NJStrongIDEAfirstname.lastname@example.org .
To sign petition, click here http://studentadvocate-nj.org/IDEIA2004_Petition.htm and please complete the on-line form.
Barbara Gantwerk letter inviting district (but not parent) feedback. The letter outlines some of the issues that could be undermined.
Response to Gantwerk's letter
APIECE: A Parents' Initiative For Every Child's Education