By Karen Taycher and Tamika Shauntee (Special to the Review- Journal)
Forty-five years ago, on Nov. 29, 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law. As we celebrate this milestone, students who receive special education services face a situation unlike at any time in the four and half decades since the law was signed.
None of the parents, self-advocates and educators who fought for special education services on that day imagined the challenges to a “free appropriate public education” from a pandemic. Over the past nine months, the challenges schools have faced because of COVID-19 have created uncertainty for families of children throughout Nevada, especially those with disabilities.
Educators and parents alike are faced with difficult choices and must weigh the risk of contracting COVID-19 over going back into the school building. A significant number of students with disabilities are at greater risk for COVID. Virtual learning and other social distancing measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts must be in place to ensure the safety of students with disabilities and school personnel.
The foundation of IDEA is to develop an individualized educational program that meets each student’s unique needs. In addition, Nevada statutes and administrative code include standards for special education. School districts across Nevada have implemented their own reopening plans and taken different approaches for the roughly 63,000 students with disabilities in our state.
Our focus is not on a call to re-open schools or for a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, our emphasis is that students with disabilities should be provided quality services that meet their educational needs. Ultimately, IDEA is not in lockdown. The obligation of school districts to provide services to students with disabilities has not decreased and continues without any change.
Last month, the Nevada Department of Education’s Office of Inclusive Education created guidance to assist districts in their responsibilities under IDEA during the pandemic. The guidance identifies that “it is uncontroverted that the mandates of the IDEA and (Nevada law) must drive all decision-making with regard to the provision of a free appropriate public education to each student with a disability during these unprecedented times.”
Unfortunately, our organizations have heard too many stories related to the lack of access to federally mandated services and supports outlined on each child’s individualized education program. School districts must ensure their commitment to the law or students will continue to be denied access to the general education curriculum, specialized instruction, related services, adaptive equipment, assistive technology and effective communication supports.
With the pandemic continuing into the foreseeable future, our organizations recommend the following:
— Value creativity and collaboration to ensure compliance and quality support services: When educational services are not working, schools must make sure that students with disabilities do not bear the consequences. If virtual learning is not effective, schools will need to be creative and collaborate with parents to meet the individualized needs of students. Regular communication among parents, students and educators is essential to address concerns.
— Ensure compensatory services: School districts should take affirmative steps to ensure compensatory education for all students with disabilities. Whether remote or hybrid learning, quality and accessible education is necessary to include ample direct instruction. Under IDEA, children with disabilities are eligible for compensatory services to make up for any failures to provide an appropriate education.
— Protect civil rights and access to dispute resolution mechanisms: Civil rights of students with disabilities and their families remain in place. Schools must continue to honor these rights and offer the related services, instruction and accommodations. The options under IDEA to resolve disputes also remain in place — mediation, state complaint and due process complaint procedures should be accessible to parents.
— Enhance policies to have consistency related to workload, homework submission and attendance: The transition to virtual and hybrid learning has been an incredible challenge for families and students. Over the past nine months, students have often been punished for circumstances beyond their control. Policies that are tailored to support students during this time will improve overall performance and reduce stress.
— Use compassion: Lastly, a compassionate approach can produce meaningful educational outcomes. With the substantial impact of a pandemic that has resulted in loss for far too many and placed some of the most vulnerable in our community in danger, an effort to exercise compassion is essential for students and educators.
Ultimately, at the end of each school day, if we are able to work together as a team and as a community, our students will both continue to receive a quality education and remain safe from the virus.
— Karen Taycher is executive director of Nevada PEP; Tamika Shauntee is legal advocacy coordinator for the ACLU of Nevada. This essay was also signed by Jack Mayes, executive director of the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center, and Alex Cherup, staff attorney for Nevada Legal Services.
This article first appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal on December 5, 2020 at the following link: https://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/commentary-districts-still-have-obligations-to-disabled-nevada-students-2206044/
Nevada PEP is honored to have been selected for the “3 Degree Guarantee” program for the month of October! Nevada PEP Board Chairman Bryce Loveland accepted the donation of $2,100 on News 3 Las Vegas from Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing of Las Vegas on November 12th.
Every October Nevada PEP recognizes National Bullying Prevention Month with our signature Run Walk Roll Against Bullying. In keeping with the need to social distance, PEP has decided to adjust course and launch a new awareness campaign called “I Care, We Care” in partnership with Findlay Automotive Group.
Nevada PEP Chairperson Bryce Loveland was recently interviewed by the Fox5 Take 5 To Care team to promote the event and to champion Bullying Awareness. Watch the interview on their site:
To join our campaign, visit the I Care, We Care homepage and learn how to participate!
The Nevada PEP family is grieving the loss of a very special lady, Terri Hall Peltier, board member and friend for over 15 years. Terri was an amazing educator who dedicated her life to students. Her expertise and experience lead to success for children with special needs and their families. Terri was a strong advocate for students with disabilities and those with mental health needs. She shared her vast knowledge with educators, families and students to prevent bullying in schools.
Terri brought her special sparkle, passion and dedication to the Nevada PEP board. She was always there to support the PEP family and promote Nevada PEP through active participation in our annual team building conferences, in our Run Walk and Roll against Bullying, and at several events to bring awareness to children’s mental health needs. The Nevada PEP family is mourning her passing and is so thankful for having Terri in our life. Terri Hall Peltier’s legacy lives on in all the individuals that she touched in her life. Thank you, Terri, for the years of education, empowerment and encouragement. Your Nevada PEP Family.
Broken into four sections, an article from EmbraceRace.org is a useful resource for parents looking for guidance on how to address race directly with their children.
One of the many important points the article makes, is that children are already receiving messages about race every day of their lives. Knowing this, it only make sense to understand what they’re already learning, and make sure that you as a parent are involved in that education.
The four sections discussed in the article are:
To read this insightful article, and begin teaching your child about race and how it impacts the world around them, please click the link below:
Este artículo también está disponible en español, para verlo, haga clic en el siguiente enlace:
For more information on EmbraceRace, please click their logo below:
This video introduces us to Alice Eaddy, the Black Lives Matter movement, and its relationship to the Disability Activism of her youth. She talks about advocacy strategies, knowing your goals, and communication. She asks the question, “where do you want the change to come from?” to illustrate that an effective social movement needs to have diverse group of activists.
– Review from Kenny Taycher
Nevada PEP stands in solidarity with the black community and all those affected by the most recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmed Aubrey, among far too many others. We recognize the prevailing systemic racism that endures our nation’s past and present and acknowledge the injustices that have occurred. These incidents and the systems that support their occurrences cry out for a change that demands equity.
As a disability organization, we acknowledge that, historically, the Disability Rights community and the Civil Rights community have stood together and advocated against discriminatory practices on the basis of sex, religion, gender, race, disability, or age. One of the most famous examples of our unity was the historic 504 Sit-in of 1977. We will continue to uphold this legacy as part of our mission and are committed to creating an inclusive community. We also will uplift the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities who are also black because their voices too often go unheard.
We pledge to our community that we will continue educating ourselves, listening, and working together to create communities where each and every person can thrive. We will continue fighting for an equitable world that provides access and values all persons equally.
Nevada PEP is mourning the loss of our very own PEPper, Sam Lieberman. Sam was a strong advocate in the Disability Movement and for education. As a long time Board member for Nevada PEP, Sam dedicated his time and his talents to families of children with disabilities.
He brought his unique humor and larger-than-life personality not only to the Board meetings, but also making his way around the PEP office, at events such as “Mondays Dark” and even to social gatherings such as our staff holiday party’s or our Annual Run Walk Roll Against Bullying events. Although we were shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden passing, we know that Sam’s legacy lives on through Nevada PEP. Thank you, Sam, for all of the wonderful moments and memories. Your Nevada PEP Family.