DC Special Education Preschool Services Archives

Race and the Diagnosis of Disability in Students

It has long been known that African American students are disproportionately diagnosed — over-diagnosed? — with learning and other disabilities. Ed Week cites 2008 government data from the Equity Alliance at Arizona State University according to which African-American students are “nearly or greater than twice as likely as white students to be classified with emotional or intellectual disabilities.” Nirvi Shaf at Ed Week’s On Special Education blog provides more statistics to underscore the extent of the problem:

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A federal judge ruled in November that the Washington, DC, school system has not fulfilled its duty to provide special education services to its eligible preschool-age children, calling for additional future court oversight because of “persistent failure to live up to their statutory obligations, a failure that works a severe and lasting harm on one of society’s most vulnerable populations—disabled preschool children—is deeply troubling to the court.”

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District wins appeal of special education ruling

The District has won a significant legal victory in its bid to lift a federal court injunction imposed 16 years ago because it wasn’t paying tuition and other services for special education students in a timely manner.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a ruling last year by U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman rejecting the city’s motion to drop the injunction, which is part of the Petties class action lawsuit.

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A federal judge has ruled that District of Columbia public schools must make sweeping changes to how young children with disabilities are located and served.

In a ruling last week, Judge Royce Lamberth said the district must ensure that 8.5 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 are enrolled in special education and related services, as required by federal law.

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DC Public Schools recently opened a second facility to serve DC parents who are concerned that their preschool-age child may have a disability or a developmental delay. However, as a judge’s ruling made clear last week, ineffective managers of these facilities are allowing children with special needs to fall through the cracks.

This is not only tragic for these children, but extremely expensive when DCPS identifies their special needs much later.

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A judge renders D.C. schools speechless

Regarding the Nov. 17 Metro article “Ruling: D.C. falls short on special-ed”:

A D.C. Public Schools spokesman has “no comment” on a federal judge’s ruling that the District has failed to provide special education services to hundreds of preschool-age children. How about an apology, to start? Given a reporter’s ability to review the ruling with enough speed to publish an article on its implications in the next day’s paper, is it too much to expect DCPS to issue a statement? Couldn’t it have predicted this decision based on the District’s shameful record of services to children with special needs?

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Chancellor Kaya Henderson pushed back Friday at this week’s federal court ruling that the District has failed to identify and treat adequate numbers of young children with special needs, saying that the District received little credit for substantial progress.

She said that since the opening of the Early Stages diagnostic center in 2009, DCPS has dramatically increased the percentage of the pre-school age population identified as needing special education services from 2 percent to 7.4 percent. That places the District 15th among the states in meeting the “Child Find” requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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