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Facts About OUSD's Students with Disabilities

Page history last edited by stacey 9 years, 10 months ago

Whether we are advocating for our children or trying to create school and district plans that take into account the needs of our students with disabilties we all can do a better job with facts in hand. So here are some facts you should know about students with disabilities and OUSD's special needs population in general. Keep an eye on this page because it will grow and change. (Note that OUSD is required to report information about special education students to the State of California each year so there is more public data readily available on this population than non-special education students.)

 

Special Education Students

Special education supports students from birth to age 22. By definition, these students can’t make progress toward the educational standards other students are expected to meet without the support of specially designed instruction and/or related services targeted to their unique needs. Modifying the regular instructional program doesn’t work. In Calfornia, the term "special education" includes specially designed instruction or related services or both. Related services are an almost unlimited list of supports ranging from transporation services to an individual aide to vision therapy and more. The CASE presentation on special education included more examples.

 

A student may be passing from grade to grade and still need special education. The focus must be on educational performance which includes academic, social, emotional and behavioral components. The contents of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) must include all the things that will help a student be successful and must be written to support that student's unique needs. An IEP is like a contract the district makes with a student and the district is responsible for making sure that all of the instruction, staffing, accommodations, modifications and supports are in place from Day 1 and everyone is working together toward the student's goals and their success. School sites and site activities including site planning and extracurricular school activites must also be inclusive of and accessible to special education students. There also needs to be a transition plan for when a student moves on to college, career and adult life whether that is right after high school or once a student has turned 22. There are no IEPs for adults but many are still supported by 504 Plans and the Americans with Disabilties Act. There is a lot to know and there are good resources out there that can help - start with the list on this site.

 

2011-12 Data

In 2011-12 OUSD reported 5,088 special educations students. The majority (over 50%) of these students had specific learning disabilties and speech-language impairments and that was consistent across every race/ethnic subgroup. Below is a pie chart of the entire special education population broken down by disability. You can view and download this and a more detailed breakdown by race/ethnicity here.

 

 

The majority of OUSD's special educations students are African-American and Hispanic/Latino as are the majority of students in OUSD but African-American students make up a higher proportion of special educations students compared to their proportion district-wide while Hispanic/Latino special education students make up a significantly lower proportion compared to their representation district-wide. Both disproportionalies are worth noting and there are multiple reasons why they exist. Here's a link to the proportional breakdown overall.

 

Placement and Location

The partnership between general and special education staff is critical since most special education students spend at least part of their day in the general education classroom and special education students are found at all schools. In 2010-11 (the most recent publicly posted data) slightly under two-thirds of Oakland’s special education students were in a general education classroom for 80% or more of the day; 26% were inside a general education classroom for less than 40% of the day; about 8% were in separate schools (public, private, residential, and homebound/hospital placements).

 

Placement in any setting must be based on the student’s unique needs and not disability category or availability of teachers and classrooms. And note that California recognizes that a portion of students require separate placement (they target @5%). Here is a list of OUSD special education programs and locations provided to the CAC in Spring 2012 and a list of programs by Region as of June 2012 (note: this is probably outdated due to summer/fall 2012 program changes but its a reference point).

 

Section 504

There are students at all schools who are supported and protected by Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That includes all special education students. Some students do not qualify for special education (for many reasons) but still need to be recognized and supported in a special way. These students have an impairment that limits one or more major life activities, have a record of impairment, or are perceived as having an impairment. The list of major life activities is unlimited, the impairment can be chronic, and it does not need to be severe – it can be something like an allergy or a vision problem that can be addressed through an intervention (i.e., allergy shots, glasses). The definition is so broad that according to the federal Office of Civil Rights, districts should “shift the inquiry away from the question whether a student has a disability (and thus is protected by the ADA and Section 504), and toward the school district's actions and obligations to ensure equal educational opportunities… the nature of many impairments is such that, in virtually every case, a determination in favor of disability will be made.”

 

Many of these students have 504 Plans which describe the supports they need to be successful. Like IEPs, these plans are required to be followed. Like special education students, 504 students have certain legal protections (but more limited) and are also eligible for things like related services and may also need things like behavior plans. The federal Office of Civil Rights oversees compliance for these students. In 2011-12, PEC Director Sharon Casanares estimated about 200 students in this category -- an estimate in part because the district seemed to lack a formal 504 program. Also historically, the district has promoted 504 status as something primarily medical and limited to accommodations but that is a narrow interpretation. In addition, several parents have reported that their student and their plans were not tracked or followed as they moved from grade to grade and school to school. OUSD is working to change this.

 

Violence Prevention:

Students with disabilities are 2-3 times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers and some popular anti-bullying programs are not effective for this population. Check out the powerpoint presentation, read the report on bullying by AbilityPath.org and check out the special toolkit to help special needs students at The Bully Project.

 

Discipline and Suspension:

Nationally, students with disabilties are twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers. OUSD has also reported higher rates of suspension for special education students (for example, African-American special education students are suspended at a higher rate than their African-American general education peers.)

 

Students with behavior plans may have additional legal protections that affect how and when suspension and expulsion are allowable. There are also specific protections for special education students including a list of prohibited disciplinary interventions (i.e., no handcuffs) and the steps the IEP team must take immediately following a behavioral incident including for students with no prior history of a behavioral problem.

 

To be continued.....

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