Friday, November 14, 2008

ASAN signs letter to Governor Kaine

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a signatory to this Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities letter to the Governor of Virginia. The letter requests an opportunity to directly discuss significant concerns about the proposed Special Education Regulations changes with Governor Kaine. The proposed regulations contain major changes that would reduce or eliminate broad categories of protections for parents and students.

November 6, 2008

Dear Governor Kaine:

Thank you for reaffirming your promise during your recent appearance on WTOP's recent "Ask the Governor" program not to reduce existing parental involvement in the proposed special education regulations. In doing so, you raised the hopes of parents across Virginia that misguided efforts to take away rights from parents of children with disabilities – rights that are vital to ensuring equality and fairness in the parent-school partnership – will not succeed.

We are extremely disappointed that the recently approved regulations reduce parent involvement and consent rights in disregard of the desires expressed in your memo of March 21, 2008 to the Board of Education. With regard to the specific measures you identified, the regulations fail to ensure the right of consent for parents of transfer students and the right to participate in a Functional Behavioral Assessment of their child. You also stated your intention in the memo that parent involvement not be reduced in other areas. However, these final proposed regulations continue to:

• Deny parents the right to participate in the referral and screening process through the elimination of "Child Study Committees" as well as required state-wide uniform procedures and timelines.
• Deny parents the right to receive timely re-evaluation reports due to the approval of an unnecessary extension of the timeline.
• Deny children with disabilities access to appropriate services due to new restrictive and arbitrary eligibility criteria.
• Deny young children with disabilities access to appropriate services due to new limits on the label of "developmental delay".
• Deny parents the right to ensure the inclusion of short-term objectives or benchmarks in their children's IEPs.
We know that some supporters of the recently approved regulations are arguing that they constitute a reasonable compromise between saving money and serving children. This is untrue. The proposed regulations cannot be considered a reasonable compromise when only one party loses rights and the other party gains them. Worst of all, the losers in this situation are Virginia's most vulnerable children. For your further review we have attached a full list of all areas where changes in the proposed regulations roll back current rights and protections for children.

Parents have contacted you not to ask for new rights and protections, but to advocate for retaining the rights they now have. These are rights that have well served children with disabilities for decades and have no justifiable reason for being eliminated. Certainly, denying services to children who need them will not save money, but will shift the burden for meeting their needs onto unprepared teachers and overstretched schools. Such an approach will only negatively impact classroom instruction, teacher retention, and state performance on standardized tests, while increasing suspension/expulsion rates and leaving many children with disabilities unprepared to face the challenges of adult life.

The proposed regulations represent a significant policy shift for Virginia. If these regulations are approved in their current form, an entire class of citizens in Virginia will lose rights for the first time in over 20 years. Instead of ensuring that Virginia leads the way as you have championed, these regulations will put the Commonwealth years behind by taking away the hard won gains of children with disabilities.

We request an opportunity to directly discuss these significant concerns with you. Please let us know a date and time when you might be available to meet. The individual futures of tens of thousands of Virginia's most vulnerable children are truly at stake and require your direct intervention.


Maureen Hollowell

Attachment: Comments from the Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities on the proposed Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia

Access Independence, Inc
403 B Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
Contact: Donald Price, Executive Director

Appalachian Independence Center,Inc.
230 Charwood Drive
Abingdon, VA 24210
Contact: Greg Morrell, Executive Director

The Arc of Loudoun
71 Lawson Road
P.O. Box 243
Leesburg, VA 20178
Contact: Eleanor Voldish, Executive Director

The Arc of Northern Virginia
98 N. Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
Contact: Nancy Mercer, Executive Director

The Arc of Rappahannock
1640 B Lafayette Boulevard
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Contact: Jan Griffin, Executive Director
The Arc of Virginia
2025 E. Main Street, Suite 107
Richmond, VA 23223
Contact: Jamie Trosclair, Executive Director

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Contact: Paula C. Durbin-Westby, Board of Directors Virginia Coordinator

Autism Society of American – Central Virginia
P.O. Box 29364
Richmond, VA 23242-0364
Contact: Bradford Hulcher

Autism Society of America – Northern Virginia
98 N. Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
Contact: Christopher Waddell, President

A Voice for GAP Kids
P.O. Box 174
Rockville, Virginia 23146
Contact: Tim Moore

Blue Ridge Independent Living
1502 B Williamson Road NE
Roanoke, VA 24012
Contact: Karen Michalski-Karney, Executive Director

Clinch Independent Living Services
P.O. Box 2741
Grundy, VA 24614
Contact: Betty Bevins, Executive Director

DAC (disabled Action committee)
14405 Artery Lane, #11
Dale City, VA 22193
Contact: Keith Kessler

disAbility Resource Center
409 Progress Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Contact: Debe Fults, Executive Director

Disabilities Resource Network
c/o Bedford Community Resource Center
403 Otey Street
Bedford, VA 24523
Contact: Didi Zaryczny, Chairperson of the Board of Directors

Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads
6300 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard
Virginia Beach, VA 23502
Contact: Andrea Anderson

Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia
98 N. Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
Contact: Philip Pedlikin, President

Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living
4364 Lankford Highway
Exmore, VA 23350
Contact: Althea Pittman, Executive Director

Endependence Center
6300 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23502
Contact: Maureen Hollowell

ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, Inc.
3100 Clarendon Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
Contact: David Burds, Director

The Fairfax County Council of PTAs (FCCPTA)
8115 Gatehouse Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
Contact: Sheree Brown Kaplan, Chair, FCCPTA Special Education Committee

Giraffe Program
529 Ramsey Ridge
Clinchco, VA 24226
Contact: Judy McKinney

Independence Empowerment Center
9001 Digges Road, Suite 103
Manassas, VA 20110
Contact: Mary D. Lopez, Ph.D., Executive Director

Independent Resource Center
815 Cherry Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Contact: Tom Vandever, Executive Director
Junction Center for Independent Living
P.O. Box 1210
Norton, VA 24273
Contact: Dennis Horton, Executive Director

Learning Disabilities Association of Virginia (LDAV)
3914 Monument Avenue
Richmond, VA 23230-3902
Contact: Dr. Jean Lokerson, President

Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living
500 Alleghany Avenue, Suite 520
Lynchburg, VA 24501
Contact: Phil Theisen, Executive Director

Parents in Partnership
18301 Black Hollow Rd.
Abingdon, VA 24210
Contact: Melissa Meade

Peninsula Center for Independent Living Insight Enterprises, Inc
2021 A Cunningham Drive Suite 2
Hampton, VA 23666
Contact: Ralph Shelman, Executive Director

Resources for Independent Living
4009 Fitzhugh Avenue
Richmond, VA 23230
Contact: Sandra Wagener, Executive Director

Tidewater Autism Society of America
6300 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23502
Contact: JoAnna Bryant, President

Valley Associates for Independent Living
205-B South Liberty Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Contact: Marcia DuBois, Executive Director

Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
202 N. 9th Street, 9th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Contact: Heidi Lawyer, Executive Director

Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy
1910 Byrd Avenue, Suite 5
Richmond, VA 23230
Contact person: Julie Kegley, Staff Attorney