This month’s edition of PDX Parent has my feature on Oregon’s radical new program to eliminate suspensions and expulsions from preschools and day cares by 2026.
The Suspension and Expulsion Prevention Program in the soon-to-be-created Oregon Department of Early Learning and Care is gearing up to provide the training, research, supports and funding that early educators will need to stop the practice.
Before the ban on suspensions and expulsions goes into effect, the state plans to conduct three years of training and support to the state’s early childhood care providers. This includes what [Professional Learning System Director Jon] Reeves calls “deep engagement” with 370 providers through the use of early childhood mental health consultants as well as a “warmline” phone consultation service. Suspensions and expulsions will still be allowed prior to 2026, but the licensed child care center will be required to access the help before doing so.
The supports are still taking shape but — in addition to the warmline and consultants — could include referrals; training materials; and even transition planning if the parties mutually agree that a different placement would be more appropriate. (Currently, the state is still coming up with a framework for when families and providers do not agree.)
“The idea behind a transition plan is that the transition decision is made collaboratively, with the support of technical assistance consultants, and that the process is facilitated in a manner that meets the needs of the child, family, and provider,” said Oregon Department of Education spokeswoman Marion Suitor Barnes in a statement.
Suitor Barnes also said that the program is interested in hearing from the community on the coming changes. Between January and June, there will be opportunities for parents to be on advisory committees and submit testimony on different aspects of the program. Trauma Informed Oregon, a group from Portland State University (PSU), will select the advisory committee members. (To hear about these opportunities, sign up for the newsletter at OregonEarlyLearning.com.)
What about children who are never accepted into preschool or day care?
During research last fall on this new program, I asked around in my community for what folks thought about the idea and whether it would have helped when their children were younger. Unfortunately, I heard a lot of bitterness from parents who said their children with complex needs were refused entry to day care and preschool programs. Oregon’s new suspension and expulsion rules don’t cover those cases. I explain more in a sidebar to the article:
However, a child care business refusing service to a child based on their disability is technically already illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The 1990 federal law says that any privately run child care center cannot exclude children with disabilities from their program, unless the child is considered a “direct threat” to the health and safety of others, or their needs would require a “fundamental alteration” of the program.
“Now, clearly the practice may still be occurring,” acknowledges Oregon Department of Education spokeswoman Marion Suitor Barnes, “which speaks to the need for additional training and technical assistance for early care and education providers to ensure they have the confidence and competence to meet the needs of any child who comes to their door.”
One thing I don’t mention in the article is that I worry that such a program might actually make it more likely that day cares and preschools refuse to take a chance on a child with complex medical or behavioral needs because they will be “stuck” with them. We don’t like to think that child care providers could think that way about children. But being on the receiving end of a denial for service based on a lack of potty training, I may be more pessimistic than the folks working hard to give Oregon’s early educators the tools they need to successfully take on those challenges.
Read the full version at PDXParent.com or see copies delivered around the Portland area.
Medical Motherhood’s news round up
Snippets of news and opinion from outlets around the world. Click the links for the full story.
• From the Daily Press (Virginia) via the Union-Bulletin: “Experts say ‘missteps’ were likely in how school addressed special needs of Richneck student”
When first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner was shot by her 6-year-old student in the middle of a lesson on Jan. 6, it left the Newport News community — and the nation — in shock.
In the wake of that shooting at Richneck Elementary, much has been said about the heightened student behavior problems Newport News schools have experienced in the past several years. Teachers and community members have lamented the lack of administrative support in dealing with and disciplining students for disruptive and dangerous behaviors.
But special education advocates across the state say it’s also important to note that the school division likely failed to provide the 6-year-old student the supports and services he needed up to that point.
An attorney for the child’s family said the boy has “an acute disability,” and that, as part of a specialized “care plan,” his parents had been attending school with him every day until the week of the shooting.
[…]“This is a situation where it sounds like the needs of this particular student were so significant, that there probably were potentially some mental health concerns that needed to be addressed,” [special education expert Kevin] Sutherland said. He added that the child likely needed “wraparound” services, which extend beyond the classroom and can include things like counseling and other supports.
He said the whole situation is disheartening.
“I feel sad for the teacher, I feel sad for the child’s classmates that had to see this,” Sutherland said. “And we have to keep in mind, it’s a 6-year-old child. I feel sad for the child and the family, and I hope that something positive comes out of this situation that can help teachers and kids and families in the future to avoid another incident like this.”
• From 12News.com (Arizona): “Families fight to save program helping Arizona kids with disabilities and their parents”
PHOENIX — Valley families are pleading with Arizona leaders to extend a program which empowers them to care for their children with disabilities. The Parents as Paid Caregivers Program is at risk of being shut down. It pays parents to take care of their children with disabilities.
The program started at the beginning of the pandemic when paid providers were hard to find. Involved parents said those same providers are still hard to find now.
[…]“Having the flexibility to be paid to provide the level of care that is approved for by the state in times when caregivers aren’t available really supports us as a family," [parent Brandi] Coon said.
She is part of the Arizona Parents as Paid Caregivers Program. It trains and pays parents to do therapies and other supports with their children, just like a provider. It's at risk of shut down in March of 2024. Coon said that will present a big hardship for her family.
“We would probably be scrambling like most of the families in the state to find a care provider," Coon said. "Prior to the pandemic, care providers were very difficult to find and with the pandemic and the economic situation it’s just gotten harder.”
Jon Meyers is Executive Director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. He's been involved in talks about whether or not this funding can be effective, long-term.
“The overwhelming feeling of parents I’ve interacted with is that the program should be extended and it should be made permanent in Arizona," Meyers said. "That’s not a universal feeling. There are some parents who for various reasons would not be able to continue providing these services to their children.” […]
• From The Jordan Times: “30 inclusive schools to be completed by 2025”
AMMAN, [Jordan] — The Ministry of Education will begin implementing its plan to construct 30 inclusive schools for children with disabilities in 2023, according to Director of the International Buildings and Projects Department at the Ministry of Education Ibrahim Samamah.
The project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), also involves constructing 30 accessible buildings for schools which operate in rented spaces that “don’t provide students with a proper educational environment”, he told Al Mamlaka TV last Wednesday.
There are roughly 770 public schools with rented buildings, in which 127,351 students are enrolled, according to Samamah.
The construction of the first six inclusive schools will begin between February and May of 2023 in Zarqa, Irbid and Amman, he said, adding that persons with disabilities (PWD) will make up 11 per cent of the total number of students in each one.
[…the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD) Spokesperson Rafat] Zitawi also pointed out that the 2015 General Population and Housing Census shows that around 11 per cent of the total population in Jordan aged 5 and above have disabilities.
However, “the overwhelming majority of people with disabilities, 79 per cent, of school age don’t receive any form of education”, he said. […]
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