Disabled Private, Public School Pupils will Receive needed Accommodations
The Oakland Press
By Jerry Wolffe
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The director of special education for Oakland Schools says students with disabilities in both public and private schools will continue to receive accommodations as required under federal law.
Director of Special Education for Oakland Schools Kathy Barker said there has been no change in the district’s policy regarding accommodations to disabled students.
Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, school districts are required to provide assistive technology or accommodations to students with disabilities.
There was concern from some parents of disabled students in private schools that their child might not receive needed accommodations next year.
Some said they feared that accommodations may not be provided as required to private or home-school students because of sharply dropping revenue as a result of falling property taxes.
Barker said she wanted to assure parents of disabled students in both public and private school systems that there has been no policy change and “assistive technology” is not going to be pulled when the 2011-2012 school year begins in September.
In Oakland County’s 28 school districts there are about 24,000 students with disabilities.
The Oakland Schools District provides accommodations as needed under Individualized Education Programs — which are revised yearly — for students in public schools and through service plans for disabled students attending parochial or private schools or who are home-schooled.
“Assistive technology for students in nonpublic schools is determined by a service plan that is developed by the nonpublic (school), parents and local school districts,” said Barker, who came to Oakland Schools after being Director of Special Education for the Grand Rapids School System.
“If that service plan for a student with a low-incidence disability includes assistive technology equipment, the local school district is able to request it from the Oakland Intermediate School District.
“The ISD will support that district by providing such,” she said in reference to accommodations.
However, under federal and state law if a disabled student is enrolled in a private school that student is not entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, she said. It could mean that the geographical district, not the Oakland Intermediate School District, would have to pick up some of the cost of an accommodation.
The Rehabilitation Act was designed to protect the rights of individuals in school programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.
When a student is “parentally placed” in a private or parochial school, the entitlement changes from being on an individual basis to a group entitlement, Barker said.
Generally, a disabled student can receive a needed accommodation more readily from a public school than a private school.
Oakland Schools will continue to provide assistive technology to disabled students in private schools as outlined in service plans, Barker said.
Public school students qualifying as needing special education services under IDEA are provided with what is determined in the IEP process, she said.
“Parents of students in nonpublic schools need to understand that there is a different type of entitlement within that setting; if there is a service plan that determines accommodations will be provided, then the local district will do so,” Barker said.
“So, therefore, the status quo is unchanged and parents of private school disabled students need not worry their children will lose accommodations they have or may need,” she said.
Attorney Richard Bernstein of Farmington Hills has been monitoring the situation since one private school student, Sean Vailliencourt of Guardian Angel Catholic School in Clawson, was denied large-print textbooks.
Sean, who is visually impaired, received the large-print textbooks after Oakland Schools consulted with a Birmingham attorney and determined the student was legally entitled to the large-print textbooks. Oakland Schools provided them as soon as possible.
“We are pleased that Oakland Schools has revisited its position and has agreed to provide the legally required necessary accommodations to all disabled students,” Bernstein said.
Jerry Wolffe can be reached at 248-745-4612, follow him on Twitter @JerryWolffe1 or on Facebook as Jerry Wolffe.