Nashville Tennessean on IDEA Reauthorization
Changes to the nation's special-education law will require schools to do more to find and educate kids with a disability. It also relaxes some of the rules so educators can spend more time in class and less time on meetings and paperwork.
But some parents are worried that their rights — and the rights of children with disabilities — are quietly being eroded after years of struggle to beef them up.
''It's been an uphill battle her whole life,'' said Brenda Tate, a Cheatham County parent who has found herself at odds with public schools over how to best educate her daughter, Alison, 18, who has Down syndrome. ''It's just been a struggle.''
Parents may have reason to be concerned. The updated version of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which kicks in July 1, makes it tougher for them to file complaints if they don't like the way their child is being educated, gives kids with disabilities less of a break when it comes to discipline infractions, and relaxes a rule that makes it mandatory for every person involved in their child's education to meet face-to-face at least once a year.
The latest version of the law, which has been revised multiple times since it was created 30 years ago, also is garnering much praise from parents, teachers and school administrators because it reduces the amount of paperwork for teachers, strengthens the push for students with special needs to be included in regular classes whenever possible, and forces schools to step up the search for homeless and foster children who may need services.