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FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD TESTIMONY Melody Rose - Fairfax Alliance for Appropriate Public Education (FAAPE) May

23, 2013 Good evening Mr. Moon and members of the Board. My name is Melody Rose. I am an FCPS special education teacher with 27 years of experience, seven of which I spent working with students in an Alternative Learning Center. I am also a member of the Fairfax Alliance for Appropriate Public Education (FAAPE). Tonight, I am here to address the proposed revision of the SR&R and, in particular, to support the recommendation of the ad hoc discipline committee to create a section on students with disabilities. Clearer guidelines are needed to help schools respond appropriately to the behaviors of students with disabilities who make up approximately 40% of all suspension/expulsion cases before the Hearings Office despite comprising only 14% of the population. The disproportionate discipline of students with disabilities is a complex issue and involves many different factors. Some of these are due to the deficits of an individual child, such as impulsivity, difficulty in weighing choices or academic failure. However, other issues which contribute to this disproportionality lie with factors independent of the child. These include, but are not limited to: a lack of effective IEP services and supports, inappropriate educational placements, poor transition plans, incomplete understanding of the child's disability, and inappropriate expectations. As one step toward dealing with these issues, I ask the Board to approve all of the provisions for the section on students with disabilities that the ad hoc discipline committee recommended. Some of these provisions involve simple changes in procedures. First, adopt the committee's recommendation to require consideration of all factors recommended by the Virginia Department of Education's Guidance on Manifestation Determination. This will promote a more in-depth MDR discussion of a student's disability and its impact on his or her behavior. Second, adopt the committee's recommendation to require the MDR decision and written rationale are made available to the Hearings Officer prior to the proceedings. This ensures that the role of the student's disability in the behavior is known and can be considered at a discipline hearing. Third, adopt the committee's recommendation to establish formal procedures for requesting modifications to restrictions placed by the Hearings Office. This will permit IEP teams to appeal Hearings Office restrictions which could result in a placement that is harmful to the child or interferes with the ability of the student to meet his or her IEP goals. Far too many students with disabilities are suspended and recommended for expulsion when what they really require is improved prevention and intervention approaches. To do that, our schools need more alternatives to suspension as well as measured responses to misbehavior. They also need procedures which consider the unique circumstances of a child with a disability, like those recommended by the ad hoc discipline committee.