Monday, August 31, 2009

Schools Win Stay in Special Education Case

NEA reports that 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has granted Milwaukee Public Schools a stay on US District Court Magistrate Judge Aaron Goodstein’s June 9th ruling requiring Milwaukee Public Schools to identify all students who may be eligible for special education services from September 2000 to June 2005. The schools had appealed the ruling as “too broad and too costly to implement”.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (8/28, Richards) says the most recent action is “hitting the pause button on the case." Now the schools and Disability Rights Wisconsin will argue their positions in front of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in a series of written briefs and, most likely, oral arguments.

Milwaukee Judge Orders Compensatory Special Education
MPS Wins Reprieve in Special Education Lawsuit

Ted Kennedy- Congressional Champion for Persons with Disabilities


On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the consummate Congressional champion of children and adults with disabilities, passed away. Known to many as the Liberal Lion of the Senate, no one was more sincere about crossing the political aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship than Senator Kennedy. President Obama called Senator Kennedy "Not only one of the greatest Senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans to ever serve democracy. " One of his closest friends, Senator Orrin Hatch (R.UT.) said of his Congressional colleague, "Today, America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant and a leader in the Senate, and I lost a treasured friend." Former First Lady Nancy Reagan called Senator Kennedy "a dear friend." Senator John McCain (R.AZ.) said of Senator Kennedy: "He always kept his word, and that is far less common around here than a lot of people think." "We just sat down together and worked out a proposal. He didn't start it; I didn't start it. We just sat down and said OK, here's what we want to achieve -- what do we have to do?"

Forever at the forefront of the discussion and debate on ensuring the civil rights of children and adults with disabilities, Senator Kennedy forged partnerships with everyone he could in the Capitol and in our great country to ensure those rights were appreciated, respected and resulted in policies and legislation that were both bipartisan and benefited those who most needed representation in Congress -- children and adults with disabilities.

When the Congress began discussions on the great civil rights law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Senator Kennedy and others, many of whom were inspired by the Senator, shepherded IDEA through the Senate. During the discussions on a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for all, Senator Kennedy, once again, was at the forefront of the debate. During sometimes spirited discussions on whom should comprise the IEP team, including the general education teacher, Senator Kennedy was there providing gifted guidance on the importance of diverse membership in this singularly important process for determining a student's progression.

When some balked at the thought of an inclusive classroom for children and young adults with disabilities, Senator Kennedy and others made the case with and on behalf of parents and students with disabilities in both the Capitol and in our country that students with disabilities had the RIGHT to be educated with their non-disabled peers. When it became increasingly apparent that the greatest country in the world -- the United States of America -- did not have an infrastructure that was accessible to all Americans -- Senator Kennedy and many others began a bipartisan journey that was to result in one of the greatest pieces of legislation to ever emerge from the Congress: The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Senator Kennedy has always been there for children and adults with disabilities. While his presence will be missed, the spirit of his memorable mission of equality, dignity and respect for all individuals with disabilities will forever remain.

Patricia Leahy
Director of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy
National Rehabilitation Association
633 South Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
NRA Office - 703-836-0850
NRA Fax - 703-836-0848
TDD - 703-836-0849
E-mail -
NRA Website -

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sailors with Disabilities Compete in Connecticut

The Riverside Yacht Club in Riverside, Greenwich hosts the 2009 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship September 10th through 13th. The event is part of US Sailing’s National Championship series, and a qualifying event for the Paralympic Games. The U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship regatta is the only national championship for sailors with disabilities and attracts the nation’s top sailors from around the United States and Canada.

Four classes compete this year-- the 2.4 meter, Skud 18, Ideal 18, and Sonars. The event attracts several national sponsors, including Rolex Watch U.S.A., Dry Creek Vineyard and More information on the event is available at: For information about US Sailing, visit

Monday, August 17, 2009

DI Wins TRA Wallace Bennett Journalism Award


Today, Disability Intel won the Texas Rehabilitation Association's Wallace Bennett Award for Excellence in Journalism related to people with disabilities. Thank you readers and bloggers for supporting DI!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Disability "Fight Club" Perpetrator Convicted

TEXAS-- This week, a jury found Jesse Salazar, age 25 of intentionally causing injury to person with disability for hi role in a “Fight Club” formed at a Corpus Christi, Texas state school. Salazar and others forced State school residents to fight each other while recording the fights on their cell phones. The “Fight Club” continued unreported for a year.

A total of six state school employees, all of whom have since been fired, are charged in the case. Two former employees, Vincent Johnson and D'Angelo Riley pled guilty to causing injury to persons with disabilities, and another employee goes on trial next week for failing to intervene.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) is responsible for overseeing the Corpus Christi State School and other state run schools. DADS has been under fire and under investigation are number of instances of abuse and neglect in the state school system. Laura Albrecht, spokesperson DADS says, "We have taken the appropriate action to send a message to Corpus Christi and the other facilities that abuse and neglect of residents will not be tolerated."

'Fight Club' Perpetrator Convicted of Injuring Mentally Disabled State Residents
1st trial to start in Texas `fight club' case

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Special Olympics Founder Dies

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, died today at age 88. The Special Olympics, today an organization that includes more than 2.5 million participants in 150 countries, began in 1961 as a summer day camp for children with intellectual disabilities at Shriver’s family farm in Maryland. Special Olympics held its first official event in 1968 in Chicago.

Shriver’s legacy in the area of advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities includes her creation of the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development and the President's Committee on Mental Retardation, both created during her brother John F. Kennedy’s presidency. The federal funds attached to these endeavors resulted in significant research and educational programming in the field.

President Obama released a statement saying Shriver was “an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation -- and our world -- that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit."

For a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, please visit: or
"It is my deepest hope that the world can begin to look at our friends with special needs and, for once, tell them, 'Yes, you do belong; yes, you are wonderful; yes, you can be a shining light of hope for the world!"— Eunice Kennedy Shriver

“Remembering Eunice Shriver: Life and Times, Special Olympics”
“Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics founder and sister of JFK, dies at 88”,0,4627914.story

Kids with Disabilities Disproportionately Punished

Schools disproportionately use corporal punishment with students with disabilities, according to a joint report from Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union titled, "Impairing Education". According to the report, public schools used corporal punishment with about 19% of public school students with disabilities during the 2006-2007 academic year, although these students make up only 14% of the total population.

Although some instances of corporal punishment were unrelated to the child’s disability, the report found that some schools punished some students for “conduct related to their disabilities, including students with Tourette syndrome being punished for exhibiting involuntary tics and students with autism being punished for repetitive behaviors”, according to the ACLU website.

Although most states have laws prohibiting corporal punishment in schools, 20 states permit it, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. However, some school districts in these states do ban corporal punishment.

Community and individual reactions to proposed bans vary widely, from full support to support for continued use of physical punishment. It is likely that personal experiences and fears about school violence play a role in the varied perspectives. Clearly with or without bans, school personnel need more training in anger management, behavior modification, about disabilities, and the symptoms of various medical conditions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Action on Seclusion and Restraint Abuses

Congressman George Miller, Chairman:

Secretary Duncan Takes Critical Step to Keep Schoolchildren Safe
Chairman Miller is developing legislation to address seclusion and restraint in nation’s schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to state school chiefs asking them to formally submit their policies on seclusion and restraint in schools, as part of larger efforts to prevent abusive uses of these practices in the nation’s classrooms.

A recent Government Accountability Office [investigation], conducted at the request of U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, uncovered hundreds of allegations of abusive uses of seclusion and restraint practices on schoolchildren over the past two decades. In several of those cases, this abuse resulted in the death of a child.

“Secretary Duncan is committed to ensuring all children, in every single school in this country, is safe and protected,” said Miller, who is working to develop legislation that would address seclusion and restraint in U.S. schools. “We need to do everything we can to protect schoolchildren from abusive, torturous, and – in some cases – deadly uses of seclusion and restraint and to stop these horrific abuses from going unchecked."

Unlike in hospitals, other health care facilities and non-medical community-based facilities that receive federal funding, there are currently no federal laws that restrict the use of seclusion and restraint in public or private schools. State regulation and oversight varies greatly. Nineteen states have no laws governing the appropriate use of seclusion or restraint in schools.




Monday, August 3, 2009

Multiple Factors Increase SSA Disability Claims

WASHINGTON, DC— Multiple factors, including the ongoing economic recession and the growing number of baby boomers who are aging and acquiring disabilities, drive a surge in Social Security disability claim applications. The Center for Active Seniors reports an up tick in inquiries from 50 to 60-year-old workers who are reaching retirement, been injured at work, and who have been laid off without health insurance.

SSA estimates it will receive 3.3 million new disability claims in the next 12 months. But will SSA be able to handle the new cases while still dealing with the unprecedented number of backlogged cases? Some officials and pundits think not, especially since California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, and Wisconsin have initiated furloughs of employees responsible for processing initial disability claims.

In the last six months, the number of people waiting to have their claim processed rose to just under 750, 000. The trend “…isn’t good”, says SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue. According to the Associated Press, The disability program has been the fastest rising part of Social Security, with spending on disability benefits growing at almost twice the rate of spending on retirement benefits.”

Social Security Claims Surge during Recession Social Security Disability Claims on the Rise
Long Disability Backlog Getting Worse
Boomers Push up Disability Claims
The Social Security Administration

Milestones for Disability Intel

Disability Intel passed several important milestones recently-- DI is now ONE YEAR OLD, EXCEEDED 100 POSTS, and SHARED OVER 1000 USER COMMENTS! Thanks to all DI readers, fellow bloggers, and the rehab and disability communities!