House Bill 787

Appropriates funds to BESE for payment of attorney fees and costs in the matter of “P.B., by and through his next friend, Cassandra Berry, et al. vs. John White, et al.”

Filed By: Rep. Walt LegerE-mail

Abstract:

Appropriates from the state general fund for FY 15-16 to BESE, the sum of $ 700,000 to BESE, to pay the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs as set forth in the consent judgment in the suit entitled “P.B., by and through his next friend, Cassandra Berry, et al. v. John White, et al.”, bearing Number 2:10-cv-04049, Section A, on the docket of the U.S. District Ct., E.D. La.

Position: Oppose

Since both the Orleans Parish School Board and BESE are political subdivisions of the state, the Louisiana Constitution and the Governmental Claims Act protect them from monetary judgments rendered by state courts, unless the Legislature specifically appropriates funds for this purpose.

This appropriation is connected to the settlement reached earlier this year between OPSB, RSD/LDOE, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) stemming from a class action lawsuit SPLC filed charging that RSD and OPSB did not adequately educate children with disabilities in the immediate years after Hurricane Katrina.

While I support the terms of the settlement that ensure that students with special needs are served, I am opposed to paying SPLC’s attorney fees and costs. As I’ve written elsewhere (here and here), SPLC has organized politically-motivated smear campaign against specific charter schools in New Orleans over the past two years. Allowing SPLC to recoup their costs in this settlement only provides them with additional means to continue their attacks on high-performing schools that serve high-needs students. Furthermore, it’s ridiculous that the plaintiffs (most of whom come from low-income families) received $0 in compensatory damages in this settlement, while SPLC (who reported net assets of over $314 million in F.Y. 2013) would reap $700,000. That ain’t justice.

See bill text here

Senate Bill 54

Prohibits suspension or expulsion of students in grades kindergarten through three.

Filed By: Sen. Sharon BroomeE-mail

Abstract:

Present law provides for the discipline of students for disorderly conduct in school, on school playgrounds, while going to and from school, or during intermission or recess.

Present law provides that a teacher may have a student immediately removed from his classroom and placed in the custody of the principal or his designee when:

(1) A student’s behavior prevents the orderly instruction of other students or poses an immediate threat to the safety or physical well-being of any student or teacher.

(2) A student exhibits disrespectful behavior toward the teacher such as using foul or abusive language or gestures directed at or threatening a student or a teacher.

(3) A student violates the school’s code of conduct.

(4) A student exhibits other disruptive, dangerous, or unruly behavior, including inappropriate physical contact, inappropriate verbal conduct, sexual or other harassment, bullying, throwing objects, inciting other students to misbehave, or destroying property.

Present law provides that a pupil in grades kindergarten through six removed from class as provided in present law is not permitted to return to class for at least 30 minutes, unless agreed to by the teacher initiating the disciplinary action. A pupil in grades seven through twelve so removed from class is not permitted to return to class during the same class period, unless agreed to by the teacher.

Present law provides that a pupil so removed from class shall not be readmitted until the principal has recommended one of the following disciplinary measures:

(1) In-school suspension.

(2) Detention.

(3) Suspension.

(4) Initiation of expulsion hearings.

(5) Assignment to an alternative school.

(6) Requiring the completion of all assigned school and homework which would have been assigned and completed by the student during the period of suspension.

(7) Any other disciplinary measure authorized by the principal with the concurrence of the teacher or the building level committee pursuant to law and board policy.

Present law allows a school principal to suspend from school or suspend from riding on any school bus any student who:

(1) Is guilty of willful disobedience.

(2) Treats a teacher, principal, superintendent, member, or employee of the local school board with intentional disrespect.

(3) Makes against any one of them an unfounded charge.

(4) Uses unchaste or profane language.

(5) Is guilty of immoral or vicious practices, or of conduct or habits injurious to his associates.

(6) Uses tobacco or who possesses alcoholic beverages or any controlled dangerous substance governed by the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law, in any form, in school buildings, on school grounds, or on school buses owned by, contracted to, or jointly owned by any city or parish school board.

(7) Disturbs the school and habitually violates any rule.

(8) Cuts, defaces, or injures any part of public school buildings, any property belonging to the buildings, or any school buses owned by, contracted to, or jointly owned by any city or parish school board.

(9) Writes any profane or obscene language or draws obscene pictures in or on any school material or on any public school premises, or on any fence, pole, sidewalk, or building on the way to or from school, or on any school bus, including those owned by, contracted to, or jointly owned by any city or parish school board.

(10) Is found carrying firearms, knives, or other implements which can be used as weapons, the careless use of which might inflict harm or injury.

(11) Throws missiles liable to injure other persons on the school grounds or while on any school bus, including those owned by, contracted to, or jointly owned by any city or parish school board.

(12) Instigates or participates in fights while under school supervision.

(13) Violates traffic and safety regulations.

(14) Leaves the school premises without permission.

(15) Leaves his classroom during class hours or detention without permission.

(16) Is habitually tardy or absent.

(17) Has engaged in bullying.

(18) Commits any other serious offense.

Proposed law retains present law for students in grades four through twelve, but prohibits the suspension or expulsion of a student in grades kindergarten through three from school or suspended from riding on a school bus, unless the student poses a threat to the safety or physical well-being of another person.

Proposed law provides that a student enrolled in grades kindergarten through three who exhibits unacceptable behavior may have such behavior addressed through any of the following measures:

(1) Loss of privileges.

(2) Referral to a school counselor or social worker.

(3) Referral to response to intervention.

Position: Oppose With Caveats

I am a bit conflicted by this bill. On the one hand, I am generally skeptical of any proposal which would prevent educators from taking the disciplinary actions they deem necessary to maintain a orderly learning environment at their individual schools. On the other hand, I don’t consider suspension or expulsion a necessary or effective disciplinary strategy for young children in most cases.

As Sen. Broome noted in an interview in The Advocate, “My bill focuses on trying to keep students in school in that age group, with perhaps some wraparound services.” Part of the problem is that many schools and district lack the funding needed to provide said wraparound services (another reason why I strongly urge lawmakers to approve BESE’s proposed MFP formula). I would support this bill if it was changed to explicitly permit in-school suspensions as an option – otherwise, I believe the bill is too restrictive.

See bill text here

Senate Bill 58

Provides relative to the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights.

Filed By: Sen. Conrad AppelE-mail & Rep. Franklin FoilE-mail

Abstract:

Present law recognizes that children who are deaf or hard of hearing have the same rights and potential to become independent and self-actualizing as children who are not hearing impaired.

Proposed law includes deaf-blind children in such bill of rights and converts the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights from a set of aspirational statements to a set of directives to public schools as follows:

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to appropriate screening and assessment of hearing and vision capabilities and communication and language needs at the earliest possible age and to the continuation of screening services throughout the educational experience.

Proposed law essentially retains present law, but requires public schools to provide such services to children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to early intervention to provide for acquisition of solid language bases developed at the earliest possible age.

Proposed law requires public schools to provide children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind with individualized and appropriate early intervention.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to their parents’ or guardians’ full and informed participation in their educational planning.

Proposed law instead requires public schools to allow the parents or guardians of children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind full participation in their child’s educational planning, including the option to enroll the student at the Louisiana School for the Deaf or the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired. Further provides that if the governing authority of the school in which a child who is deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind is enrolled does not make a request for the child to be enrolled in one of these schools, the child’s parent or legal guardian may request such enrollment.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to adult role models who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Proposed law provides that public schools shall strive to provide children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind opportunities to meet and associate with adult role models who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind to learn advocacy skills, including self advocacy.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to meet and associate with their peers.

Proposed law requires public schools to provide children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind opportunities to meet and associate with their peers in the school environment and during school sponsored activities.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to qualified teachers, interpreters, and resource personnel who communicate effectively with each child in that child’s mode of communication.

Proposed law essentially retains present law, but requires public schools to provide children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind access to such teachers, interpreters, and resource personnel.

Proposed law adds a provision to the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights that requires public schools to include a communication plan in the Individualized Education Program or Individual Accommodation Plan for every student with an exceptionality who has a communication barrier that impedes his educational progress, including deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, nonverbal, or any other communication disorder.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to placement best suited to each child’s individual needs, including but not limited to social, emotional, and cultural needs, with consideration for the child’s age, degree of hearing loss, academic level, mode of communication, style of learning, motivational level, and amount of family support.

Proposed law essentially retains present law, but requires public schools to provide such placement to children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to individual considerations for free, appropriate education across a full spectrum of educational programs.

Proposed law essentially retains present law, but requires public schools to provide such considerations to children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to full support services provided by qualified professionals in their educational settings.

Proposed law retains present law, but requires public schools to provide such services to children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Further requires the state Department of Education to provide technical assistance to support public school governing authorities in meeting the needs of children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to full access to all programs in their educational settings.

Proposed law essentially retains present law, but requires public schools to provide such access to children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Present law provides that deaf and hard-of-hearing children are entitled to have the public fully informed concerning medical, cultural, and linguistic issues of deafness and hearing loss.

Proposed law retains present law, but includes children who are deaf-blind in this entitlement.

Present law provides that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled, where appropriate, to have deaf and hard-of-hearing adults directly involved in determining the extent, content, and purpose of all programs that affect their education.

Proposed law requires public school, where possible, to have deaf and hard-of-hearing adults directly involved in determining the extent, content, and purpose of all programs that affect the education of children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Proposed law requires public school governing authorities to comply with the provisions of proposed law, in accordance with applicable state and federal law, policy, and regulation.

Proposed law specifies that nothing in proposed law shall be construed to create a right of action not currently provided for in state or federal law or regulation on behalf of an individual student or a class of students for the failure of a particular public school or public school governing authority to comply with any provision of proposed law or to prevent the parent or legal guardian of a student from filing a complaint as provided in applicable state or federal law or regulation.

Proposed law provides that charter schools are subject to the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights.

Position: Support

As it says above, this bill “converts the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights from a set of aspirational statements to a set of directives to public schools.” The directives outlined above will ensure that all hearing impaired children have the supports necessary to fully participate in their education.

See bill text here