Special education hearing met with empty room

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The state Department of Education came to Natchez Wednesday to get public reaction to changes in special education policies, but the uproar wasn&8217;t here.

It wasn&8217;t so much a public hearing as it was an empty meeting room at the Eola, but that&8217;s a good thing, state employees said.

The last round of changes to the policies three years ago was a different story, said Paulette White, bureau director for program management and support services. Parents and educators came in crowds to voice concerns over the way their students were educated.

Email newsletter signup

This time the changes are more office-oriented, and more broadly agreed on, White said.

&8220;We got a variety of stakeholders to revise the policies,&8221; she said. &8220;Parents, Institutes of Higher Learning representatives, school superintendents, special education teachers, special education directors, advocates, state employees.

&8220;Each group brings a different perspective.&8221;

So essentially, the fight&8217;s already been fought, she said. The stakeholders worked on revisions to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 since around September. They met monthly and proposed the changes.

Most policy changes are things parents of students with disabilities probably won&8217;t ever notice. One of the biggest changes in recent years that district personnel have to handle is a requirement that 15 percent of disabilities money must go to early intervention &8212; preventing non-special education students from becoming special education students.

The revisions were necessary to comply with the federal rules, but in the end the state&8217;s regulations are stricter than the federal ones, White said.

Other changes include:

4Expanded definitions of disability categories, especially Autism, language and speech and SLD.

4Expanded parental access to records and requests for changes to records.

4Disciplinary information must be transmitted to a receiving district.

4Prohibition of requiring students to be on medication in order to be evaluated or receive needed services.

The Natchez trip was the last in a six-city tour to take the changes to the public. Other public hearings &8212; also scarcely attended &8212; were in Jackson, Oxford, Greenville, Hattiesburg and on the coast.

After the policies are approved the state will move on to procedures, which will be more detailed in how they&8217;ll affect students.

The full IDEIA changes can be viewed on the state&8217;s Web site at