Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why special needs families stay in fight mode. | Support for Special Needs

Why special needs families stay in fight mode. | Support for Special Needs

In a recent story, a private club with a swimming pool will not allow a child with autism to use a floatation vest causing, obviously, the family not to join the club. Officials at the club say they don’t allow anyone to use floatation devices of any kind, and “if an exception was made for one, an exception would have to be made for all, and that was not possible.” Why is it hard for the pool board to say yes to this family and no to others who many complain?
Every. Single. Day. There is a reminder of how families with a child (or more) with differences has to fight and sometimes for the simplest of things, like the right to attend events and the right to live in the community and productive.
During the time that my kids were at their local public school they were really sick. My son was on hemodialysis (at the hospital three days a week) and they both had kidney transplants at age eight. They were out for recoveries from multiple surgeries, procedures and illnesses connected to their health condition. Many times I had to run in and get the kids right before the end of the day. Technically I should have picked them up 45 minutes before dismissal. But because they also wanted the kids to be able to be in school as much as possible given their delays (and I wanted to be at work as much as possible), they let me pick them up right before dismissal, sometimes by just a few minutes. Seeing me approach the door, the staff in the front office often called for the kids before I opened the office door. They made an exception. Because it was best for the kids and for the family. I’m nothing special, they would have done it for any family in our situation.
Exceptions sometimes need to be made. We’re a world of different people and different situations and some people need exceptions.
We need extra time to arrive and leave and sometimes we need extra space. We need patience and understanding by people in front of us, behind us, next to us. We need a little bit of a break with things that make life easier like a better parking space, a fast lane at the E.R., a frequent flyer program at our pharmacy. We sometimes enjoy the perks of an attraction open just for us (free!) to help with the crowds making it the only way we could/would attend. We need people to help clean up the aisle in the store and not give us “the look” when our day falls apart (sometimes a lot of days in a row). We need the exception of floaties and harnesses without judgement, we need to help our kids by keeping them in strollers past the “acceptable” age. We appreciate the financial breaks we get and it makes it possible for us to do other things like donate to causes or to buy equipment our kids need to function at school and home. We need people to accept our kids and work with us to help build friendships and social skills.
We need exceptions all the time.
I think people wonder why special needs parents stay in fighting mode. It’s because if we let our guard down even for a day, we miss something. Sometimes it’s something big. Or something as simple as our family getting to swim together in a community pool with our son safer by use of a floating vest. Our “fighting” isn’t fighting as much as it is just doing what we do. Or doing what we have to do.
To me, this kind of “fighting” doesn’t even feel like fighting at all. It feels normal.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Stark Similarities Between Fox C-6 and Lee's Summit R-7 School Districts!

Fox C-6 Watchdogs: Stark Similarities Between Fox C-6 and Lee's Summit R-7 School Districts!

Stark Similarities Between Fox C-6 and Lee's Summit R-7 School Districts!
I received an email today from a parent in Lee's Summit, Missouri. They found my blog and wanted to discuss with me the similarities between their school district and Fox C-6. Their email said that they already sent information from my blog to the Assistant Attorney General to provide comparison information.

Here is the list of similarities sent to me by a parent in the Lee's Summit R-7 school district.

Similarities Between Fox C-6 and Lee's Summit R-7:
  • OCR Resolution Agreement for Not Following Civil Rights Laws
  • Cease and Desist Orders Against People Who Question District Actions
  • Board Meetings Not Videotaped and Available For Broadcast
  • Violations of Board Policies, Federal, State and Local Laws
  • Questionable Use of Taxpayers' Funds
  • Educator Certification Issues
  • Failure By Board To Respond To Patrons' Concerns
  • Retaliation Against Anyone Who Questions The Board and Their Actions
  • Superintendent Does Not Want Community To Know About Resolution Agreement With OCR.
  • Taxpayer Dollars Used To Pay Attorneys to Fight Against Lawsuits When If They Followed The Laws, The Money Could Be Spent On The Education Of District Students
  • DESE Passes The Buck Back To Parents To Complain To Board and Nothing Gets Corrected On Behalf of Students
  • Community Only Reads All Of The District Generated Positive Public Relations Articles
  • District Boasts of Awards They Have Received (Questionable Data To Back Up These Awards.  Would An Award Even Be Justified If The Recipient Stated Up Front That They Are Being Monitored By the Department  of Education Office For Civil Rights For Non-Compliance Of Civil Rights Laws?)

After I read their list of similarities, I had to laugh because of how similar the problems are in Lee's Summit R-7 compared to Fox C-6. You can see that there are quite a few.
They stated in their email that there are many more.

First, you have to understand that many of the school districts in our state are represented by only a few law firms. Many of the attorneys in these firms have worked with or for the same firms before splitting or starting their own firms. Therefore, the same strategies and tactics are employed by nearly all of the districts in the state on legal issues. Plus, there are quite a few books out there as well on dealing with the media as a school district superintendent with useful tips on what and what not to do. It's all about controlling the image and perception of your school district. It's the superintendent's job to make their district look good.

For several years now I have known about issues in other school districts in our state as I researched the issues going on in the Fox district. But, seeing a list from another parent on the other side of the state proves that we have some serious problems with MO DESE and with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (ED OCR) in Kansas City, Missouri. 

U.S. Department of Justice Gets Involved
In speaking recently with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), I learned that the DOJ now has the ability to initiate their own independent investigations when ED OCR refuses to do so. Of course it helped that the USDA OCR Office asked the DOJ for assistance in getting Fox C-6 to comply with the USDA's August 2011 Final Agency Decision. The August 2011 USDA Final Agency Decision found both the Fox C-6 School District and MO DESE non-compliant with Section 504 and the ADA. So, in their efforts to bring the district into compliance if MO DESE doesn't do their job, the DOJ has been asking for documentation for their their case against the school district. We are quite happy to supply them with the information we have. I also asked the DOJ about handling retaliation since that is directly written into the laws and they do cover that as well.

For example, there has been a lot of online libelous and defamatory attacks made against citizens who voice their concerns about our school district in online forums. And, what I find interesting about some of the comments made by these anonymous posters is that they seem to have access to information that only our top administrators would know about like when cease and desist letters were sent out and how someone made a reference about something happening before they were even sent. Could it be a coincidence that these "anonymous" people have access to this information or are they just school supporters guessing? But it's quite obvious that a few people in our school district don't like some of the questions posed at school board meetings by a few citizens in our community.

It's kind of humorous that the Character Education Trait of the month for June at Fox is Perseverance. That's the word that will hopefully be remembered by our school administrators and school board members as to how change is invoked in our community. I have been thanked by many teachers and staff for my efforts on calling out our school district's administration and school board. There are a few others in our community that are not afraid to speak out. They should be thanked as well. Hopefully in the end all of this effort will bring about a positive change within our school district.
It appears that Lee's Summit R-7 has a Resolution Agreement with ED OCR similar to Fox. However, Fox is also still undergoing a District Wide Compliance Review that Lee's Summit has not had yet. Fox's District Wide Compliance Review was initiated in March 2010 by ED OCR and it is still open as well according to a recent Freedom of Information Act request stating that ED OCR couldn't provide any information because the investigation was still ongoing.

I am hoping that providing this information and more to the U.S Department of Justice regarding problems with school districts in our state will lead to changes at MO DESE and ED OCR. ED OCR has allowed Fox C-6 to get by with doing practically nothing towards fulfilling the Resolution Agreement signed by the district in May 2009. You must be wondering why our school board hasn't done something to make sure Fox complies with Federal laws.

USDA Works Towards Enforcement
USDA OCR has been aware of problems in our state since 2008. In fact, in 2008 the USDA specifically came to Missouri to retrain districts after the USDA watched a video presented by attorneys at their annual school law seminar. Fox C-6 did not attend the training. The training was presented to the Food Nutrition Directors in our state. Maybe that's why our former Food Nutrition Director retired. Our district has a new Food Nutrition Services Director who is the daughter in law of one of our school board members. Our new Food Nutrition Director has been given two years to get her degree and certification to do her job since she only had a high school diploma when she was hired into the position with a salary of $65,000. I'm still wondering why Fox refused to meet with the USDA in March 2013 when the USDA came to do a Compliance Review of our district. But, then that was after the August 2012 meetings with the USDA when the district refused to comply with the USDA's Final Agency Decision.

Why would the USDA be more intent on compliance enforcement than ED OCR? I believe it could have something to do with the fact that the USDA's Regional Office is located in Colorado. In contrast, ED OCR's Regional Office is located in Kansas City, Missouri. The Director of the Kansas City ED OCR Office is Angela Bennet. Mrs. Bennet was an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Missouri. William (Bill) Dittmeier is the Chief Attorney for the KC ED OCR Office. Mr. Dittmeier was an attorney that represented the Kansas City School District for years before working at the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

Failings of the Kansas City ED OCR Office
Our experience with the Kansas City ED OCR Office has been quite similar to many others in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The KC ED OCR office has many investigations that have been open since 2009. Making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the KC ED OCR Office are supposed to be handled within 20 days. Some requests have required multiple requests and have taken more than 6 months to get a response from this office. A quick search for Bill Dittmeier and Angela Bennet returned a link to the following document from the KC ED OCR office sent to a parent in Oklahoma. It's just another example of what has been happening in this ED OCR Office.

We contacted and voiced our concerns with Randolph Wills the U.S. Department of Education Enforcement Director regarding the Kansas City ED OCR Office a couple of years ago. Mr. Wills is the regional Director that oversees the Kansas City ED OCR Office. Mr. Wills responded a couple of years ago when I first contacted him. He informed me that he would look into our concerns and get back with us. Mr. Wills never got back with me and has not returned phone calls or emails left or sent to him since then. Not responding to concerns seems to be the same tactic taken by many school districts in our state take as well. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt's office even attempted to contact the Kansas City ED OCR Office and experienced similar problems. So this is not an isolated incident.

Since the USDA OCR office is not located in Missouri, there seems to be more enforcement efforts as opposed to ED OCR. ED OCR has allowed cases to remain open for years. Once they have a case go into monitoring ED OCR occasionally sends out monitoring letters to let the district know they still have or haven't complied with their Resolution Agreement. Sometimes it may be more than a year between monitoring letter updates.

The question we have sent KC ED OCR several times is, how many years does ED OCR allow a district to fail in fulfilling a Resolution Agreement before they move to enforcement or opening an investigation?

KC ED OCR responds with a standard letter stating that they will let you know when they plan to send out their next monitoring letter. For example, ED OCR informed us last year that they would be sending out a monitoring letter to Fox C-6 in August 2012. When that letter wasn't sent, they informed us it would be sent in November 2012. Then we were informed it would be sent in January 2013. Then we were told it would be March or April of 2013. ED OCR finally sent the monitoring letter on April 25, 2013. This was after the original April date that we were given. Do you see a pattern or problem here with this office?

Not Just A Statewide Problem
It's very disappointing to know that there are other school districts in our state that are doing the same thing as Fox C-6. It is also very disappointing to know that there are problems in other states that are covered by the Kansas City ED OCR Office as well. When asking ED OCR several times to engage the U.S. Department of Justice since it is documented in their Case Processing Manual that they will do so when a school district does not comply, ED OCR informed us that they weren't going to do so. ED OCR said the district had not indicated that they weren't going to comply. One would think that after 4 years of not complying with the Resolution Agreement and being given numerous updated deadlines, that ED OCR would recognize the fact that the Fox C-6 has no intentions of complying.

Now that the DOJ has informed us that regulations have been updated to allow them to initiate their own investigation independent of ED OCR, perhaps we will see improvements in our state and in the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

Kan. Gov. to sign anti-bullying bill named for KC student |

Kan. Gov. to sign anti-bullying bill named for KC student |

If only we could find legislators in Missouri that would be willing to take this stand. Bullying by school district personnel is far more damaging than bullying by peers.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will sign an anti-bull...ying bill into law Friday morning. The bill, named for Shawnee student Loren Wendelburg, strengthens the anti-bullying statue by protecting students from being bullied by school personnel.

Wendelburg’s parents said five years ago when their son, who is autistic, was a 5th grader at Rising Star Elementary School, he was verbally and physically abused by a teacher.

Wendelburg testified before the house education committee in February, saying, “I had nightmares because I worried about going back to school and the teacher harming me.” He also said he was afraid to say anything because he thought it was so unbelievable for a teacher to treat a student so poorly.

Wendelburg’s parents said the teacher continued teaching at the school without consequences, so they pulled him out and home schooled him.

Wendelburg, now 15 years old, will be on hand in Topeka with the governor as he signs the bill. His parents say they hope it will prevent any further students from being bullied by school personnel.

Kansas family seeks law against teachers who bully kids | Local News - KMBC Home

Kansas family seeks law against teachers who bully kids | Local News - KMBC Home

I wish that my Representative would do something like this. It will never happen.

SHAWNEE, Kan. —A Johnson County family is pushing for a new Kansas law that would make it illegal for a teacher to bully a student.
Loren Wendelburg, 14, said that when he was 10 years old and a fifth-grade student at Rising Star Elementary School, he had a teacher who would single him out in the cruelest way.
"She grabbed me by the wrist, took me in the hall and yelled and screamed that I would never amount to anything," he said. He said he remembered other incidents at the school that year.
His mother, Lisa Wendelburg, said she found out about the problem that had been going on for months from another parent.
"We knew something was wrong because he complained about not wanting to go to school," she said.
She said until the incidents started, her son liked going to school. Loren's grades never suffered, but he still has strong feelings about the teacher.
"I would like if she would get fired," he said. "Because what she did was awful and wrong."
A child abuse investigation ruled that the claim was unsubstantiated, but the report said some of the teacher's actions "inflicted emotional injury."
Loren is now homeschooled and shows talent as an artist and puppeteer. His family is pushing for Kansas to change its school bullying law.
The family is supporting a bill in the House Education Committee that would make it illegal for a teacher to bully students.

Read more:

School custodian spurs redesign of autism classroom in Lambertville |

School custodian spurs redesign of autism classroom in Lambertville |

Lambertville Public School’s autism students return for the summer session next week to find new lighting, the walls painted dark blue and other changes in their classroom.
Change is typically difficult for children on the autism spectrum, but these are designed to lessen distractions and boost learning.
The impetus for the changes came from custodian Jeff Munsey after he saw how upset one autistic girl became last December when a light in the classroom had gone out.
Munsey resolved to make the classroom a better learning space for the children. He set about learning all he could about autistic children, what makes them tick and what sends them off kilter. Then he began finding businesses and individuals to donate materials, time and money to get the work done.
On June 17, the school board gave Munsey permission to paint the room, replace fluorescent fixtures with LED lights, install a window air conditioner to move the compressor noise outside, and hang window shades.
The idea was to “sanitize the room of any distractions,” Munsey said today, June 27. “It took me six months to get the ducks lined up."
This morning, Munsey and a half dozen volunteers began spreading dark blue paint on the walls with supplies donated by Niece Lumber. By the time the children return next week, the lights, shades and air conditioner will be installed, donated or paid for by others, including Home Depot and the Lambertville-New Hope Kiwanis.
“His initiative was just incredible,” said Superintendent Michael Kozaks while wielding a paint brush.
Much of what Munsey learned came from conversations with Gary Weitzen, executive director of Parents of Autistic Children; Suzanne Buchanan, director of Autism New Jersey; and Jonathan Saben, director of the state Office of Autism.
Autistic children’s senses are heightened, Weitzen said in a telephone interview today. “They are assaulted by (common) sounds and smells and sights.” For children with autism trying to learn, Weitzen said, the hum of fluorescent lights is like a loud buzzing in the ear.
“This sets them up for success the rest of their lives."
Reducing sensory distractions allows the students to give their full attention to instruction, Weitzen said. LED lights don’t flicker and they don’t hum. Dark blue is calming. Moving the indoor air conditioner compressor outdoors removes the “loud jolt” the students experience when it kicks on or shuts down. Adding shades to the windows enables the teacher to reduce outside distractions such as a ground hog or someone mowing the lawn, Munsey said.
Arielle Staubs, who teaches the four third- and fourth-graders in the class, is convinced the changes will make a tremendous difference.
Last summer, the class was taught in a yellow room at the front of the building, she said. There was the general hubbub of being in the middle of things and delivery truck noise from the street.
When the class moved into its present room it was already a light blue. But even that had a dramatic impact, Staubs said.
“The overall calming effect was huge,” she said.
Other New Jersey schools may have designed new classrooms to meet the needs of autistic students, said Weitzen, who called POAC, “the largest provider of autistic education in the state.” But this is the first time a district has made physical changes to an existing classroom to make it better for the students, he said. “I would have heard about it."
Moreover, he said, to have the initiative come from the custodian and to have everybody involved, “It’s incredible. That’s a district I’d want my son to be in.”
Munsey knows no child with autism outside of those in Staubs’ class, he said, nor does he know any family with an autistic child, but he's adamant about giving them a fair chance to learn.
“This sets them up for success the rest of their lives,” he said.

Palo Alto Online - Town Square Topic

Palo Alto Online - Town Square Topic

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

“Not Curious” posts "Oh and there also happens to be NO section of the Brown Act numbered "54956.9(b)(3)(B)."

The section of the Brown Act cited by Curious was amended by AB1344 effective 2012. As to the section in question, only the numbering was changed. The text is the same. So while “Not Curious” is correct that the numbering of Curious reflects the old numbering, you are quite exercised about a distinction without a difference. One thing beginning lawyers need to learn is when to press a point and when not to. When you press a point that is tangential or unimportant like paragraph numbering you lose credibility.

Substantively, both before and after the renumbering, this section provides exactly what Curious says. An agency can meet in closed session to receive advice of counsel on “anticipated litigation” when in the opinion of the board based on the advice of its lawyer there is a "significant exposure" to litigation based on existing facts and circumstances. Those facts and circumstances must be stated either in the agenda or orally prior to the closed session.

Merely listing the OCR complaint numbers (what currently appears on the agenda) is insufficient to meet this requirement. OCR case numbers are not "facts and circumstances." A list of OCR complaint numbers for which the underlying facts are not public does not constitute disclosing to the public those facts.

Not Curious next writes:

"First, ever considered that perhaps our school district has been sued."

This question, while snarky, is revealing. The board appears to have attempted to use the "safe harbor" noticing provision of 54954.5, in which the legislature provides a method of labeling agenda items for closed meetings that if used correctly would satisfy the Brown Act. As clearly stated in the "safe harbor" provision, in order to use the "existing litigation" descriptor, there must be the formal filing of litigation to which the board is a party, pursuant to Section 54956.9(d)(1). An OCR complaint is not even a proceeding before an adjudicatory body, let alone an actual formal lawsuit. See: 54956.9(d)(1).

I think where Curious might be mistaken is where he/she states that he/she thinks that the board made an honest mistake in using the “existing litigation” exception rather than the “anticipated litigation” exception. I think that a careful look at what they have done shows that they believe that they are already in "existing litigation" with OCR. This view is bolstered by the posting of "Not Curious" who sounds very much in tone and knowledge like one of our board members, who styles herself a “legal expert.” This use of the “existing litigation” exception is flatly incorrect under the statute.

The law provides that "For purposes of this section, "litigation" includes any adjudicatory proceeding, including eminent domain, before a court, administrative body exercising its adjudicatory authority, hearing officer, or arbitrator."

OCR is none of the above. OCR cannot even take the district to court under its legal mandate (one reason that many districts, apparently including PAUSD, have historically viewed its dictates and Resolution Agreements as irrelevant and not necessary to follow). OCR is not exercising "adjudicatory" authority when it investigates complaints. OCR conducts investigations and can initiate administrative proceedings to remove federal funding or refer a case to the DOJ for litigation.

Neither of those things has happened in any of the 4 OCR cases under investigation and they are not realistically anticipated to happen in these cases. Indeed, investigations have not even been completed in 2 of them. In the other 2 Resolution Agreements have been entered into voluntarily by PAUSD and no adjudication took place by anyone. The OCR Case Processing Manual, Article IV states that administrative processings (something adjudicatory) can only happen “if OCR is unable to negotiate a settlement with the Recipient.” See: Web Link

Even Laurie Reynolds, the district's lawyer, admitted in her presentation to the board on February 26 that the process was not adjudicatory in nature. Indeed, she made much of this fact. She cannot now claim that it is "litigation." Thus, there is no "existing litigation" under the Brown Act. The notice by the board is deficient in nature and must be amended.

The correct way to notice the meeting is, as Curious suggests, to use the safe harbor for "anticipated litigation" under Section 54954.5, which is to be used when there is:

"Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to paragraph (2) or(3) of subdivision (d) of Section 54956.9: (Specify number of potential cases)”

"(In addition to the information noticed above, the agency may be required to provide additional information on the agenda or in an oral statement prior to the closed session pursuant to paragraphs (2) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (e) of Section 54956.9.)"

The additional information referred to in this part of the statute is the “facts and circumstances” that must be disclosed to the public under 54956.9(e)(2).

"Not Curious," you state that the "facts and circumstances" requirement of 54956.9(e)(2) [formerly 54956.9(b)(3)(B)] "says nothing about disclosing facts publicly." You are also flatly wrong about that, a conclusion that will surprise no readers who have slogged along and made it to this point. The statute provides that the agency may hold a closed meeting under 54956.9(d)(2) when "a point has been reached where, in the opinion of the legislative body of the local agency on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency."

"Facts and circumstances" are in turn defined in 54956.9(e)(2) which provides that if the facts are known to the plaintiff (which in this case they obviously would be) then the facts and circumstances must be disclosed to the public either on the agenda or in a public announcement prior to the start of the closed meeting. See Cal. Gov. Code Section 54956.9(e)(2)(2012)("Facts and circumstances . . . that might result in litigation against the agency and that are known to a potential plaintiff or plaintiffs, ***which facts or circumstances shall be publicly stated on the agenda or announced."***)

"Not Curious" I have read your posts before. You write with great contempt for the public and also great confidence despite the fact that your posts are almost always entirely incorrect and filled with misinformation. Please educate yourself before you spread further misinformation and try to limit yourself to writing about matters within your scope of knowledge. It is damaging to the public to mislead it this way and it requires a great deal of my time to correct your work.

For more information see pages 21-24:




This argument is not the point. Dana Tom failed to properly notice this meeting, which is required to include the subsection of the Brown Act under which the closed meeting exception is being claimed. Had Dana Tom properly noticed the meeting as proceeding under 54956.9(d)(1) or 54956.9(d)(2), we would know whether or not the district has already been sued or merely anticipates significant litigation exposure.

I think that Curious is clearly correct that the district has not yet been sued. Had the district been sued, it would have to list the case names on the agenda. OCR numbers are not case names and OCR complaints are not adjudicatory proceedings. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Let's return now to the reason that the district is in this situation. The civil rights of several children have been violated. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Although bullying occurs in many places, Palo Alto has staff that has been improperly trained to respond. Our complaint procedures are inadequate and violate the law. Palo Alto has a Compliance Officer, Charles Young, who appears to have failed to adequately carry out his job. Palo Alto still to this day has no disability discrimination complaint policy including within its Uniform Complaint Procedures. Despite the failings of the district as to the problems of discrimination against children with disabilities, PAUSD suffers from hubris and believes, against all the evidence, that it is doing things correctly. This hubris is reflected in the statement of the [portion removed] principal to OCR investigators that her teachers did not need any training on disability harassment because the staff was "very sophisticated.


The Duveneck principal who sent a letter to the community giving information about a similar OCR complaint recently filed was also "very sophisticated." That letter earned PAUSD a scorching reprimand from OCR for retaliation.

In these cases we have young disabled children being repeatedly physically, mentally, and socially bullied for their disabilities. This bullying is cruel and hurts the children very badly, interfering with their ability to receive an education. We have parents desperately complaining, in writing over and over to every official with an email address, trying to stop the abuse of their children. It does not stop.

Instead, parents are greeted by the district with nontransparency and hostility. Maybe it is all in their heads. Maybe they are the problem. Maybe they are overprotective. Maybe they have "issues" and are "problem families." They are treated like outsiders. Meanwhile their children cry and don't want to go to school. They get headaches and stomachaches. They feel worse about themselves. They are not learning, falling even further behind grade level. All they want is to have friends, be accepted, and fit in like everyone else. But no one is helping them. Mom is not helping. She says she will help but it never gets better, only worse. Now maybe the child is angry at Mom too, since she keeps promising to stop the bullying but she never does.

These families have filed complaints with the federal government in a last-ditch effort, despite their fears of retaliation, in order to try to help their wounded children, and recover their dignity.

The district has responded with covering and secrecy. The lack of transparency in this instance reminds one of Penn State and the Catholic Church, two cases in which the defendants did not, it should be remembered, do well ultimately. The right response when confronted with bad facts like PAUSD has is to conduct a proper investigation, announce the results of that investigation publicly, and then to make changes as may be appropriate given the facts that emerge in the investigation.

The lack of transparency, of which this improperly noticed closed meeting is just one part, has made this situation far worse. What could have been an opportunity to learn and grow has become a scandal being watched all over the state and country. PAUSD has also shown intransigence in its approach to OCR. PAUSD fought the investigation to the point that it received a Finding of Noncompliance, something that only happened in 1% of disability harassment cases in the US over the past 4 years. That elevated PAUSD's profile within the federal enforcement community. PAUSD still has not complied with its Resolution Agreement in case number 1, and now is on case number 4 with more in the pipeline (and evidently more complaints that preceded case number 1 that have not been disclosed as yet).

This lack of transparency, openness and cooperation extends to other things as well. The Duvenck parent letter criticized by OCR is one example. Another is that PAUSD and Dr. Skelly agreed to help concerned parents host a parent education event about OCR to the community, then reneged on that promise, then the Superintendent stated falsely that he had never agreed, then he said he didn't want to do it because it might generate additional complaints.

What seems to be generating additional complaints is that the conditions that led to the first complaints are still in place. PAUSD needs to have a full, fair, transparent public investigation into what went wrong and then make adjustments into how to fix it.

Until that happens, there is indeed "significant exposure" to litigation and the board is right to be concerned about that exposure. They should properly notice the meeting as anticipated litigation because they are correct to anticipate it.

You Paid For It – Former School Superintendent’s Sweet Deal |

You Paid For It – Former School Superintendent’s Sweet Deal |

LADUE, MO (KTVI)  – Several months ago former Ladue Superintendent Marsha Chappelow decided to leave the district in the first year of her three year contract.   She made her leave of absence effective December 1st. But, the Board of Education agreed to pay her through the end of the school year which is June 30th.
So she gets her $190,000 salary even though she doesn’t have to come to work.
An Assistant Superintendent is taking her place while the School Board searches for a replacement.
You Paid For It Investigator Elliott Davis questioned the head of the Board Jayne Langsam who said the School Board did “What was in the best interest of the District”

You Paid For It – Rockwood School’s Expensive Contract Extension |

You Paid For It – Rockwood School’s Expensive Contract Extension |

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -  Why did the Rockwood School Board extend Superintendent Bruce Borchers contract when they knew a scathing State Audit was about to the released?  We caught up with School Board Vice President Matt Doell to ask him about it.  He says their contract with Borchers calls for them to vote on an extension in February of each year. He did admit that the Board could have changed the policy to allow it more time to consider the contract extension.
The vote on extending the agreement with Borchers was 4-3. Borchers gets $256,000 that includes his $234,000 salary plus benefits.
There’s an election in April that could change the make-up of the board.  If there’s a change in majority then they’ll have to deal with that.
Matt Doell admitts board members knew what was contained in the audit before voting for the contract extension but did it anyway.

You Paid For It – U. City School District’s Political Newsletter |

You Paid For It – U. City School District’s Political Newsletter |

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KTVI) – The University City School District is being criticized for spending school funds on material to promote Proposition U. It is a bond issue they’re trying to get voters to approve on the Tuesday Ballot. Missouri state statutes prevent school districts from spending tax dollars to promote bond issues and or tax increases.
U-City spent $1,000 sending out a special election newsletter, and another $1,000 on a glossy postcard sent to homes telling residents to look at the conditions of the schools before casting their vote. The money from the bond issue is to help repair schools along with providing funds for other items.
Taxpayer watchdog Tom Sullivan calls the spending a violation of the State Statute and may file a complaint with the State’s Ethics Commission against the District. Sullivan says the Newsletter and other materials are clearly slanted in favor of Prop U.
Stacy Clay, the head of the University City School Board denies that the literature takes sides on Proposition U. He insists it’s just informational. He says the spending is not a violation of the statute.
But he couldn’t provide “You Paid For It” any example in the literature where arguments of those against Prop U are presented.

You Paid For It: First Graders View Pornography In Ritenour iPod |

You Paid For It: First Graders View Pornography In Ritenour iPod |

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) – A shocking case at the Ritenour School District in Mid-County.
Two first grade girls were able to view pornography in the classroom on the iPod handed out by the teacher during class.
The two 6 year old girls were suspended, but the parents called me to look into this deal.
They say it’s the School Districts fault for not having an effective filtering system to keep kids, especially first graders from even being able to access pornography on school equipment. They say if the School is going to give out the devices, safeguards should be in place.
I talked to Ritenour’s Superintendent who says they’re taking steps to try to keep this from happening in the future. He admits the filters were ineffective.
I called some other school Districts.
One I called, the Francis Howell School District blocks all the access to sites like YouTube. They even block Facebook.
I talked to the Superintendent who said they just didn’t want to take any chances on kids getting to inappropriate material on the web. They say they even block the sites from teachers.
Ritenour says it’s doing a thorough review of its system

You Paid For It: Should High School Grads Get 2 Diplomas? |

You Paid For It: Should High School Grads Get 2 Diplomas? |

WENTZVILLE, MO. (KTVI) – State Representative Bryan Spencer from Wentzville says high schoolers should get two diplomas to graduate from high school instead of one. One diploma would be sort of a certificate saying the child attended high school. The second “academic” diploma would signify that the child actually learned something.
The academic diploma would be based entirely on the student passing four tests:  Math, Science, English, and Social Science. Failing the tests would mean the student wouldn’t qualify for an academic diploma.
St. Charles School Superintendent Jeff Marion is one of those with doubts about this.  He says it throws out all that a student accomplished over four years.  Then pins the student’s future on passing four tests.  This is something he believes would cause extreme anxiety on stressed students.
Representative Spencer insists it would just get kids ready for the real world. He insists you already have to take tests for many things in life to show you know what you’re doing, why not for high school graduation.
Rep. Spencer is running into a lot of opposition to his idea.  The bill did not get passed in this legislative session.   He says he’s entertaining the idea of modifying it to give it a better chance of passage next session.
If idea does become law then high school would get a lot harder for a lot of teachers and students. Many students may drop out because they would end up with a meaningless certificate after four years of work.
Remember if you spot questionable government spending make sure you call our hotline
800-846-KTVI or go to our website
Or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll investigate.
After all, You Paid For It.

You Paid For It: Normandy School District’s San Diego Trips |

You Paid For It: Normandy School District’s San Diego Trips |

NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) – You Paid For It investigating a costly deal in the troubled Normandy School District where district officials spend more than $700,000 to get tips from San Diego State University to turn around the Normandy School District.
The district has been contracting with San Diego State since 2009 and has renewed the contract each year for Leadership Training.
They sent senior administrators and principals to the California college.
Taxpayers spent a total of $735,500 since 2009.  During the time it was getting the California tips the Normandy School District lost accreditation
Officials were scrambling when Investigator Elliott Davis showed up to question the School Board about this deal.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kansas 'Innovative Districts' Law Faces Questions

Kansas 'Innovative Districts' Law Faces Questions

Kansas 'Innovative Districts' Law Faces Questions

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Kansas lawmakers approved a measure this year to support what seems like an unobjectionable goal: producing innovation in schools.
But is that measure legal?
Officials at the Kansas state department of education have doubts, which they've spelled out in a letter to state Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
A number of states have taken steps to grant districts freedom from various education rules and regulations, with the idea of improving student performance or producing other results, such as driving down costs. Department officials in Kansas argue that the House Bill 2319, which cleared the legislature and was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, earlier this year, goes too far and violates the state's constitution by usurping the authority of both the Kansas state board of education and local districts.
The law allows school systems in Kansas to apply for designation as "public innovative districts," giving them the right to opt out of most state rules and regulations applicable to K-12, as part of efforts to improve student achievement, according to the language of the measure. Up to 10 percent of the state's districts could have that status at any one time.
The law would establish a board to oversee school systems seeking to join the innovative-district camp. Districts could receive that designation for periods of up to five years, and their application could be renewed only if they meet a variety of standards for academic performance and improvement, achieve the promises of their original applications, and otherwise comply with the law.
In their letter, Kansas department of education officials point out that the law requires them to develop an application for districts seeking to apply for innovative status, and provide technical assistance to local school boards. But they also cite four ways in which they believe the law could runs afoul of the state's constitution, such as by allowing the coalition board to choose which federal and state laws districts must follow.
"The legal effect of the act will be to supplant the role of the [state board] and erode the concept of local control by locally elected school boards," the department argued to the AG. The department believes that "disagreement and confusions exists regarding [the board's] authority over innovative districts and whether innovative districts must comply with state laws."
The department asks Schmidt to examine the law and "find that it does not pass constitutional muster because it improperly infringes on the authority of the [state board] and its role in the general supervision of education in the state of Kansas."
The office of Schmidt, a Republican elected in 2010, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: A Race To Remember

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: A Race To Remember

LS Tribune Saturday, April 12, 2008
A Race to Remember
Matt Bird-Meyer
Tribune Editor

Voters had an option Tuesday of four board candidates for three seats. Maybe the outcome was indicative of lazy voting habits, where the candidates at the top of the ballot get the most votes. Check, check, check and move on. But maybe the outcome was indicative of growing displeasure with the entrenched members of the board.  Whatever happened, newcomer Sherri Tucker came close. She was just 2 percent shy of overcoming incumbent Jon Plaas, who won 5,065 to 4,679.

Plaas had a slim 386-vote separation from Tucker. However the top vote getter, Jeff Tindle, had 2,246 more votes than Tucker, and Jack Wiley had 1,878 more votes than the newcomer. Tindle was listed first on the ballot, followed by Wiley, Plaas and then Tucker. The top two candidates were so far ahead of the bottom two that it appears voters were gravitating toward Tucker. I like to think the people who make time to visit the polls are going in there knowing how they will vote, or at least with some knowledge of the candidates. Personally, I would never vote for someone I know nothing about. Sherri Tucker never hid the fact that her only platform was special education. She is the mother of a special-needs son and is part of a group of 40 people who feel the R-7 district is not providing adequate services for their special-needs children.

Tucker didn't go about this alone. Members of the Lee's Summit Autism Support Group picked Tucker to run against the three incumbents.  This was her first time running for office, and she's pledged it's not her last. Plaas and the others circled the wagons during the campaign, supporting one another and alienating Tucker as a single-issue candidate. Plaas said single-issue candidates belong on the other side of the podium from school board members.

And to an extent, he's right, Candidates should be savvy enough to know that and campaign accordingly. That doesn't mean the candidate should never hold a single issue close to their heart. To me, that's how the system works. If you think government isn't working, then run for office or at least get involved. And when voters respond like they did here, we should all take them seriously. I can't say whether there's a problem with special education services in the R-7 district, but there's a growing movement of families out there who are saying that. "I don't feel like we lost," Tucker told me during a telephone interview. "We got our message out there and to me that's a win."

I agree, and to run up right against sitting school board members in Lee's Summit is admirable. The incumbents here are typically strong candidates with almost instant support from community leaders. The topic of special education is an emotional and complex one. These students have different needs and different individualized education programs. Some students have to find some services outside of the district and some are able to stay in regular classrooms. The bottom line is they are students, and they deserve as much attention as anyone else.

Missouri GOP sentiments reflect party's split on immigration : News

Missouri GOP sentiments reflect party's split on immigration : News

WASHINGTON • Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt joined the majority of Republicans who voted Monday against the so-called "border surge" amendment, an indication of a stark difference of opinion in the GOP on overhauling immigration laws.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was among 14 Republicans aligning with Democrats in the 67-27 vote to advance the amendment. It calls for investing $30 billion in border security and doubling the number of border patrol agents.
"A secure border and a path to citizenship are good for Illinois' economy and good for Illinois jobs, and I look forward to supporting its final passage in the coming days," Kirk said after the vote.
But Blunt, who has watched his own security proposals defeated, did not find the key amendment appealing.
Blunt said Monday evening he was "concerned it does not adequately put border security first, which must be our top priority. I’m also increasingly concerned the administration objects to measurable results on border security, even though they admit 100 percent awareness is, in fact, possible."
Speaking on the McGraw Milhaven's KTRS morning program, Blunt on Monday said Congress needs to approach immigration legislation with care.
"We only have, in my view, one shot at this every 20 years or so," he said. "
"We ought to be sure we get this right. And there's no chance that the bill that's before the Senate right now would pass the House. Let's talk about how you make law rather than how you create a political talking point."
Ed Martin, chairman of the Missouri GOP, said that he, too, opposes the latest bipartisan compromise in Washington and that many Missouri Republicans are concerned about the direction of immigration legislation.
"It's pretty clear that the Missouri Republican Partydoesn't support amnesty, wants to secure the border first and doesn't want to see the people who are breaking the rules rewarded. I think most of us are very concerned," he said.
Martin said he had no polling data on which to base his conclusion and dismissed a recent poll sponsored by immigration reform advocates that found 72 percent of Missourians supporting legislation being considered in the Senate.
That poll did not measure attitudes about border security, Martin noted.
"It's very, very hot now. The phones are lighting up," Martin said, arguing that Missourians have just begun to focus on the legislation.
Martin rejected the recent assertion by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, that Republicans must pass immigration legislation in order to pull the party out of a "demographic death spiral" and compete in presidential elections.
"It's patently false," Martin said. "If you look at the data in the last election, it is not the Hispanic Americans who caused the (Republicans') loss."
The American Conservative Union on Monday endorsed the border surge plan, pressing for "a significant majority vote" in final passage.
The ACU, which describes itself as the oldest and largest conservative organization in the country, said that provisions in the border surge amendment "will inspire confidence that we will not have another wave of illegal immigrants in the future."
Martin observed that the conservative union is Washington-based, adding that he sees as a disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country on immigration.
"I'm telling you where the voters are and where the people are," he said.
Business leaders in the St. Louis region are part of a coalition pressing for the immigration law overhaul.
As Martin sees it, businesses supporting the legislation "need to be on the hot seat. There's a reason, and part of it is convenience of labor, but a lot of it is lower wages, and Republicans need to be clear on that."

Tom Watkins: Restraint needed on restraints | Battle Creek Enquirer |

Tom Watkins: Restraint needed on restraints | Battle Creek Enquirer |

It hurts to be tied up and left alone.
Today, in a Michigan school and in schools across America, children are being placed in physical restraints and inhumane seclusion.
These so called “treatment options” are degrading, barbaric, inappropriate, unnecessary, counter-therapeutic, harmful, and in the extreme, result in serious injury and even death. They should stop.
What makes this insidious behavior difficult to detect is that it is often out of sight of public view and, perversely, often sanctioned by parents, guardians, and credentialed professionals as a proper therapeutic technique meant to control or modify behavior. It is nearly always abusive, traumatic, and unnecessary.
While some school districts do not use it at all, it is abused in others, and there is no central state reporting mechanism to know for sure.
In Michigan, in the second decade of the 21st century, there are no policies or laws to stop it.
There is a need to make the general public and policymakers aware that these practices are still being carried out in far too many neighborhood public schools. But more important than simple awareness is the need to demonstrate it does not need to take place. People working with persons who have intellectual and developmental disabilities need training in the proper techniques for preventing the issues from escalating to a perceived need for such interventions.
There are examples of students being secluded and restrained in schools staffed with highly degreed professionals, yet this type of “intervention” is deemed unnecessary in that same person’s group home which is staffed with trained, high school educated para-professionals.
The first step in problem-solving is problem identification, particularly in the case of seclusion and restraint. Before even identifying the problem, parents, policy and lawmakers need to be convinced that this is a problem!
These same sanctioned behaviors taking place in some schools today, when done by parents in their own homes, would also constitute abuse.

Representative John Mayfield – Comcast Newsmakers

Representative John Mayfield – Comcast Newsmakers

He believes that the Missouri legislature should be subject to the Sunshine Law.  I love this idea.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Court dismisses suit by Montana Lance's family against Lewisville ISD | - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News

Court dismisses suit by Montana Lance's family against Lewisville ISD | - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News


This court should reverse the district court’s order granting summary judgment with respect to the claim that defendants were deliberately indifferent to disability-based harassment. 

Respectfully submitted,
Deputy General Counsel Assistant Attorney General
Delegated to Perform the Functions and Duties of the General Counsel

Assistant Attorney General

Deputy Assistant General Counsel

U.S. Department of Education
Office of the General Counsel

Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Appellate Section
Ben Franklin Station
P.O. Box 14403
Washington, DC 20044-4403
(202) 307-0714

Palo Alto Online : Civil-rights officials present harassment guidelines

Palo Alto Online : Civil-rights officials present harassment guidelines

We need to do this in Lee's Summit.  Let me know if you are interested.  It is time for the madness to stop.

Civil-rights officials present harassment guidelines 
Meeting at Ohlone prompted by recent investigations of discrimination, bullying cases

More than 100 people showed up Thursday night to a parent-education event in which representatives from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights described how and when the office approaches issues of discriminatory harassment in schools.

The event at Ohlone Elementary school attracted a mix of parents, members of local student advocacy groups and concerned community members. Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Skelly and trustee Camille Townsend attended but were not part of the program.

The Office for Civil Rights found in December that Palo Alto's school district had violated a disabled student's civil rights in its handling of a bullying case. The district has since entered into a "resolution agreement" with the agency to correct the problem. The office is currently investigating at least three other cases of alleged discrimination in the district.

The representatives stated at the beginning of their presentation that they were unable to respond directly to individual circumstances and cases. They focused instead on presenting a general overview of discriminatory harassment, appropriate methods for schools to remedy situations in which it occurs and the circumstances associated with their office's involvement.

One of the representatives, Gemini McCasland, an attorney with the office's San Francisco office, said that the office has a customer service line that can assist with more specific questions regarding harassment, anonymously if need be.

McCasland said that while schools may have their own policies to address bullying, the federal government doesn't have specific laws that confront it. But many of its characteristics often overlap with those of discriminatory harassment, which the federal government does have laws to protect against.

In order for behavior to be considered discriminatory harassment, she said, it must be "severe, pervasive or persistent" and it must create a hostile environment that denies or limits the target of the harassment from benefiting from the school's program. 

It must also be based on a student's sex, race, disability, color, national origin and in some cases, religion.

Discriminatory harassment, she said, is different from bullying in that it need not be repeated and that it can be done without the intent to harm its target.

Harassing conduct can take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling, use of cell phone or internet, and other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful or humiliating. It may be called bullying, hazing or teasing, but regardless of the label, the conduct itself must be assessed by the school for civil rights implications in addition to any other local or state policies or laws that may also apply.

In analyzing the conduct and its effects to determine whether a "hostile environment" has been created that interferes with or limits a student's education, the school must look at the totality of the circumstances, including both objective and subjective factors, McCasland said.

According to McCasland, these factors can include: location, nature, frequency, duration and scope of the conduct; whether the conduct is daily, sporadic or widespread; the number of students involved; other incidents occurring and how those were responded to by the school; the age of the students involved; and whether the students affected have suffered emotionally, academically or physically.

Some of the possible effects on students from discriminatory harassment can include anxiety, insomnia, fear of going to school, a drop in grades, reluctance to participate in certain school activities, and depression.

In most cases, McCasland said, "the harassment must consist of more than a casual or isolated incident to establish that a hostile environment occurred."

Generally, McCasland said, the more severe the behavior, the less repeated it needs to be to be considered actionable discriminatory harassment.

Further, more specific examples can be found at the office's online reading room.

Once a school becomes aware that discriminatory harassment may be occurring, McCasland said the school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the facts. The specific steps required will depend on the facts, but in all cases, the inquiry should be prompt, thorough and impartial. If the school finds that discriminatory harassment has occurred it must take action reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring.

If the Office of Civil Rights becomes involved, it will examine the reasonableness, timeliness and effectiveness of the steps the school took to combat the harassment, McCasland said.

She said it was important that the school's countermeasures go beyond simple discipline for the offending party. Further action might include providing additional opportunities and services like academic support and counseling to the target, implementing harassment monitoring programs and awareness training, and adopting and reporting new policies so that the harassment does not occur again.

After the presentation concluded, McCasland and her colleague Jim Wood answered questions from the audience, most of which were submitted anonymously by cards and generally served to clarify points from the dense material presented during the presentation.

In response to an audience question about whether a parent should first try to resolve an issue of discriminatory harassment with the district, or instead go directly to the Office for Civil Rights, San Francisco regional office "team leader" James Wood responded that there is no requirement to first take up an issue of discriminatory harassment with the school.

He advised parents to "use your best judgment" about whether there's enough potential trust, ability or capacity to try to resolve the issue locally. At any point, the complainant is free to seek advice and redress with the Office for Civil Rights, and file a complaint using the complaint form on the office's website. However, in cases where there is a formal district proceeding already underway, the Office for Civil Rights will wait until that proceeding is completed before acting upon a complaint; in such cases, the parents must file with the Office for Civil Rights within 60 days if the parent is not satisfied with the outcome of the district proceeding.

The event was co-sponsored by a number of student advocacy groups, including We Can Do Better Palo Alto, a group co-founded by 2012 school board candidate Ken Dauber, Parent Advocates for Student Success, the Community Advisory Council for Special Education and the Student Equity Action Network.

The school district was initially a co-sponsor, but withdrew its support out of fears the event would be used to encourage additional civil rights complaints against the district, according to Skelly.
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Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour – and it's legal - Open Channel

Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour – and it's legal - Open Channel

One of the nation's best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed.
"If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they're paying," said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage.Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company whose executives make six-figure salaries, is among the nonprofit groups permitted to pay thousands of disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c). Labor Department records show that some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011.
Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage."It's a question of civil rights," added his wife, Sheila, blind from birth, who quit her job at the same Goodwill store when her already low wage was cut further. "I feel like a second-class citizen. And I hate it."
Most, but not all, special wage certificates are held by nonprofit organizations like Goodwill that then set up their own so-called "sheltered workshops" for disabled employees, where employees typically perform manual tasks like hanging clothes.
For more on disabled workers and sub-minimum-wage pay watch 'Rock Center' tonight.
The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue Service centers. Between the sheltered workshops and the outside businesses, more than 216,000 workers are eligible to earn less than minimum wage because of Section 14 (c), though many end up earning the full federal minimum wage of $7.25.
NBC News
Harold Leigland, who is blind, with his guide dog on the bus during his morning commute to the Goodwill facility in Great Falls, Montana, where he works hanging clothing.
When a non-profit provides Section 14 (c) workers to an outside business, it sets the salary and pays the wages. For example, the Helen Keller National Center, a New York school for the blind and deaf, has a special wage certificate and has placed students in a Westbury, N.Y., Applebee's franchise. The employees' pay ranged from $3.97 per hour to $5.96 per hour in 2010. The franchise told NBC News it has also hired workers at minimum wage from Helen Keller. A spokesperson for Applebee's declined to comment on Section 14 (c).
Helen Keller also placed several students at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhasset, N.Y., in 2010, where they earned $3.80 and $4.85 an hour. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman defended the Section 14 (c) program as providing jobs to "people who would otherwise not have [the opportunity to work]."
Most Section 14 (c) workers are employed directly by nonprofits. In 2001, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the GAO estimated that more than 90 percent of Section 14 (c) workers were employed at nonprofit work centers.
"People are profiting from exploiting disabled workers," said Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "It is clearly and unquestionably exploitation."Critics of Section 14 (c) have focused much of their ire on the nonprofits, where wages can be just pennies an hour even as some of the groups receive funding from the government. At one workplace in Florida run by a nonprofit, some employees earned one cent per hour in 2011.
Defenders of Section 14 (c) say that without it, disabled workers would have few options. A Department of Labor spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News that Section 14 (c) "provides workers with disabilities the opportunity to be given meaningful work and receive an income."
Terry Farmer, CEO of ACCSES, a trade group that calls itself the "voice of disability service providers," said scrapping the provision could "force [disabled workers] to stay at home," enter rehabilitation, "or otherwise engage in unproductive and unsatisfactory activities."
Harold Leigland, however, said he feels that Goodwill can pay him a low wage because the company knows he has few other places to go. "We are trapped," he said. "Everybody who works at Goodwill is trapped."
Leigland, a 66-year-old former massage therapist with a college degree, currently earns $5.46 per hour in Great Falls.
His wages have risen and fallen based on "time studies," the method nonprofits use to calculate the salaries of Section 14 (c) workers. Staff members use a stopwatch to determine how long it takes a disabled worker to complete a task. That time is compared with how long it would take a person without a disability to do the same task. The nonprofit then uses a formula to calculate a salary, which may be equal to or less than minimum wage. The tests are repeated every six months.
NBC News
Harold Leigland works at the Goodwill facility in Great Falls, Montana, where he earns $5.46 an hour.
Leigland's pay has been higher than $5.46, but it has also dropped down to $4.37 per hour, based on the time-study results.
He said he believes Goodwill makes the time studies harder when they want his wage to be lower.
"Sometimes the test is easier than others. It depends on if, as near as I can figure, they want your wage to go up or down. It's that simple," he said.
His wife, Sheila, 58, spent four years hanging clothes at the Great Falls Goodwill for about $3.50 an hour. She said the time study was one of the most degrading and stressful parts about her job. "You never know how it's going to come out. It stressed me out a lot," she said.

"At $2.75 it would barely cover my cost of getting to work. I wouldn't make any money," she said.She quit last summer when she returned to work after knee surgery and found that her wage had been lowered to $2.75 per hour, a training rate.
Harold said he believes Goodwill can afford to pay him minimum wage, based on the salaries paid to Goodwill executives. While according to the company's own figures about 4,000 of the 30,000 disabled workers Goodwill employs at 69 franchises are currently paid below minimum wage, salaries for the CEOs of those franchises that hold special minimum wage certificates totaled almost $20 million in 2011.
In 2011 the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California took home $1.1 million in salary and deferred compensation. His counterpart in Portland, Oregon, made more than $500,000. Salaries for CEOs of the roughly 150 Goodwill franchises across America total more than $30 million.
Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons, who was awarded $729,000 in salary and deferred compensation in 2011, defended the executive pay.
"These leaders are having a great impact in terms of new solutions, in terms of innovation, and in terms of job creation," he said.
Gibbons also defended time studies, and the whole Section 14 (c) approach. He said that for many people who make less than minimum wage, the experience of work is more important than the pay.
"It's typically not about their livelihood. It's about their fulfillment. It's about being a part of something. And it's probably a small part of their overall program," he said.
And Goodwill and the organizations that run the sheltered workshops are not alone in their support for Section 14 (c). In many cases, the families of the workers who have severe disabilities say their loved ones enjoy the work experience, enjoy getting a paycheck, and the amount is of no consequence.
NBC News
Sheila Leigland, who is blind, with her guide dog. She quit her job at Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana, after her hourly wage was lowered to $2.75.
"I feel really good about it. I don't have to worry so much about him," said Fran Davidson, whose son Jeremy has worked at Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana, for more than a decade. "I know he's not getting picked on, and he's in a safe place. He enjoys what he's doing, and he's happy, and that's what we like for our kids." Jeremy started out working for a sub-minimum wage but did well on his last time study and is currently earning $7.80 an hour, Montana's minimum wage.

"Meaningful work deserves fair pay," the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gregg Harper, R.-Miss., told NBC News. "This dated provision unjustly prohibits workers with disabilities from reaching their full potential."But foes of Section 14 (c) have hopes for a new bill that's now before Congress that would repeal Section 14 (c) and make sub-minimum wages illegal across the board.
The bill is opposed by trade associations for the employers of the disabled, and past attempts to change the law have failed. But Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and a foe of the sheltered workshop system, is cautiously optimistic that this time the bill will pass, and end what he called a "two-tiered system."
That system, explained Maurer, says "'Americans who have disabilities aren't as valuable as other people,' and that's wrong. These folks have value. We should recognize that value."
Monica Alba contributed to this report.