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Indianapolis: Education bill would require "cost-sharing" for special needs families

Feb 15, 2019, Greensburg (IN) Daily News: Parents say education bill would put special needs students at risk INDIANAPOLIS — …So far, Spiehler said, the implementation of her daughter’s IEP is on track, providing her with sensory accommodations that help her concentrate during critical class time. But Spiehler, along with thousands of families who navigate the state’s education system with a disabled child, is afraid new legislation will limit her ability to hold schools accountable. House Bill 1629—introduced by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis—was reviewed by the House Education Committee Wednesday. … However, parents of children with disabilities say two provisions in HB 1629 would inhibit their ability to challenge schools that fail to secure necessary accommodations for disabled students. Erin Moon-Walker, a 34-year-old mother of two disabled daughters, testified against a provision that would split fees incurred when hearings are held to address parent complaints between the school corporation and family—even if the complaint is proven valid. Moon-Walker has brought administrative complaints against West Lafayette Community Schools twice, one on behalf of each daughter. She said the school corporation failed to provide an IEP to her youngest daughter after a doctor diagnosed her with social anxiety in 2017. The legal costs associated with this complaint put her family “thousands of dollars” in debt. She declined to provide a hard total. If HB 1629 were to become law, Moon-Walker said a mandatory sharing of costs would bankrupt families already in vulnerable situations. “The biggest issue I see is that our whole narrative around special education is not true,” Moon-Walker said after the hearing. “Schools have a legal duty to uphold these laws, and they’re just not doing it.” In the hearing, Behning said parent complaints are costly to schools and are often driven by unreasonable demands that are not in the best interests of the student. He said the provision will make legal battles fair for both parties. Spiehler said this couldn’t be farther from the truth. “They try to paint us as unrealistic parents,” Spiehler said. “A small minority of parents are, but that’s not the case for most families.”…


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