Subj:    THE SPECIAL ED ADVOCATE, VOL. 1, NO. 14 (OCT. 26, 1998)
Date:    10/26/98 8:12:12 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: (Pete Wright)

The Special Ed Advocate
The Online Newsletter about Special Education and the Law

October 26, 1998 Vol. 1, No. 14

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The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special
education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, effective
educational methods, and Internet links.

We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. You can read
back issues of The Special Ed Advocate at our web site -

As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive
announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact,
copyright, and subscription information is listed at the end of this
IN THIS ISSUE: October 26, 1998

(1.) Learning Problems at School - Whose Fault Is It?

(2.) NEW CASES- From 1ST Circuit (tuition reimbursement, attorneys fees)
5th Circuit (prevailing party, attorneys fees) . . .

(3.) 7th Circuit Weighs In: Woe to Boys Who Play the Wrong Song; Our
First “We Are Not Making This Up Award”

(4.) Follow a Due Process Hearing at Erik’s Page

(5.) The Advocate’s Bookstore - Learn More About Autism

(6.) Announcement: International Dyslexia Association Conference, San

(7.) Subscription Information


Recently, we received letters from readers who expressed concerns about
our article “Learning Problems at School - Whose Fault is It?”

These individuals described our article as “cynical” and “scathing” -
and worry that the article may cause parents to mistrust school

Bill Matthew, director of special education from California, disagrees:

“I read your article on “Learning Problems at School: Whose Fault is
It?” and I think it’s outstanding. I know Alessi’s work and reputation
and it’s impeccable.

“The problem central to his research is an over-reliance on the “medical
model” - guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, etc.
are enthralled with the notion of “diagnoses” . . . of course, the cause
is internal to the child. It also excuses other factors - lousy
curriculum and teaching methods.”

Have you read “Learning Problems: Whose Fault is It ?”

Drop us a line and tell us what YOU think.



SEPTEMBER 4, 1998. The First Circuit Court of Appeals issued their
decision in Kathleen H., Larry H. and Daniel H., v. Massachusetts
Department of Education, et. al. In an odd twist, the First Circuit
upheld the U. S. District Court from Massachusetts, concluding that the
school was able to meet the child’s needs (although they failed to do
so), and this was sufficient.

After a due process hearing, the Hearing Officer criticized the school
for relying on classroom performance as an evaluative tool, found that
the special ed services provided for sixth grade were not sufficient;
and concluded that the IEPs contained multiple flaws (failure to specify
the child’s current levels of performance, failure to specify the
criteria for measuring progress, failure to specify the services the
child would receive).

Despite these serious deficiencies, the Hearing Officer concluded that
the school could provide the child with an appropriate education. The U.
S. District Court upheld the Hearing Officer’s decision and the First
Circuit affirmed the District Court decision.

Read Kathleen H. v. Massachusetts Dept. of Education at:


SEPTEMBER 21, 1998. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued another
unusual decision in W. v Houston Independent School District.

After a Due Process Hearing, the Hearing Officer issued a written
decision in which he found that:

(1) Jason's parents were entitled to reimbursement for the fees of two
psychologists whom they had retained to help the District develop a
behavior management plan for Jason,

(2) that the behavior management plan ultimately adopted by the District
was not appropriate, and

(3) that Jason's placement in a resource class from January 10, 1995 to
February 2, 1995 was not appropriate and denied him a free appropriate
public education (FAPE).

Ultimately, the U. S. District Court concluded that despite the Hearing
Officer’s findings, the child prevailed on only 3 out of 16 possible
issues - and reduced the award of attorneys fees. The Fifth Circuit
decision described the school district’s settlement offers in minute
detail, perhaps expressing concern that the child’s attorney did not
attempt to settle the case.

Read this new case at:

(3.) OCTOBER 15, 1998. And we thought school administrators were worried
about guns, illegal drugs, and safe schools. At Fairfield Community High
School No. 225, school administrators worry about students who play

To quote Dave Barry, “We Are Not Making This Up.”

Our first “We Are Not Making This Up Award” goes to the administrators
of Fairfield Community High School No. 225. Residents of this Illinois
town can rest easier at night, knowing that school administrators
prevailed in their battle against guitar-playing rebels Shaun Dunn and
Bill McCullough.

The 7th Circuit explains:

“Shaun Dunn and Bill McCullough were both budding musicians who
participated as guitar players in the high school band program at
Fairfield Community High School, operated by the defendant Fairfield
Community High School District No. 225. Fairfield prohibited its band
members from departing from the planned musical program during band
performances, and it specifically forbade guitar solos during the

“In direct defiance of those rules and their teacher's explicit orders,
Dunn and McCullough (along with two other students) played two
unauthorized guitar pieces (instrumentals, with no words) at a February
10, 1995, band program. In due course, the discipline they received for
this infraction caused them both to receive an "F" for the band course,
and that "F" prevented McCullough from graduating with honors . . .

You may enjoy reading the 7th Circuit’s decision - we did. This decision
is well-written, explains issues relating to the limits of due process,
and includes touches of humor. You can read this unusual case at:



Erik is seven years old. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 3
years old. His parents, Phil and Kathy are in due process proceedings
with their Minneapolis school district. The parents want the district to
fund an appropriate program of education for Erik, which includes
Lovaas-based therapy in his home.

The district wants to place Erik in a segregated program for children
with autism. The parents are represented by Sonja Kerr of Kerr Law
Offices, Mary Jane White of Waukon, Iowa, and Jim Mortenson, of
Minneapolis. The school district has hired one of the state's largest
law firms, Rider Bennett. (Query: paid by taxpayers dollars?)

Erik’s parents welcome you to Erik's page and hope you will enjoy
learning about due process through this process with them.

Check out the photo of Erik.


You’ll find some interesting books in The Advocate’s Bookstore - “Let Me
Hear Your Voice” is “an absolutely unforgettable book, as beautifully
written as it is informative.”

“Let Me Hear Your Voice” is a mother’s illuminating account of how her
family triumphed over autism. Catherine Maurice describes her daughter’s
descent into autism and how the controversial Lovaas/ ABA treatment
program saved the child.

How can parents develop a Lovaas treatment program? The definitive
manual that describes how to develop an ABA program is “Behavioral
Intervention for Young Children With Autism : A Manual for Parents and
Professionals.” (Catherine Maurice, Gina Green, Stephen C. Luce,

For more books about educational methods that work, go to


Lynn writes:

I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your newsletter. The
information is wonderful.

I thought you might want to pass on that the International Dyslexia
Conference will be held in San Francisco the week of November 9. This is
a great fountain of information about the different approaches in
teaching children with dyslexia and other disabilities.

Thanks so much for all you all do to help the children, parents and
those who teach children with disabilities.

Thank you too, Lynn. We’ll pass it on.


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Copyright 1998 Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights

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reproduced in any form.

Pete and Pam Wright,
The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008,
Deltaville, Virginia 23043.