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[IP] Fw: Disputed health duties injected into teaching of disabled (AKA 504 law)

> Disputed health duties injected into teaching of
> disabled
> By Linda Temple
> Special for USA TODAY
> ''Teachers are feeling great anxiety. They're fearful
> they will hurt a child by doing something incorrectly
> or be held personally liable.''
> -- Dennis Friel, NEA
> If diabetic Devin Jackson slips into a coma at school,
> it will likely be her fourth-grade teacher, not a
> trained nurse or hastily summoned paramedic, who
> administers the injection that saves her life.
> More than 500 staff members and every bus driver in
> the 28,000-student Loudoun County, Va., district
> recently learned to administer glucose injections
> after the girl's family won that right through the
> U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights
> (OCR).
> That case and an estimated 2,500 others each year --
> half of the complaints filed with the OCR -- stem from
> disputes over the rights of the 5.8 million children
> with disabilities in U.S. public schools.
> Their numbers have risen 20% in the past decade, to
> nearly 11% of the 52.7 million students in
> kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the U.S.
> Department of Education.
> ''As medical innovations have increased, more kids are
> surviving, and special needs have increased,'' says
> Julie Underwood, general counsel to the National
> School Boards Association. ''Schools are on the front
> line to meet their needs.''
> Ned Waterhouse, head of pupil services in the Loudoun
> County district, says schools are feeling the full
> effects of the 1977 Individuals With Disabilities
> Education Act (IDEA), which entitles children with
> disabilities to a free public education, and Section
> 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
> which prohibits discrimination against the disabled in
> any federally funded program.
> ''These laws are bringing about a true paradigm shift
> in terms of the weight people can bring to the issue
> of individual rights.''
> Section 504, which covers conditions ranging from
> attention deficit disorder to AIDS, is being invoked
> with increasing frequency by parents seeking
> accommodations -- which can mean hands-on help from
> teachers -- for their children.
> Teachers can find themselves responsible not just for
> feeding and for toilet trips, but for performing
> urinary catheterizations and for suctioning
> tracheotomy tubes.
> ''Teachers are feeling great anxiety,'' says Dennis
> Friel of the National Education Association. The NEA
> and the American Federation of Teachers, the two
> largest teachers unions, strongly oppose teachers
> tending to student health needs.
> ''They're fearful they will hurt a child by doing
> something incorrectly or be held personally liable,''
> Friel says. ''They feel they are being asked to do
> things they didn't think would be part of their career
> selection.''
> Jeff Hitchcock, an Ohio parent activist who runs a Web
> site for families with diabetic kids
> (www.childrenwithdiabetes.com), sympathizes with
> teachers, ''but only to a point. My daughter has
> diabetes 24 hours a day, and her care needs do not end
> when she steps into the classroom.''
> ''Parents say it's all in a day's work,'' says teacher
> Patty Ralabate of Danbury, Conn., ''but it's different
> when you're dealing with a class of 25 kids. It's
> scary.''
> Ralabate says she once refused to feed a student
> through a stomach tube ''because I didn't feel it was
> a good use of my time as a speech and language
> pathologist.'' She says a fellow teacher was
> threatened with firing when she wouldn't change a male
> sixth-grader's diaper.
> ''This is a very hot issue. It's wonderful that more
> disabled kids are in the classroom, but when they need
> care to maintain their health and, in some cases,
> their lives, teachers shouldn't be the ones doing
> it.''
> Education Secretary Richard Riley told a January
> teaching conference that among those working directly
> with children with disabilities, 21% said they felt
> ''well-prepared to address the needs of students with
> disabilities'' in a 1998 Education Department survey.
> ''Teachers try their best, trying to accommodate their
> kids,'' says Annie Hawkins, professor of teacher
> education at the University of Cincinnati. ''But that
> has a different meaning now than it did 25 years ago.
> It takes training to know how to empty a colostomy bag
> or clear the lungs of a student with cystic
> fibrosis.''
> Elliott Marx of Designs for Change, a Chicago
> non-profit group that advises families with disabled
> children, says medically fragile kids needing such
> services ''are a tiny, tiny fraction.'' Most teachers,
> he says, welcome the training to care for their
> students, ''but some won't even talk about it. They
> think taking on a special-needs kid is going to throw
> their whole building into chaos, but it's been shown
> that better students and better people result when
> children learn to accept differences and
> limitations.''
> No one questions that children with disabilities
> benefit from being in regular classrooms, says Pat
> Silva, director of special education in the John Swett
> School District near San Francisco, which bans
> teachers from health-related tasks and hires nurses
> and aides to tend to kids with disabilities. ''It's
> hard, because their needs are costing more and more
> when there is less money to serve them.''
> Crystal Jackson says it wasn't funding but
> ''priorities and politics'' that stymied the process
> in her daughter's case. ''The staff was more than
> willing to do the injections. They were as frustrated
> as we were that the district had to be forced into
> it.''
> Howard Kallem, chief attorney for the Washington,
> D.C., region of the OCR, says the burden on schools
> and teachers is not as onerous as it is often made out
> to be, citing the Jackson case as an example.
> ''That injection is like giving a pinprick. There just
> isn't a big level of risk. In most cases, compliance
> with the law is a matter of doing what other districts
> have done, managing the situation with proper
> training.''
> But Jackie Golden of the National Parent Network on
> Disabilities says schools need help. ''There is no set
> of best practices'' to guide schools in meeting the
> needs of children with disabilities, she says. ''The
> laws and their interpretations vary from state to
> state, and they're changing all the time. I wish I
> could say there is one place that could serve as a
> model, but it doesn't exist.''
> http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000215/1936149s.htm

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