480 in the collection
District weighs appeal of Asperger services ruling
NOTE: This was supposed to be in Good News, but we are having glitches there right now.
Kay's Comment: I post this as good news because a Court has stated that:
" ... Maine law broadly defines education to include more than such academic subjects as reading and mathematics." Education is more than the 3 R's and tests.
PORTLAND, Maine --A western York County school district is considering whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that opens the door to special education services for a girl with Asperger syndrome whose disability does not limit her academically.
Meanwhile, new rules tightening Maine's special education law to deny services to such children are awaiting legislative approval.
Upholding a lower court ruling, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston concluded that Maine law broadly defines education to include more than such academic subjects as reading and mathematics.
As a result, School Administrative District 55 must work out an individual plan to address the social interaction and communication needs of the girl, who is referred to in court papers as "L.I."
The girl attended public schools in Hiram and Cornish through fifth grade, doing well academically but having difficulties making friends. She later stopped studying, began cutting her arms intentionally and tried to commit suicide.
A psychiatrist diagnosed her with Asperger syndrome, a developmental disability on the autism spectrum that is associated with significant misperceptions of otherwise routine elements of daily life.
A team assembled by the school, however, denied special education to the girl because it found no "adverse impact" on her academic progress.
After the family filed suit, U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby found that Asperger disorder is a disability under state law and that it affected L.I.'s educational progress, even though it did not stop her from reading and writing.
The Maine School Management Association, which filed a friend- of-the-court brief for the district, warned that by "overidentifying" special education students, school districts will deplete the resources needed to help disabled students with academic needs.
The court said it was up to Congress or the Legislature to tighten the eligibility guidelines if they are too broad.
Advocates for people with disabilities said the state would do better to accept the federal courts' judgment on the matter.
"It would be incredibly shortsighted of the state to deny these kids the skills necessary to lead independent lives when they are adults," said Frank D'Alessandro, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief for the Asperger Association of New England in support of the girl. "In the long run, it's worse for these kids and it's worse for society."
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