Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Board Meeting Recap Highlights District Health Services Presentation

Recap of the March 15, 2016 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Highlights District Health Services Presentation

Last month the district posted a recap of the March 15, 2016 school board meeting on the district website.

The Board Meeting Recap included a presentation given by the Director of Nursing covering the District's Health Services. The recap stated that the District Health Services Presentation, "highlighted a focus on the application and consistency processes in the Child Find / 504." However, the words "Child Find" were never mentioned during the presentation.

Child Find requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of the disability from birth through age 21.

You can read more about Child Find and what schools are mandated to do under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on the Wrightslaw website using the following link:

You can learn more about Section 504 law on the Wrightslaw website using the following link:

It's important to note that school districts receive federal funding for IDEA but do not receive any funding for complying with Section 504 law. Therefore, there is no incentive to comply with Section 504 law other than the "threat" of having their federal funds withheld when they don't comply.

Many attorneys that represent school districts know quite well that school districts will never have their federal funding withheld or revoked for not complying with Section 504 law. Therefore some attorneys resort to unethical tactics and will make false or misleading statements about the law during 504 Team meetings in order to help school districts get around the law when parents are knowledgeable about Section 504 law. Many parents don't know the law so it's very easy for school districts to deny 504 eligibility without having to bring in their attorneys.

Fox's former law firm was very willing to provide Individualized Health Plans for students with disabilities. However, many who were qualified for Section 504 Plans were denied for years. As a former attorney for Fox C-6 explained during a September 2008 504 meeting, the difference between a Section 504 Plan and an Individualized Health Plan (IHP) is that a student doesn't get the legal protections with an Individualized Health Plan that they do with a Section 504 Plan.

The reason that I'm pointing this out is because Fox is still under an ongoing District Wide Compliance Review investigation by the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) for their Section 504 practices and whether or not they were providing Individualized Health Care Plans to students instead of Section 504 Plans for students who were qualified for Section 504. And, since it has taken ED OCR more than 6 years to complete their Compliance Review, it's easy to believe that Fox had been doing things properly for years.

After years of phone calls and emails asking what the status was of the District Wide Compliance Review, the Kansas City ED OCR Office has finally written up and forwarded a draft copy of the Compliance Review to the "acting" Enforcement Director over the Kansas City ED OCR Office. Debbie Osgood who was the Enforcement Director that responded to my requests last fall that I wrote about, left ED OCR in February 2016 according to the current "acting" Enforcement Director.

Since the Washington D.C. ED OCR Office initiated the District Wide Compliance Review in March 2010, there have been three Enforcement Directors over the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

After nearly a decade of egregious lack of enforcement of the law, it appears that the current Enforcement Director has recognized that there has been a major problem with the Kansas City ED OCR Office and is actively working on correcting the problem. It's difficult to imagine the number of students that have graduated from school while waiting for the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights to do their job.

It's been well known for years that there are major issues with the Kansas City ED OCR Office. Complaints, Investigations and Resolution Agreements have sat in the Kansas City ED OCR Office unfinished or un-monitored for years. It's been a free pass for school districts to skirt the law for years with little or no consequences.

Hopefully, the facts as to why the Kansas City ED OCR Office doesn't enforce the law like other regional ED OCR Offices will be made public in the near future. It's hard to fathom the amount of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on legal fees over the past decade as school district attorneys have been allowed to drag things out for years as the Kansas City ED OCR Office looked the other way. Emails accidentally sent out by attorneys in the Kansas City ED OCR Office document how the former Chief Attorney (now Director of the Kansas City ED OCR Office) didn't want us to know their office prioritizes it's case handling.

ED OCR's District Wide Compliance Review investigation of the Fox C-6 School District was opened in March 2010. It's difficult to believe that any investigation taking more than a year or two would be acceptable to any Director of Enforcement overseeing a regional office. So, it's quite obvious that the Enforcement Directors over the Kansas City ED OCR Office for the last decade haven't done their job as well.

Fox's District Wide Compliance Review has been open for more than 6 years. In fact, the Kansas City ED OCR Office has only completed 7 out of 17 Compliance Reviews assigned to their office over the past decade. Obviously there is a major problem in the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

Fox's District Health Services Presentation
Back to the District Health Services presentation, I thought it was great that Fox's new Director of Nursing highlighted a focus on the application and consistency in the Child Find and Section 504 processes for the school board. I don't believe that many school board members or the general public are very well educated on Child Find and Section 504 Law and what those obligations are for a school district.

A few years ago, I was asked by a Fox C-6 board member why a student would need a 504 Plan. He wanted to know why a student would need a 504 plan since you could always sue the school district if they did something wrong or didn't do what they were supposed to do. I told him that the student should have a 504 plan if they were qualified for one because it's the law.

The problem with suing a school district is that the district has the ability to spend tens of thousands in legal fees if not hundreds of thousands in legal fees using taxpayer money to defend itself. It's much easier and less expensive for parents to request a 504 Plan for their student rather than having to sue the school district after they didn't do what they said they were going to do.

Since the district now audio records school board meetings, I was able to download the audio file for the March 15, 2016 school board meeting and listen to the presentation given by the Director of Nursing. She also had a slideshow presentation which you can find on BoardDocs along with 2014-2015 nursing services data. The slideshow has a photo of school nurses but I don't believe it's a recent photo.

Below is a link to the March 15, 2016 School Board Meeting Recap on the district website and below that is the text posted about the District Health Services Presentation in the board meeting recap.

District Health Services Presentation
Mrs. Kim Schumacher, RN, presented information to the Board and public on the state of District Health Services. The presentation discussed current health service processes that support the learning environment to foster achievement, embrace optimum health for staff and students, and optimize best support processes and practices. The report highlighted a focus on the application and consistency processes in the Child Find / 504. The presentation included future goals such as developing deeper understanding and utilization of updated policies in the health care applications that support optimum health in the academic environment and promoting awareness to current health trends and issues that keep students and staff informed about the highest level of health.
Fox's recap webpage above contains a link to the board meeting audio files where you can download and listen to the school board meetings that are now audio recorded each month. You can listen to the Director of Nursing's presentation by clicking on the link below which links to the audio file posted on the district's Google Drive. The file is in (ma4) format and is only 24MB in size. Her presentation begins at (11min 24sec).

When I listened to the audio presentation above, I noticed that the Director of Nursing never mentioned the words "Child Find". So, there really wasn't much of a highlight or much education for the school board members about the district's obligations for Child Find. She did mention "504" in her presentation in the following sentence:
"We've made progress with our 504 developments and processes with a lot of work."
Having gone through "the process" which started 8 years ago and continued for more than 6 years, I certainly hope that the district's processes have improved. In 2008 and 2009, the former Director of Nursing explained how her extensive training basically trumped our 22+ year board certified doctor's knowledge when denying 504 eligibility.

Dan Baker, who was the 504 Coordinator for the district back then removed a Section 504 designation in September 2008 and subsequently denied eligibility several times over the next 6 years before being reinstated after Dan Baker was demoted and the former law firm fired.

Independent Evaluation and Revoking Consent
Dan Baker was present during our May 2009 eligibility meeting when the school district's attorney informed us about the district's right to perform an independent evaluation. The district attorney informed us that we didn't have to have an independent evaluation if we didn't want the district to perform one.

The attorney gave us an example as to why we might not want to allow the District to perform an independent evaluation. His example at the May 2009 meeting stuck with me for years. I'm sure his example would stick with most parents. He gave us an example as to what the district's doctor may want to do as part of their independent evaluation. He wanted to let us know that if we didn't want something like that done, that we could always revoke our consent. However, if we revoked our consent, we basically waived our rights to obtaining a 504 plan.

Here is what the school district's attorney had to say from my audio recording of that 504 meeting:
"If the doctor decides they want to hang your daughter upside down by her ankles for 3 weeks, then you can always revoke your consent. But, if you don't consent, the process stops here and now."
I asked Dan Baker during our Due Process Hearing which occurred in 2010 whether or not he thought the district attorney was trying to intimidate us into not doing the independent evaluation. Dan Baker testified under oath with the following answer from the transcript of the Due Process Hearing:
"I remember something along those lines. I don’t know if it was word for word as to what you said, but I remember something along those lines. But I also remember the context that was used and he did mean what those words were as far as tying in the – I think the thing that he was trying to get across was that at any time he wanted to do a test, whether it be a skin prick test or whatever that you didn’t want her to participate in, that you could obviously withdraw and not allow us to do that. By no means, no, did he mean to use that as intimidation. I'm speaking for him And I can tell you that I was in that meeting, and he did not mean those words to come across as intimidating by any means."
I can certainly tell you that my opinion of the attorney's comment above is much different than that of Dan Baker's. It made me wonder if it was regular practice district doctors to hang children upside down by their ankles for 3 weeks in order to do independent evaluations since the district attorney had mentioned it during our meeting. Perhaps they don't, but I certainly hope that Fox's Child Find and 504 process have improved since then. I also hope that our school board members and parents become much more educated on Section 504 law and Child Find.