Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Nope, you can't get that help

 Nope, you can’t get that help.


Kids across our country are experiencing significant mental health issues.   Some experts say this is part of the fall out of the pandemic and the years students spent out of school supposedly learning online.  States are responding differently when kids ask for help.

In some states, that help cannot be delivered without the approval of parents.  Research indicates that requiring parental permission can be a significant barrier to children getting help.  But there are differing perspectives on mental health treatment.  Some cultures just don’t approve of it especially for kids.  The attitude is she will grow out of it or “I don’t want some counselor brain-washing my child with ideas I don’t approve of”.   Access to therapy is particularly critical for children who identify as LGBTQ.   These kids are significantly more likely to attempt suicide and also more likely to have family who do not approve of their feelings.  

States are responding quite differently.  States like Colorado, California  and Maryland have lowered the age of consent for treatment to 12.   In New York teens can self-consent to treatment at age 16 and physicians can authorize that treatment for younger children if they believe it is necessary.  But there are caveats.   The consent laws are only for outpatient and do not extend to prescription medications.  Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina have the worst records for providing access to mental health care for kids.  Everyone agrees that mental health treatment for children is much more effective if parents are in partnership with the treatment.  

There are also differences by race.  Data show that 14% of white children have had therapy at one time.  But those percentages drop dramatically for black children to 9% and 8% for Hispanic kids and only 3% for Asian children.   Distrust of therapists who are of a different race and/or bad experiences with psychotropic drugs are offered as the major reasons for failure to access therapy.

As a society we have identified a serious problem for our children.  As states we have taken two entirely different approaches.  Some states have expanded access to counseling by allowing kids to self-refer.   Other states have further limited access by requiring parental permission not just for counseling outside of school but even for seeing a school counselor for any issue at all, including academic counseling. 

We all admit kids need the help.  Some states are trying to facilitate that help.  While other states are acknowledging kids may need help,  but there are going to be some tall border walls going up.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

You are out of here

 You are out of here!

What to do with a kid who is really getting on your nerves? Not just today but most days.  Maybe he could go home, that would be nice.

There are thousands of children in our schools who are doing just that.  The process is called “informal removal” and if the child has a diagnosed disability it is illegal.  But like a lot of things that are illegal, a school district needs to be caught and that isn’t happening very much.

Here is how the scenario plays out.  A parent gets a call from the school.  “Mark is having a bad day, rather than have him get into trouble would you mind coming to pick him up?”  Most parents comply rather than have the child get into more trouble or perhaps even being suspended.

There are school districts that unilaterally place students on shortened school days.  Diane Smith, a lawyer with the National Disability Rights Network, has stated that “the reality is that there are children in this country who are still considered of insufficient quality to go to school”

The National Disability Rights Network, a nonprofit established by Congress more than four decades ago, found that informal removals are occurring thousands of times per year as “off the book suspensions”.  There are even students who are involuntarily transferred to programs that do not exist.

Children are placed in situations where they are required to “earn back” school time that they have a legal right to have.

Educators respond that this practice is their only recourse given the requirements of the Education of All Children with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  That legislation requires two very important elements related to informal removals.  First, a child may not be disciplined for exhibiting behaviors that are characteristic of the disability.  This process is called the Manifestation Meeting where the school’s team and the child’s family make this determination. And, secondly, if the team finds that the behavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability, then the school needs to come up with an individual education plan that mitigates against manifestation.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is up for changes.  Lawmakers have STRONGLY encouraged that informal removals be prohibited.  

Schools and principals are also under pressure to reduce the number of suspensions for children with disabilities.  The answer to that issue is to use informal removals.

Since COVID the practice has increased.  Families are now fighting back.  

There is nothing informal about removing a child from school and parents are going to prove that.



Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Lots of B's in the package

 Lots of B’s in the package


Maryland’s Blueprint for Education has lots of B’s in it.  That’s billions of dollars.  Ten billions of dollars to be exact.  This is state money and it will be matched by local contributions.  That means that taxpayers need to be prepared for their pockets to be picked for both state and local taxes.

Just what will Marylanders get for that significant investment.  Like all budget buster bills there is good news and not so good news.

First the good news.   Maryland is on track to offer free funded preschool for all children.  The services will be provided through a combination of public school programs and local school system contracts with private preschools.  Local districts are struggling with this provision because they don’t have the space or the staff.  Partnering with private providers is going slowly.  Giving preschool opportunities to all children will not only be great for the kids but will truly help the children of lower income families who cannot presently afford the cost.  With a free program, more parents of lower income families will be available to work outside the home and increase family resources.

The Blueprint is also designed to increase starting teacher salaries to $60,000 within the next few years.   Teachers in Maryland are already among the most highly paid nationally. Increasing starting salaries will further strap the resources of local districts without doing anything to increase the talents of the teacher corp.  Surveys show that salary isn’t the issue keeping young people from becoming teachers.  But that is a topic for another day.  In most districts, these increases in starting salaries are not moving up the food chain, so there is the real possibility that any teachers attracted by the starting salary will not stay when they realize the increase has not moved up the salary ladder.

The legislators that created this plan were concerned that it would not be implemented judiciously.  So, in their wisdom, they created the Accountability Implementation Board (AIB).   This Board functions over the State Board of Education in all matters pertaining to the Blueprint.  But we are all assured this new Board is not an increase in bureaucracy.  On July 1, Maryland will have a new State Superintendent of Schools.  This person will answer to the State School Board which in turn will answer to the AIB in all matters pertaining to the Blueprint.    And, of course, the AIB will also have its own collection of support staff and expenses.

There are lots of B’s in this plan.  It has barely been implemented and already there are people saying it’s not enough money.   School districts are saying the same thing.  They don’t have enough money- could be more B’s are coming to pick a pocket near you.