Modesto Expulsion Rates for Special Ed Students Criticized
Nan Austin, The Modesto Bee, 07/28/2012
Modesto City Schools faces scrutiny because of unusually high expulsion rates for special education students. Modesto board members will hear the details Monday and separately consider a response to a civil grand jury report that special education deadlines were missed at one high school.
The board also is expected to approve a special meeting devoted to the planned Enochs High School pool. The public forum is proposed for 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at the high school to give information on the pool's financing and timing, and let community members air concerns and opinions.
A state review found the district had an expulsion rate far above average for special education students, especially at its high schools. The state average is 2.6 percent of students expelled or suspended for more than 10 days. The average for Modesto elementary schools was slightly higher, but Modesto high schools' rate was nearly double the state figure.
In response, the district is training its staff in strategies to avoid behavior problems and handle those that happen in other ways. The district qualified for $90,000 to implement its better behavior plan because of the state finding and hopes to decrease suspensions and expulsions for all students, said Associate Superintendent Ginger Johnson.
This month, the state also found the district had far more than the usual number of white students with emotional disabilities. The "significantly disproportionate" finding requires the district to spend 15 percent of its federal special education funds, or $855,000, on prevention services to lower the number.
Regarding the grand jury report, the district- prepared response agrees with technical violations noted in the report, but disagrees with the wider allegation that there was a lapse in high-level oversight at one unnamed high school. It says there were lapses in monitoring by an assistant principal there and problems between staff members at the school.
Addressing the report's recommendations, the district said it will tighten monitoring, offer additional training to staff and discipline those who fall behind. A recommendation to check student interviews was disputed as impractical.
In other matters Monday night, the board will:
• Consider approving several new or revised administrative positions, including a coordinator for mental health services for special education students and others, and a child development specialist to assist family child care home providers
• Hear risks to district funding in the coming year from state fiscal problems
• Weigh approving board governance protocols, including the role of the board president and interaction with its attorney and the district superintendent
• Consider rejecting the claim of recent Beyer High grad Aashna Chand for compensation for an injury sustained after being hit in the head by an apple in April
Originally published here