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Flagstaff special ed teachers ordered to do more training

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Special education teachers and providers at a Flagstaff
school must receive more training by early October or risk a loss in federal
funding, Arizona education officials said.

A state Department of Education investigation found Flagstaff Unified School
District had been following parts of the federal Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act. While the call for training focused on DeMiguel Elementary
School, the district could lose millions of federal dollars if the corrective
measures aren’t taken.

The investigation was triggered by dozens of complaints filed by parents Dani
Lawrence and Aaron Green. The couple said their 7-year-old son’s school Braille
instruction at Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, or ASDB,
stopped in December without notice.

Sawyer Green is a first-grade student at DeMiguel. According to his parents, he
has a rare genetic eye disorder that leaves him with an 85 percent chance of
going blind. He has been learning Braille since he was 3, mainly through the
Flagstaff school district. The district for years has contracted with ASDB to
provide services for visual and hearing impaired students in their schools.
Lawrence said an ASDB teacher’s suggested he take a hiatus from Braille
services. The hiatus soon became a formal ceasing of his instruction, sending
his mother into a panic.

“We’re reading a lot of medical journals that tell us if my son doesn’t learn
Braille by age 10, he may not learn it,” Lawrence told the Arizona Daily Sun.

Not fully knowing Braille should he go blind would endanger his chances of
going to college or getting a job, she said. So, last February, she and her
husband filed 55 complaints against ASDB and Flagstaff Unified with the state
Department of Education. Green said he thinks other students may be in a similar
predicament as his son.

The actions led to Sawyer getting Braille services again in March. Then state
education officials sided with the couple against Flagstaff Unified in April,
citing five instances. Among them was not giving prior notice about the Braille
service discontinuing and not communicating when Sawyer’s parents would receive
progress reports. The district was ordered to meet with his parents earlier this
month. They were also ordered to submit a draft of a memo reminding all special
education employees of their requirements. Special education teachers at
DeMiguel have until Oct. 9 to complete corrective training.

District Student Support Services Director Diana Shaum said the district will
comply with the state’s orders. She said every elementary school will have a
specialist supervising special education programs starting next year.

“This way, you’re going to have someone on site who can immediately respond,”
Shaum said. “There definitely was a breakdown, probably with communication but
also with trust. It’s important that we rebuild that trust as quickly as
possible.”

ASDB, however, is not overseen by the state Department of Education’s
administrative arm. So, the state’s investigation was only limited to 16 of the
couple’s complaints. The school has not yet responded to Flagstaff Unified’s
proposal to require more detailed notes and monitoring for special education
students.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/