Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

New Rules for Testing Students with Disabilities Sparks Concern in Texas, On Special Education – Education Week

Texas is replacing its former TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) program with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. The STAAR-Alternate program is for students with severe disabilities, and allows students to be tested on simpler tasks that correspond to academic standards. However, students who are tested on only the most basic tasks will not be counted as proficient under state and federal accountability standards.

That non-proficient rating will not affect the child, but it will affect the school. The article explains that the state created the rule to nudge teachers in the direction of creating challenging assessments for students with disabilities. Educators say that in some cases, time spent trying to get students to master the tests takes away from life-skills instruction.

 Court Upholds School’s Use of ‘Timeout Room’, The School Law Blog – Education Week

A school district’s use of a “timeout room” to briefly restrain an elementary school student with developmental disabilities did not “shock the conscience” and thus did not violate the student’s constitutional rights, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision stems from a suit filed by an Oklahoma couple, Paul and Melinda Muskrat, on behalf of their son, identified in court papers as J.M., who was a special education student at Deer Creek Elementary School in Edmond, Okla. J.M. would sometimes yell, spit, kick, and display other disruptive behaviors in his classroom.

On an unspecified number of occasions, J.M.’s teachers would place him in the small “timeout room,” which was an enclosure large enough for a student and teacher to fit, with a light, a window, and an unlocked door, court papers say. The longest the student was placed in the timeout room on any one occasion was four minutes, the court papers say.

J.M. was between 5 and 10 years old when the timeout room was used, and at some point his parents requested that he not be placed in the enclosure. His individualized education program was amended to prohibit placing him in the timeout room, but the parents’ suit contends school officials continued to do so.

Report Says ‘Use of Force’ Incidents Increasing in Ohio DYS Facilities, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Although fewer numbers of low-level offenders are being sent to Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) centers, a Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report released last week found that personnel use of force to restrain adolescents and teens in the state’s facilities increased in 2012.

Last year, an estimated 4.69 “use of force” incidents per youth were tallied up by the Committee. Three years earlier, the estimates were just 3.74 incidents per detained juvenile. One facility — Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility — was found to have a “use of force” rate that averaged 7.31 incidents per inmate.

Illinois State House Signs off on Redirecting Most Youth Under 17 From Adult Court, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

The Illinois House approved has signed off on a bill  that would place more 17-year-olds in the state’s juvenile courts – steering more youth away from the adult system.

As it is in Illinois, youth under 17 that are, in most cases, charged with felonies are tried as adults. Under the bill, which now goes to the Senate after an 89-26 House vote, 17-year-olds charged with “lesser felonies” would have their cases heard in juvenile courts.

New Report on Video Games and Juvenile Offenders, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A study recently published in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice argues that there may be a link between violent video games and aggressive juvenile behavior.

The study analyzed the video game playing behaviors of more than 200 young men and women involved in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system. According to the report, inclinations towards more violent games, as well as frequency of playing video games in general, may be factors in both delinquent and violent behavior among young people.

Megan Mikutis

About Megan Mikutis

Megan Mikutis is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake in 2012 with a B.A. in Literature. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, Megan tutored undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in writing while working for the University of Houston – Clear Lake Writing Center. This summer, Megan worked for the Center for Children, Law, and Policy and had the opportunity to compose a policy statement discussing the disproportionate representation of Limited English Proficient students in special education. Currently, Megan serves as the President of the Student Bar Association as well as a member of the Hispanic Law Student Association. Megan is most interested in education and special education issues.

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