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Spotsy changes special-ed designations
Starting this fall, Spotsylvania County students ages 5 to 8 who are classified as developmentally delayed will move to another special education category or to the general classroom


Date published: 6/18/2008

By Karen Bolipata

Starting this fall, Spotsylvania County schools will no longer classify students ages 5 to 8 as developmentally delayed.

Those students will be placed in another special education category or mainstreamed into standard classrooms. Students ages 2 to 5 still are eligible for the program, which includes individualized instruction, often in addition to traditional classes.

Special Services Director Jane Rice said there are children in the program who don't need to be there, particularly African-American students.

"It doesn't take a great deal of delay to qualify, so, consequently, we've seen a lot of children labeled with that label who don't have that disability," she said.

THE LABEL

Developmentally delayed students have a disability in physical, cognitive, communication, social, emotional or adaptive development, as determined by school officials.

In the last school year, Spotsylvania had 16 full-time teaching positions in developmental delay. Next year, four of those teachers will be at Cedar Forest Elementary School, which is opening in the fall, and the rest have gone to other teaching positions or school districts. No one was laid off, Rice said.

Eliminating the developmentally delayed classification for children ages 5 to 8 saves the county about $1 million. Rice says the money wasn't a factor in eliminating part of the program.

Federal regulations allow states to use the category for children ages 3 to 8. Virginia extended it to 2-year-olds, although the Virginia Department of Education is now proposing to cut the program at age 5.

DOE has held nine public hearings around the state and is accepting input via e-mail, mail and fax, until June 30. It will then make revisions to its proposal, if needed, before presenting them to Gov. Tim Kaine.

Rice said the state's proposed change was a factor in Spotsylvania's decision to modify its program. Critics say the move will keep much-needed services from young children when they're most vulnerable.

Sue Sargeant, a speech therapist for the school division and an officer of The Arc of Rappahannock, says putting children into "hard" labels, such as learning disability or autism, will lower expectations.


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Comment on the department of education's proposed changes to the developmentally delayed program by June 30.

Mail: Special Education Regulations Revision Process; Office of Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services; Virginia Department of Education; Box 2120; Richmond, Va. 23218-2120

E-mail: ReviseSpedRegs@doe.virginia.gov.

Fax : 804/786-8520