Legislation recently enacted due in part to MAC's advocacy include the following:
The Children's Autism Medicaid Waiver
The Office of Medicaid and the Department of Developmental Services Autism Division received approval from the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for renewal of an autism services program (originated in 2007) whereby the Commonwealth will receive federal matching funds for home and community based services delivered to Medicaid eligible children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
The program is called the Children’s Autism Spectrum Disorders Home and Community-Based Services Waiver Program. Waiver services are supplemental to special education services provided under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Read more
Autism Medicaid Waiver Update
Autism Medicaid Waiver Informational Flyer
Autism Medicaid Waiver Informational Flyer - en ESPANOL
Autism Medicaid Waiver Program Overview
Information for Providers
Individual Provider Application
Service Descriptions, Provider Qualifications and Rates
The Anti-Bullying Law
The Anti-Bullying bill supported by MAC was incorporated into the highly-publicized Anti-Bullying Act - Chapter 92 An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools signed by the Governor on May 3, 2010. The new law ensures that IEP Teams address bullying of children on the autism spectrum, specifically focusing on the skills necessary to help individual children avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, or teasing. Requiring IEP teams to address bullying as it impacts individual students with ASD, coupled with new provisions requiring school-wide bullying prevention programs, will help to work towards effectively mitigating the instances and effects of bullying for children with autism.
Last fall, MAC conducted an online survey to document the extent of bullying of children on the autism spectrum in Massachusetts schools. The responses were overwhelming, as parents across Massachusetts courageously shared their children's heart wrenching experiences. Their stories inspired MAC to publish Targeted, Taunted, Tormented: the Bullying of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which, along with the heartfelt testimony of parents and others at the legislative hearing, was instrumental in gaining the support of legislators for the autism anti-bullying bill.
Further good news is that the legislature responded to MAC's advocacy, and the new law addresses the needs of children with other types of disabilities as well. Specifically, the IEP must address skills needed to avoid and respond to bullying for all children with a disability that affects their social skills development or that otherwise makes them vulnerable to bullying, harassment or teasing.
MAC led statewide advocacy efforts providing input to DESE to ensure that the Department's Technical Advisory and the Department's Bullying Prevention and Intervention Resource Guide will help schools with implementation of the new bullying prevention law. The Guidance document provides an integrated approach, consisting of whole school efforts to create safe and supportive school environments, as outlined in the DESE Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, and the individual supports provided through the IEP process that will build students' skill and proficiences to avoid and respond to bullying.
Other linkages between MAC's work and the Anti-Bullying Law
The law includes a provision that the model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan to be published and disseminated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and to be used by schools in developing their own anti-bullying plans, "shall be consistent with the behavioral health and public schools framework developed by the department" in accordance with section 19 of the recently enacted Children's Mental Health law. MAC's Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (a joint project with Harvard Law School) has taken an active role in the development of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force framework, which is adapted from the "flexible framework" first described in TLPI's publication, Helping Traumatized Children Learn. Linking the anti-bullying work in schools with the framework will strengthen the shared goal of both initiatives: creating safe and supportive school environments for all students throughout the Commonwealth.
MAC will work to make sure that all the provisions of the new law described above are implemented effectively through regulatory and other administrative mechanisms. While we are pleased that the bill included these and other positive provisions preventing bullying for which MAC advocated, we will work with others to ensure the bill does not unnecessarily increase school exclusions and involvement in the criminal justice system while still protecting the victims of bullying. The Education Law Task Force, convened by MAC's Children's Law Support Project, will monitor and address these concerns.
We are very appreciative of Representative Marty Walz, who as co-chair of the Education Committee expertly shaped the bill into a coherent whole, balancing many interests, and shepherded the bill through to passage in conjunction with her counterpart, Senator Robert O'Leary, who also provided critical support to the inclusion of the Autism IEP bill. We are thankful for the support for these initiatives by the many House and Senate sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill and amendments during the difficult and lengthy legislative process that led to the bill's passage. But these important provisions of the bill would not have been included without the leadership provided by Representative Barbara L'Italien on the initial H. 3804 autism anti-bullying bill, Senator Jennifer Flanagan for sponsoring the amendment to expand the autism section of the bill to children with other disabilities, and Representative Alice Wolf for sponsoring the Section 19 framework language.
Trauma Sensitive Schools as part of the Alternative Education Act
Please click here to review the general laws at it relates to Trauma Sensitive Schools as part of the Alternative Education Act.
Section 19 of the Children's Mental Health Act
Section 19 of the Children's Mental Health Act states:
There shall be a task force on behavioral health and public schools, within the department of early education and care, to build a framework to promote collaborative services and supportive school environments for children, to develop and pilot an assessment tool based on the framework to measure schools' capacity to address children's behavioral health needs, to make recommendations for using the tool to carry out a statewide assessment of schools' capacity, and to make recommendations for improving the capacity of schools to implement the framework.. (read more)
The Final Report of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force - August 2011
THE SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE SCHOOLS LEGISLATION
To read an op-ed by Sen. Katherine Clark, a sponsor of the Safe and Supportive Schools bill, click here.
Your help is needed now by the Coalition for Safe and Supportive Schools!
Please call or email your State Representative and Senator and ask them to support H520 (House) and S210 (Senate), An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools. Please see the Fact Sheet which describes how this bill would create school environments where students feel safe and supported and would align initiatives that promote positive behavioral health, bullying prevention, truancy reduction, trauma sensitivity, positive discipline and social-emotional learning, along with academic achievement. The bill would enact the recommendations from the Task Force on Behavioral Health and Public Schools, which was established by the Children’s Mental Health Law, also known as Yolanda’s Law. The Task Force developed a Framework and Self-Assessment Tool to help schools with implementation.
Your calls and emails requesting support will be highly instrumental in passing this important legislation that will create safe and supportive environments in all the schools across the Commonwealth. A suggested script for your calls and emails is provided below.
Suggested script for calling or emailing your legislators
Feel free to use this script for your call or email. Some of you may choose to share a personal story in addition.
Dear Representative ______ or Senator ____,
I am your constituent and reside at (ADDRESS). I am writing/calling to request that you support and help pass S210 / H520, An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools. The bill's lead sponsors are Sen. Katherine Clark and Rep. Ruth Balser. This bill will enable schools to create welcoming, safe, supportive learning environments for all children.
I am asking you to support this legislation because, as a parent/educator/behavioral health provider/advocate (CHOOSE ONE), I have first-hand experience with the critical role schools play in the lives of children, and the pressing need for students to feel safe at school --- emotionally, socially, and physically, as well as academically. Schools help students feel supported by helping students form positive relationships with adults and peers, teaching social emotional skills to help children regulate their behaviors, using teaching approaches that enable children to be successful, and providing an inclusive environment where all students feel welcomed.
The Task Force on Behavioral Health and Public Schools, which was established by the Children’s Mental Health Law, also known as Yolanda’s Law, developed a Framework and a Self-Assessment Tool to assist schools in creating these safe and supportive environments that all children need. The Framework helps schools align and thereby enhance the effectiveness of their student support initiatives, such as efforts to promote positive behavioral health, bullying prevention, truancy reduction, trauma sensitivity, positive discipline and social-emotional learning, along with academic achievement.
This legislation is based on the work and recommendations of the Task Force. Some schools are already using the Framework to create safe and supportive environments for their students. The pending legislation, An Act relative to Safe and Supportive Schools S210 / H520, would help all schools across the Commonwealth become safe and supportive schools. I hope that you will support and ensure this bill’s passage so that all schools in Massachusetts become safe and supportive schools.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email/talk with me.
Related links and documents
- For contact information for your legislators, please click here
- To read more about the work of the Task Force on Behavioral Health and Public Schools, please click here
- To see the Framework and Framework Assessment Tool, CLICK HERE (Username and Password = TEST1)
The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Grant Program
The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment (ICE) line item supports school districts and state public institutions of higher education partnering together to offer inclusive concurrent enrollment programs for students with disabilities ages 18 to 22, the grant program is limited to said students who are considered to have severe disabilities and, in the case of students ages 18 and 19, is limited to students with severe disabilities who have been unable to achieve the competency determination necessary to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. The goal of the grant program is to meet the transition needs of students with severe disabilities by developing the capacity of school districts, working in partnership with institutes of higher education, to support college success, participation in student life of the college community, competitive employment, and provision of a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
Click for a video depiction of the program
The Augmentative and Alternative Communication "AAC" Bill
MAC led a major campaign resulting in enactment of of the Center’s 2009-2010 priority legislation, An Act to Improve Teacher Training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication. The new law ensures that teachers of students with moderate disabilities and teachers of students with severe disabilities receive instruction on the appropriate use of augmentative and alternative communication devices. The law is a critical first step, as teachers of students with moderate disabilities represent the majority of special education teachers. In enacting the AAC bill lawmakers recognized that it is essential to statutorily protect the rights of children with autism and other disabilities who are nonverbal or have limited speech and use AAC.
In 2011, MAC subsequently led strong advocacy efforts to ensure that the Department of Education issued regulations addressing issues critical to ensure full and effective implementation of the new law. The Department issued regulations, and also agreed to issue Guidelines for the development of teacher preparation programs that address areas of concern voiced by MAC and others during public testimony. MAC provided extensive input to the Department in the creation of the Guidelines and developed a comprehensive list of AAC Resources that can be used to support the preparation of teachers of students with moderate to severe disabilities.
An Act to Improve Teacher Training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication
DESE Regulations - 603 CMR 7.00
DESE Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of Moderate and Severe Disabilities: Instruction on the appropriate use of augmentative and alternative communication and other assistive technologies.
To read about your rights regarding assistive technology and devices (including augmentative and alternative communication) under federal special eduction law, click here.
The Autism IEP Act
MGL Ch.71B sec.3 (the Autism IEP Act) requires that IEP Teams of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder shall consider and shall specifically address all different aspects of a child's development as it relates to their disability, such as social skills, non-verbal communication, behavior, etc. This law was updated in 2010 in order to address the needs of a student if bullied, harassed or teased.
The Autism IEP Bill (H.1123) - signed 4-7-07
The Autism IEP Bill Fact Sheet in English
The Autism IEP Bill Fact Sheet in Spanish
DOE's Technical Assistance Advisory on Autism Spectrum Disorder
Maintaining Transition Age Requirements for Students with Disabilities
MAC’s Transition Bill, S.286, An Act to Maintain Transition Ages Requirements for Students with Disabilities, was signed by the Governor in August 2008. Under the new law, special education transition planning and transition services must commence at age 14, rather than waiting to age 16 as permitted under federal law. Transition services are critical to facilitate a student’s movement to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, and community participation. Delay beyond age 14 (waiting until high school) is too late to facilitate the most effective transition planning for youth with disabilities.
Special Education Transition Bill (S286)
The Transition Law (DESE Advisory)
The Transition Bill Fact Sheet
The Transition Bill Statute
The Implementation Alert for Professionals
The Implementation Alert for Parents of Children with Disabilities
House Bill 3720 (formerly H.159), An Act to Promote the Successful Transition of Students with Disabilities to Post-Secondary Education, Employment, and Independent Living
Your voices were heard, and on March 9, 2012 the Governor signed H. 3720 (formerly H.159) An Act to Promote the Successful Transition of Students with Disabilities to Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Independent Living into law. The new law is Chapter 51 of the Acts of 2012
The new law requires the Board of Education to revise educator licensure regulations to provide a mechanism for current special education teachers and rehabilitation counselors to obtain a Specialist Teacher Endorsement in Transition Services. The new regulations must be issued by September 1, 2012 and shall include details on coursework and field experience necessary to obtain the Transition Specialist Endorsement. With transition specialists prepared to provide services already required under federal law, this bill will help to ensure that existing dollars are spent in a more effective manner and will improve competitive employment and independent living outcomes for students with disabilities ages 14 - 22 years old. The bill will also help reduce litigation costs, by providing school districts with trained personnel necessary to fully implement the transition requirements of federal special education law. Upon passage of the bill, lead sponsor Representative Tom Sannicandro stated, “this legislative victory belongs to a lot of people, including students and parents who told their story, who collected signatures, and who delivered their message to policy makers in a powerful way. This legislation will empower students with disabilities by better preparing them for independent living. Skills such as navigating a bus route, cooking a meal, and managing a budget will now be integrated into the curriculum for these students. This training will help more students with disabilities hold jobs and be active and engaged members of the community.”
Without your hard work and support, this bill would not have become law. THANK YOU!
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued proposed regulations for the Transition Service Endorsement. The Department is accepting public comments on the regulations until November 2, 2012. Please see the ‘Notice of Public Comment’ for further information. It can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=7055. Click here for a copy of the proposed regulations.
For more information, contact Tina Fitanides at 617-357-8431 x244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, please find a list of relevant links that provide vital information relative to the bill. Chapter 51 of the Acts of 2012
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The Parents (and their Evaluators) Observation Act
In 2008, with the pro bono assistance of Attorney Robert Crabtree, MAC led a significant legislative victory with passage of H. 391, An Act to Provide Access to Information for Parents’ Evaluators. This bill ensures that parents and independent evaluators will have access to observe special education programs, providing critical information needed to participate in the special education decision making process.
MAC then participated in the group of stakeholders convened by DESE to provide input to the agency as it drafted its guidance to school districts for implementing the bill. MAC provided key leadership in gathering information and coordinating in preparation for this meeting. DESE issued a balanced Advisory, consistent with legislative intent, notifying superintendents, principals, administrators of special education, and other interested parties that parents and independent evaluators have clear rights to observe special education programs. This law and advisory will help provide parents with critical information needed to participate in the special education decision making process.
Special Education Observation Bill (S391)
The Observation Bill Statute
The Observation Bill Fact Sheet
The Observation Bill Technical Assistance (DESE Advisory)
An Act to Maintain Short Term Objectives for Students with Disabilities
Lead sponsors: Senator Creem and Representative Benson
This bill would require school districts to continue the current practice of including short term objectives in the IEPs of students with disabilities. A change in federal law removed the requirement to utilize short term objectives, and this bill would ensure the continuation of current practice, --by requiring short term objectives in state law. The inclusion of short term objectives in IEPs is important to assist in measuring the student’s progress, and ensure accountability, which is critically important when all students with disabilities must ultimately pass MCAS in order to receive a diploma.
SD#184 - Fact Sheet
SD#184 - Bill Summary
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An Act to Promote Inclusive Transition Programs for Students with Severe Disabilities
Lead sponsor: Representative Sannicandro
This bill provides an inclusive concurrent enrollment discretionary grant program to meet the transition needs of students with severe disabilities by developing the capacity of school districts, working in partnership with institutes of higher education, to support college success, participation in student life of the college community, competitive employment, and provision of a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Building on the success of the Commonwealth’s inclusive concurrent enrollment pilot program, students with severe disabilities will be able to participate with chronologically age appropriate peers in public college courses, rather than face increasing isolation. The bill also codifies existing state regulations regarding programs for older students, with additional language clarifying that such inclusion in higher education is also an option for youth ages 18-21.
HD#1763 - Fact Sheet
HD#1763 - Bill Summary
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An Act Promoting Equal Opportunities for Students with Disabilities
Lead sponsor: Senator Eldridge
This bill reinstates parents’ due process rights that were available prior to 2001. The scales of justice are currently unbalanced, in favor of school districts, effectively creating a two-tier system that bars many low and middle-income families from access to special education rights and services. This bill would reinstate parents’ ability to recover attorney’s fees if parents prevail as a result of settlements in cases initiated to obtain essential special education services. In addition, the bill establishes that school districts have the burden of proof in special education cases, recognizing that districts have greater access to relevant information, resources, legal counsel, experts, and witnesses. This bill levels the playing field by encouraging prompt and fair settlement agreements, reducing litigation costs for parents and school districts, and ensuring that all families, regardless of income, have an opportunity to exercise essential due process rights.
SD#901 - Fact Sheet
SD#901 - Bill Summary
SD#901 - Bill
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An Act to Increase the Capacity to Address the Complex Needs of Students with Autism
Lead sponsor: Representative Bradley
This bill will help ensure that school districts increase their capacity to provide appropriate educational services to the growing numbers of students with autism in the Commonwealth. The legislation requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to revise educator licensure regulations and provide a mechanism for special education teachers to receive an Autism Endorsement. Despite the fact that Massachusetts has experienced a steep rise in the number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder over the past decade, licensure regulations inadequately prepare teachers to meet the complex and unique needs of students with autism. Thousands of students with autism across the Commonwealth will benefit from this legislation. Starting in 2016, the bill also requires IEP Teams to include a teacher with an Autism Endorsement, to ensure that the Team can adequately address the complex communication, behavioral, sensory, social, and academics needs of youth in the least restrictive environment. In addition, the bill ensures that existing recertification requirements regarding effective inclusive schooling for children with disabilities address the needs of children with autism.
HD#2870 - Fact Sheet
HD#2870 - Bill Summary
HD#2870 - Bill
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An Act to Provide Equity and Fairness for Students with Disabilities
Lead sponsor: Representative Speliotis
This bill reinstates parents’ due process rights that were available prior to 2001. The scales of justice are currently unbalanced, in favor of school districts, effectively creating a two-tier system that bars many low and middle-income families from access to special education rights and services. This bill would reinstate parents’ ability to recover attorney’s fees and expert costs if parents prevail as a result of settlements in cases initiated to obtain essential special education services. In addition, the bill establishes that school districts have the burden of proof in special education cases, recognizing that districts have greater access to relevant information, resources, legal counsel, experts, and witnesses. This bill levels the playing field by encouraging prompt and fair settlement agreements, reducing litigation costs for parents and school districts, and ensuring that all families, regardless of income, have an opportunity to exercise essential due process rights.
HD#1447 - Bill Summary
HD#1447 - Bill
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