February 22, 2016
In January 2016, Oregon Department of Education issued a memorandum that highlighted an issue that a number of Oregon families faced: reduced school days. FACT received a significant number of calls from concerned parents whose children were missing large chunks of the school day – some receiving as little as 2 hours of instruction per day.
To quote Disability Rights Oregon:
In recent years, many Oregon school districts have resorted to inappropriately shortening the school days of student with disabilities, often to as little as an hour a day, instead of constructively addressing behavior problems with positive behavior supports…We collected and provided data regarding the prevalence and duration of shortened school days through parent surveys that were available on DRO and [Youth, Rights & Justice] websites. We also worked closely with our partners at Families and Community Together (FACT) whose input into our data collection effort was invaluable.
The data we collected conclusively confirmed the prevalence and seriousness of the problem. When it was presented to ODE, the Department was moved to acknowledge that the problem was significant and began working on a Numbered Executive Memorandum about reduced school days.
You can read ODE’s memorandum here, but important take-aways include the following:
- “For students who receive special education services, a decrease in instructional time likely constitutes a significant change to the Individual Education Program (IEP) and/or a change in placement, triggering the procedural safeguard requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”
- “In some circumstances, it may be necessary to adjust the minutes of instructional time for a student with a disability. For example, this may apply for a student with a medical condition for whom a full school day is difficult due to endurance or other factors.”
- “The following practices are considered ineffective, and may result in a violation of a student’s access to a free appropriate public education…:
- Behavior contracts that set a quota for “good behavior days” that govern whether a student can enter, reenter, or remain in a less restrictive educational setting.
- A pattern or practice of calling parents in the middle of a school day to come to school to pick up their student due to behavior issues...”
FACT appreciates that some children have benefited from a reduced school day, thanks to their parent’s advocacy to appropriately meet their child’s needs. It’s important for parents of children experiencing disability to understand how a shortened school day may impact their child’s education.
FACT encourages parents whose children’s school day has been shortened (without an IEP meeting or formal agreement) to contact their child’s school and ask important questions like, “How is a reduced day impacting my child’s IEP?,” “Will this affect my child’s ability to meet their graduation requirements?,” and “What steps can the school take to support my child while reducing the disruption of academic instruction?”