Hopi Jr/Sr High taking action to meet new special ed ruling
KEAMS CANYON, Ariz. — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 22 schools must provide a free and appropriate public education to special education students that has rigor and provides more than a minimum standard.
Hopi Junior/Senior High School Interim Superintendent Alban Naha said the court had placed all schools, public or private, on notice that their special education programs must meet more than minimal standards.
“This decision is result oriented and adds more responsibility on special education teachers, the regular classroom teacher, administrators, and school boards,” Naha said.
Naha said the Hopi Jr./Sr. High School Governing Board had already taken steps to strengthen its special education program before the court issued its ruling.
“Today, we have a new acting special education director who is reviewing all student files to ensure their needs are met,” Naha said.
He said several months ago members of the governing board and several Hopi Tribal Council members met with the Bureau of Indian Education’s special education staff because the Hopi delegation requested their assistance in reviewing the special education program for compliance.
“We also asked the Bureau to provide recommendations for improvement,” Naha said. “The delegation additionally requested intensive training on special education requirements for staff, administration and the board.”
Sandra Dennis, Hopi Jr./Sr. Governing Board member, said the in-house special education staff is working with public relations to develop flyers and brochures that provide additional information on the implementation of the special education requirements for its teachers and staff. The team is planning working sessions with teachers that provide the opportunity to review methods on how to implement the requirements into their daily classroom instruction.
“More training is needed for our teachers,” Dennis said. “For example, in the U.S., individuals with disabilities should have the opportunity to be educated with non-disabled peers, to the greatest extent appropriate according to the law.”
Dennis said the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires students be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE). For some children, a typical classroom with minimal extra help is a least restrictive environment. For children with severe disabilities, a self-contained classroom with an aide and classmates who are also disabled may be the LRE.
“The least restrictive environment may be the most difficult part to decide because children react differently to given situations,” Dennis said. “These differences and requirements can be confusing and merit additional teacher training.”
Naha said that Governing Board President Ivan Sidney and the rest of the governing board are reviewing the need to renovate and expand the size of the current gymnasium to provide for specialized equipment in a portion of the gym for these students. The staff is seeking existing architectural plans that allow for the renovation of the gym in a cost-effective manner.
“As Hopi, we know these children are special and it is our responsibility to care and nourish children from birth,” Naha said. “We are committed to meeting all the legal requirements of the special education law and are preempting the need for quality health facilities for our special students.”
Naha said the governing board is scheduling meeting with Congressional delegations and the appropriate funding agencies in Washington D.C. where the board will ask Congress and the Bureau of Indian Education to place a high priority on funding the renovation and expansion of the gym to meet the needs of the students.
“The Supreme Court’s action overruling the lower court’s minimal standards ruling is a clear directive that higher standards of effort are required not only in the regular classroom but in our physical education program as well,” Naha said. “We appreciate President Sidney’s leadership and applaud the governing board for insisting on excellence in education. We are committed to following the spirit of the Supreme Court.”