Alexa Posny Interview - Part IV

My recent interview with Dr. Alexa Posny, the new Assistant Secretary of Education for OSERS (the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services) covered a lot of ground. This is the fourth in a series of occasional posts concerning the interview over the next few weeks. "JG" indicates that I am speaking. "AP" indicates that Secretary Posny is speaking.

This post deals with whether IDEA should be changed in view of the revelations about abuse of seclusion and restraints, especially as used on children with disabilities:

JG: Let me give you a couple of specific issues and ask you whether or not you think they should be part of reauthorization. The one that's actually back in the news again this week is seclusion and restraints.

AP: That's correct.

JG: Congress has just offered a new law about that and not part IDEA, but do you think that and given all the things that were in the GAO report and that National Disability Rights Network report that maybe IDEA should beef up its sections on behavior-type issues?

AP: That's a tough one to respond to. You know, the revisions in the past and the versions of IDEA try to stay away from specifics, especially in terms of appropriate methods or methodologies or whatever. So, I'm not necessarily - - I can't give you a definitive answer, but I guess I would not be leaning towards that.

JG: Okay. Well, let me try it a different way. Do you think that maybe positive behavior support should get more play in IDEA somewhere? Because, basically, because behavior is only covered in IDEA as a vague reference in the IEP section and there's really nothing else except the part when there's a manifestation determination, it says there's no manifestation, which is very specific. But in terms of positive behavior supports, do you think we should merge that into IDEA somewhere?

AP: Well, again, often it's viewed as a specific methodology and you know, as a hearing officer, we don't even put that into IEPs.

JG: Right.

AP: So, we would have to stay away from looking at it and basically saying that we're supporting one particular methodology. So, will you see those exact words. My guess is probably not. But the information about training and providing professional development, about appropriate techniques, I mean, that kind of language, I'm sure. But again, it's been a term that's phrased because of response to intervention. Those words aren't even in there.

JG: Right.

AP: So, and it's very - - it's done intentionally.

JG: And some of us, as hearing officers, call that (methodology) the "M" word , you know (laughing) - -

AP: Um hmm.

JG: Because you're not supposed to say it or go near it. You know what I mean?

AP: That's correct.

JG: And it think that - - I understand what you're saying, but just the way that some kids with disabilities have been abused though, it's so horrible and it's just, you know - -

AP: Well, it's traumatic. I mean, no one wants to see that, but is the law to really - - you know, is IDEA the law to take that on? You know, I think that's the question more than anything else. IDEA has so much in it.

JG: Right.

AP: And believe me, I don't want any child to ever be hurt or abused or whatever. My first job was teaching emotionally disturbed middle school kids. So, believe me, I understand the behaviors their talking about, but there is, you know - - but to harm a child, oh, my gosh.

JG: Yeah. That's scary.

AP: Yeah, not at all.

JG: I haven't actually read the new legislation, yet. I just saw a release about it this morning. I don't think it assigns you any duties, does it, in terms of - -

AP: Well, no because it's really pertaining to all kids.

JG: Okay.

AP: It just so happens that students with disabilities tend to be probably the recipients of that more often because of their behavior, but it's for all.

JG: Okay.

AP: So, it would not be assigned specifically to us.

JG: Okay, and that's what I was assuming, but I thought you might already know because it - - if that course is proposed, it hasn't even made it through the committee yet.

AP: That's correct.

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