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The Slow Moving Catastrophe of Behavior, Learning and Mental Health Problems in Kids

Abadnonned schoolBy Anne Dachel

Week update: July 28 to Aug 4

While no one in the national media and no one in the federal government have taken any interest, our schools continue to decline. Here’s a sample from the past week from my big collection on

I look for stories on INCREASES in numbers and cost. This is proof that the situation isn’t stable, it’s only getting worse. STILL, there are no calls for answers. No alarms. New schools for special needs kids are described with words like ‘exciting’ and ‘fantastic.’

My friend Louis Conte called the situation “a slow moving catastrophe.”  I have over 2,700 articles gathered over the last year and a half, and they’re all frightening. I feel like it is a ticking time bomb, as one piece described it. Eventually schools will be unable to accommodate all the kids with learning disorders, behavior problems and mental health issues, and still educate kids. It’s that simple.

We’re being told that schools in Massachusetts spend 20—30% of their budgets on SPED, Prescott, AZ reports, “The special education student population has outpaced overall student growth,” in  Bridgwater, England they’re spending $24M (US dollars) for a SPED school for 160 students, and in Belfast the school budget is overspending by $25M (US dollars) because of special education costs. So when things finally just collapse, no one will be able to say that we weren’t told it was happening. It’s out there every single day. No one cares.

July 28, 2018, (UK) Isle of Wight County Press: Isle of Wight school dog Poppy receives top award

STUDENTS aren't the only ones achieving at St George’s School.

School dog Poppy — who has been supporting students at the special school for three years, helping to boost their self esteem, reduce anxiety and comfort them when they are upset — has been awarded 'Pets as Therapy' status….

July 28, 2018, Las Vegas Review Journal: 2 new psychologists to provide autism diagnosis in Las Vegas

Clinical neuropsychologists Erin Honke and Caitlin Cook will provide diagnostic services for families needing initial and follow-up evaluations for their autistic children at, respectively, Touro University Nevada’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities and UNLV’s Ackerman Autism Center.

Both say they look forward to being a part of the solution to long wait times for families desperate for early intervention. …

 “It’s also crazy to see how many families have gone without and are waiting to be seen, and that’s certainly something I’m excited to be a part of.”

There are 3,200 children waiting for help from the UNLV Ackerman Autism Center alone. …

July 29, 2018, (UK) Somerset Live: Here's what Bridgwater new £18M [$24M US] specialist school may look like 

Bridgwater residents have been given their first tentative glimpse of what their town's new £18M [$24M US dollars] specialist school may look like.

Somerset County Council announced its intention in May to build a new 160-place special school on Bower Lane Somerset County Council, not far from the community hospital….

Elmwood school, meanwhile, will be converted to provide more capacity at Robert Blake school.

This project is part of the council's strategy to ensure pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can be educated closer to home. …

July 30, 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Evers to seek unprecedented $600 million more in special education funding

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers will seek an unprecedented increase in school funding for students with disabilities in the 2019-'21 state budget, the latest in a series of announcements by Gov. Scott Walker and his top Democratic challenger as they position themselves as the most education-friendly in advance of the November election.

Evers announced Monday that he will seek $969 million in special education funding in the next biennial budget, up 163% from the current $369 million, which has remained flat for the last decade.

July 30, 2018, (UK) Birmingham Live: How vulnerable kids in Birmingham are far more likely to be excluded from school

Secondary school pupils in Birmingham are four times more likely to be permanently excluded if they have special educational needs, exclusive analysis has revealed.

A damning report from the House of Commons’ Education Committee recently showed that an increasing number of children are being unnecessarily excluded from school and abandoned with an inadequate education.

July 30, 2018, (UK) Norwich Eastern Daily Press: Severely autistic teenager to be moved to Lincolnshire school for £250,000 a year amid lack of Norfolk places

Dr Bill and Nicola O’Connor’s son, who is non-verbal, had been a student at Sidestrand Hall School, near Cromer, where they say he made “tremendous progress”.

But with the school unable to cater for his needs post-16, and a lack of suitable provision in Norfolk, the decision has been made to move him to an independent school 96 miles away in Lincolnshire - costing Norfolk County Council, and the taxpayer, £250,000 a year. [$330,000 US dollars]

Earlier this month, the council’s children’s services team acknowledged that a lack of special school places locally meant a high number - more than 300 - of children with special educational needs were placed in independent schools, some out of county, at an average cost of £48,000 a year. [$63,000 US]

July 30, 2018, Chalkbeat: For Michigan’s 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs, ‘it’s hard’ to find a place to learn

…But right now he’s 3 and, in Michigan, there’s no clear path for parents trying to get special services for their 3- and 4-year olds

That’s because the state’s lumbering process for transitioning 3-year-olds with special needs and disabilities into early childhood intervention programs is rife with miscommunication, lack of easily accessible information, and a shortage of spaces for 3- and 4-year-olds.

For the state’s estimated 13,000 preschoolers with special needs, it’s more difficult for parents to find places that will accept their children than it is for other preschoolers, said Richard Lower, the state’s director of preschool education.

July 31, 2018, PRWEB: American Medical ID Provides Free Medical IDs for Kids with Food Allergies

Leading medical alert jewelry manufacturer, American Medical ID, is kick-starting the back-to-school season with free medical alert bracelets for kids with food allergies. According to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization (FARE), food allergies affect up to 5.9 million children, or roughly 2 students in every classroom.

July 31, 2018, Lodi (WI) Enterprise: Lodi schools receiving $23,000 for mental health treatment

 Sixty-four school districts and consortiums are sharing $3.25 million in state grant funding to provide school-based mental health services.

All of the funded projects involve collaboration with community mental health providers and other stakeholders to create comprehensive support systems for children, youth, and families. …

 “In a given year, one in five students faces a mental health issue, with more than 80 percent of incidents going untreated. Those students who do get help, more often than not, receive it through their school,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers.  …

July 31, 2018, (UK) Tes: Thousands of pupils ‘not getting vital support’—New figures on school support staff to help ASN pupils show the risk of a ‘lost generation’ of children, say campaigners

Thousands of children with additional support needs (ASN) may not be getting the support they need in schools, according to an alliance of children’s service providers.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition has highlighted new Scottish government figures out today showing a fall in the ratio of pupils with ASN supported by specialist staff.

However, the government argued that new recording practices make direct comparisons more difficult, and that previously released figures showed an increase in the overall number of teachers in Scotland.

Updated figures from the school staff census highlight that, despite a steep increase in pupils identified as having ASN (from 118,034 in 2012 to 183,491 in 2017), the number of specialist support staff for those with ASN has risen by only 6 per cent in the same period, from 12,992 to 13,761….

The SCSC said that the government must work with local authorities to provide the necessary resourcing for ASN, or face the prospect of a “lost generation”.

Those with ASN may, for example, have autism spectrum disorder, mental health problems, ADHD, dyslexia or have experience of the care system. Support staff working in the sector include ASN auxiliaries, care assistants, behaviour support staff and educational psychologists….

July 31, 2018, Northridge (CA) Patch: LA County Tackles School Violence As Start Of School Year Looms

Back-to-school orientation in Los Angeles County will include training to prevent school violence, as the Board of Supervisors looks to expand a program that identifies and deals with threats on campus.

Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger co-authored a motion aimed at strengthening the School Threat Assessment Response Team, a 10-person team of mental health professionals that helps principals, counselors, school security officers and parents who raise a red flag about individual students. …

July 31, 2018, Fox4, Dallas, TX: North Texas schools working on Gov. Abbott's plan to improve school security

Many school districts have spent the summer making security improvements in the wake of the Santa Fe school shooting.

In May, Governor Greg Abbott unveiled a 40-point plan to improve school security. While a lot of districts have been working to harden their campuses since the Sandy Hook shooting, there is still a lot of work to be done. Now, many school districts are putting a much stronger focus on behavioral threat assessment tools. …

Out of the eight North Texas school districts that responded to FOX 4’s questions, the majority said they have increased: door lock equipment, cameras, active shooter training, school security personnel, mental health services and tip reporting awareness. …

This year, Garland ISD is working to enhance its behavioral threat assessment program, one of the governor's recommendations.

July 31, 2018, LaGrange (GA) Daily News: City, county officials tour new school 

…There are bathrooms in the kindergarten and special needs classrooms. There is also a sensory room for special needs children to relax. 

July 31, 2018, Lakeland (FL) Ledger: Polk County School Board takes step to approve $890M budget — $62M more than previous year

The budget also includes a one-time allocation from the state of $5.21 million for armed school guardians and $2.4 million for additional mental health counseling for students, instituted by the legislature in March following the shooting massacre of 14 students, two coaches and a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Aug 1, 2018, (UK) Huddersfield Daily Examiner: Children with special needs in Kirklees are far more likely to be expelled from school

Secondary school pupils in Kirklees are six times more likely to be permanently excluded if they have special needs, exclusive analysis has revealed.

In particular, the report highlighted that children who were already the most vulnerable – such as children with special educational needs (SEN), children in care and children living in poverty – are the most likely to be excluded.

Aug 1, 2018, Pineville (WV) Independent Herald: Grant to bring mental health services to schools

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Behavioral Health has awarded a one-year grant totaling $80,000 to Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center for two new Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) sites in Wyoming County. …

The ESMH program is provided through a partnership with DHHR's Bureau for Behavioral Health, the West Virginia Department of Education and the Marshall University School Health Technical Assistance Center. 

ESMH aims to develop and strengthen policies, practices and services that promote learning and social-emotional well-being for all West Virginia youth through a collaborative process that engages schools, families, and community-based agencies.

Aug 1, 2018, Davis (CA) Enterprise: Back to School — Boosting elementary counseling

In June, the Davis Board of Education approved a full-time counselor position for each comprehensive elementary school. Hiring is underway this summer.

Aug 1, 2018, N Fulton (GA) Neighbor:  North Fulton schools geared up for first day back 

The 2018-2019 school year starts Monday for about 95,215 students in Fulton County, and the school system is preparing with new faculty members, programs and resources—many of which focus on school safety.

To further promote safety, the school system has also added 10 additional social workers to its social-emotional learning initiatives, which are in many schools to support students’ development as well as personal safety and good decision-making. Six new police officers’ positions also are being added to provide additional support to the school police department….

Aug 1, 2018, WJCT, Jacksonville, FL: Florida's New Mental Health Disclosure Requirement…

A Florida law now requires students new to a school district to disclose whether they have received mental health services. The controversial new requirement is one of several school safety measures passed after the February Parkland school shooting. 

The required disclosure is already raising privacy concerns. And parents say they're unsure about what qualifies as mental health services. 

Aug 1, 2018, WSBT, South Bend, IN: New South Bend facility will be for children with autism to get round-the-clock attention

Families who are trying to find help for kids with autism sometimes have to travel outside the area to get the services they need.


But a new facility is coming to South Bend to help fill the gap.


Riverbend started its pilot school last year.


There will soon be a place for children with autism to get round-the-clock attention.


The beds will soon be filled with children ranging in age from 6 to 21. There are 70 beds in total.

Aug 1, 2018, KXAN, Austin, TX: Feds help Texas schools with safety homework before school starts

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security participated in safety and security training for Texas school resource officers, administrators and mental health counselors on Wednesday as part of a continued effort to make schools safer statewide.

"It’s important that we hold meetings and sessions like this today to educate our partners in keeping our schools safe and that is the school resource officers, the school administrators and teachers.

"I think any parent or teacher has some anxiety going into the school year," Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said. He gave remarks at the event, emphasizing a need to harden schools that have become "soft targets," provide mental health resources to students and identify early-warning signs that may indicate violence down the road.

Aug 1, 2018, WTHR, Indianapolis, IN: Flexible seating focuses on students' comfort in classrooms

…"It's not just about presenting information, but it's about creating an environment where when you do present that information, it's being received by the students in the best way possible," said Southwest Elementary School Principal Beth Henry.

"The more comfortable they are, hopefully the more they're going to like school and the more they're going to be able to retain," said special education teacher Victoria Pitcock.

Pitcock teaches 6th grade special ed at Greenwood Middle School.

Pitcock added, "They require a lot of movement."

She's all about flexible seating. It's a concept that lets students decide where they sit and what they sit on.

"From bean bag chairs, to laying on the floor, bringing in pillows," said Pitcock.

"We have exercise balls," said Greenwood Middle School Assistant Principal Jennifer Brinker. "We have comfy chairs. We have bean bags. Stability stools."

And it's not just a tool for special ed teachers. …

"They are engaged, calm, focused," said Habig.

"Times are changing," said Henry. …

Aug 2, 2018, (UK) This is local London: Planned U-turn on Boxgrove Primary School expansion to be reconsidered

Plans to halt the expansion of a primary school in Abbey Wood will be brought back to the table next week after councillors expressed concerns.

Last month, Greenwich Council’s cabinet agreed to consult on putting a stop to the expansion of Boxgrove Primary School, in Boxgrove Road, which was first agreed in 2013.

Council officers said the £4m expansion was no longer needed because the demand for primary school places was not as great as it was first expected.

The first phase of the school’s expansion was completed last year, but officers said the bigger phase two should be cancelled.

Instead, it was proposed a consultation be launched to open a specialist provision at the school for children with autism, in light of growing pressure for specialist spots.

Aug 2, 2018, Huntsville, AL, ABC31:  How local schools are keeping students safe

All week long WAAY 31 is showing how school districts are preparing for the new year.

Now, we're focused on the one thing every parent fears the most, a school shooting. …

As mass school shootings piled up last school year, Madison City School leaders started to re-evaluate how they keep students safe….

When Madison students return to class on August 7th, they will notice two new additions to their hallways.

"Every school is covered with a mental health counselor and we feel like that is going to be a great service to our kids. We have an SRO at every school now," added Parker.

The district aimed to raise $750,000 to pay for the extra school resource officers and additional counselors.

Aug 2, 2018, Newsday: Glen Cove school building to be renovated for Queens middle school move

The nonprofit Tiegerman schools is purchasing the closed Coles School and will pay for more than $3 million in renovations, officials said.

A nonprofit that serves children with language- and autism-related disorders will move its middle school to Glen Cove from Queens next summer, officials said.

Tiegerman schools expects to close next week on its $2.1 million purchase of the shuttered Coles School from the City of Glen Cove, said Brad Gerstman, Tiegerman’s Garden City attorney. …

Tiegerman will pay for more than $3 million in renovations to the school

Aug 2, 2018, Lincoln, NE 1011:  LPS sees increase in special needs students 

In less than two weeks, students will be sitting in classrooms starting out the new year and Lincoln Public Schools says more than ever, many of those seats will be filled by special needs students and they're working to accommodate them.


LPS says in the last 10 years, its number of special needs students have grown by more than 1,200. They say every year they spend about $200,000 to make sure schools are able to help these students.

One example is Belmont Elementary. It's undergoing an 8 million dollar renovation. Principal Kim Rosenthal says they'll have around 800 kids in their classrooms this year.

She says 145 of those students will have special needs or about 18 percent. Other special needs projects the district is working on include
minor restroom upgrades at Moore Middle School, modifications to the Special Education Department at Lincoln North Star and playground upgrades at Morley and Everett Elementary Schools.

Aug 3, 2018, Pierre (SD) Capital Journal: SD school districts increasingly rely on opt-outs to supplement budgets

While South Dakota teachers have earned raises over the past two years courtesy of a new half-cent sales tax, school districts across the state continue to struggle with their budgets..

“What we’ve seen over the past four years is about 8 percent growth in our student population,” said Brookings Superintendent Klint Willert. “In that same period, however, we’ve seen a 28 percent increase in the number of students with some type of special education need,

Aug 3, 2018, Ventura County (CA) Star: School for students with autism moves into temporary home near Camarillo Airport

The county-run school for students with autism moved from its previous location to a brand-new, temporary spot near the Camarillo Airport. Last month, the kids saw the new campus, which consists of portable buildings in a semicircle around a quad that has spots for sitting and a painted-on track for students to ride their bikes and run in, for the first time.

The campus cost approximately $2.1 million from a combination of general funds and special education funds from the state, officials from the Ventura County Office of Education said….

Aug 3, 2018, Bucks County Courier Times: Pennsbury reaches new $200,000 agreement with Caron Foundation

The school board approved the deal with the Richard J. Caron Foundation at Thursday night’s meeting. It kicks in Sept. 1 and runs through June 30, 2019, and replaces a $149,000 agreement the district had reached with Caron in September 2017….

The new agreement also increases the number of Caron counselors serving Pennsbury from three to four, Morett added. In addition to counselors at the elementary, middle and high school levels, the new agreement adds a fourth counselor who will rotate among all three levels, she said….

Aug 3, 2018, (UK) Belfast Telegraph: Northern Ireland schools funding ‘at make or break point’ after £19m overspend

The financial crisis in education is now "at a make or break point", a teaching union official has warned.

Jacquie White, the deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, was responding to comments by Department of Education permanent secretary Derek Baker, who says the education system here is facing unprecedented financial pressures.

Mr Baker's remarks come in newly published departmental accounts for 2017-18, which reveal the Education Authority overspent its budget by £18.9m, due mainly to increased expenditure on schools and pupils with special educational needs.

UUP education spokeswoman Rosemary Barton said the current situation is "untenable".

She said: "If schools are forced to go any further then I fear the quality of education being delivered to our young people will quickly begin to deteriorate."

Aug 4, 2018, (UK) Guardian: UK children with ADHD wait up to two years for diagnosis, say experts

Children with ADHD are waiting up to two years for a diagnosis in the UK, harming their chances of education and prospects for the future, say experts….

Yet data seen by the Guardian shows a chaotic situation, with some children being seen by children’s mental health specialists within a couple of weeks but most having to wait for months or years.

Aug 3, 2018, Houston Chronicle: Woodlands school for children with autism looks to expand

…For the co-founders of the Texas Autism Academy — Cary Mollinedo, Jane Walls and Shelinta Perez — the school came about as a solution to the lack of suitable special education services in public schools.

The three met as special education teachers at Cooper Elementary School in 2014 and developed the idea to bring specialized care for children with autism in South Montgomery County — where some 2,000 children and parents whose only option up to that point was full-time intensive therapy, homeschooling or making the 45-minute one-way trips to specialized schools in West Houston….


Aug 4, 2018, 1 in 4 Alabama public schools don't have a security officer, survey shows

One out of four K-12 public schools in Alabama don't have a school resource officer or a security officer, according to a recent survey conducted by the Alabama State Department of Education. 

That means approximately 375 schools, out of a statewide total of around 1,500, could choose to participate in the Alabama Sentry Program, which allows administrators to keep a firearm in a secured safe on campus for use during an active shooter incident.

Aug 4, 2018, Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette: Iowa City School District dismantles last student seclusion room

The Iowa City Community School District dismantled its last student seclusion room Wednesday, getting rid of the 6-by-6 foot boxes that have sparked outrage from some parents.

But what’s next?

Disagreement with a classmate, an F on a test or chiding from a teacher can spark anger, frustration or other negative emotions that in turn can snowball into violence. The district of more than 14,000 students still will use conference rooms and small classrooms for seclusion as a last resort to calm students who may be a danger to others or themselves.

Aug 4, 2018, Valdosta (GA) Daily Times: Academy finds new Horizon

The Horizon Academy has a new home nestled in the former ninth-grade wing of the old Valdosta High School.

The move begins a new partnership with Valdosta City Schools for Horizon Academy, a Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support program that helps special-needs children with emotional or behavioral issues.

The program usually has about 100 students at a time, who are in and out of the program and come from Lowndes, Brooks and Lanier counties and VCS. There are eight classrooms with one to two paraprofessionals in each class.

 “The transition has been very smooth, and the support has been awesome,” Clemons said. “We’re excited because we think this is going to be a great relationship.

Aug 4, 2018, Prescott (AZ) News: 20% Raise Brings AZ Teacher Pay Rank to #16 in Nation

According to Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA), the 20% pay increase voted on by the legislature and signed by Governor Doug Ducey, drastically increases the Arizona teacher pay ranking.

Funding challenges remain, however, including the "spread" of the system, rising employee costs such as pensions and healthcare. The Special Education student population has outpaced overall student growth and the modern programs cost more than funding allows….

 …‘To some extent, Arizona public schools followed nationwide trends and used incremental general fund dollars to expand student services such as teachers’ aides, medical staff and increased special education staff.

Aug 4, 2018, (Canada) Toronto Sun:  Violence against teachers requires stern discipline       Earlier this month, the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) released the results of its survey on violence against teachers, confirming physical and verbal attacks on teachers are reaching epidemic proportions.

According to the CTF, rates of violence (verbal and physical) against teachers range from a disturbing 41% to an apocalyptically high 90%. Perhaps not surprising, the teachers most susceptible to violence were female teachers, as well as those working with special education students.


Aug 4, 2018, N. Andover (MA) Eagle—Tribune: Our View: Special education funding problem persists

Three years ago, slightly more than $1 of every $5 spent in public schools in Massachusetts went toward special education. The ratio has gradually increased through the years, according to a comparison drawn up by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And that's just the state’s average; in some districts, the expense is considerably more.

Take North Andover, which spent more than $13.7 million on special education in fiscal 2015, according to the state’s comparison. That figure represented more than 27 percent of the school district’s operating budget. The same year, Andover was spending $22.9 million on special education — also about 27 percent of its overall budget.

The $18 million that Salem put toward special education in 2014-15 represented a little more than one-quarter of its school district's operating budget. In 2015, Amesbury schools’ expenses were a whopping 29 percent of the overall operating budget.

The juggernaut of special education costs is not exactly new, but its size and growth underscore the increasing need for the state to address it.


susan welch

Thank you again, Anne, for this comprehensive list of the problems facing education authorities in US, Canada, Ireland and UK.

I will, as usual, send this (via Twitter) to the UK's Health and Education departments. I will not expect a response (never get one), but I am hoping that it will open a few eyes to the seriousness of this worsening situation.

Your work on the impact that ASD is having in education is really appreciated, Anne


It might be revealing to compare the health of school children between countries that do and do not have wifi in the classroom and that do not allow cell towers near schools. There are also places in America that do not introduce technology early, notably private Silicon Valley schools where tech executives send their own children to shelter them from the devices they sell to the rest of the world.

Wireless has been eliminated in Cyprus schools and greatly restricted in Israel. Just two examples.
Many other countries that have wifi, have 1000 times lower exposure allowance than the US, Canada and UK. While scientists say that those lower allowances are not safe, there may be a difference in the outcome for children exposed to it as opposed to our children here, where there is no regard for exposure levels.

I wonder if we'd see a correlation between childrens health and level of wireless exposure in all these countries.

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