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Speaker: Put Children First in Special Ed

Keynote speaker Gary Ruesch on St. John Wednesday.Put the children first when developing Individual Education Programs for special education students, advised Gary Ruesch, the keynote speaker at this week’s seventh annual State Office of Special Education Summer Institute.
"The I in IDEA stands for individual," he said, referring to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
This law sets the standards for special education across the country.
The five-day conference runs until Friday at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John. About 140 special education and regular teachers are attending.
Ruesch is a lawyer who represents numerous school districts in Wisconsin and around the country on special education matters. His address on Wednesday covered many aspects of dealing with special education laws.
He stressed that regular teachers must be included in formulating education plans for special education students because those students often spend much of the day in regular classrooms.
A sixth-grade teacher at Lockhart Elementary School on St. Thomas, Julia JnBaptiste, spoke about the importance of including her even before Ruesch brought it up. She said she’s now better informed about the laws that govern special education.
"I can inform parents and let parents know the resources," she said.
Carrie Johns, who serves as director at the State Office of Special Education, also spoke about the need to include everyone in developing plans for special education students.
"Nobody works in isolation. We cannot educate them in a bubble," she said.
In further discussing his advice that schools keep in mind the needs of the child, Ruesch urged those involved in formulating a plan for the child to follow the proper procedures, involve all the parties pertinent to the child’s case and fill out all the forms correctly. He said this helps prevent lawyers hired by the special education child’s parents from tripping up the education department on procedural points.
Ruesch spoke about the impact of lawsuits filed by parents of special education children to get services they want for their children. In addition to the cost to the school district and the parents, the children also suffer adverse affects.
In one well-known 1982 case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the parents of deaf child Amy Rowley sued to have the school provide a full-time sign language interpreter for their child. Rowley could lip-read and was getting good grades in her classes. Ruesch said the school wanted to send her to a school for the deaf to provide socialization. After winning in lower courts, the parents lost at the Supreme Court.
Ruesch later met Rowley when she served as an expert witness in one of his cases. He said that while her parents kept her in the dark as they worked their way through various courts on the way to the Supreme Court, she was aware that something was going on by the way she was treated at school.
"She said that sometimes there were men in suits at the back of the room," Ruesch said, referring to lawyers.

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Keynote speaker Gary Ruesch on St. John Wednesday.Put the children first when developing Individual Education Programs for special education students, advised Gary Ruesch, the keynote speaker at this week's seventh annual State Office of Special Education Summer Institute.
"The I in IDEA stands for individual," he said, referring to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
This law sets the standards for special education across the country.
The five-day conference runs until Friday at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John. About 140 special education and regular teachers are attending.
Ruesch is a lawyer who represents numerous school districts in Wisconsin and around the country on special education matters. His address on Wednesday covered many aspects of dealing with special education laws.
He stressed that regular teachers must be included in formulating education plans for special education students because those students often spend much of the day in regular classrooms.
A sixth-grade teacher at Lockhart Elementary School on St. Thomas, Julia JnBaptiste, spoke about the importance of including her even before Ruesch brought it up. She said she's now better informed about the laws that govern special education.
"I can inform parents and let parents know the resources," she said.
Carrie Johns, who serves as director at the State Office of Special Education, also spoke about the need to include everyone in developing plans for special education students.
"Nobody works in isolation. We cannot educate them in a bubble," she said.
In further discussing his advice that schools keep in mind the needs of the child, Ruesch urged those involved in formulating a plan for the child to follow the proper procedures, involve all the parties pertinent to the child's case and fill out all the forms correctly. He said this helps prevent lawyers hired by the special education child's parents from tripping up the education department on procedural points.
Ruesch spoke about the impact of lawsuits filed by parents of special education children to get services they want for their children. In addition to the cost to the school district and the parents, the children also suffer adverse affects.
In one well-known 1982 case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the parents of deaf child Amy Rowley sued to have the school provide a full-time sign language interpreter for their child. Rowley could lip-read and was getting good grades in her classes. Ruesch said the school wanted to send her to a school for the deaf to provide socialization. After winning in lower courts, the parents lost at the Supreme Court.
Ruesch later met Rowley when she served as an expert witness in one of his cases. He said that while her parents kept her in the dark as they worked their way through various courts on the way to the Supreme Court, she was aware that something was going on by the way she was treated at school.
"She said that sometimes there were men in suits at the back of the room," Ruesch said, referring to lawyers.