Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Friday, December 12, 2003
Year V, Edition 842

This front page features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 35 more news items.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger says he needs to be tough enough to make painful cuts. But focusing cuts on little children and others with severe disabilities isn't tough. It's cruel."

--Mark Polit, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Inclusive Communities (First story)

"I've been deeply disappointed in this administration. It seems their goal is to do as little as possible, and in that they seem to be succeeding."
--Former California Supreme Court Judge Cruz Reynoso, an appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, talking about the Justice Department's record of enforcing anti-discrimination laws under Attorney General John Ashcroft (Third story)



Hundreds Of Advocates Protest Schwarzenegger Budget Limits

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 12, 2003

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--More than 600 disability rights advocates gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to limit services for Californians with developmental disabilities.

Schwarzenegger, who for years has been a vocal supporter of Special Olympics and other disability programs, has proposed suspending the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act -- the 35-year-old law that currently guarantees certain community-based services for about 200,000 people with developmental disabilities. The new governor says that placing a cap on the services, while creating a waiting list for those not currently served, is needed to help fill a multi-billion dollar budget gap.

Schwarzenegger has also proposed saving $250 million over two years by eliminating art and music therapy, equestrian therapy, camp experiences and respite care.

Disability advocates and others are particularly angered that these and other services are being cut at the same time that Schwarzenegger is repealing a vehicle license fee -- amounting to a $7.4 billion tax cut.

"Governor Schwarzenegger did not reveal the details of his spending plan during the election campaign," said Shirley Dove, a parent and President of the Arc of California, in a press statement. "The reason has now become obvious: Californians would have rejected such a mean-spirited plan."

Related articles:
Governor's proposed cuts draw fire (Sacramento Bee)
"People with developmental disabilities protest at Capitol tree lighting" (Press release)
Governor's Ax Hangs Over My Disabled Child (Los Angeles Times) Los Angeles Times registration required - free



Fernald Moves Going Very, Very Slowly

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 12, 2003

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--In February of this year, when Governor Mitt Romney announced that the state would close Fernald Developmental Center, there were 302 residents in the 155-year-old facility -- the oldest publicly-funded institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere.

Ten months later, a total of seven residents have been moved -- all to other state-operated regional facilities in Massachusetts, the Daily News Tribune reported Wednesday.

Romney's original plan called for closing down the historic facility during the 2004 fiscal year to save the state $2.4 million. But leaders in the community surrounding the 200-acre Fernald campus joined employees and parents of those housed at the facility to put pressure on lawmakers to override Romney's plan and slow the moves this past July.

"We are taking a look at each individual," said Department of Mental Retardation Associate Commissioner Diane Enochs Tuesday.

"We want to do it well, do it right, and meet everyone's needs," she explained.

Another 20 residents are expected to be moved by this coming June. State officials say the residents will have an array of placement options, including living with their families or moving into privately-operated community homes.

Social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe founded the institution with a $2,500 appropriation from the state legislature in 1848. Originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", the facility was renamed the Walter E. Fernald State School in 1925 after its first resident superintendent.

Arc Massachusetts and other organizations have been pushing since 1990 for the state's six facilities to be shuttered. Most of the institutions have not admitted new residents for more than 25 years because of court orders following complaints of overcrowding.



Ashcroft's Justice Department Slow To Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws

December 12, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--In the nearly three years since John Ashcroft was appointed Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Justice has slowed down its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, has abandoned lawsuits and settlements begun by prior administrations, and has filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing affirmative action and calling for a narrow interpretation of disability rights law, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

Lawyers in and out of the Justice Department have expressed disappointment in how its civil rights division has let up on enforcing housing, employment and disability discrimination laws.

During the Bush administration, the department has brought just 16 employment discrimination suits, compared to 24 during the last three years of the Clinton administration. The Free Press cited a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, noting that the disability-rights section initiated 701 investigations in fiscal year 2002 -- a decrease of 181 from the year before -- and filed 28 cases -- down from 37.

In many cases, Ashcroft's Justice Department has failed to follow up past investigations with lawsuits. In a few others, the department has simply refused to honor settlements arranged by past administrations.

Related article:
"U.S. backs off discrimination cases" (Detroit Free Press)



"Florida Teacher Blames Firing on Support for Terri Schiavo"

December 12, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA-The following five paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Wednesday's Cybercast News Service:

A Pinellas County, Fla., teacher -- who is disabled and works with disabled students- - claims she is being fired because she voiced her support for another disabled Florida woman: Terri Schindler Schiavo.

Rus Cooper-Dowda told Wednesday morning that the Pinellas County School Board voted six-to-one to fire her Tuesday night, citing "job performance" as the reason. The veteran teacher claims she was terminated in retaliation for sharing her opinion about the Schiavo case in response to a reporter's question.

Terri Schindler Schiavo is the 39-year-old woman who suffered a severe brain injury under questionable circumstances in 1990. Doctors hired by her husband, and a court-appointed expert who reviewed Terri's medical records, believe she is in a "Persistent Vegetative State," while doctors employed by her parents and unpaid experts have said that Terri's condition could improve with therapy and rehabilitation.

After a Florida court gave (Michael) Schiavo permission to let his wife die in early October, Cooper-Dowda responded to a question from a local television reporter about the judge's decision.

What the 26-year-veteran teacher could not have known at the time was that many of the students at Bay Point Middle School - where she taught children with behavioral, emotional and learning disabilities - were watching the local news that evening for extra credit. Word of Cooper-Dowda's "stardom" traveled quickly.

Entire article:
"Florida Teacher Blames Firing on Support for Terri Schiavo" (Cybercast News Service)
"Appeals court declines to remove Judge in Schiavo case" (Florida Today)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (IDE Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



First-Grader With Autism To Get Service Dog

December 12, 2003

LACOMBE, ALBERTA--Six-year-old son Matthew Girard will soon become one of the few children with autism in Canada to have a specially-trained service dog.

"It’s amazing," said his mother, Danielle, who applied for the assistant dog a year and half ago. "I’m still in shock that we’ve been accepted. The thought of this dog and all the things we’ll be able to do that we haven’t been able to do to this point is very exciting."

The dog has just started its training at National Service Dogs, a non-profit registered charity in Ontario. According to a recent story in the Lacombe Globe, NSD is the only place in North America that trains dogs specifically to help children with autism.

The dog will be taught to keep Matthew from running away or into traffic. It will let Matthew's mother know if there is any danger. It will also provide companionship for the first grader.

"Autistic child soon to have a new best friend" (Lacombe Globe)
National Service Dogs -- Toronto, Ontario




Special Education Law & Advocacy Strategies


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives -- Two years ago:


Connecticut Will Help Develop Alternatives To Restraint

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 12, 2001

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--Three years ago, the Hartford Courant ran an investigative series into the restraint-related deaths of adults and children -- as young as 6 years of age -- in institutions housing people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. The team of reporters found that 142 such deaths occurred nationwide during the previous 10 years.

The investigation was prompted by the death of 11-year-old Andrew McClain, who died while being restrained face down at Connecticut's Elmhurst Hospital in March of 1998.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has chosen the states of Connecticut, Alabama, California, Michigan and Georgia to develop a training curriculum over the next three years to teach staff how to de-escalate situations that typically lead to restraints. Officials say the project will focus on developing alternatives to restraint, and will likely emphasize problem-solving and listening skills.

Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Kristine D. Ragaglia told the Courant this week that the fact that her state was chosen shows the significant improvements the state has made in avoiding the use of restraints since McClain's death.

The Hartford Courant's investigative report ran in October of 1998. The series, including a national restraint-death database, is still available on their website:


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