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C.O. students with disabilities still seeing shortened school days after enactment of new legislation

(Update: Adding video, statements from Disability Rights Oregon and group home director)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon students with disabilities have often seen reduced classroom hours for years, due to behavioral issues and/or lack of staff. A bill lawmakers passed in July is aimed at reversing that trend, by giving parents the ability to deny "abbreviated school days."

Nearly 1,000 students, aged 5-10, are being denied full school days according to Disability Rights Oregon.

"Oftentimes we're talking about somebody who's getting less than half a day of school or, you know, sometimes even a few hours a week." Tom Stensons, legal advisor for DRO, said Monday.

Disability Rights Oregon is a nonprofit working to provide legal advocacy for people with disabilities around the state. They say this bill has been in the making for nearly a decade.

Senate Bill 819 went into effect beginning this school year, but took almost a decade to win passage.

As DRO explains, SB 819's goal is to limit the use of shortened school days, and ensure parents are notified when they occur. It also requires meetings to discuss the need with parents, and allows parents to revoke consent or oppose the shortened day.

"Other students may be teasing them, or maybe they just feel,like they stick out. And so maybe some of their behaviors are a result of not giving, you know, the kind of academic supports that they need." Stensons said.

But parents and caregivers say they have not seen any change so far this school year.

Christina Hughes, who runs a group home for children with disabilities in Deschutes County, said, "We would always kind of get that pushback from the school district saying, you know, 'Right now, we don't feel like we can do that,' or, 'It's not safe for the student." So ultimately, it would always come down to that, really."

According to DRO, 14 students in the Redmond School District were on abbreviated school schedules, and fewer than six in Bend-La Pine Schools.

They say children who frequently have shortened school days fall behind, both academically and socially.

"The kids come home, they don't understand why they only get to be there a couple of hours. They want to be back in school. They're asking to attend school." Hughes said. "And then we're seeing just a vicious cycle of going to school, only getting to be there for a little bit, coming home, being upset about being at home, wanting to be at school, wanting to be with their peers."

Hughes' children are attending school for only 30 minutes to one hour.

In response a NewsChannel 21 Facebook post, nearly 100 parents commented about their experiences with the shortened days, saying they've had problems with child care and losing hours at work.

We reached out to the Redmond School District to find out how they're implementing the new law. We were told special education directors were too busy and unavailable for comment on Monday.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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