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Vigo County, Covered Bridges addresses cognitive disabilities, suspensions

School board members gather
School board members gather
Lara Landis

The Vigo County School Corporation fell short on two key indicators of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The indicators dealt with the number of African American students placed on suspension and the number of African-American students diagnosed with cognitive disabilities. The Indiana Department of Education sets the guidelines, and the Americans with Disabilities Act require the schools to receive yearly reports. Covered Bridges Indiana and school corporation officials developed a plan to resolve the issue. Representatives of Covered Bridges Indiana spoke at Monday night's board meeting.

The school corporation uses standards set by the Indiana Department of Education. They received notification that they exceeded the acceptable rates in these areas in 2013. Any corporation that receives such a notice must divert 15% of its special education funding to general education intervention services.

Covered Bridges Indiana, the private company that provides special education support, implemented a two-tiered approach to deal with the issues. If the school corporation can bring these percentages down, the 15% diverted to general education intervention services will be returned to the special education budget. School administrators and representatives of Covered Bridges implemented two-tiered approach to address the problem.

The first tier involves improving academic performance by bringing low-performing students up to the appropriate reading level. Teachers must identify and refer these students to small, specialized reading groups. These groups work inside and outside of class to catch up with their classmates. Many students referred to this program read at the appropriate level within two years.

Covered Bridges and the Vigo County School Corporation officials adopted new strategies to deal with the number of African-American students receiving suspensions or expulsions. Professional Behavior Intervention Specialists hired by the school district work with the students to teach appropriate classroom behaviors. Several of the specialists who spoke at Monday night's meeting told the board how they reward the positive behaviors of all students. Pupils who continue to act out are placed in groups of eight to twelve students and taught social skills. The goal is to reduce stress, avoid suspension or expulsion, and to teach appropriate classroom behavior. If a pupil fails to respond positively to the small group, professional behavior intervention specialists may engage in one-on-one sessions with the child. The goal of all of these behaviors is to reduce the number of suspensions received.

The school board also approved the 2014-2015 budget and a 3% raise for corporation staff. Superintendent Daniel Tanoos did not accept the raise.

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