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New special education rules could raise school district costs

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WILLMAR -- A new state law regarding restraints on special education students could increase the cost of staff training for school districts in 2011.

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Special Education coordinator Susan Smith gave a report on the district's programs Monday at the Willmar School Board's monthly work session.

The district has 513 students who receive special education services and another 51 special education students who attend school in other districts for a variety of reasons. The special education population is about 12 percent of total enrollment, which is a normal level, Smith said.

Schools are required to teach special education students in the least restrictive settings possible, Smith said.

In that regard, 39 percent of the students in the program spend less than one-fifth of their day in special education settings. Another 40 percent spend between 20 percent and 60 percent of their day in special education.

About one-quarter of the students in special education are classified as having emotion/ be-havioral disability and another qu-arter are classified as having specific learning disabilities.

The rem-aining children are distributed among nine other categories.

Smith said a law governing the use of physical holds and seclusion rooms will go into effect Aug. 1, 2011.

It will allow the use of holds or seclusion only in emergencies, and it will require extensive annual training for anyone authorized to use the procedures.

"It is certainly a new initiative coming our way," she said. There is no corresponding federal regulation at this time, Smith said, but it's possible one could be on the way.

The training will include information about the standards for using the procedures and how to de-escalate a situation.

Staff will also be trained in the physical and psychological effects of using the restrictive procedures.

Only staff members who have been trained may use the procedures.

"How much is this going to cost?" asked board member Sandi Unger.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the additional training would likely cost thousands.

Board members also heard reports about the district's alternative programs, including the Area Learning Center, and about progress on a rewrite of the district's strategic plan and goals.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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