Policy & Advocacy Newsline ~ June 2021

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Kick-off the NDSC Convention with the 4th Annual Advocacy Training Boot Camp
The NDSC 49th Annual Convention will kick off with the 4th NDSC Advocacy Training Boot Camp.  Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced in your advocacy journey, this three-hour boot camp will give you the tools you need to be an effective advocate. Designed to be an advocacy mini-course with a focus on legislative advocacy, participants will leave energized and with new tools for their advocacy toolbox.  The virtual NDSC Advocacy Training Boot Camp is included with all General Conference and Youth & Adults Conference registrations, with no additional registration or RSVP required.  The boot camp will feature self-advocates who are making a difference through their personal advocacy efforts, sibling advocates, parent advocates, a State Representative, a State Senator, and the expert NDSC Policy & Advocacy Team.

A preview of this year’s agenda highlights:

  • Untangling the Legislative Process: Basic Government Processes – Stephanie Smith Lee, NDSC Senior Policy Advisor and Ricki Sabia, NDSC Senior Education Policy Advisor Engaging with Elected Officials – Jawanda B. Mast, Grassroots Advocacy Consultant
  • Engaging Elected Officials: One Pagers for the Win – Jessie Smart, Self-Advocate & NDSC Self-Advocate Council Member, Mississippi
  • Spotlight: Advocacy and Social Media – Jawanda B. Mast with virtual appearances by surprise self-advocates
  • Spotlight: Engaging Diversity in the Down Syndrome Community – Tony Zandorfino, Dad and advocate, Maryland
  • SpotlightState Advocacy in a COVID World: Driving Advocacy through Science & Politics – Kari Jones, Sibling & President & CEO, Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio
  • Mock legislative meeting and interview – State Representative Michael Smith (R-DE), Self Advocate Lauren and her Mom, Samtra Devard, Delaware, State Senator Elizabeth Lockman (D-DE) and Self Advocate Noah Bradshaw, Delaware
  • Resources, NDAC – Lauren Camp Gates NDSC Policy & Advocacy Associate & Director Delaware Down Syndrome Association
  • One Piece of Advice for Beginning Advocates – Closing video with tips from self-advocates, parents, professionals, and elected officials

Scheduled for Monday, June 21 at 6 PM EST –  This session is included in your NDSC 49th Annual Convention registration. This session is appropriate for parents, professionals, and of course, self-advocates. It is not too late to register for the NDSC Convention-but act soon!

More Postsecondary Resources at the NDSC Convention
June 25, at 2:30 PM ET – Join University of Georgia (UGA) Destination Dawgs graduate Marina Martinez and her mother Zolia Martinez as they join NDSC Senior Advisor Stephanie Smith Lee and Think College Co-Director Debra Hart, for Introduction to Inclusive Higher Education.  In this session, you will learn more about college programs for students with ID, and hear from Marina, who was recently featured in a UGA article and video as she shares her college experiences.

Marina Martinez UGA

June 25, from 4 PM to 7 PM ET – In collaboration with Think College, the NDSC College Fair is an opportunity for families to learn about postsecondary opportunities for students with ID. In addition, colleges will have staff available for virtual visits and be accessible through the Virtual Exhibit Hall.  For more information about the College Fair, including a list of participating colleges and universities, click below.

June 24, at 12:30 PM ET – Join us for the What’s Happening in Washington workshop session at the NDSC Convention to hear about the latest developments and proposals for key laws and policies that could impact individuals with Down syndrome. This workshop will include legislation and administration action, prospects for improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, and other important updates. We will also discuss what families and advocates can do to be vigilant, organized, and act with a unified voice to protect and advance rights, services, and opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

New Inclusive Higher Education Program Standards Announced

Accreditation Workgroup Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community Living.

The Think College National Coordinating Center (NCC) has released the Accreditation Workgroup Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community LivingThis report to Congress and the Secretary of Education includes updated model program accreditation standards that will improve the quality of and accountability for inclusive higher education programs for students with intellectual disability (ID). The Accreditation Workgroup, chaired by NDSC Senior Policy Advisor Stephanie Smith Lee, field-tested model standards developed by the previous workgroup and received significant pubic comment, including input from sessions at the NDSC conventions. The report includes recommendations to Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.
Read the Full Report

Think College also published a blog entitled Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Personal Perspective on How Accreditation Standards will Improve Inclusive Higher Education,” featuring Stephanie Smith Lee’s reflections on progress in opening college doors and how the new standards will improve the future of inclusive higher education.

To learn more about how these updated standards will improve postsecondary opportunities for students with Down syndrome, listen to the NCC webinarWhere Are We Now: Program Accreditation Standards with Debra Hart and Martha Mock from Think College and other special guests.

NDSC Input in National Report on Interim Assessments for Students with Disabilities
Senior Education Policy Advisor Ricki Sabia participated in a national advisory panel to discuss how interim assessments can be developed and used to support valid interpretations of what students with disabilities know and can do. Other terms sometimes used to describe these assessments are local assessments or district assessments. Compared to annual state assessments, interim assessments are administered several times during a school year to measure student progress. The advisory panel released a report that, among other things, addresses the lack of appropriate interim assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Take Action to Support the Keeping All Students Safe Act
The Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA) was reintroduced on May 26, 2021, in both the House and the Senate. KASSA is critically important legislation to protect students from dangerous seclusion and restraint discipline practices in school.

The Keeping All Students Safe Act would make it illegal for any school receiving federal taxpayer money to seclude children and would ban dangerous restraint practices that restrict children’s breathing, such as prone or supine restraint. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect the safety of students and staff. In addition, the bill would provide training for school personnel to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based, proactive strategies, require states to monitor the law’s implementation, and increase transparency and oversight to prevent future abuse of students.

More information about the bill can be found in a press release from the Education & Labor Committee.

We need you to take action by contacting your Senators and Representatives and urge them to cosponsor and pass the KASSA bills.

Office of Civil Rights Report on the Impact of the Pandemic for Underserved Students
The Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education recently issued a report on the many ways that COVID-19 appears to be deepening divides in educational opportunity in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. Not surprisingly, the impact has been worse for historically underserved students, including those with disabilities. There are two sections of the report focused specifically on students with disabilities.

Read the Full Report

NDSC Supports the Protecting Our Students in School Act
NDSC has endorsed the Protecting Our Students in School Act bill reintroduced for this legislative session on June 10, 2021. The bill will eliminate the use of corporal punishment in public schools and complements the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which addresses restraint and seclusion.
More information about the Protecting Our Students in School Act can be found in a press release and a one-page fact sheet issued by the office of U.S. Congressman Donald McEachin. We will provide a link so that you may track the bill and view additional cosponsors when it becomes available.

Read the Full Text of the Bill