Sunday, February 12, 2017

Betsy DeVos, You've Got Mail. Pressure to Restore IDEA Website Intensifies as Senators Demand Accountability

Thanks to activists and concerned citizens like you, Secretary Betsy DeVos is feeling real pressure to restore the IDEA website. This movement started with phone calls, tweets, and emails from people like you and me, and now two senators have raised the stakes. In a letter to Secretary DeVos on Friday, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell demanded an explanation and a plan to restore the information. Read the letter below and then take a minute to thank Senators Murray and Cantwell for their support on this important issue. Twitter: @SenatorCantwell and @PattyMurray. Facebook: Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell. Here's the letter:

During your [confirmation] hearing...your statements regarding the landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) raised concerns among children with disabilities and their parents about your the the Trump administration's view on special education and the rights of these families and students. We expect you and the Trump administration to fulfill your commitment to all students, including students with disabilities.

To that end, we are deeply concerned that prior to your confirmation and arrival at the department, the centralized resource website for IDEA ( became inaccessible to the public for more than a week, and is now redirecting people to a site for the Office of Special Education. The OSEP website lacks much of the information previously available.

The department's failure to keep this critical resource operational makes it harder for parents, educators, and administrators to find the resources they need to implement this federal law and protect the rights of children with disabilities. For more than a decade, this website, which was released by President George W. Bush's Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, has served as a one-stop shop for resources related to IDEA and its regulations. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has consistently updated this website as Congress has enacted new legislation and the courts have interpreted the law....

...We are seeking a detailed explanation for the disappearance ofthese centralized resources, and the plan to restore this critical information. We request you provide our staff with the following information:
1)  Your assurance that this website will not be stripped down in any way during your tenure.
2)  A detailed timeline of when the centralized resources previously available at became inaccessible to public view and all subsequent steps that were taken to restore these resources as well as all steps taken to provide the public with more limited information from third party sites or other areas ofthe Department website.
3)  To the extent there are (or were) technical problems that led to the removal of the centralized resources, please provide a technical report on the issue, how it was resolved and/or when it is expected to be resolved if the issue was limited to this specific part of the Department's website, and if so why.
4)  A detailed plan for restoring the information previously available including all previously available resources for students, parents, schools, districts, state governments, researchers, and policy makers containing information about their rights under IDEA, information about the law and regulations to facilitate high degrees of compliance, model forms, presentations pertaining to IDEA, materials for training, and guidance documents relating to IDEA.
5)  The date by which all information previously available at will again be accessible to the public at a central location.
6)  A detailed plan for how parents will be informed of the problems with the website and what has been done to address the problems, to ensure that nobody who went to the website in recent days will be discouraged from accessing this information in the future.
7)  A detailed description of any content from the website that was modified by the Department during the period oftime the website was removed from the public domain. For each change, a detailed explanation for the modification.

Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.

Welcome to the working world, Betsy. This is called accountability.

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