Regional News in Review – June 2017

Accessible playground work underway Minnesota’s largest playground for children with disabilities is under construction at Cottage Grove’s Woodridge Park. The […]

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Accessible playground work underway

Minnesota’s largest playground for children with disabilities is under construction at Cottage Grove’s Woodridge Park. The 24,000-square-foot playground will be completed by the end of September, said Molly Pietruszewski, the city’s recreation supervisor. The fundraising goal of $800,000 was reached on May 17, when the Lions Club International Foundation made the $100,000 donation.

Work had already begun on what would have been a slightly smaller playground. “But the Lions Club put us over the top,” she said.

Fundraising for the project started in 2013. The city is contributing $350,000, and more than 100 businesses, groups and individuals have donated funds. The park is one of several built in Minnesota in recent years that have special equipment allowing children using wheelchairs to play. It will include decks, slides, climbing areas, tunnels and swings. Developmental areas — designed to teach and strengthen children — will include interactive feature, musical instruments, and sand and water play areas.

The playground will be the size of eight tennis courts. Source: Pioneer Press


School district meets deadline

The Roseville School District met a May 31 deadline to provide a proposal to train staff members about what constitutes disability discrimination. That came after a U.S. Department of Education investigation found the district didn’t adequately address claims that teachers had harassed a student with autism.

Ethlyn St. Claire raised the issue on behalf of her son who has autism and other developmental issues. He attended special education classes and occasionally sat in on other classrooms at Emmet D. Williams Elementary School. But over the course of a year, her son would come home with various claims of being bullied, harassed, demeaned, discriminated against and, on at least one occasion injured when a teacher restrained him too hard. Her son made a suicide attempt because he was tired of the treatment.

St. Claire took her concerns even further to the superintendent, the state Office of Civil Rights and the Minnesota Department of Education. Not satisfied with the school district response, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

The federal agency determined the school, “only did a modest investigation, failed to adequately respond to the complaint and no immediate steps were taken to eliminate harassment” and gave the school district a May 31 deadline to develop a training policy for teachers, staff and administrators on what constitutes disability discrimination. With state review the training could be ready soon.

“I don’t think people who work with kids with disabilities should treat students that way,” St. Claire said. Source: KTSP-TV


Neglect found in nursing home death

A Minnesota Department of Health investigation determined that neglect was involved in the death of an Annandale nursing home resident who went 15 days without receiving blood thinners. The resident at Annandale Care Center had had a stroke and was supposed to take Coumadin.

But as a result of a series of errors the resident went 15 days without receiving proper Coumadin dosages. The medication was restarted and a second blood thinner administered by injection. But after 10 days on the medication, the resident complained of abdominal pain and was taken to the hospital. After a return to the nursing home and another hospitalization, the resident died. The death certificate indicated the death was caused by acute blood loss because of an abdominal muscle bleed.

The facility must take corrective actions including changes in policies related to blood thinners, staff education and an audit of anticoagulant orders. Source: Minnesota Department of Health


Woman jailed for swindle

A Coon Rapids woman found to be bilking vulnerable adults out of money while working for an organization that serves people with disabilities was ordered to spend two days in jail. Nichole Jacqueline Lindow was sentenced to two days in jail and to five years’ probation in Ramsey County District Court, for one count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

According to a criminal complaint, Lindow stole about $12,000 from eight vulnerable adults while employed as a supervisor of REM Ramsey facilities in 2014 and 2015. REM serves people with disabilities and neurological, brain or spinal cord injuries at several facilities in Ramsey County.

All of the vulnerable adults exploited by Lindow have diagnosed developmental disabilities and require help from staff to manage money. She was responsible for maintaining the personal financial records of REM Ramsey residents. She also accompanied residents to the bank to help them cash checks and withdraw money. Authorities linked her to 12 unaccounted-for transactions ranging from $200 to $2,600, the complaint said.

The account irregularities were found during a routine check and were reported to the Minnesota Department of Human Services and law enforcement.

When confronted, Lindow confessed to taking the money because of “financial issues” and she returned the cash. Source: Pioneer Press


Bethel honors first BUILD graduates

Two years ago, Lauren Thysell had no interest in going to college. She was content to live at home in Wayzata and hang out with her mother. But this spring Thysell, who has Down syndrome, graduated from a special program at Bethel University in Arden Hills. She has two jobs, many great friends and her very own apartment.

Thysell, 26, is one of eight students in the first graduating class of the Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development (BUILD) program. It’s one of only a few such programs in Minnesota (and hundreds nationwide) to give students with intellectual disabilities a chance at college life.

Until recently, said Cathy Sallas, Thysell’s mother, “no one ever thought quite about college as a possibility” for such students. But when she learned that Bethel was launching its program in 2015, Sallas jumped at the chance to enroll her daughter.

Students who are part of the first class of developmentally-disabled students to graduate from Bethel University took
a final exam in “life skills” as part of this unusual program, known as BUILD (Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development) Thursday, May 25, 2017, in St. Paul, MN. Here, BUILD teacher Diane Iverson, left, says goodbye to her students, including Rita Ikeri, following the program’s final class.

The two-year program at Bethel is based on what Sallas calls “a really wonderful concept” — the students live in dorms, and attend classes, with the help of other Bethel student “mentors” and professionals to provide them with extra support.

At Bethel, most of the classes are tailored to their special needs, including lessons on cooking, cleaning and social skills, as well writing résumés and interviewing for jobs. Along the way, the students get a taste of independence and a chance to blend into the lakeside campus with hundreds of other college kids — playing sports, singing in the choir, working in the dining hall and learning to navigate the world on their own.

“I just loved being here at Bethel,” Thysell said, before breaking down in tears.

Sam Kohs, a 24-year-old classmate from Forest Lake, was asked if he was excited about graduation. “Yes and no,” he admitted. “I am happy and then not happy, because I don’t want to leave the dorm and all the friends. But also, I want to move on and get, like, a job.”

This fall, school officials hope to enroll 16 more students in the program. Source: Star Tribune


Proctors schools violated law

The Proctor school district violated federal special education law when 43 middle and high school students were deprived of speech and language services for six weeks in 2015.

A family filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education when it learned in November of that year that its child didn’t receive services during the first six weeks of school. The student was to receive 16 20-minute sessions during that time. During the education department’s investigation, it learned that none of the students in the middle and high school scheduled to receive speech and language services as dictated by their individualized education plans (IEPs) had received them. The lack of services violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Between the 43 students, 3,510 minutes of work required by their plans went unserved, according to the complaint decision. The school district was ordered by the state to notify parents of the lapse, and make up the missed time by the end of the school year. It also was directed to train the speech/language pathologist in the law’s requirements. It has done that, according to the state education department.

Services weren’t offered as directed because of the scheduling practices of the pathologist. Superintendent John Engelking said that there was a larger than normal number of students needing services that fall, and the pathologist spent that time scheduling, working with teachers and getting to know students instead of providing direct services.

Documents show the family that complained said it was told by the pathologist that her practice was to schedule services in the fifth or sixth week of school. Steps were taken to ensure the situation didn’t repeat itself, said Tim Rohweder, principal of both the middle and high schools.

The challenge of scheduling is sometimes felt in smaller school districts, where a limited number of staff may serve many students. Source: Duluth News-Tribune

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