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BOARD PROGRAM COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES

January 29, 2016

1. Call to Order

Dr. Anne Corn called to order the meeting of the TSBVI Board Committee on Programs at 8:03 a.m. on January 29, 2016 in Room 104 of the Main Administration Building 600, 1100 W. 45th Street, Austin, Texas.

Program Committee member Tobie Wortham was also present. Committee member Caroline Daley was unable to attend.

TSBVI staff members participating in the meeting were: Sara Merritt, Short-Term Programs Principal; Miles Fain, Comprehensive Programs Principal; Susan Hauser, Center for School Resources Director; Carolina Gonzalez, O&M Instructor; Lisa Calaci, O&M Instructor; and Ken Miller, Planning, Policy and Procedure Support.

2. Consideration of Approval of Minutes of the November 20, 2015 Meeting

Ms. Wortham moved that the minutes of the November 20, 2015 meeting be approved and Dr. Corn seconded the motion. Committee members were in favor of the motion.

3. Report from Comprehensive Programs Principal, Miles Fain

Mr. Fain introduced Carolina Gonzalez and Lisa Calaci, TSBVI O&M instructors who were invited to attend the meeting to discuss off-campus travel and use of canes for TSBVI students who have low vision.

Dr. Corn said that she had some questions about TSBVI policy regarding the use of canes by low vision students. Dr. Corn asked whether TSBVI’s policy is that all low vision students must use canes off campus, and whether TSBVI adheres to IDEA regarding this. Specifically, Dr. Corn questioned whether students who do not have a white cane as part of the student’s IEP are required to use a cane. Dr. Corn said that she is asking about it because of a concern that was raised by a student after Dr. Corn’s observation of the student’s O&M lesson. This student had been approved as a low vision driver but the student told Dr. Corn that she was upset because she was being required to carry a cane off campus.

Ms. Gonzalez referred to a paper that Dr. Corn wrote and shared with Bill Daugherty, who shared it with TSBVI O&M instructors. Ms. Gonzalez indicated that she felt the paper was helpful and raised good issues that should be considered by TSBVI O&M instructors. Everyone attending the committee meeting received a copy of Dr. Corn’s paper.

Ms. Gonzalez asked about the meaning of the word “policy.” Mr. Miller explained that a policy is an action taken by the school board. The next step down from a policy is a procedure, which is developed to guide staff on how to implement a policy. Mr. Fain said that he thinks that, in this situation, we are discussing a TSBVI practice (rather than a policy or procedure).

Regarding the use of canes by low vision students, Ms. Gonzalez said that even a student who has been approved to drive a car may still be learning about traffic safety and other O&M safety skills. Therefore, it might still be appropriate for that student to learn about and/or use a cane. Becoming familiar with a cane or sunglasses or other low vision aids is a strategy that can be used to help a student become more informed and better able to make decisions in the future.

Ms. Calaci said that the decision to have a student use a cane is an individual decision regarding the student. This would be determined through an O&M evaluation of the student.

Ms. Merritt pointed out that TSBVI does not endorse students driving a car, and TSBVI does not teach driving to students.

Dr. Corn pointed out that an individual student must have an assessment showing that the student needs to use a cane.

Ms. Gonzalez said that the student that Dr. Corn observed had been given choices of types of canes. Recently that student tripped at home, and the mother and student both agreed that the student could have benefited from having a cane in that situation.

Dr. Corn observed that the student was upset about having to use a cane. Ms. Calaci and Ms. Gonzalez said that it has not been their experience that many students resist learning about using a cane.

Dr. Corn asked whether O&M instructors discuss the use of canes with students and let students know that they do not always need to use a cane. She asked how many students on campus might be able to go off campus and not be required to carry a white cane. Ms. Calaci said that she currently does not have any student on her caseload who leaves campus without a cane.

Dr. Corn wants to know if every student who uses a cane has in the student’s evaluation the need for a cane and the reason why it is a need. The ID cane should also be prescribed based on assessed needs.

Dr. Corn indicated that there is new information questioning whether the use of an ID cane benefits students as much as has been assumed in the past. She has observed that an ID cane is not necessary in order for a person with low vision to ask for help in a store. Ms. Wortham agreed that students must learn self-advocacy skills, and she said that it can be a difficult skills for students to learn and use.

Ms. Wortham asked about TSBVI’s practice for providing Orientation and Mobility (O&M) for students. Mr. Fain responded that the large majority of students attending TSBVI do receive O&M services, even if they did not get this service in their local districts. TSBVI often requests an O&M evaluation shortly after a student enrolls. Every student receives an O&M assessment at least every three years, according to legal requirements.

Ms. Gonzalez said that this discussion is helpful to staff in understanding how to approach students about this issue. Ms. Calaci described several students with whom she has worked and discussed how some of her students use canes. Ms. Gonzalez and Ms. Calaci described how their experience in working with students has shown them the benefit for a student in having a cane.

Dr. Corn stated again that she wants to be assured that every TSBVI student’s use of a cane is directed by an individual evaluation of the student. Students using canes should not be a blanket requirement for every TSBVI student for any reason that does not involve the individual needs of the student. She stated she had heard that TSBVI has a practice of requiring cane use by all students traveling off campus independently because of liability concerns for the school, or because of public perception, or as a way to help students accept a visual impairment. She added that this is not an appropriate practice and these are not appropriate reasons.

Ms. Calaci mentioned that many of those general attitudes about canes seem to be more prevalent at Criss Cole rather than at TSBVI.

Mr. Fain agreed with Dr. Corn that O&M and use of cane decisions should be based on evaluation of students’ individual needs. He promised to bring the discussion back to the TSBVI O&M team, to ensure that their practice is to base these decisions on individual student evaluations and needs. He agreed that such decisions should not be based on reasons such as liability or public perception. Mr. Fain said that the goal of TSBVI is to empower students, to give them information that they need, and to support them in making their own decisions.

Dr. Corn said that she has now been reassured that every TSBVI student’s O&M needs are evaluated, and that decisions about canes are not based on liability, concerns for public perception, and that the things she heard are not the general practice of TSBVI.

Dr. Corn stated her desire that misperceptions by TSBVI staff do not continue. She stated that she is not interested in micromanaging TSBVI practice, but does want to make sure that the concerns raised today are discussed with TSBVI staff.

Ms. Merritt described an approach used in TSBVI Short Term Programs. Students are given opportunities to explore white canes, even when they have never experienced it before. Ms. Gonzalez described some Short Term Programs students’ experiences with trying out new low vision devices and strategies. One student who did not have a white cane but who experienced using a cane during a summer program went home and requested a white cane for use at home.

Dr. Corn said that she has observed that low vision students in public school often are not prioritized for O&M evaluation and do not get the attention to their vision needs that they need.

The group discussed various strategies for teaching low vision skills including that there are differences in what is needed to teach students of various ages. Teachers and parents must consider the differences in understanding of their own visual impairment and in the kind of approaches that are appropriate for students of different ages. Ms. Merritt described some Short Term Program teachers’ experiences during programs focused on self-determination for various ages of students.

4. Consideration of Approval of Policies:

EA Instructional Goals and Objectives (delete)
FL Student Records (amend)
FL-E Student Records (delete)

Mr. Miller described the changes to Policies that were proposed. He gave a brief description of how policies are named.

Policy EA is recommended for deletion because it has been included in Policy EHBE, so it is no longer needed as a separate policy.

Policy FL addresses student records. It ensures compliance with state and federal laws. Revision of this policy is addressed at this time because if was identified as a need by the Center for School Resources. The policy needed to be revised due to changes related to electronic management and the need to revise retention plans for various kinds of records.

Policy FL-E is recommended for deletion because the information is now being included in other communications with parents, such as the Parent and Student Handbook.

Dr. Corn asked a question about how Short Term Programs handles records. Ms. Merritt said that Short Term Programs does not maintain special education records. Ms. Merritt said that Short Term Programs has an agreement with local school districts about how they request services from Short Term Programs. Dr. Corn asked whether it is necessary to create a Policy regarding management of Short Term Program records. Mr. Miller said that he will explore whether a Policy is needed, even though there are written procedures that cover the school’s handling of Short Term Program records.

Dr. Corn asked about when students come to TSBVI for diagnostic purposes, but do not end up staying at TSBVI, and whether diagnostic information like that is kept. Ms. Merritt said that we do not have students who come to TSBVI just for evaluation.

Dr. Corn stated her interest in how TSBVI maintains records for students who are referred but not enrolled at TSBVI. Ms. Hauser stated that these records are maintained, but that current records procedures do not specially address the handling of referral materials for students who are not enrolled in Comprehensive Programs. Dr. Corn asked if TSBVI should have a written procedure regarding how these records are handled. Mr. Miller and Ms. Hauser agreed to look into that.

Ms. Wortham said that, at her school, those kinds of records are filed separately and are destroyed according to the schedule that the school uses for other records.

Ms. Wortham made a motion to approve the recommendation to delete Policy EA and FL-E and to amend FL. Dr. Corn seconded the motion. Committee members were in favor of the motion.

5. Adjournment

Ms. Wortham moved that the meeting be adjourned and Dr. Corn seconded the motion. Committee members were in favor of the motion. Dr. Corn adjourned the meeting at 9:00 a.m.