Head-Injured Students Said Inadequately Served
The schools have failed to meet the unique educational needs of the growing number of children who survive serious head injuries, witnesses told a Congressional panel last week.
In most cases, children with such injuries "completely baffle school personnel as to what to do,'' said Howard T. Katz, chief of head-injury services at the Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.
Dr. Katz was one of several experts who appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped. The April 12 hearing was the first held in the Congress to address the needs of adults and children who have suffered traumatic brain injury.
According to the National Head Injury Foundation, 110,000 Americans die of head injuries each year. An additional 75,000 a year survive such injuries with "serious and lifelong consequences.'' Most survivors are between the ages of 15 and 30.
Upon their return to school, young people with head injuries are often mistakenly placed in classes for the mentally retarded or emotionally disturbed, according to neurologists who attended the hearing.
But other students, they warned, may be returned to their regular classrooms despite the fact that they still suffer large deficits in some of their academic or mental skills.
Most special educators, they noted, are not trained to provide head-injured students with the specialized instruction they need.
"A head injury is unique,'' said Larry Marshall, a neurologist. "These people may look all right but they're not all right.''
Dr. Marshall and other witnesses called for more research on the problem, extension of rehabilitation programs beyond hospital stays, the creation of an educational funding category that would specifically address the needs of head-injured students, and improved training for teachers and administrators.
Law on Foster Care Not Working, Panel Told
A 1980 federal law designed to reform state foster-care programs is not working, child-welfare workers and advocates charged last week.
"It is clear that many of the neglected, dependent, and abused children who were the intended beneficiaries of [the law] are simply not receiving its benefits,'' said Marcia Robinson Lowry, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's children's-rights project.
Efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to enforce the law are "so negligible as to be irresponsible,'' she told the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families.
The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 required state programs to emphasize preventive family services; reunite children with their families or find permanent homes for them in a timely fashion; and institute procedures to ensure that children are not placed inappropriately or lost within the system.
But witnesses told the committee that few of the mandated services are being provided. They said state foster-care systems are overburdened and underfunded, and that many children are needlessly institutionalized or allowed to stay with abusive parents or foster parents.
The Education Department has officially voided the grant award for the National Center for Research in Vocational Education.
"I guess we'll end up in court over this, too,'' Bonnie Guiton, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, told a House appropriations panel last week, referring to the lawsuit that forced cancellation of the grant to the University of California at Berkeley.
The $30-million contract was awarded to Berkeley in January. But Ohio State University, which had held the contract for 10 years, successfully challenged the award process in federal district court.
Hearings before a federal appellate panel are scheduled for June 8.
The Congress is expected this week to pass legislation that would provide $2 million to each university while the matter is pending.
The president of the National Education Association told lawmakers last week that demographic and economic shifts are forcing more Americans to come to grips with the issue of educational equity.
Mary Hatwood Futrell's remarks came at a hearing by the Joint Economic Committee. The session was one in a series being held by the panel to examine employment prospects for the year 2000.
Ms. Futrell called for sustained efforts to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority children, noting that they will make up a growing proportion of the labor force.