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Scott signs student-centered bills

Bills expand online course options, empower parents

July 3, 2013
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Today, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 1108, Exceptional Student Education.

This bill ensures parents are able to be involved in life-changing decisions affecting the education of their child with a disability.

On track to becoming a national model for increasing parental rights and awareness in the educational decisions of children with disabilities, this new law ensures all available resources are utilized to provide the best educational experience for every student.

Both the Florida House and Senate unanimously voted in favor of this landmark bill.

"This commitment to moms, dads and their children will help inform, engage and empower families in the life-altering decisions that comprise a child's Individual Educational Plan," said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future. "This law will be transformative for countless students in our state, and I'm excited to see Florida take a giant step closer to meeting the unique learning needs of each child."

Effective July 1, this new bill:

- Requires that parents must give permission through their child's Individual Education Plan as to whether their child will: pursue a standard or special high school diploma; have the same standards for instruction as other students; attend a traditional neighborhood school or a center school for students with disabilities.

- Ensures parents are not discouraged from bringing an Exceptional Student Education expert, disability advocate or anyone else of their choosing to their child's IEP meeting.

- Allows private therapists, with the collaboration of the teacher and principal, to observe and provide therapy in the classroom.

- Requires all teachers to take one class every five years in the area of teaching students with disabilities.

- Provides the state's Commissioner of Education with the authority to grant extraordinary exemptions from the statewide assessments for certain students with disabilities if the students' disabilities prevent the assessment from having any educational value.

"As parents, our engagement in developing our son or daughter's IEP is critical," said Patricia Taime, the mother of a special needs student from Weston, who raised awareness and support for the legislation and spoke in committee on behalf of the bill.

"Professional recommendations can never replace the love and understanding that a child's parents bring to the discussion," she said. "In addition to the professionals' knowledge and recommendations, our children rely on our voices, decisions and diligence to guarantee they're getting the education that will prepare them to reach their greatest potential - whatever that may be."

Scott also signed House Bill 7029, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, which includes provisions that will expand Florida students' access to online courses, including those across district lines.

"This bill further harnesses the power of technology to customize education for every student," Levesque said. "It will expand access to existing online courses for students, teachers and schools; we're thankful to Gov. Scott for making this law a reality."

To learn more about these and other student-centered bills that passed during the 2013 Legislative Session, along with how lawmakers were graded on Florida's Education Report Card, visit:



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