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As Long as We Remember...

March 28, 2017

Arc of Maryland (& Frederick) Derails “Ben’s Rule”

Cindy A. Rose

It is with a heavy heart, and a lot of frustration that I have to report HB 705 (Ben’s Rule) did not make it out of the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means committee.


For those of us unfamiliar with how Annapolis works, there comes a date when bills have to pass out of committees like Ways and Means, Appropriations, etc., and move over to the Senate for final vote.


For Ben’s Rule, that date was Monday, March 20th.


During our testimony on March 10, 2017, Chairwoman Anne Kaiser (D., Montgomery) asked Del. David Vogt (R., Frederick 4th) if he was aware that The Arc of Maryland (more specifically, Aaron Stephens of The Arc of Frederick), filed written opposition to our bill. The Arc and several other organizations opposed the bill in 2016.  However, only The Arc and the superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools opposed it in 2017


To refresh your memory, this bill would have given explicit recognition for parents of severely disabled, non-verbal students, the right to refuse Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), or in the case of Ben, the Multi-State Alternate Assessments (MSAA). Verbal students have been refusing successfully for several years.


To be clear, refusing is a civil right no legislator can deny you, however, that is for another day.


The Arc said it feared “at a certain point” refusal could “jeopardize Maryland’s ability to receive full Title I and/or IDEA funding.”


Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office gave the all clear for Ben’s Rule. The Maryland secretary of Disabilities, executive director of the Governor's Office for Children, and the assistant superintendent for Special Education and Early Intervention had a telephone conference with Delegate Vogt and me over the summer. They later worked with Delegate Vogt on the language of HB 705.  The Arc was invited to participate but did not.


Why is The Arc Frederick opposing a bill that seeks to help advocate for the rights of the disabled? Why is Delegate Kaiser ignoring the assistance of the state agencies, including MSDE in crafting this bill?


While The Arc is sending in written opposition of parents advocating for their children, they are encouraging those same parents to attend a seminar “Supported Decision Making” this Thursday (March 30, 2017) and advertising for others to advocate for our children “for a fee.” Apparently those who know their children best and have the most to gain from their success are discouraged from advocacy. We are to instead seek guidance for a fee from individuals, groups and organizations.


I’m not opposed to outside advocacy. It’s often necessary. Why not an “all of the above” approach? Why exclude “parents?”


To make matters more frustrating, Delegate Kaiser appears to be the tether keeping Ben’s Rule from crossing over. It isn’t the fact she’s from Montgomery County that infuriates me. What infuriates me is Delegate Kaiser voted in support of HB 1362 – “Criminal Procedure – Immigration – Community Trust;” a.k.a. the “Sanctuary Bill.” This bill ties the hands of law enforcement in doing their job of protecting Maryland communities.


Not only did she vote for HB 1362, but she voted for the bill after a 14-year-old girl, who resides in her county, was raped at Rockville High School.


Why does Delegate Kaiser want to deny law enforcement the ability to lock up, detain and/or deport those in our country illegally? Why is she single handedly preventing parents from advocating for severely disabled, non-verbal children?


What is it about children and public schools Delegate Kaiser is opposed to protecting?


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