Monthly Archives: September 2018

Comments Off on HRSA & MDE Data State Pacer Totally Takes Majority of the Special Education Funding – Question is Why & How can we change it

Alright – so, PACER is a well known and well run oiled machine started by Paula Goldberg and others decades ago. The initial mission and vision were very touching then somewhere down the line Pacer became so powerful and so arrogant that they had to get all of the public funds for special education. Few months ago after my son was wrongly and unfairly suspended by the heartless Bloomington Public Schools I went to PACER for help. Other than Hassan who is amazing – I don’t really have prior history with them. Well – except when I was part of the Minnesota Autism Task force and the person who represented them Jody M was against Medicaid covering autism therapy for low income children with autism – not a typo.

Anyway, this was years ago and as we all know now – without Pacer and quite frankly any mainstream agency’s support, we were able to pass in the state and at the federal level a policy that allows low income children with autism and related disorders to have access to autism therapy such as ABA in Minnesota. So when I called them and I told them what Jefferson did. Over the phone they were so nice and said all of the right things. Their advocate told me that Bloomington was in the wrong and she would help. Then they met me and realized I was Idil the advocate who was relentlessly against them during the passing of DHS covering ABA therapy for children with low income Medicaid. Then the same advocate tells me “well – maybe I misunderstood the school and blah blah”. So, I contacted their director Paula G who was at the very least rude, sounded entitled and arrogant. Keep in mind Pacer takes public funds and their responsibility is to help ALL parents who have children with any disability. In other words, they are parent advocates not school advocates. Oh I almost forgot – Paula had Virginia with her on the phone whom I deeply admire and respect. Finally, I told Paula and Virginia – thanks but no thanks.

Then I tried to find a minority advocacy agency that could help. Do you know I could not find one – not one single agency of color has been funded to help communities of color parents whose children have disability. I know what the heck.

To make a long story short – I contacted the federal agency that funds states for special education which is HRSA then I contacted MDE. It turns out Pacer simply hogs majority of the federal and state funding to help parents with any and all special education needs. And, Pacer can not pick and choose who they help. In other words, they don’t have to like the parent or the child but they have to advocate for them. As someone who always advocates from policy perspective – I decide to gather some data then ask the simple question – why does Pacer hog public grants and what happens when they don’t meet parent’s needs. Apparently nothing happens. In fact, MDE does not even ask them any data to tell us how many children of color they helped and their satisfaction rate. No other agency even competes with them or is even aware of such funding. Can you believe this and they collected millions of public funds. Really what the heck? Sen. Hoffman – please don’t tell me you are still ok with this.

Some of their funding from HRSA click here.

Another funding that they hog click here.

Below is the other funding they hog form the U.S Department of Education via MDE, and they get this without even having a competition or anyone asking why? Can you imagine the level of elite entitlement.

  1. Can you tell me which grants MDE gives to Pacer?

PACER currently receives a Parent Training Grant and a subgrant that is part of Minnesota’s State Personnel Development Grant.

  1. When did it start, how often is it allocated?

The Parent Training Grant is a five-year grant that began in 2015, and the State Personnel Development Grant is a five-year grant that began in 2015.

  1. How much is it?

The Parent Training Grant provides PACER with $440,000 per year, and the State Personnel Development Grant provides PACER with $75,000 per year.

  1. What federal/state law describes this grant (link, etc).

The Parent Training Grant supplements the PTIC funding described at and the State Personnel Development Grant is described at

  1. What rules if any MDE asks Pacer to follow in order to get this grant?

The Minnesota Department of Education follows government-wide policies and procedures in requests for proposals and awards of grants at

  1. How many grants does MDE manage for special education from state and/or federal government?

MDE manages approximately 13 federal and state grants related to special education.

  1. How does MDE measure if Pacer met the qualifications of the grants they get?

PACER met eligibility requirements for a sole source grant as defined in Minnesota government-wide policy at In the case of the State Personnel Development Grant, PACER was a partner in Minnesota’s application for the grant.

  1. Do you have total number of minority autism families that have been helped by Pacer using this grant?

PACER is not required to report this data separately or disaggregated in this way.

  1. Remind me again why MDE offers and gives grants to Pacer without any competition?

PACER meets eligibility criteria as a sole source vendor for the Parent Training Grant according to government-wide policies and procedures in requests for proposals and awards of grants ( PACER was also an original partner in Minnesota’s application for the State Personnel Development Grant.

  1. Has Pacer ever collaborated with a minority advocacy agency for any MDE grant? If so, who did they collaborate with?

PACER was not required to have a formal partnership with an external minority advocacy organization for either the Parent Training Grant or State Personnel Development Grant. PACER demonstrated the capacity to collaborate with minority advocacy agencies in attaining stated goals of both grants.

So what does this all mean. In my humble little opinion, we need minority advocacy agencies to wake the heck up and stand up for our children because clearly Pacer isn’t. We need to apply for these grants, contact HRSA and others and compete with Pacer. We need to demand equality and fairness. What I really would like to know is what the heck do Minnesota Urban League and NAACP do exactly?

Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.

Idil – Autism Mom

Comments Off on Bloomington School District and Minnesota Human Rights Department Agreement regarding Their disproportion suspension of minority students

Alright – so, Bloomington school district in Minnesota as I’ve said many times in my blog and to everyone I see has suspended a child with autism who is nonverbal for a behavior they triggered and they took away his voice by denying him his communication device. This happened on May 3rd, 2018 at 5:18pm. All of these are facts, another fact is that this district reached a deal with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) on February 26, 2018 which was signed by the commissioner of MDHR on March 28, 2018. Less than three months later they suspended another minority child. You would think they take suspension seriously and not hurt children and families, but not arrogant Bloomington school district. No, they can do whatever to whomever. How lovely.

Below is the actual agreement click here. Please take a read, a lot of the things they agreed to has not really happened at least not that I can see. For example.

  1. Establish student discipline support team to ensure efforts to decrease suspensions who were to write a report due on May 1, 2018 – two days after they suspended a minority nonverbal autistic child whose behavior they caused by disrupting his routine. Where was this team when Jason Anderson, Kelly Morris and Jennifer McIntyre suspended a child who is nonverbal. Imagine what they do to minority teenagers who talk back at them. Think about that for a minute. If they can suspend an innocent child with a disability who is nonverbal, how will they treat a typical teenagers who is verbal. I remember the day my son was suspended, there was another child with a disability who was verbal and using inappropriate words and my son’s teacher Kelly said “I just could not take that – I can take behaviors but a child who swears – I don’t do that”. At the time, I didn’t think about it but as I learn more about Ms. Kelly Morris and this district – I can’t help but think. What does that even mean – I don’t do swearing as though this is ala carte autism. She should not be choosing what behavior a child with disability will have or not. What kind of a special education teacher even says such ignorant thing.
  2. Add to the assistant superintendent’s (Eric Melbye) job description to include suspension. Where was Eric, when Jefferson principal – Jaysen, the teacher – Kelly,  and the special education director – Jennifer were screwing with a minority nonverbal autistic child? He is supposed to be the voice of reason but clearly was not this day of May 3rd, 2018 – mere months after the district reached an agreement to do better and not suspend minority children disproportionately. Again, how lovely this district ignores the very things they agreed to.
  3. Community/student engagement – I want to laugh now. There has been no community engagement or feedback from parents including me. This district does not believe in parent engagement. They believe in parent silencing. I will not be silenced about autism ever.
  4. Each school within the district was to designate a team lead to promote behavior intervention supports through multi-tiered system. Data I received from the district states that this did not happen as Jaysen the principal, Justin the one who apparently suspends minority children and Kelly Morris the special education teacher did not have any positive behavior support training. How lovely, yet they are too quick to suspend our children. I say we fight back and report them to the state human rights department. Jefferson had no comprehensive positive school discipline strategic plan because if they did, they would not suspend a nonverbal autistic child whose behavior they caused.
  5. School site teams will analyze and review procedures for removing students from class, involvement of parents/guardians. Not sure if I should scream or cry, Jefferson did not involve me as a parent other than to say they suspended my child who as I have said a million times and will continue to say does not understand the concept of suspension nor cause/affect.

Bloomington school district failed miserably my son and so many other minority children – data shows this and is not my feelings or opinion. The question now is what can we parents do about it.

  1. Make the district teachers, paraprofessionals, administrative staff and leadership more diverse to reflect the students they serve by demanding equality, getting higher education, applying for open positions, and wanting to become principals, teachers, etc. This year in 2018 there were a lot of Somali students who graduated and will become autism teachers. This is amazing. Please connect with St. Thomas University or Deqa Hussein who is an autism mom and a licensed autism teacher and was the force behind this program. She can help you get started so that we no longer depend on teachers like Kelly Morris to care and teach our children with autism. Cuntadu waxay macaan tahay markaad gacantaada ku cuntid.
  2. Advocate in the state legislature to hold Bloomington public schools accountable for failing our children as public data clearly states.
  3. File complaints with the state human rights department
  4. File complaints with the state education department
  5. File complaints with the office of civil rights within the federal education department.
  6. You can also file individual complaints against the school principal, the teacher and the special education teacher. Google their websites and compliant forms/processes.
  7. You can vote out the current board and recruit diverse ones to replace them in the next election cycle – it is doable. Just remember all of the other elections we have won thus far. Diverse school board who reflects the students they serve is more likely to have a fair and equal policies that ensure all students learn to their best ability and full potential. We are either at the table or on the table. Think about it and vote wiser this year.
  8. Finally, tell everyone who will listen if you had a bad experience with Bloomington. The more we talk about it – the more help and support we get. Oh, and one more item – please pretty please let’s think about starting autism charter schools for our children where they will not be discriminated against like Bloomington did against my son, but where every child is seen as a child who wants and needs to learn. Proof of how discriminative Bloomington Public Schools are public – look it up. Children of color are suspended more and do not graduate as white children. This is not an accident, it is deliberate, calculated and intentional by the school district leadership.

Below are some helpful proverbs to keep you energized:

  1. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
    -Martin Luther King – in other words, if your child has not been suspended yet and you are a parent of color – it is a matter of time. Don’t assume you are immune to this. You are not – I assure you.
  2. Ninkii walaalkiis loo xiirow – adna soo qooyso – Somali proverb.
  3. I wish I could shut up, but I can’t and I won’t  by Desmond Tutu. Don’t ever be quite about any kind of injustice especially against children with autism.
  4. Do a little bit of good where you are, it is those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.  by Desmond Tutu. In other words, do not underestimate the good you can do or how little it is. Just try and keep trying.
  5. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality by Desmond Tutu. Soomalida Bloomington Schools u shaqaysa – fadlan ha aamusina oo ciyaalkeena u hiiliya.
  6. We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey by Kenji Miyazawa. Use the hurt they throw you as as your energizing latte.  
  7. The most beautiful thing we can give our children are possibilities. I just made this up, not sure if anyone else said it. Bloomington tried take my child’s possibilities – but it will be a cold day in hell before I allow them.

Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.

Idil – Autism Mom

Comments Off on Nineteen percent of Black Children with Disabilities were suspended by school districts – data suggests

Alright – so, as I have written before and will continue to do so until this issue of disproportionately suspending minority children decreases. I have been reading like crazy and gathering data from Minnesota and nationwide. A letter from the U.S Department of Education in 2016 cited data that suggested not only were students with disabilities suspended at a higher rate, but students with disabilities who were minorities were even higher. No surprise there. As a black woman, I am not surprised – rather pissed because at some point this crap has to stop and people like Kelly Morris, Jaysen Anderson and Jennifer McIntyre from Jefferson High school who are deliberately suspending our children must be held accountable. Insanity is doing the same-thing and expecting different results.

Last week I went to see Sen. Abeler who is like a brother to me and has supported autism in the Somali community when no one else did. He is the chair of the health and human policy commitee in Minnesota Senate. He referred me to Sen. Hoffman who I don’t know well but he knew everything about Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Minnesota’s Pupil Fair Dismissal Act. I mean he was able to cite specific words and what page they were on – impressive. I went to the state legislature to see why there is a law that allows school districts to suspend children with disabilities up to five days even if their behavior is due to their disability like Bloomington school district did.

Here is what each said. Abeler said “clearly Bloomington school district did not have an idea of how to help my son whom they taught since elementary. By now they should’ve had his behaviors down and how to help him proactively”. No argument there, I already know Bloomington school district staff were incompetent and had no training in positive behavior support nor did principal Jaysen understand autism as he sadly admitted. Sen. Carla N said who chairs the education finance committee said – it will be hard to amend the current law but not impossible, and maybe schools need more training on how to support students with behavior disorders like autism similar to how police are now trained on mental health crises. Sen. Hoffman said ” Did Bloomington meet my son’s unique needs according to his disability and how it affects his education”. The short answer is no they did not meet his unique needs because they knew he is a routine oriented child, yet they disrupted his routine which caused a meltdown. Additionally, he said they did not provide him his communication device so he can tell them what he wanted thereby violating his civil rights. So what does this all mean now? well – maybe I can sue them, maybe I can complain to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or office of civil rights or maybe I can file a complaint with Minnesota Department of Education. Maybe I will do all. The federal law clearly states “in the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, the IEP Team must consider, and when necessary provide FAPE including IEP – the use of positive behavior support interventions and other strategies to address that behavior. 34 CRF 300.324(a)(2)(i) and (b)(2) and 300.320(a)(4). Did Bloomington fail my child – heck yes. Did they do it willfully and purposefully. Yes, without a doubt. His teacher nor the principal were trained in positive behavior support. Instead of getting the IEP team to help him, they suspended him knowing he didn’t understand the concept of suspension. I wonder what kind of human-being that makes them? Think about it – who picks on a vulnerable disabled nonverbal child? Only a monster.

However, what I am really interested now is to eliminate Bloomington school district having the opportunity to ever treat another child like they treated mine and this can only happen if the suspension policy is amended to say that students with disabilities can be suspended like students without disabilities if their behavior is not due to their disability and that the students IEP must document the child’s behaviors and how to support it proactively and positively. I know Bloomington failed my son and so many other children of color as well as students with disabilities, and I will not rest until they are no longer able to hurt any more child.

Above words do not reflect any committee, agency or candidate.

Idil – Autism Mom

Comments Off on Causes of Autism – Is it Genetic, Environmental or The Kitchen Sink?

Alright – so, autism is only getting higher and higher. The ADDM numbers from CDC keep growing, but no one in CDC, NIH or any state health department are alarmed. Autism parents are told the numbers are higher because we are getting better at diagnosing. That may be true for autistic individuals who are verbal and may have some social delays, but for the Somali community better diagnosis ain’t it. Somalis are an oral society, yet our children with autism are mostly nonverbal. This is not normal. Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) also known as the do nothing health agency has zero desire to find out why it is high in our children and why our children are nonverbal.

I remember when Gov Dayton was running for office, he made so many statements about autism. He said he will look into why it was high in our community. He did not. His first health commissioner said he will look into it, he did not. So many politicians especially DFLers said they will look into it just to get our votes, they did not. In fact, the last commissioner that looked into autism research in the Somali community was Dr. Magnan who worked for a republican governor – Pawlenty. The last autism research from the state legislature was from Sen. Abeler and Sen Hann – both republicans. In the interest of fairness, the last federal autism research funding in the Somali community was from NIH, NIEH, NIMH under President Obama and of course was initiated by previous director of NIMH Dr. Insel (by far my fav autism researcher), and Dr. Daniels who is the current director of NIMH’s office of autism research, and a wonderful human being.

It is an election year again, and Minnesota Governor candidates in the DFL side – Murphy who lost and good riddance always voted against autism in any community including EIBDI and Minnesota Autism Task Force. Candidate Johnson seemed to care the last time he was running, not so much this time. Candidate Walz says all the right things, but I have learned to not always believe what a politician says during campaigns.

All I ask of autism parents and families is vote wisely, vote based on policy not politics. Policies drive everything. We as autism parents need to know what causes autism for our children and for the sake of future children. Did you know that irrespective of what state health departments do or don’t do – their funding is always the same. Think about it. Why would MDH do anything if there is no incentive or consequences. This useless policy can be changed by congress. Who we put in office can change it but we have to negotiate and bargain with our votes before they win. University of Minnesota’s ICI department headed by Dr. Hewitt also known as Dr. Headache is in charge of Minnesota’s autism prevalence numbers which they told us autism is 1 in 26 (1 in 59 nationwide) for the Somali community. As usual, Dr. Headache could care less the impact such high numbers have on real children and real families. How does ICI get funded by state and federal funding. Who is in charge of state and federal agencies – those that we elect. Vote wisely.

Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.

Idil – Autism Mom

Category: Autism Policy

Comments Off on Bloomington School District in Minnesota Suspended a Child with Nonverbal Autism

Alright – so, Bloomington school district in Minnesota suspended my son for having a behavior that was triggered by his special education teacher Kelly Morris who disrupted his routine. Let’s describe autism – it is a behavior disorder and children with autism are routine oriented. Yet, his teacher disrupts then suspends him for wanting to continue and finish his routine.

I want to write this post from an autism mother’s perspective and how I felt when I got an email from my son’s principal Jaysen Anderson telling me that my son was suspended for having a behavior. At first, I thought I was in a nightmare. Then I forwarded the email to someone else to read it to me because I simply could not believe it. I knew that black boys were disproportionately suspended by Bloomington school district, but I thought my son who has nonverbal autism was at-least excluded from that statistic.

I trusted this school district. I trusted his special education teacher and I trusted the superintendent who is a person of color, but they shattered my trust in one email. They saw my son as a black teenager, not as a child with disability. They did not see a child with autism who depended on them to be taught and to be cared for. They have broken my heart and made what every black mother is afraid of a reality. Ever since that day on May 3rd, 2018 at 5:18pm – I have been trying to figure out how the heck something like this could happen to my son and so many other minority children especially black boys. I have been gathering data from school districts which makes me even more sad. At first, I thought if the school and district leaders reflected the students they serve then this horrible statistic would not be. Then when I think of Bloomington’s superintendent Les Fujitake and Jefferson High school principal Jaysen Anderson who are both minority – I thought just because they look like us does not mean they are fair or that our children are treated equally. I mean think of Supreme court justice Thomas Clarence – he is a minority yet he votes against anything fair and equal that enhances minorities.

How can a principal who is supposed to be a leader and lead students into the future suspend a nonverbal autistic child who does not understand the concept of suspension. What educational value did this have? The IDEA law has one size fits all for suspending students with disabilities. The state law resembles the federal law and has one size fits all. How can this be? how can we have one size fits all for all disabilities or even just autism which is a spectrum and affects individuals so differently. This I am determined to change so that no more child with autism goes through what my son did. If you are a parent whose child goes to Bloomington school district, I urge you to contact The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) and request the report that explains how Bloomington school district disproportionately suspends students of color and students with disabilities. Sadly, even after that report this district still suspended a black child with a disability for having a behavior that was due to his disability which the teacher triggered. Think about that and pull your child out of this district unless you want him/her to be part of a horrible statistic. My son communicates using an app in his iPad but his teacher Ms. Kelly Morris took his device away. In other words, the school disrupts his routine, takes away his voice then suspends him for wanting to complete his routine. Imagine being a parent and hearing this. How would you feel?

Can diversifying the Bloomington School Board help?

Heck yes. I have advocated for Somali autism students and other minorities in Mpls school board and while MPS Schools don’t always have good record in terms of achievement gap and suspension, at the very minimum their board was very receptive and understanding of the needs of our children. The reason for this is Siad and other minorities are board members and they fully understand that they can be voted out if they don’t help minority parents and families. With Bloomington School District Board, there is no person of color, zero, zilch, zap. There are three white men and four white women one of which has a son with autism. In fact, their board chair and I served in an autism task force together but we often disagreed because Ms. Steigauf did not want to add low income autism children getting behavior therapy into the autism legislative task force. And, I of course wanted to add help and therapy for low income children who are disproportionately minorities.

In summary, we need to have a diverse school board in Bloomington to reflect the students they serve. I am hoping someone runs against some of the current board members in the next election. I think we can do it and diversify this school board which is sorely needed. If you can believe it the Bloomington City Council has six white men and ONE black man. What the heck? Nothing about us without us. We have got to be at the table or we are on that table as my son was in Bloomington school district. Vote for diversity and equality.

Above words do not reflect any committee, agency or candidate.

Idil – Autism Mom