Students with Disabilities and Juvenile Detention

Lily Hofstra

 

A significant issue in New Mexico and across the nation is the over-representation of youth with disabilities in juvenile detention. According to a 2015 report by the National Council on Disability (NCD), up to 85 percent of youth in juvenile detention have disabilities that would make them eligible for special education, but only 37 percent of these youth actually receive these services while enrolled in school. Significantly, children of color are detained at disproportionate rates. The NCD report concluded that many youth who end up in detention could experience more positive outcomes and avoid the criminal justice system if provided with appropriate special education services in school.

The NCD report highlighted that both conscious and unconscious racial biases can lead to the exclusion of students from school. The report found that improper implementation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including in relation to identification, discipline, and placement, often impacts students of color with disabilities disproportionately. Among its recommendations, the report emphasized that any effort to intervene in the school-to-prison pipeline must address racial biases and racial disparities in special and general education programs.

“Grounded Pegasus” – a film from the NM State Bar “Breaking Good” Contest

 

This video was produced for the New Mexico State Bar’s Legal Services and Programs “Breaking Good” contest. The contest is open to high school students who create videos to help educate others about providers and legal services available to New Mexicans. This video, “Grounded Pegasus,” by Walker Dodson-Sands and Team Walker Boh at the Public Academy for Performing Arts, was created to raise awareness about the services Pegasus provides for the youth of New Mexico. Watch and share!

CYFD Pulls Back on Plan to Reduce Child Care Assistance Eligibility 

Melanie McNett 

According to a study from the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of child and infant care in New Mexico is approximately $8,000 per year, or about $667 per month. This expense accounts for anywhere from 10-17% of a typical New Mexican family’s income and often presents a huge financial burden for working families with young children. The state’s Children Youth and Families Department subsidizes child care for parents, grandparents, and legal guardians who are working, going to school, or in a job training program and have a gross income at or below 200% percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). However, recent changes to the program’s income requirement have threatened to curtail the number of families eligible for assistance. 

Under the Martinez administration, CYFD reduced the program’s income eligibility to 150% FPL without any public hearing or public comment on the issue. The Center on Law and Poverty responded by filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of families harmed by the change, which resulted in a settlement wherein the department agreed to continue using the 200% FPL benchmark. More recently, however, CYFD announced plans to lower the income eligibility to 160% FPL, this time using the proper administrative procedures to avoid the legal issues of the earlier lawsuit. The first public meeting on the rule change had been scheduled for July 8 but was postponed in a July 3 announcement from the department and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. This comes as good news for children and families in the state, particularly in light of the recent Kids Count survey ranking New Mexico 50th in the country for children’s overall well-being.  Stating that universal child care assistance is her “unconditional goal,” Governor Lujan Grisham assured that her administration will concern themselves with expanding the program’s coverage and accessibility and that “anything less would be a disservice to the families and children of the state.”

Support Pegasus at Buffalo Exchange!

Pegasus is now part of Buffalo Exchange’s Tokens for Bags® program!  Buffalo Exchange is a vintage & used clothing shop in Albuquerque that works to protect the environment by reusing and recycling clothing.  Their Tokens for Bags® program offers shoppers a five-cent token in place of a bag, which they can donate to one of three local charities – Pegasus is now one of those three!

Since its creation in 1994, Buffalo Exchange has raised over $778,660 for thousands of local nonprofit organizations and almost $50k in 2018 alone.  To read more, click here (https://www.buffaloexchange.com/giving-back/)

Challenging Behavior and Exclusionary Discipline in Early Childhood Education

Lily Hofstra

 

Preschool children in the United States are expelled at approximately three times the rate of children in K-12, and boys and students of color are suspended at disproportionate rates. Exclusion from school beginning in preschool can have many negative long-term educational, health, and social consequences. In order to help improve outcomes for young children in New Mexico, Pegasus Legal Services for Children is working to promote best practices among early childhood educators related to challenging behaviors and increase access to behavioral support programs. Behavior consultation for educators decreases the likelihood of preschool exclusion, which in turns fosters positive outcomes for children. 

In partnership with the UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute and the Senior Education Policy Analyst for the City of Albuquerque, Pegasus has presented at several conferences this spring on the results of our survey of New Mexico’s early care and education providers. The groundbreaking survey we conducted last year indicated that more than two thirds of early educators welcome increased access to early childhood mental health specialists to visit classrooms and provide individualized support, as well as group trainings on how to support young children’s social-emotional development. The survey found that challenging behaviors are common in early learning environments in New Mexico, with more than 70% of early childhood providers noting that persistent hyperactive behaviors, violent behaviors, and refusal to cooperate are fairly or very common. About 25% of preschoolers present challenging behaviors, and about 33% of providers had to disenroll at least one child due to challenging behaviors in the preceding year. While 68% of providers indicated that access to early childhood mental health consultations could help their difficulties in the classroom, most of the providers had never received such a consultation. 

Pegasus continues to research national best practices to reduce suspension and expulsion in preschool, promote expansion of behavioral consultations for early childhood environments, and partner with organizations and agencies in the state to support preschoolers in New Mexico. 

The full report regarding the survey is available here:  http://ccpi.unm.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Suspension%20and%20Expulsion%20Final%20Report.pdf