DUBUQUE A non-profit organization in Dubuque asserts that the Dubuque Community School District may be breaking the law in providing services to a group of children.

Dubuque Community School District Forum

In late 2018, the District terminated its Hills and Dales contract to provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment to autistic students. The district now declares that it provides these services in its schools.

The goal of ABA is to increase positive behaviors, such as communication and attention, and to reduce problem behaviors.

Hills and Dales, a non-profit organization that provides services to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities, believes that the school district can not provide ACA because it is a treatment prescribed by doctor. Meanwhile, parents do not know what it means for their children.

Crystal Luna, mother of Camdyn Luna, a freshman, said the staff at Hills and Dales were great for her son's work. Camdyn is autistic and nonverbal, but the staff helped him find his voice.

"Now he knows 110 words that he can read in a book," Luna said.

She first heard that the district had terminated her contract with Hills and Dales of the non-profit association.

"They just wanted to let us know that they were still going to be ready to provide the services, even if it was not in school," Luna explained. "They were going to work on transportation, everyone's schedule, things like that."

Luna said that she had decided to continue therapy with Hills and Dales outside of school.

"I told them (in the district) that I was going to continue his therapy with Hills and Dales, which is what he had and I feel he needs that consistency," Luna said.

However, when Luna explained her reasoning to the school principal in Camdyn, she was told that she would need to re-register Camdyn at home. "She told me that if I was going to do that, I would have to re-register her at home at home because she would miss so much time at school."

A letter that the district sent to parents specifies the same expectations. It says: "Families who choose to regularly remove their children from part of the school day must choose to school their student at home."

Shirley Horstman, director of district student services, said that it was to maintain the students' education.

She explained, "Obviously, if they miss up to half of every day and every school year, it will have an impact on education. Our job is to educate the child, so we take care of the educational needs. of our children. "

However, she added, although much research is being done on the legality of such absences, students who leave school to undergo ABA treatment are considered exempt.

"We seek clarification from the Iowa Department, our school's lawyer and the local education agency," Horstman said.

The reason the district terminated his contract with Hills and Dales is a reassessment, Horstman said.

"We periodically review all our programs and it needs to be realigned, so we decided it was the year we were going to do it," she said.

According to Horstman, the district notified Hills and Dales that it would issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for ABA service in October.

Horstman said: "Hills and Dales submitted a request for our review, but that did not fit our RFP, which is why we are no longer working with this particular contract."

"Hills and Dales was working on a medical model and we are an educational institution, so we had to align ourselves with the educational model," Horstman said.

However, Laura Keehner, Director of Autism Services at Hills and Dales, said that was not true.

She told the school board on Monday, December 10: "There is no educational model and anyone involved in changing the profession in this way would be liable to penalties for its certification."

Marilyn Althoff, CEO of Hills and Dales, said on the same day, "We maintain that the district can not provide ABA treatment that is doctor-licensed, and that the district will offer the same treatment as Hills and Dales."

Horstman maintains that the district plan is in accordance with the law of Iowa.

She said, "We are working closely with the Iowa Department of Education and the Keystone Area Education Agency."