August 2017 eNews

Disability Rights NC eNews

BREAKING: Investigative Report on Suicides in NC Jails

Today, Disability Rights NC released a report on suicides in North Carolina's jails. We found that the rate of suicides in North Carolina jails, as a percentage of all deaths in those jails, is much higher than the national average. The report concludes that regulations governing North Carolina jails are woefully lacking when it comes to identifying, protecting, and helping inmates at risk of suicide.

The report is available here:

North Carolina does not require jails to use any of the recognized best practices for helping inmates who have mental health conditions—such as mental health screenings, suicide-resistant cells, and staff trained in identifying and helping inmates who are at risk of suicide. We call on every jail to ensure they have a robust and effective Suicide Prevention Program, which should including the following:

  • A written Suicide Prevention Policy
  • Annual staff trainings on suicide prevention
  • Initial screenings of inmates and follow-up screenings
  • Suicide-resistant cells (e.g., ventilation grates with small holes, removal of clothing hooks, closure of gaps between windows and bars)
  • Safe levels of supervision and management (i.e., adequate staff trained to interact with and monitor suicidal inmates)


Highlights from our 10th Anniversary and Awards Celebration

On July 27th, about 140 people gathered in Cary to celebrate Disability Rights NC's tenth anniversary and its 2017 award recipients. We appreciate the support of Carolina Complete Health as the Celebration Sponsor.

Dave Richard, Deputy Secretary of Medical Assistance for NC DHHS, and McKinley Wooten, Deputy Director of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts, joined Executive Director Vicki Smith in sharing remarks about the P&A's move out of state government and the creation of the organization now known as Disability Rights North Carolina. Check out some of the photos from the event at

This year's recipients of the 2017 Champion for Equality and Justice Awards were Matt Potter and the Advocates for Medically Fragile Kids NC. Beth Garriss Hardy received the Adele Foschia Award for Lifetime Cross-Disability Advocacy. The video presentations for each award recipient are now available on our website. Congratulations to all of this year's award recipients!


Time to Blow the Lid Off NC's IEP Cap

Each year, North Carolina allocates funds to school districts to offset the additional cost of appropriately educating students with disabilities. Those funds are given to districts on a “per student” basis. Generally, that means school districts get a certain amount of those funds for each student that has been identified as having a disability. However, North Carolina limits its per-student allocations to 12.75 percent of each school district’s student population. If more than 12.75 percent of the students in a school district have disabilities, the district gets no extra state funds to educate those students.

Our policy analyst explains why this “IEP cap” is such a bad idea for students and for schools:

The 'IEP cap' disincentivizes school districts from identifying “too many” students with disabilities. It pits their federal Child Find obligations to identify all students with disabilities against their other federal IDEA obligations to appropriately educate students who have been identified. Without adequate funds from the state, North Carolina’s school districts are forced into a Sophie’s choice of resource allocation: do they adequately educate currently-identified students, or do they adequately identify all students with disabilities and run the risk of not having enough resources to appropriately educate any of them? This struggle harms students with disabilities and does nothing but distract from our schools’ fundamental mission to educate our children.

Read Matt's piece on the IEP cap for at .

Making Field Trips and Extracurriculars Accessible

School field trips are something most students look forward to with excitement. But often, students with disabilities are left out of the fun because the school fails or refuses to make the necessary accommodations.

As Holly Stiles, an attorney and team leader at Disability Rights NC, explains, schools must put in place accommodations to ensure students with disabilities can participate in field trips.

Schools must treat a field trip as an extension of the school day. If school staff assist a student during the day, and similar assistance is needed so the student can participate in the field trip, arrangements should be made for school staff to provide that assistance. For example, if the school provides a student with a one-on-one at school, the student should be provided a one-on-one if needed to participate in a field trip. If the school provides a sign language interpreter at school, the student should be provided an interpreter on the field trip.

Holly’s article for includes information about extracurricular activities and what schools need to do when a student with a disability wants to participate. Check it out at


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