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Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is the statewide agency with ultimate responsibility for ensuring the provisions of federal special education law are carried out in Montana under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). Under Montana law, OPI has the authority to make regulations implementing the IDEA in Montana. OPI recently proposed substantial amendments and repeal of some of the existing special education regulations. The proposed changes are described in the official rule notice published on October 15, 2015 in the Montana Administrative Register. A copy of the rule notice is available at:

DRM appreciates OPI seeking comment from DRM education attorneys while OPI prepared the proposed regulations. DRM continues to have concern about two proposed changes: first, a change to Rule 10.16.3505, Admin. R. Mont., which would remove the longstanding requirement that school districts obtain parental consent prior to initial and annual placement of a student with disabilities in special education and related services. DRM believes this will effectively remove the opportunity for parents to refuse to consent to portions of an individualized education program (IEP) with which they do not agree and will leave parents having to pursue administrative hearings and/or court litigation when disputes with school districts arise. 

Second, OPI proposes to change the definition of a student’s residency for special education purposes under Rule 10.16.3122(2), Admin. R. Mont. The existing rule simply provides that a child’s residency (and the school district required to serve the child) is the place where the child lives during the school week. OPI proposes to define residency under Montana’s general residency statute, Mont. Code Ann. 1-1-215. This statute is antiquated and generally defines the child’s residence by where the parent or custodian lives, even when the child doesn’t live with that parent or custodian. DRM believes this change would introduce significant conflict between parents and districts over where a child should attend school.

More information about DRM’s objections to the proposed rules is contained in the talking points summary available hereParents Let’s Unite for Kids, Montana’s Parent Information and Training Center, has also put out a summary with its view of the proposed changes, available at

A public hearing was held November 6, 2015, at OPI in Helena. Positive feedback and constructive criticism of the proposed rules was heard. Interested persons had until 5:00 p.m., November 12, 2015, to submit their comments. If you have questions regarding the possible impact of these rules, please feel free to contact Tal Goldin, DRM Education Unit supervising attorney at

The ADA at 25

image of NDRN report cover

The Americans with Disabilities Act is 25 years old. Where do we go from here? Is the ADA under threat? Find out in NDRN's latest report: The Americans with Disability Act at 25: Cause for Celebration and Renewed Resolve.

In the 25 years since the historic enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there has been an increase in the number of people with disabilities participating in all aspects of community life, from home ownership and employment, to sports and the arts. But where to we go from here? 

In the report, NDRN reviews the progress our nation has made since the historic enactment of the ADA in 1990. It highlights the critical role that P&As have in enforcing the ADA integration mandate, protecting and advocating for people with disabilities still trapped in institutions and ensuring those now living in their community of choice are able to access the supports and services they need to be successful. The report calls attention to disturbing national trends that threaten to distort and weaken the promise of full community integration. Please click here to read the entire report.

Governor Steve Bullock signs SB 411 into Law

Montana Capitol BuildingOn Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law a bill that calls for the state to close the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder by 2017.

"Senate Bill 411 has inspired passionate and heartfelt debate on both sides of the issue. Proponents and opponents alike are genuinely motivated by the best interests of the current and future residents of the Montana Developmental Center (MDC). Indeed, even family members of the residents are divided on this bill. Like them, first and foremost, I am committed to ensuring that the population served at MDC has access to the safest and most effective treatment possible."

Steve Bullock, Governor

To view the Governor's Signing Statement Text, click here.

To view SB 411 as signed into law, click here. 

Billings Gazette Opinion: Better care for Montana's disabled residents

"The state of Montana has taken on an urgent mission to do better by our most severely disabled residents.

'Bullock signs bill to close Montana Developmental Center in Boulder,' a Gazette headline said last week. The bigger story is the state accepting responsibility to create better services for each of the 53 men and women - all seriously developmentally disabled and some with mental illnesses as well - now housed at this institution in a small community in Western Montana."

The opinion goes on to read:

"As seriously disabled adults are transitioned to new community services, new jobs will [be] created. They should be created closer to clients' families. New services should take advantage of other community strengths, such as a sufficient labor pool, availability of physical, speech, psychiatric and occupational therapists, nurses and physicians, as well as opportunities to interact positively with family, friends and neighbors."

"We agree with Caffero, who said Bullock put 'people ahead of politics.'"

Billings Gazette Opinion May 11, 2015

Click here to read the Opinion in its entirety.

Logo for Save the Date for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is an international day of giving. Everyone, anywhere, can participate! Giving Tuesday kicks off the giving season on December 1st. Keep it local and make a donation to Disability Rights Montana. Donations can be made directly to DRM and electronically through

Montanans living with disabilities want to be included in everyday living and need access to appropriate support and services. DRM actively works to make local communities more physically accessible. DRM also advocates to bring support and services to your community and to protect your right to live, receive an education, work, and recreate in your local community.

Please consider donating to DRM on Tuesday, December 1st, during the national day of giving - Giving Tuesday.

Thank you to all of the State employees that stopped by our table at the SECGC Kickoffs in Helena, Great Falls, and Missoula!  Please consider designating your SECGC contribution to Disability Rights Montana #8093.

DRM Releases Updated Rights Manual

This mental health rights handbook is for persons who use public or private mental health services or experience mental health problems while in the State of Montana.  This handbook will provide you with information about your rights and make you aware of what action you can take if you think your rights may have been violated. Most people with mental illness have the same civil rights as anyone else — civil rights do not disappear because you are receiving mental health treatment. We recommend that you read this handbook now, even if you don’t need to use it at the moment.

It is important to remember that the first step in protecting your rights is to educate yourself about these rights. The second step is to be willing to More....

Per Person - The Most Expensive Facility in the State

In 2013 and 2014, Montana Developmental Center (MDC) had an average of 50 residents in its facility. Every day for the past two years on average, 24 of the 50 residents have been determined eligible for and referred to the community for services. In other words, everyday 24 residents are ready and waiting to move into community services. Many of the 24 have been waiting two years. See Exhibits 1 and 2 attached to the link to the complete article below. 

The waiting cost is $849 per day or $310,074 per year, per person. Per person, MDC is the most expensive facility operated in the state of Montana with an operating budget that exceeds $17 million. Click "View Attachment" below to read the entire opinion and attached exhibits. 

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DRM Board of Directors approves 2015 Priorities
DRM's Board of Directors approved the 2015 priorities at their September meeting. The 2015 priorities went into effect October 1, 2014. The priorities were developed with input from people with disabilities, family members of people with disabilities, and the public, and on the mandatory federal requirements. Click here to review the current priorities.