Special Education Law

What is the evaluation process used to determine a child’s special education requirements?

What is an Initial Evaluation?

An initial evaluation is the first step in the evaluation process for special education. Following a referral, the state education agency or local education agency is obligated to conduct a full and individualized initial evaluation for each child in order to determine his or her eligibility under the IDEA. Prior to conducting an initial evaluation, the agency must obtain informed written parental consent. Consent to this initial evaluation must be in writing and may only be given following full disclosure of all information needed for you to make a knowledgeable decision pertaining to your child’s educational needs. It bears repeating that parental consent to an initial evaluation may not be construed as consent for the placement of your child in special education or related services. However, failure of a parent to consent to an initial evaluation may allow the school district to initiate a due process hearing as a way to proceed with an initial evaluation.

Conducting the Evaluation

In conducting the evaluation, the local educational agency, “shall use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent, that may assist in determining – (i) whether the child is a child with a disability; and (ii) the content of the child’s individualized education program, including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum…” An evaluation study will include a review of information collected by the school district through formal and informal observations, a review of schoolwork, standardized tests and other information provided by your child’s teachers and other school personnel.

Reruirements Under IDEA

Additional requirements in the evaluation assessment under the IDEA provide that:

(A) assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child under this section-
(i) are selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis;
(ii) are provided and administered in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is not feasible to so provide or administer;
(iii) are used for purposes for which the assessments or measures are valid and reliable;
(iv) are administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel; and
(v) are administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of such assessments;
(B) the child is assessed in all areas of suspected disability;
(C) assessment tools and strategies that provide relevant information that directly assists persons in determining the educational needs of the child are provided; and
(D) assessments of children with disabilities who transfer from one school district to another school district in the same academic year are coordinated with such children’s prior and subsequent schools, as necessary and as expeditiously as possible, to ensure prompt completion of full evaluations.

Parents During Evaluation

As a parent you will receive written notice of the particular tests and procedures that will be used in conducting your child’s evaluation. It is important as a parent to have an active voice in the initial evaluation process and you should share any and all relevant information you have regarding your child’s skills, abilities and needs.
The local educational agency conducting the initial evaluation is required to determine whether your child is one with a disability within sixty (60) days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation and to determine the special educational needs of your child if he or she is eligible. As a parent, if you fail or refuse to produce your child for an initial evaluation the sixty-day time constraint will not be applicable.

Following the initial evaluation, the child’s Planning and Placement Team will meet to evaluate the data and determine whether your child meets the necessary criteria to receive special education and related services. As a parent you will be provided with a written report of the evaluation that was conducted.
What is an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)?

Independent Educational Evaluation

If you disagree with the school district’s evaluation you may request an Independent Educational Evaluation, referred to as an IEE. Upon a request for an IEE, the local educational agency must provide information to parents as to where you may obtain an IEE and the criteria necessary in conducting an evaluation. An independent educational evaluation is one that is conducted by a qualified examiner, who is not an employee of the local educational agency, such as your child’s private therapist. Moreover, a parent is not required to inform the school district in advance of plans to obtain an IEE.

Evaluation Disagreements

Although parents should work alongside their local educational agency to resolve any disagreements pertaining to evaluations, there are times where an independent evaluation will be necessary to resolve such disagreements. Parents have the right to an IEE at the local educational agency’s expense unless the local educational agency challenges the need for an IEE. If the local educational agency challenges the IEE they must, “without unnecessary delay” file for a due process hearing to demonstrate that its evaluation was appropriate or that the evaluation obtained by you did not meet the requisite evaluation criteria. If the local educational agency files for a due process hearing and its evaluation is found to be sufficient, you still have the right to obtain an IEE, but not at public expense. A parent is only entitled to one IEE at public expense each time the local educational agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. If, however, a hearing officer requests an IEE during the course of a due process hearing, the evaluation shall be conducted at the expense of the agency.

If an IEE is conducted at public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location and qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria that the local educational agency uses when it conducts an evaluation. However, the results of an IEE, irrespective of who pays for it, must be considered by the school district when designing your child’s educational program.

What is a Reevaluation? When and why will my child be reevaluated?

The IDEA mandates that a reevaluation must occur at least once every three (3) years, unless the parent and the local educational agency agree that a reevaluation is not necessary. Either parents or local educational agencies may request a reevaluation but the local educational agency must first obtain written parental consent before conducting a reevaluation. Failure to provide the consent needed for your child’s school district to conduct a reevaluation may lead to your local educational agency filing for a due process hearing or seeking other dispute resolution proceedings in order to conduct the reevaluation.

The purpose of conducting a reevaluation is to reassess the educational needs of your child and determine whether your child continues to have a disability, to evaluate the levels of academic achievement and developmental needs of your child, to determine whether special education and related services are still needed for your child, and whether your child’s Individual Education Plan requires modification.

In conducting a reevaluation, your child’s PPT will review existing reports and data to decide if additional testing is needed to determine whether your child is still eligible and continues to need special education and related services.
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If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free consultations to all new clients.

 

Special Education Law – Relevant Terms

Within the realm of Special Education Law there are several relative terms one should be familiar with. Below are some of these key terms.

Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”):

An intensive, structured teaching program in which behaviors to be taught are broken down into simple elements. Each element is taught using repeated trials where the child is presented with a stimulus; correct responses and behaviors are rewarded with positive reinforcement, while when incorrect responses occur, they are ignored and appropriate responses are prompted and rewarded. Continue Reading

Decision Suggests Educational Support Orders May Not Be Applied Retroactively

A case decided by the Connecticut Appellate Court, suggests Educational Support orders entered pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56c may not be entered retroactively.  In Kleinman v. Chapnick, 131 Conn. App. 812 (2011), the parties had two children who were over the age of eighteen and enrolled as full-time college students.  During the divorce proceedings, the parties’ older daughter was a senior and their younger daughter was a freshman.  In February 2010, after the parties entered into a final agreement on custody and visitation, a two day trial ensued regarding financial issues.

As part of its decision, the Court ordered the husband to pay 100 percent of the statutory expenses for the education of the parties’ younger daughter beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.  As the Court did not enter an order with respect to the 2009-2010 school year, the wife filed a Motion to Clarify, Correct and/or Reargue.  The Court subsequently heard the wife’s motion, but declined to change its position.

On appeal, the Connecticut Appellate Court found that the husband made voluntary payments for the 2009-2010 school year that exceeded his statutory obligation under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56c.  More importantly, however, the Court held that Section 46b-56c contains no language authorizing retroactive application, pointing out that various provisions contained within the statute suggest that it is intended to apply prospectively only.  In a footnote, the Court further explained that child support orders cannot be retroactive, and an order for post-majority educational support is in fact an order for child support for college education.

Should you have any questions regarding educational support in the context of divorce proceedings, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola.  He practices out of the firm’s Westport office and can be reached by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or email at mdemeola@maylaw.com.

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

            One of the legislative centerpieces of Federal Education Law is “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (“NCLB”).  The Act is 670 pages in length and almost as controversial as it is long.   Therefore, parents should be familiar with at least its stated purpose and general provisions.  NCLB does not, however, give parents the right to sue on behalf of their children. 

          NCLB funds Federal programs established by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at improving the performance of schools throughout the 50 states by imposing greater accountability on public schools, expanding parental choice in the school attended by their child, and placing increased emphasis on reading and math skills.  NCLB has as one of its focal points improvement of schools and school districts serving students from low-income families.

            The theory underlying enactment of NCLB was that improved educational programs would enable students to meet challenging state academic achievement standards and thereby achieve their full potential.  Among other areas, the Act funds programs and resources for disadvantaged students, delinquent and neglected youth in institutions, improving teacher and principal quality, use of technology in schools, and fostering a safe and drug-free learning environment.  One source of controversy is the fact that NCLB allows military recruiters access to the names, addresses, and telephone listings of 11th and 12th grade students if the school provides that information to colleges or employers. 

          More specifically, NCLB requires states to strengthen test standards, to test annually all students in grades 3-8, and to establish annual statewide progress objectives to ensure that all students achieve proficiency within 12 years. There are no Federal standards of achievement; each state is required to set its own standards. Test results and state progress objectives must be stratified based upon poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and English proficiency to ensure that “no child is left behind.”  Schools and school districts that fail to make “adequate yearly progress” are subject to corrective action and restructuring.  Adequate yearly progress means, for example, that each year a school’s fourth graders score higher on standardized tests than the previous year’s fourth graders.

          Once a school has been identified under NCLB as requiring improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, local school officials must afford its students the opportunity (and transportation, if needed) to attend a better public school within the same school district.  Low-income students attending a “persistently failing school” (i.e., one failing to meet state standards for 3 out of the 4 preceding years) are eligible for funding to obtain supplemental educational services from either public or private schools selected by the student and his parents.  Under-performing schools are highly incentivized to improve if they wish to avoid further loss of students (and an accompanying loss of funding).  A school that fails to make adequate yearly progress for five consecutive years is subject to reconstitution under a restructuring plan.

          Simply stated, NCLB provides states and school districts unprecedented flexibility in their use of federal funds in return for more stringent accountability for increased teacher quality and improved student results.

          One of the stated goals of NCLB is that every child be able to read by the end of third grade.  To this end, the Federal government invested in scientifically based reading instruction programs to be implemented in the early grades.  An expected collateral benefit of this initiative is reduced identification of children requiring special education services resulting from a lack of appropriate reading instruction.  NCLB funds screening and diagnostic assessments to identify K-3 students who are at risk of reading failure, and to better equip K-3 teachers in the essential components of reading instruction.  Funds are also available to support early language, literacy, and pre-reading development of pre-school age children.

          In keeping with its major themes of accountability, choice, and flexibility, NCLB also emphasizes the use of practices grounded in scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers.  Once again, local school administrators are afforded significant flexibility in teacher staffing, provided they can demonstrate annual progress in maintaining and enhancing the high-quality of their teachers.

          Finally, in an effort to ensure safe and drug-free schools, NCLB, as proposed, requires states to allow students who attend a persistently dangerous school, or who have been victims of violent crime at school, to transfer to a safe school.  To facilitate characterizing schools as “safe” or “not safe,” NCLB requires public disclosure of school safety statistics on a school-by-school basis.  In addition, school administrators must use federal funding to implement demonstrably effective drug and violence prevention programs.

          It is within this overarching educational framework of NCLB that the State of Connecticut oversees and administers its constitutional and statutory obligations to educate your children.

 

Joseph Maya selected to 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Westport, CT

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. is pleased to announce that Joseph Maya has been included in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Joseph Maya, a Connecticut and New York-based litigation attorney, was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2022 edition. He has been rated Best Lawyers in America and ranks among the top private practice attorneys nationwide. Attorneys listed in this edition of The Best Lawyers in America were selected after an exhaustive peer-review survey that confidentially investigates the professional abilities and experience of each lawyer. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Mr. Maya has been practicing law in Connecticut for more than 25 years. He has been a licensed attorney in New York for more than 30 years.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer. “We are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide.”

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. has offices in Westport, CT and New York City. For additional information on Joseph Maya or Maya Murphy, P.C., please visit its website at https://mayalaw.com, or call 203-221-3100.

 

What Services Are Required for School-Aged Children with Autism in Connecticut?

Children with autism are eligible for special education and related services in Connecticut.  State and federal law does not require local school districts to provide particular services for children with autism.  These laws do require school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a free and appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs.

Specific services for autistic children depend on his or her disability and individualized educational program.  This program is established by the child’s planning and placement team.  A planning and placement team is a group consisting of the child’s parents, teachers, and educational specialist that evaluate the child’s services annually.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

What Should I Do if My Child Has Been Denied Special Education?

Schools may often refuse to make reasonable accommodations for children who need special education.  If your child has special education needs, the school must accommodate for the child under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You have many rights in this situation such as the right to a manifestation hearing.  You may also have the right to file a complaint against the school district.  You should obtain an education attorney as soon as possible to educate you on your rights, and help you get the accommodations your child needs and deserves.  If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Who Refers Children to Special Education?

Connecticut requires each school district to reach out and identify children from birth to twenty-one years of age who may be eligible for special education services. The IDEA covers all children with disabilities residing in the state, including those who are homeless or wards of the State, and children with disabilities attending private schools, irrespective of the severity of their disability. It is the obligation of the school district to identify children in need of special education from birth on. This duty is called “child find.” After “finding” a child with a disability, the school district must initiate an evaluation of that child to fulfill their duty under the IDEA.

A referral to special education services is the first step in determining whether a child is entitled to receive special education and related services. The referral takes the form of a written request that a child be evaluated if he or she is suspected of having a disability and who may be in need of special education and related services. If your child is over the age of three and you believe he or she may have a disability, as a parent you may submit a written request to the director of special education of your school district. If someone other than a child’s parent refers a child to special education, such as a teacher or school administrator, the parent must receive written notice of such referral.

Those who may make a referral for an evaluation are: the student, provided they are 18 years of age or older, a parent or guardian, the state educational agency, the local educational agency or individuals from other agencies, including physicians or social workers having parental permission to make a referral.

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Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free consultations to all new clients.

School Learning Environment

Connecticut Public Act No. 08-160, An Act Concerning School Learning Environment, is of interest to parents of school age children and, in particlular, parents of children with special needs.

Two of the major changes that are enacted are (1) all suspensions starting July 1, 2009 are in school suspensions unless it is determined that the student is dangerous or disruptive to the educational process; and (2) all schools must “develop and implement a policy to address the existence of bullying in its schools.”  Also of note is a new provision that provides for in-service training for school personnel and pupils on a variety of issues they face daily.  A few examples are: (a) drug and alcohol awareness; (b) “health and mental health risk reduction;” (c) working with special needs children in regular classrooms; (d) cpr and emergency life saving procedures…..

What Does a Court Consider When Deciding an Educational Support Order in Connecticut?

In determining whether to enter an educational support order in Connecticut, the court considers all relevant circumstances.  Under the bill these circumstances include: the parents income, assets, and other obligations; the child’s need for support; the availability of financial aid; the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded (the court looks to the child’s academic record); the likelihood that the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education if the family were still intact; and the child’s preparation and commitment to higher education.  The bill also requires that both parents discuss and agree on the school, and imposes obligations on the child who is to receive the assistance.  The student must be enrolled in an institution of higher education on at least a half-time basis, maintain good academic standing, and share all academic records with both parents during the term of order.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.