Posts tagged with "children"

Over 200 Massachusetts Children Abused While in State Custody

State officials found evidence supporting 249 allegations of physical and sexual abuse or poor care involving children in state-monitored settings last year.

The numbers were included in the Office of the Child Advocate’s 2013 report obtained by the Boston Herald (http://bit.ly/18XtUup ).

Thirty percent of the allegations were in foster care; 29 percent were in treatment programs; 19 percent in day cares; 18 percent from schools; and 4 percent from “others.”

State child welfare officials say the total number of abuse and neglect reports in out-of-home settings has remained steady in recent years.

But Sara Bartosz, an attorney for the advocacy group Children’s Rights, points out that the number of children in foster care is down.

A Department of Children and Families spokeswoman says the state works hard to protect all children.

From Boston Herald.

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.

Court Considers Economy in Relocation Case

When a custodial parent would like to relocate, and that relocation would have a significant impact on an existing parenting plan, the moving party must show that the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, the proposed location is reasonable in light of that purpose, and the relocation is in the best interests of the child(ren). C.G.S. Sec. 46b-56d(a). Further, the court should consider, but is not limited to, the following factors: a) each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move; b) the quality of the relationship between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents; c) the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the noncustodial parent; d) the degree to which the custodial parent’s and child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the move; and e) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child  through suitable visitation arrangements. C.G.S. Sec. 46b-56d(a).

In light of the current state of our economy, it appears as though judges may be assigning greater weight to parties’ economic circumstances, recognizing that it is becoming increasingly  necessary for parties to move considerable distances to obtain (or retain) employment.  Just recently, the Superior Court of New Haven (Gould, J.) permitted a mother to relocate with the parties’ three minor children from Connecticut to Pennsylvania on the basis that, among other things, the move would allow her to transition back into the work force, which the mother claimed would be necessary for her to adequately support her children, and herself.

After considering the statutory criteria set forth above, the Court explained,  “Our society is an increasingly mobile one.  Largely because of the instability and unpredictability of the employment market . . . repeated, separate moves by each parent are coming to represent the norm.” (internal quotations omitted)  J. Wallerstein & T. Tanke [‘To Move or Not to Move: Psychological and Legal Considerations in the Relocation of Children Following Divorce,’ 30 Fam. L.Q. 305, 310 (1996)].   The Court continued, “Our family law should recognize that reality. Therefore, to serve the best interests of a child in a single-parent family unit, the custodial parent should be permitted to pursue, within reasonable limits, opportunities that could lead to a better life for the parent as well as the child.” (internal citations omitted).

Should you have any questions regarding this posting, please feel free to contact Maya Murphy, P.C. at JMaya@mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100.

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.

 

Placement in Appropriate Programs

Special education students are entitled to a free appropriate public education (otherwise known as “FAPE”), that must be tailored to the individual student. However, schools are not required to provide optimum programming – just “appropriate” programming. One federal judge has likened the difference between optimum and appropriate programming to that between a “Cadillac” and a “serviceable Chevrolet.” See Doe v. Bd. of Ed. of Tullahoma City Schools, 9 F.3d 455, 459-60 (6th Cir. 1993). However, if a particular service is required for the student’s special education needs, as evaluated, then the service must be provided without regard to how much it costs.

Sometimes, public schools simply do not offer the services that your child’s special education needs require. At this point, it may be possible to place your child in an appropriate private school and seek reimbursement from your school district for the associated costs. In order to do this, you must request a due process hearing and prove to an impartial hearing officer that not only does the private school meet your child’s educational needs, but that the school district failed to provide your child with a FAPE in a timely manner. Furthermore, you must comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements or your reimbursement award may be denied or reduced. Significantly, one misstep in this process can mean losing your right to reimbursement – there are time limitations and notice requirements to comply with, and it is important to know all the details before a parent unilaterally places a child privately. Our experienced attorneys will make themselves available to guide and assist you in making a quick and efficient determination of the most effective plan of action for your family, while protecting your rights under applicable regulations.

Fairfield High School Racial Bias Charged

Alleging racial discrimination, three minority students at Fairfield High School — arrested in February after a fight broke out in the school parking lot — plan to sue the town, claiming they were singled out base upon their “ethnicity and national origin.” Continue Reading

Special Education Law: Evaluation and Identification

Children identified as having disabilities have different rights from other students. Accordingly, the identification process is a very important step. It begins with a referral sent to the student’s school district – specifically, a written request for an evaluation of whether the child is eligible for, and needs, special education services. This request can be made by the child’s parent, school personnel, or another appropriate person (such as a physician or a social worker).

Once the school district receives a referral, it must convene a planning and placement team (“PPT”) to review the referral, determine whether further evaluation is necessary and, ultimately, decide whether the child requires special education services. If the PPT requests further evaluation of your child, such evaluation will be conducted at the school district’s expense. Once the PPT has made its determination, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) of your child if you disagree with the PPT’s decision. If, after the IEE, you still disagree with the PPT, you may request a hearing in accordance with State Department of Education regulations. Our attorneys will work with your family to determine the best course of action and to protect your child’s educational rights, while ensuring compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulations.

Court Permits Transfer of Guardianship to Out-Of-State Aunt

In a decision involving the Department of Children and Families, a Connecticut trial court granted a maternal aunt’s motions for out-of-state placement and transfer of guardianship.  The children were originally removed from the mother’s care pursuant to an Order of Temporary Custody upon allegations that they were being denied proper care and attention, and were living under conditions injurious to their wellbeing.  After the children were committed to the care of DCF and placed in a foster residence, their maternal aunt, who lived in New York, filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings to obtain guardianship.

In granting the aunt’s motions, the Court explained that pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-129(j), if a court determines that commitment should be revoked and the child’s guardianship should vest in someone other than his or her parents, or if parental rights are terminated at any time, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that an award of legal guardianship or adoption to a relative who is licensed as a foster parent shall be in the best interests of the child.   That presumption may be rebutted only by a preponderance of the evidence that such an award would not be in the child’s best interests and that such relative is not a suitable and worthy caregiver. In Re Noella A., Superior Court, Judicial District of New London, Docket No. K09CP09011902A (March 24, 2011, Mack, JTR).

Employing the aforementioned standard, the Court found that although the children had progressed well in foster care, there was no showing that the same progress could not be made if they lived with the maternal aunt.  The Court also found that in living with the aunt, the children would be with their cousins in an equally secure, safe, caring, and nurturing environment. The Court further explained that even though the children established a bond with their foster parents, there was nothing to suggest they could not do so with their extended family. Ultimately modifying the permanency plan from termination of parental rights and adoption to transfer of guardianship, the Court stated it could not find that placement with the aunt would not be in the children’s best interests.

If you have questions regarding guardianship proceedings or any family law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family 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 divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

Growing Awareness Surrounding Bullying of Students with Disabilities in Fairfield County

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Bullying has gained the attention of the media over recent years, but despite the focused spotlight, bullying is rampant in our society.  Among the easiest targets are children with special needs.  They are, on average, at a greater risk to be bullied than their non-disabled counterparts.  This is in part because special education children make easy targets. It is often harder for children with disabilities to recognize which behaviors are socially appropriate and those that are not.

Many organizations are stepping up to the challenge of educating the community and parents on the complex issues surrounding bullying of students with disabilities. The Stratford Special Education Teacher and Parent Association recently held a presentation on “Bullying of Students with Disabilities.” The presentation focused on how to help schools avoid litigation stemming from the targeting of children with special education needs. The hope is to set up systems in schools that address bullying before it becomes a problem.  Interestingly, the presentation also focused on teaching parents how to work with the school system to effectively develop plans to prevent harassment of their children.  It is important that parents work with school administrators to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that encourages students to learn, develop self-advocacy, and social and life skills necessary to reduce disability related harassment.

In addition to parents and school administrators working together to reduce and bring awareness to bullying and its drastic effects, it is also important to be familiar with the laws that protect children with disabilities.  At Maya Murphy, P.C., we have experience dealing with Education Law, harassment or bullying, Special Education Law, and discrimination.

By Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Connecticut School Districts and Bullying: What Can Parents Do?

I was greeted this morning with a very unfortunate email.  The email concerned bullying in Westport Schools and included a heart wrenching video of an 8th grade girl claiming to be a victim of bullying in Westport schools. (http://patch.com/A-gcKG) It is just not enough to feel sorry for this victim of bullying, we need to question the effectiveness of the current law and policies in place to avoid the tragic consequences that other towns have dealt with because their students were victims of bullying.

I previously blogged about the revisions to Connecticut’s law against bullying in 2008.  Under Connecticut General Statute section 10-222d, the law requires “any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, harass, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds, at a school sponsored activity or on a school bus, which acts are committed more than once against any student during the school year.” In addition to definitional changes, the statute requires:

  1.  teachers and other staff members who witness acts of bullying to make written notification to school administrators;
  2. prohibits disciplinary actions based solely on the basis of an anonymous report of bullying;
  3. requires prevention strategies as well as interventions strategies;
  4. requires that parents of a student who commits verified acts of bullying or against whom such bullying occurred be notified by each school and be invited to attend at least one meeting;
  5. requires school to annually report the number of verified acts of bullying to the State Department of Education (DOE);
  6. no later than February 1, 2009, boards must submit the bullying policies to the DOE;
  7. no later than July 1, 2009, boards must include their bullying policy in their school district’s publications of rules, procedures and standards of conduct for school and in all of its student handbooks, and
  8.  effective July 1, 2009, boards must now provide in-service training for its teacher and administrators on prevention of bullying.

Westport responded to the requirements of this statute with a comprehensive bullying policy which can be found on the school district’s website under the tab for parents, and then selecting policies.  Here is the direct link to the policy: (http://www2.westport.k12.ct.us/media/policies/prohibition_against_bullying_5131.911_revised_8.25.2008.pdf)

Armed with Connecticut’s law and Westport’s policy, what should we do as parents, community members, and professionals?  I do not profess to have the answers but at a minimum, we should discuss this with our children, question the school administrators, guidance staff and teachers. Together we should challenge ourselves to make a difference using the channels available to us.  There are ways that we can help to effectuate change before it is too late.  If you know of a child affected by bullying, please act on their behalf.  Not every student will post a video to tell you this is happening. If the school is not addressing the bullying in a meaningful way to eradicate the conduct, legal redress is available and the courts will readily intervene.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by telephone in the Firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at SMaya@Mayalaw.com. Attorney Maya is a partner at Maya Murphy, P.C. Her practice is limited to Education Law and Trusts and Estates.