Posts tagged with "school district"

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.

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

What is NCLB?

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 the 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. 

Stronger Test Standards

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.

What if a school underperforms?

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.

Improving Reading Ability and Instruction

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.

Ensuring Safe School Environments

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.

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.

The Limited Circumstances Permitting Right to Transfer Under No Child Left Behind

Since it was passed into law in January 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been the subject of ongoing debate regarding its focus on test scores and increased teacher and administration accountability. However, one aspect of this legislation that has not received as much attention in the spotlight concerns school assignment decisions and the role of NCLB in the right to transfer.

Under Connecticut law, local boards of education are left with the task of determining which school district, if there is more than one in the town, a student is required to attend.[1] In some situations, your local school board may reach out to a neighboring town and agree to send its students to the latter (typically for matters of geographical convenience). Furthermore, school boards may “develop intradistrict student assignment programs [whereby] parents may select the public school which their child will attend provided the school is in the school district in which the child resides.”[2]

When such a program is not implemented and the school board assigns your child to a particular district, you as a parent are without the right to appeal. However, NCLB has chiseled three narrow situations by which the assignment is overruled.

Situation #1: The school is “in need of improvement” under NCLB.

Under NCLB § 1111, if your child attends a school that is designated as “in need of improvement,” he or she may seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district.

Situation #2: Your child is the victim of a violent crime on school grounds.

Under NCLB § 9532, if your child is becomes the victim of a violent crime while on school grounds, he or she must be allowed the opportunity to seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district. As further detailed by the State Board of Education, this requires:

  1. Bodily injury to the child, caused by an intentional, negligent, or reckless act by someone else.
  2. Police must be notified and write up a report.
  3. The police report must contain facts sufficient to show that the alleged acts constituted a crime.
Situation #3: The school is “persistently dangerous.”

Also under NCLB § 9532, if a state receives Title I funds, it must identify all schools that are “persistently dangerous” and afford the opportunity to children attending these schools to transfer into ones that are safer within the same district (if any). In its Circular Letter C-34, the State Department of Education explained that “the identification of an unsafe school concentrates upon two types of serious offenses: weapons violations and violent acts,” which fall into three categories:

  1. Student expulsion for possession of firearms or explosives on school property. Two or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion.
  2. Student expulsion for possession of other weapons (such as knives) or implements capable of causing injury. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).
  3. Student expulsion for a violent criminal offense. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).

If two of the three criterion are present for three consecutive years, “the school will be identified as persistently dangerous, all students must be offered the option of transferring to a school that has not been identified as persistently dangerous within the district.”[3] However, as a parent, it is important to realize that your child’s right to transfer is moot if there is only one school at a particular level in your district, regardless of whether or not he or she qualifies for transfer under any of the three NCLB scenarios.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding school assignment, right to transfer, or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-220(a).

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-221e.

[3] Series 2002-03, Circular Letter: C-34 (June 23, 2003).

Identifying Acts of School Bullying

October is the National Anti-Bullying month, yet the issue of bullying in schools remains headline news on a routine basis. Just today, I read about an incident where “two girls beat [the victim’s] head into the wall and floor when the teacher was out of the room,” causing “permanent hearing loss in her right ear.”[1] Worse still are the stories where the victim took his or her own life as an escape from the daily torment inflicted by bullies.

Without a doubt, parents are scared for the safety of their children. In her on-the-air speech addressing an email she received from a viewer critical of her weight, Jennifer Livingston of WKBT News 8 in Wisconsin admitted that “as the mother of three young girls [the growing prevalence of school bullying] scares me to death.”[2] Ms. Livingston further emphasized, “The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground.”[3] Therefore, it is imperative that you, as a parent, are able to recognize acts of bullying and report incidents to your child’s school. The former is the focus of this article.

Recognizing Bullying Behaviors

Under Connecticut law for over a year now, bullying is defined as “the repeated use of a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act by one or more students directed at another student within the same school district which:

  1. Physically or emotionally harms the student or damages that student’s property;
  2. Places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property;
  3. Creates a hostile school environment for the student;
  4. Infringes on that student’s rights at school; or
  5. Substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school.”[4]

Bullying on the basis of the following actual or perceived traits also qualifies: race or color; religion; ancestry; national origin; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; socioeconomic status; academic status; physical appearance; and mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disabilities.[5]

The Connecticut legislature has also taken aim at cyber-bullying, defined as “any act of bullying through the use of Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.”[6] Various forms of communication fall within this broad definition, including Facebook posts and messages, emails, text messages, live webcam sessions meant to ridicule or humiliate another student.

Notwithstanding these statutory definitions, you should review your child’s student handbook or school website to determine how your school district defines bullying. If neither source provides the policy, you should ask your school for a copy; this request must be fulfilled immediately.[7]

If you are the parent of a child who has been bullied or harassed at school, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding bullying or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Two girls accused of beating, bullying student taken into custody,” by WDRB News. October 16, 2012: http://www.wdrb.com/story/19835044/two-girls?hpt=ju_bn4

[2] “Star brother Ron Livingston defends ‘fat’ anchor sister, Jennifer,” by News Limited Network. October 5, 2012: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/tv-anchor-jennifer-livingston-takes-on-bully-who-criticised-her-weight/story-e6frfmqi-1226488835303

[3] Id.

[4] 2011 Conn. Pub. Acts 11-232, § 1(a)(1).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at § 1(a)(2).

[7] “Bullying and Harassment in Connecticut: A Guide for Parents and Guardians,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, on pp.5. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/title_ix/bullying_q_and_a.pdf

School District Was Not on Notice of Inappropriate Teacher Conduct with Student; Negligence Action Dismissed

Seven years ago yesterday, the Superior Court of Connecticut in the Judicial District of Middletown handed down its decision in a lawsuit filed by a former student (plaintiff) against the Town of Clinton as well as the board of education. In this case, the plaintiff “brought a direct claim against the defendants, alleging failure to supervise and negligent supervision” in violation of state law,[1] leading to his sexual abuse by a teacher while he was in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.

A municipality’s liability for negligent acts or omissions depends on whether they “require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the authority expressly or impliedly granted by law.”[2] In other words, acts that must be performed by the dictates of State law, thus prohibiting discretion, may result in liability if negligently performed; if discretion is permitted, liability will not attach unless one of three exceptions applies.

Discretionary Acts

Historically, Connecticut courts have held that “the duty of the defendant [school district] to supervise students is a discretionary, governmental duty.”[3] In addition, employer conduct with respect to failure to screen, hire, train, supervise, control, and discipline constitutes “discretionary acts as a matter of law.”[4]

In this case, the plaintiff contended that under Connecticut law,[5] the defendants “had no discretion not to conduct a continuous teacher evaluation.”[6] Though the defendants agreed with the statutory mandate, it asserted that “the manner in which such an evaluation is conducted is discretionary.”[7] The duty to act claimed by the plaintiff surrounded the use of the phrase “might have crossed the line,” stated by the teacher to a colleague in regards to her relationship with the plaintiff.

However, the Court found that “[t]here was absolutely no other evidence presented… to suggest any other way in which the defendants would be in any way on notice of any inappropriate conduct between [the teacher] and the plaintiff.”[8] After further concluding that no exception to governmental immunity for discretionary acts applied, the Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding school liability or any other education law matter, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioners and assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 52-557n.

[2] Id. at (a)(2)(B).

[3] Jane Doe v. Board of Education of the City of New Haven, 76 Conn. App. 296, 300 (2003).

[4] Hughes v. City of Hartford, 96 F. Supp. 2d 114, 119 (D.Conn. 2000).

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-151(b).

[6] Lingos v. Town of Clinton et al., 2005 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2746 at 7.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 8.

Developing Your Special Education Child’s Individualized Education Program

A recent series of articles on this website provides an overview of the special education process so you, as a parent, know what to expect. You have the right to make sure your child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and oftentimes that means a standard classroom environment does not meet your child’s special needs due to a disability.

If your child is between 3 and 21 years of age, suffers from an enumerated disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the disability interferes with his or her classroom performance, you have the opportunity to seek special education and related services. More importantly, you can play a critical role on the planning and placement team (PPT) to evaluate your child’s special education referral to determine eligibility.

Individualized Education Programs

So, you’ve made it this far: your child is deemed eligible for special education and related services, but… what happens now? The PPT will hold meetings to establish an individualized education program (IEP), which is “a written plan detailing your child’s special education program,”[1] including the following key elements:

  • Present levels of educational and functional performance;
  • Measurable educational goals linked to present levels of academic and functional performance for the coming year and short-term instructional objectives derived from those goals;
  • Evaluation procedures and performance criteria;
  • An explanation of the extent, if any, to which your child will not participate in the regular education class, the general education curriculum or extracurricular activities;
  • Modifications and accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum including nonacademic and extracurricular activities;
  • Special education and related services required by your child including transportation and physical and vocational education programs;
  • Recommended instructional settings and a list of people who will work with your child to implement the IEP;
  • The date services will begin and end, and the frequency of the identified services;
  • The length of the school day and year;
  • Statement of accommodations and modifications needed to facilitate CMT/CAPT, or district-wide testing;
  • Recommendations for participation in alternate assessments (if needed); and
  • Transition service needs.[2]
PPT Meetings

Within five days after the PPT meets and develops your child’s IEP, you must receive a copy of the plan. The same goes for any future revisions.

Keep in mind that you have the right to participate in the PPT meetings, and your school district must work with you to select a time and place that works for both sides. You must receive five days written notice of any meeting to make sure you will be able to attend. This notice includes:

  • A list of who will be attending the meeting;
  • Affirmation of your right to bring with you other individuals who are able to provide support or who have knowledge and/or expertise with respect to your child’s needs.
  • An invitation to your child to attend if he or she is 16 years of age or older (or even if the child is younger, if participation is deemed appropriate), and “the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals and transition services for the child”[3]

If the school schedules the meeting at a time or location you cannot make, alternative methods of participation, such as a telephonic or video conference call, must be explored. However, if the school district repeatedly attempts to schedule a meeting and each time you are unable to attend, they may hold the PPT meeting without you; the school must maintain a results log documenting these attempts.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., pp.20.

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.4. Accessed October 9, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] Id. at 5.

The Idea’s “Child Find” Provision: Just How Hard Does a School District Have to Look?

Parents, school administrators, and education attorneys are waiting to see if the United States Supreme Court will review the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Compton Unified Sch. Dist. v. Addison, 598 F.3d 1181 (9th Cir. 2010).  That decision significantly increased a School District’s obligation to identify students eligible for special education, and greatly expanded parents’ rights to a due process hearing to determine if the District had failed to discharge its duty. 

Although handicapping the Supreme Court is crystal ball gazing, at best, the Court may well not only hear the case but also reverse the Court of Appeals.  Until the appellate dust settles, this article will give you the new legal landscape and inform students and parents of their expanded rights.

Requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) conditions federal funding to states on their adopting policies and procedures ensuring that “all children with disabilities . . . who are in need of special education services are identified, located, and evaluated.”  This provision is known as the “child find” requirement.  The IDEA further requires School Districts to provide written notice to a child’s parents whenever it “proposes to initiate or change” or ”refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child . . . .”

Case Details

The student involved in the case, Starvenia Addison, received horrific and indefensible treatment at the hands of the Compton, California School District.  Her school counselor did not consider it atypical for Addison, a ninth-grader, to perform at a fourth-grade level.  In the fall of her tenth-grade year, Addison failed every  academic subject.  The counselor considered these grades to be a “major red flag.”  Teachers reported Addison’s work as “gibberish and incomprehensible.” 

A third-party mental health counselor recommended that the District assess Addison for learning disabilities.  Despite the recommendation, the District did not refer Addison for an educational assessment and instead promoted her to eleventh grade.

The Courts’ Decisions

Addison brought an administrative claim under IDEA seeking compensatory educational services for the District’s failure to identify her needs and provide a free appropriate public education.  An administrative law judge found for Addison and the U.S. District Court subsequently agreed.  An appeal followed to the Court of Appeals. 

The Ninth Circuit, obviously (and understandably) deeply offended by the District’s actions, phrased the District’s arguments in such pejorative terms that it was obvious that it, too, was going to find in Addison’s favor.  For example, the Court said: “the School District seeks to cast its deliberate indifference as something other than a ‘refusal.’”  Two Judges of the three-judge panel affirmed the District Court in perfunctory fashion with only casual references to broad legal generalizations.

The remaining Appellate Judge, however, filed a dissenting opinion that dwarfs the majority opinion in terms of depth, breadth, and legal analysis.  He, too, was troubled by the distressing facts, but essentially found that under the IDEA and state law, a due process hearing may be held only where the District purposefully acts, or refuses to act, as opposed to where the complained-of conduct is best described as negligent. 

Actually, the complained-of conduct could also be fairly described as gross negligence or reckless indifference but the dissenting Judge chose not to go there, perhaps fearing that it would lead him to a different result.  The otherwise thorough and well-reasoned dissent offers the Supreme Court a road map to overturning the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Impact of the Addison Case

For the time being, however, the decision of the Ninth Circuit in Addison is binding on the Federal Courts in the nine most western states of the United States, and may be considered persuasive, and therefore followed, by other Courts throughout the nation.  In petitioning the Supreme Court to take up the case, the District cites liberally to the dissenting opinion and laments the majority’s creation of a claim for educational malpractice where none has previously existed. 

Finally, because there are 2200 school districts and over one million special education students served within the geographical boundaries of the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court may consider the Addison case sufficiently impactful to warrant review.

Until  Addison is affirmed, reversed, or otherwise clarified, special needs students and their parents have additional ammunition with which to press their School District for an educational evaluation, an IEP, a due process hearing, and potentially the bringing of an action in U.S. District Court.

–     

If you have any questions regarding your child’s education, 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, Connecticut 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.

Connecticut General Statute Section 10-222d

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’s Bullying Policy

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.

Evaluating Your Child’s Special Education Needs and Services

The process by which a child is determined eligible for special education and relates services may seem intimidating or overwhelming, as there is a wealth of information that any parent of a child with disabilities needs to understand. In this latest series of school law articles, we are presenting an overview of just what happens once a child is identified as potentially eligible, and this post specifically focuses on the evaluation process.

The Initial Evaluation 

An initial evaluation occurs right after a child’s referral for special education, which the planning and placement team (PPT) uses to determine “your child’s specific learning strengths and weaknesses and needs, and to determine whether or not your child is eligible for special education services.”[1] You have the right to participate in the PPT, and thus have the valuable opportunity to provide all relevant information related to your child’s abilities, needs, and skills.

Other information that the PPT considers is that collected by the school district and its employees: “informal and formal observations, a review of homework, standardized tests and other school records and information.”[2] However, the process must be conducted in a nondiscriminatory manner (consider the disproportionate placement of minority students in special education, discussed here), and you have the right to refuse consent or revoke it at any point.

The PPT Meeting

When the evaluation is complete, you will meet with the rest of the PPT to interpret the data collected ruing the study. The purpose of this meeting is to determine:

  1. Whether your child has a disability (as enumerated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA)
  2. Whether that disability has an adverse impact on your child’s education
  3. Whether your child needs special education and related services to fulfill free appropriate public education (FAPE) requirements.
The Independent Educational Evaluation

However, what happens if you don’t agree with the results of this evaluation? You may consult with a qualified examiner now employed by the school district to conduct an independent educational evaluation (IEE). Determining who pays for this boils down to two situations:

  1. The school district simply agrees to pay for the IEE. The evaluation criteria of the IEE must be the same as that used by the school in its own evaluation.
  2. The school district asserts that its evaluation was proper or the IEE criterion is insufficient. It may elect to pay for the IEE or hold a due process hearing, at which the hearing officer determines the appropriateness of the school’s evaluation. If the officer finds in their favor, you may still obtain an IEE, but you are responsible for paying for it.

The results of an IEE must be considered by the school district. “However, the school district is not required to agree with or implement any or all of the results or recommendations of the independent educational evaluation.”[3]

The Reevaluation Process

Placement in special education and your child’s IEP are not concrete. Indeed, reevaluations are made to determine several things:

  1. Whether or not your child still has a qualifying disability
  2. Your child’s present level of academic achievement as well as related developmental needs
  3. Whether or not your child still needs special education and related services
  4. Whether or not your child’s IEP requires modification

In essence, the PPT looks at the information regarding your child, and you may ask the school district to conduct additional assessments if you believe more information is necessary for making these determinations. The reevaluation process must occur at least once every three years, though the PPT may perform it more frequently. However, your written consent is required, though special circumstances permit the reevaluation without it.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.6. Accessed October 9, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 7.