Posts tagged with "school"

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.

Alternative Assessment:

The use of assessment strategies, such as performance assessment and portfolios, to replace (or supplement) the assessment of a special education student by standard machine-scored multiple-choice tests.

Assistive Technology:

Refers to any piece of equipment, product, system, or other item that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability.

Behavior Intervention Plan (“BIP”):

Refers to a plan, strategies, program or curricular modifications, and supplementary aids and supports, which are positive in nature (not punitive) and are developed by the PPT to teach a child appropriate behaviors and minimize behaviors that impede learning.

Extended School Year (“ESY”):

This refers to special education and related services that a school provides to a student beyond the normal school year and/or the normal school day, at no additional cost to parents, in accordance with the child’s IEP.

Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”):

Each special education student is entitled to a free, appropriate public education. It is defined as special education and related services that are provided at public expense and under public supervision and direction, without charge to the student. “Related services” include, but are not limited to, transportation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and psychological services, among others.

A special education student’s FAPE must meet state and federal requirements, and be provided in accordance with the child’s IEP. In Connecticut, children must be provided a FAPE from age three through the end of the school year in which the child reaches the age of twenty-one (or until the child has graduated from high school with a regular diploma, whichever is first to occur).

Functional Behavior Assessment (“FBA”):

Refers to an assessment of the reasons why a child behaves the way he or she does, given the nature of the child and what is happening in the environment. It describes a process for collecting data to determine the possible causes behind certain behaviors in order to identify strategies to address those behaviors.

Identification:

Refers to the decision that a child is eligible for special education services.

Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”):

Refers to an evaluation of a special education student performed by a professional who is not employed by the school district. If you disagree with the PPT’s evaluation of your child, you may request an independent educational evaluation. The school district must either pay for the cost of the IEE, or prove to a due process hearing officer that its own PPT evaluation is in fact appropriate. Of course, parents may obtain an IEE for their child at their own expense at any time. When presented with the results of the IEE, the PPT must consider the findings, but is not bound to adopt them.

Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”):

This refers to a written education program developed for an individual child with a disability. It is developed by a multi-disciplinary team of school professionals and the child’s parents and is reviewed and updated at least once per school year. The IEP describes the child’s present performance and learning needs, as well as detailing which services will be necessary at what time, for how long, and by whom those services will be provided.

Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”):

A child with a disability must, to the maximum appropriate extent, be educated with children who are not disabled, in a general education class in the school that the child would attend if he or she did not have a disability requiring special education services. A child with a disability should not be removed from the general educational setting unless the nature and severity of that child’s disability is such that education in the general class with the use of supplemental aids and services cannot be satisfactorily achieved.

Manifestation Determination:

If a school seeks to change the placement of a child with a disability because that child behaved in a way that violated the school’s code of conduct, then a “manifest determination” must be made, to determine whether the behavior complained of is caused by the child’s disability.

Positive Behavior Supports (“PBS”):

Refers to an approach to addressing challenging behaviors, and includes: functional assessment of the behavior; organizing the environment; teaching skills; rewarding positive behaviors; anticipating situations; and redesigning interventions as necessary.

Planning and Placement Team (“PPT”):

Refers to a group of professionals who represent each of the teaching, administrative and pupil personnel staffs at a special education student’s school, and who, with the student’s parents, are equal participants in the decision-making process to determine the specific educational needs of the student. The PPT, along with the parents, develops, reviews and revises a student’s IEP; the PPT also reviews referrals to special education, determines if the child needs to be evaluated, decides what evaluations the child will have, and determines whether the child is eligible for special education services.

Stay Put:

Refers to the requirement that a special education student must stay in his or her current program or placement during the course of a due process hearing. This provision may be modified upon agreement by both the parent and the school district.


The attorneys of Maya Murphy P.C. are well practiced in the realm of Special Education Law. Should you have questions regarding Special Education Law matters, contact managing partner Joseph C. Maya at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com for a free initial consultation.

Secretary Sues Board of Ed for Racial Discrimination

A Bronx school employee is suing the Board of Education for $100 million for employment discrimination – saying she was denied a transfer, even though officials knew she was being harassed by her boss. Maureen Grogan, 54, a secretary at Community School Board District 8 since 1977, said Dennis Coleman – president of the School Boards Association and a Board 8 member – began harassing her five years ago.

In July, the board agreed she had been the victim of racial discrimination and harassment by Coleman – but refused to further suspend him, or offer her a position in a different office. The Board of Education did not provide a comment.

New York Post
By LINDA MASSARELLA


If you have questions regarding employment discrimination or any employment matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Dennis Coleman’s Bad Behavior Costs Board of ED $100G

The city’s Board of Education settled a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a former Bronx School Board employee for $100,000.

The Lawsuit

The suit, filed against the Board of Ed and others by Maureen Grogan, a long-time secretary at Community School Board 8, alleged sexual and racial harassment and assault by Dennis Coleman, a member and former president of that board.  A counterclaim made by Coleman, alleging that Grogan’s accusations were false and defamatory, was dismissed by the court also last week.

Coleman, at one time a State Senator for a short period in the mid-1960s, was suspended by then School Chancellor Rudy Crew several years ago in connection with his behavior over an incident during a school board meeting. A tape of the meeting revealed that he had yelled at a parent in attendance, and shoved Grogan, re-injuring an old neck problem she suffered from.

Coleman is still a member of the Board. The suit, which alleged a pattern of discrimination that stretched through years, added fuel to the fire of that board’s already hot flames of racial division. Grogan’s suit claimed that Coleman would regularly treat her in an abusive fashion, making her feel “insulted and humiliated.”

An investigation by the Office of Equal Opportunity Employment into the allegations found grounds substantiating at least some of Grogan’s claims. Despite the findings, however, Board of Education officials did not reprimand Coleman, sparking the suit filed by Grogan’s lawyer, Joseph Maya, in federal court for the Southern District of New York.

The Settlement

Coleman was later suspended in connection with the incident at the school board meeting. In Crew’s harsh suspension letter to Coleman at that time, the school’s chancellor had said that Coleman’s actions, “went beyond that of antagonism and rudeness and crossed the line beyond which elected school board members can go… your vilification of parents, as well as your shouting at colleagues and staff … are indefensible.”

Coleman could not be reached for comment as of press time. Board of Education officials were also unavailable for comment as of press time. Maya, reached by phone, called the settlement a “tremendous victory” for his client.

“It really is a victory for her to be vindicated,” Maya said. “And to have Dennis Coleman’s counterclaims dismissed.”

Maya called the entire incident a shame, saying that “The children of New York City should not be burdened with losing $100,000 for this sort of thing.”

According to Maya, last week’s settlement came after long negotiations between both parties. He called the discrimination suffered by his client “egregious and systemic.”

By DAVID CRITCHELL

Does Freedom of Speech Still Exist in Public Schools in Connecticut?

The United States Constitution states that every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects.  No law shall ever be passed to restrain the liberty of speech.  Courts have repeatedly held that in state-operated schools, students are still “persons” under the Constitution, and still possess fundamental rights which the state must respect.  Without a constitutionally valid reason to regulate speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.  These days there is the possibility of a wide range of issues regarding freedom of speech in the public school system.  These issues might include a student’s off-campus internet activity, or even simply the language on a student’s printed t-shirt.


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.

Expulsion Procedures: Readmission to School

An expelled pupil may apply for early readmission to school. Such readmission shall be at the discretion of the local or regional board of education. The board of education may, however, delegate authority for readmission decisions to the superintendent of schools for the school district. If the board delegates such authority, readmission shall be at the discretion of the superintendent. Readmission decisions shall not be subject to appeal to Superior Court. The board or superintendent, as appropriate, may condition such readmission on specified criteria.

Any student who commits an expellable offense and is subsequently committed to a juvenile detention center, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School or any other residential placement for such offense may be expelled by a local or regional board of education in accordance with the provisions of this section. The period of expulsion shall run concurrently with the period of commitment to a juvenile detention center, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School or any other residential placement.

Return to School

If a student who committed an expellable offense seeks to return to a school district after having been in a juvenile detention center, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School or any other residential placement and such student has not been expelled by the local or regional board of education for such offense, the local or regional board of education for the school district to which the student is returning shall allow such student to return and may not expel the student for additional time for such offense.


This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayaLaw.com.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please contact Joseph Maya, or the other experienced education attorneys at Maya Law today at (203) 221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

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 particular, 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…..

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.

New Connecticut Special Education Law

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

Deliberate Indifference Required for School to be Liable under Title IX for Student-Student Harassment

In a New York District decision, a student’s cause of action under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act against the Monroe-Woodbury School District was denied because it did not show deliberate indifference in response to the student’s claim of student-to-student sexual harassment.[1]

Parents on behalf of their fifteen-year-old daughter brought suit against Monroe–Woodbury Central School District pursuant to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was deprived of an educational environment free from sexual harassment as required by federal law.

Case Background

Beginning in January 2010, when she was in the eighth grade, the student was subjected to teasing, taunting, and physical bullying by other students, which she reported to her guidance counselor.  She was sexually assaulted by a male classmate who requested a handjob and subsequently ran her hands over the genital area of his pants and attempted to shove her hands down his pants.[2] As a result of the incident, the student alleges that she was subjected to more taunting and name-calling by other students and in response began to engage in self- injurious behavior by cutting herself.

When she began attending Monroe–Woodbury High School in September, another student and friend of the first continued to harass her and in November sexually assaulted her by pinning her against a locker and pushing his hands down her pants and blouse, touching her genital area and breast.[3]  The student began missing school frequently to avoid continued harassment.  At some point she confided in her guidance counselor that her absenteeism and self-injurious behavior was the result of the persistent teasing and the two incidents of sexual assault by her classmates.[4]

The School District recommended that she attend the GO Program, an out-of-district academic program, to which her parents agreed. After her first day there, CF reported to her parents that she was uncomfortable with this placement because the students there were “in many cases, not attending their regular high schools due to serious disciplinary records and incidents.”[5] When her parents again met with the principal, they requested that their daughter be transferred to another public school to continue her high school education.  The principal refused saying there were no other options besides the GO program.[6]

The Allegations

The parent brought suit alleging the school failed to: (1) initiate an investigation upon the parents’ verbal complaint; (2) conduct a prompt, equitable, and thorough investigation of the charges; (3) ensure that immediate corrective action be taken, including subjecting the offending individuals to appropriate disciplinary measures; and (4) inform CF of her right to pursue legal remedies.

Title IX

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)[7]. Title IX contains an implied private right of action for plaintiffs who bring suit against educational institutions that receive federal funding, and liability may be imposed upon a school district if it is found to be in violation of this law.

Title IX funding recipients may be held liable for student-on-student harassment if the plaintiff can establish damages only where the school district: (1) was deliberately indifferent; (2) to sexual harassment; (3) of which it had actual knowledge; (4) that was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it deprived the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.[8] 

A showing of deliberate indifference requires that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and either responded in a “clearly unreasonable manner in light of the known circumstances,”[9] or responded with remedial action only after a “lengthy and unjustified delay.”[10]

The Court’s Decision

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s assertions that the GO Program was an “inappropriate” placement for her because it did not provide her with a “regular high school environment.” Saying even if it was inappropriate, “Title IX simply does not require recipient school districts to provide students with a ‘regular high school environment.’ Title IX does not prescribe any particular educational experience at all.

Rather, Title IX merely prohibits schools from excluding anyone, on the basis of sex, from participating in an educational program that receives federal assistance; or denying the benefits of such programs on the basis of sex; or subjecting anyone in such programs to discrimination on the basis of sex.”[11]  Finding that the school did not cause the discrimination and the School District took some remedial action (not clearly unreasonable under the circumstances) in response to the student’s complaints, the Court dismissed the action.

Bullying and harassment in school should never be tolerated.  The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable education law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about bullying, student harassment, school liability or any other matter, 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, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.


[1] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 12 CIV. 2200 ER, 2013 WL 177911 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2013)

[2] Compl.¶¶ 10-11

[3] Compl.¶¶ 12-13

[4] Id.

[5] Compl.¶¶ 14

[6] Id.

[7] Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)

[8] Williams v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 477 F.3d 1282, 1293 (11th Cir.2007)

[10] Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 751 (2d Cir.2003)

[11] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist.

Court Gives Plaintiff in Bullying Case Green Light to Proceed to Trial

The Parent’s Claims

In August 2006 Robert and Louise Dornfried filed suit against the Berlin Board of Education, its former and current superintendents,  the principal, the athletic director, and the coach of the Berlin High School football team on behalf of their minor son, Robby.  Robby’s parents alleged on their son’s behalf that, while a student at the high school and a place-kicker on the varsity football team, he was subjected to “incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation and was the victim of threats and/or acts of violence” by his teammates.

The parents further alleged that they complained of the misconduct to various school administrators, who, despite their knowledge of the behavior, did nothing to stop it.  As a result, Robby was allegedly forced to seek “medical care and treatment” and, halfway through his sophomore year, transferred to Northwest Catholic High School. Robby’s parents brought suit alleging negligence against the various defendants, claiming they knew or should have known that Robby was subjected to incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats and/or acts of violence, but failed to take any action to prohibit, prevent, or even deter such conduct.

In a separate count, the parents claimed the principal, the athletic director and the football coach were reckless in their failure to stop the inappropriate behavior of Robby’s teammates, claiming they exhibited “a blatant and utter disregard for [Robby’s] safety and wellbeing.”  Notably, as permitted by Connecticut law, the plaintiff sought punitive damages under this count. The defendants initially attacked the plaintiff’s suit filing a motion to strike the negligence claims.

The Court’s Decision

Granting the defendants’ motion, the Court held that the principal of governmental immunity barred the negligence claims because, as a general rule, a municipal employee has qualified immunity in the performance of acts that are discretionary in nature.  Although there is an exception when the injured party is an “identifiable person subject to imminent harm,” the Court held that Robby did not fall within that exception, explaining the only identifiable class of foreseeable victims the courts have recognized is that of school children attending public schools during school hours.

The Court ultimately held that, although participation in school sponsored athletic programs is most likely encouraged, participation is on a purely voluntary basis and, therefore, any resulting liability is barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity.  Significantly, although Robby was foreclosed from pursuing his negligence claims, his claim under a theory of recklessness, allowing for the recovery of punitive damages, was left intact.

More recently, however, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment attempting to eliminate that cause of action as well.  The defendants essentially claimed that, with respect to the plaintiff’s recklessness count, there are no factual issues in dispute and that as a matter of law, they are entitled to a judgment in their favor.

Recklessness Claim

The court denied the defendants’ motion, however, preserving the plaintiff’s case, as well as the potential for punitive damages.  Explaining its decision, the Court first noted that Robby’s parents alleged the defendants had actual knowledge of the bullying yet failed to act, resulting in further escalation of the bullying, and that the defendants knew their failure to act would result in further harm to Robby.  Significantly, the Court then explained that summary judgment should not be used in cases that concern important public issues or questions of inference as to motive or intent, or ones that involve subjective feelings and reactions.

Citing various factual disputes in this particular case, the Court ultimately held that it is “suffused with subjective impressions, intent, motive and pubic issues which do not easily conform to the standards of summary judgment.”

This ruling is significant, in part, because, as mentioned, the plaintiffs alleged that the school system, as well as various administrators, were not just negligent, but were actually reckless in their failure to respond to the bullying in question, thus exposing the school system not only to actual or compensatory damages, but punitive damages as well.  This decision is also significant because, although there is always a potential that such rulings will be appealed, the Court effectively gave the plaintiffs a green light to proceed to trial.

By: Joseph Maya, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding a school bullying case, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.