Posts tagged with "special education law"

Your Child’s Attendance Requirements

The following will provide you with the pertinent laws and procedures regarding your child’s attendance at school. The first part of this section will describe the mandatory attendance requirements that the State of Connecticut requires students to adhere to and potential penalties if your child fails to meet these requirements. The second part of this section will provide you with basic information regarding how your child’s residency plays a role in where they may attend school. This section will further describe available hearing procedures if your child is determined to be an ineligible resident.

If there are any issues that may arise between yourself and the school district regarding your child’s school attendance or a dispute pertaining to the residency status of your child, please contact one of our attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C.

Attendance

As a parent, you are responsible for ensuring that your child is regularly attending school. Attendance is basic to your child’s ability to obtain a proper education. Much of what your child learns is presented to them in the classroom setting. Your child’s daily attendance will expose them to other learning processes that will help them in continuing to grow and learn. Connecticut law states, “parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including the study of the town, state and federal governments.”

If your child is over the age of five (5) and under the age of eighteen (18) you must ensure that he or she attends public school regularly during the normal operating hours of the school district in which your child resides. If your child is a high school graduate or as a parent you are able to demonstrate that your child is receiving instruction in the appropriate studies equivalent to that taught in public school (e.g. homeschooling, private school) then your child will be excused from this mandatory attendance requirement. Please note, that if your child attends private school there are certain attendance requirements that will be discussed in further detail below.

Is my child permitted to withdraw from attending school?

As of July 1, 2011, and each school year thereafter, a parent or other person having control of a child who is at least seventeen (17) years of age, may consent to their child’s withdrawal from attending school. As a parent you must personally appear at your child’s school district’s office and sign a withdrawal form. The withdrawal form must also be signed by a guidance counselor or school administrator who is employed by your child’s school district indicating that you, the parent, were provided with information regarding educational options available in your child’s school system and the community.

If your child has voluntarily terminated his or her enrollment in school with your consent and subsequently seeks readmission, the board of education of your child’s school district may deny school accommodations to your child for up to ninety (90) school days following your child’s withdrawal, unless, your child seeks to be readmitted within ten (10) school days after his or her withdrawal. In this case, the school board must readmit your child within three (3) school days.

What is the maximum age at which I must enroll my child in school?

A parent has the option to exempt a child from attending school until the age of seven (7) provided the parent appears at the child’s school district’s office and sign an option to exempt form. The school district must provide you with information regarding the educational opportunities that would be available to your child if you were to enroll him or her in public school as early as the age of five (5). An option form must be signed for each year you decide not to enroll a child below the age of seven (7) in public school.

Is there a penalty for failing to comply with the mandatory attendance requirements?

Failure as a parent to comply with the requirement that your child attend public school (absent alternative means of instruction) is a violation of law. If your child fails to attend school as required you are subject to a fine not to exceed twenty-five (25) dollars per day. A penalty will not be imposed if it appears that your child is destitute of clothing suitable for attending school and as a parent you are unable to provide proper clothing for your child to attend school.

Am I responsible for the mandatory attendance requirements if my child attends private school?

As a parent you are still required to comply with the mandatory attendance laws set forth above if your child attends private school. Private schools must submit school attendance reports to the Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner of Education provides teachers and other school personnel at your child’s private school with the forms needed to establish compliance with the mandatory attendance provisions. If your child’s attendance reports are not satisfactory, a complaint may be filed in the Connecticut Superior Court by the superintendent of the school district in which you and your child reside.

What is a truant?

Your child may, on occasion, be excused from school for good reason, such as illness, where a written notice from your child’s doctor should be provided to the child’s school. Unexcused absences may violate the mandatory attendance laws.

Connecticut law defines a “truant” as a child age five (5) to eighteen (18) who is enrolled in public or private school and has four (4) unexcused absences from school in any one month or ten (10) unexcused absences from school in any one year. A “habitual truant” is a child between the ages of five (5) and eighteen (18) who is enrolled in private or public school and has twenty (20) unexcused absences within one school year. Cities and towns may adopt their own ordinances concerning children who are found on the streets or in other public places during school hours. The police may detain your child and return the child to school if he or she is found to be a habitual truant.

What are the policies and procedures my child’s school may adopt concerning truancy?

Your local board of education must adopt and implement policies and procedures concerning truants, which must include:

  • The holding of a meeting with you and your truant child and appropriate school personnel to review and evaluate the reasons for your child’s truancy, provided such meeting is held no later than ten (10) school days after your child’s fourth unexcused absence in any month or tenth unexcused absence in a school year.
  • Coordinating services with referrals of children to community agencies providing child and family services.
  • Notifying you annually at the beginning of the school year and upon any enrollment during the school year, as a parent having control of a child enrolled in a public school grade from kindergarten to eight, in writing of the obligations you have as a parent.
  • Obtaining from you annually at the beginning of the school year and upon any enrollment during the school year, as a parent of a child in a grade from kindergarten to eight, a telephone number or other means of contact.
  • A system of monitoring individual unexcused absences of children in grades kindergarten to eight, ensuring that whenever a child fails to report to school on a regularly scheduled school day and no indication has been received by school personnel that you, the parent, are aware of his or her absence, that a reasonable effort is made by school personnel or volunteers under the direction of school personnel to notify you, by telephone.
What if as a parent or guardian I fail to comply with the school policies and procedures regarding truancy?

If a parent fails to attend a truancy meeting regarding your child’s truant status or cooperate with the school to attempt to solve he truancy problem, then the superintendent of your school district must file a written complaint with the Connecticut Superior Court.

The board of education overseeing your child’s school may appoint an individual or group of individuals authorized to prosecute violations of school attendance laws. The appointee is authorized to investigate the absence or irregular attendance of your child, to cause your child to attend school regularly if they are absent or irregularly in attendance and prosecute cases for violation of the mandatory attendance laws. These appointees will report their findings to your child’s school principal or superintendent, who based on these findings, may be required to file a written complaint in Connecticut Superior Court.

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.

Student Discipline for Off-Campus Speech in the New Digital Era: What Parents Should Know

“Today, students are connected to each other through email, instant messaging, blogs, social networking sites, and text messages. An email can be sent to dozens or hundreds of other students by hitting ‘send.’ A blog entry posted on a site such as livejournal.com can be instantaneously viewed by students, teachers, and administrators alike. Off-campus speech can become on-campus speech with the click of a mouse.”

What’s a parent to do?

Students today are equipped with electronic devices that keep them in immediate and continuous contact with fellow students. It is virtually impossible to control (or even monitor) the content of outgoing texts, tweets, IM’s, and emails, and absolutely impossible to censor the content of incoming messages. As a result, “the line between on-campus and off-campus speech is blurred” as are the “outer bounds of administrators’ authority to punish student speech . . . .”

While there are fewer “bright lines” there are things parents should know if their child’s off-campus use of social media (as is becoming increasingly frequent) forms the subject of student discipline. There is also judicial guidance available as to what to tell your child about potential school discipline related cyberspace pitfalls that must be avoided. The purpose of this article is to make parents at least as well-informed as school administrators in the area of permissible student discipline for off-campus, social-networking speech.

Where We Came From

Prior law with respect to students’ First Amendment rights used to be relatively well-settled and fairly predictable. Students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The constitutional rights of public school students, however, “are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.” In Tinker, the United States Supreme Court said that student rights must be applied in a manner consistent with the “special characteristics of the school environment,” and that school administrators may prohibit student expression that will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.”

Because schools are responsible for “teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior,” otherwise constitutionally protected but offensive speech by an adult may when uttered by a student, give rise to disciplinary action by a school. Educators are also permitted to exercise editorial control over “school-sponsored expressive activities such as school publications or theatrical productions.” The Supreme Court has allowed public school administrators to “take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use.”

The Tinker, Fraser, Hazelwood trilogy of cases was once thought to provide parents and teachers with a viable and stable framework for reconciling student rights of free speech with educators’ rights to maintain good order and discipline. Maybe in 1988, but no more.

Where We Are Now

A Federal Court case from Connecticut has shone a spotlight on the difficulty of trying to extrapolate existing law onto the realities of student access to and use of social media. This case began as Doninger v. Niehoff, 514 F. Supp. 2d 199 (D. Conn. 2007) (“Doninger I”) and has a torturous procedural and checkered appellate history. Doninger I was affirmed by Doninger v. Niehoff, 527 F. 3d 41 (2d Cir. 2008) (“Doninger II”). The case was continued, seeking monetary relief, Doninger v. Niehoff, 594 F. Supp 2d 211 (D. Conn. 2009) (“Doninger III”). On appeal, Doninger III was affirmed in part and reversed in part by Doninger v. Niehoff, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 8441 (2d Cir. Apr. 25, 2011)(“Doninger IV”).

The most important aspect of this serpentine procedural and appellate route is that Doninger arose out of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and has made two trips to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Thus, to the extent the Second Circuit has ruled on issues of law in Doninger II and IV, such precedent is binding on the Connecticut Federal Court and likely to receive highly deferential treatment from the Connecticut State Courts. It also illustrates how the availability and use of social media can cause a simmering dispute between students and educators to rapidly metastasize into an all-out war.

What the Future Holds

“[W]hen it comes to student cyber-speech, the lower courts are in complete disarray, handing down ad hoc decisions that, even when they reach an instinctively correct conclusion, lack consistent, controlling legal principles.” The disjointed state of education law as it pertains to student discipline for off-campus speech was highlighted by two cases that arose in Pennsylvania. In each case, high school students were suspended after posting MySpace profiles of their respective principals, mocking them in lewd and salacious terms. Each of the student’s cases was heard by a different Federal District Judge sitting in different courthouses.

In one case, the student’s suspension was upheld; in the other case, the Judge ruled in favor of the student. Each of the cases was independently appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, that hears appeals from Federal trial courts in Pennsylvania. The two separate three-judge panels (from within the same Circuit and applying the same law) issued conflicting decisions. That prompted the entire Third Circuit (consisting of 14 Federal appellate judges) to hear the cases anew, and in both cases find for the students. The focus of the Court’s decision appeared to be on the fact that one student’s speech, in particular, “did not cause a substantial disruption in the school.”

This test differs from the Second Circuit test that requires only a “reasonable foreseeability of disruption in the school.” This sets the stage for the United States Supreme Court to hear a case that will allow it to resolve an apparent conflict between the Circuits. Until the Supreme Court speaks to the issue, parents and students will have to glean guidance from what the courts have said about imposing school discipline for off-campus speech.

Technology: A Two-Edged Sword

Parents and students should be aware that at least one company now exists that is capable of scouring the Internet for everything a person may have said or done online in the course of the last seven years. Despite initial concerns, the Federal Trade Commission has determined that the company’s activities are in compliance with the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Less than a third of the data developed by the company comes from major social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Much of the information comes from deep web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr and even Craigslist. Photos posted to sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa, Yfrog, and Photobucket are also easily discoverable. The “terms of service” agreements on most sites make all comments and content publicly available.

While such company presently researches candidates for employment, rather than students, its import for the future is clear: nothing said or done on the Internet is private.

The Takeaway for Parents or Students
  • Students retain their constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression while in or out of school.

BUT:

  • School administrators may prohibit student expression that will materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.
  • Educators are permitted to exercise editorial control over school-sponsored expressive activities such as school publications or theatrical productions.
  • Public school administrators may take steps to safeguard students from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use.
  • A student may be disciplined for expressive conduct occurring off school grounds when such conduct would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment, at least to the extent that it was similarly foreseeable that such off-campus expression might also reach campus.
  • A school may regulate in the classroom “plainly offensive” speech, i.e., speech that is offensively lewd and indecent.
  • Off-campus, the risk from student speech of substantial disruption within the school environment depends on a number of factors including the language used, the truth or falsity of the communication, and whether the student serves as a student government leader.
  • Participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege and not a right.
Students Should Presume:
  • That any electronic communication (e.g., text, tweet, email) or creation (e.g., MySpace profile) that can be forwarded beyond its initial addressee may be forwarded to parties unknown, or may be seen by teachers or school administrators. Electronic communication (i.e., one relating or referring to students, teachers, administrators, or school activities) can be expected to find its way “on-campus.” Going forward, with respect to electronic communications, students should presume no practical or legal difference between on and off-campus.
  • What constitutes “substantial disruption within the school environment” depends entirely on the circumstances. Virtually any deviation from the daily routine resulting from a student communication can be described as “disruption” sufficient to support student discipline.
The Bottom Line

Any off-campus electronic communication relating or referring to students, teachers, administrators, or school activities has the potential to result in student discipline. As of now, the unsettled status of the law affords school administrators wide latitude in deciding when a student communication can be reasonably seen to create a foreseeable risk of academic disruption. Exclusion from extracurricular activities is now a judicially accepted punishment. Other types of student discipline may in the future also be countenanced by the courts. In the meantime, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

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.

How NCLB Implements its Goals

NCLB Goals

One of the stated goals of NCLB is that every child is 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.

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.

What are the Duties of the Board of Education in Connecticut?

Each Board of Education is required to maintain good public elementary and secondary schools, carry out the educational interests of the state, and provide such other educational activities as in its judgment to best serve the interests of the school district.  The Board is also required to provide an appropriate learning environment for its students.  This includes providing adequate instructional books, supplies, materials, equipment, staffing, and facilities.

The Board is also responsible for the equitable allocation of resources among its schools, maintaining school facilities, and providing a safe school setting for students.  Importantly, the Board is also tasked to maintain records of allegations, investigations, and reports that a child has been abused or neglected by a school employee.

Each year the board of education of each local school district shall prepare a statement of educational goals for the district.  Further, the board of education shall submit to the Commissioner of Education a strategic school profile report for each student under its jurisdiction and for the school district as a whole.

The profile report shall provide information on measures of: student needs; school resources; student and school performance; the number of students enrolled in an adult high school credit diploma program; equitable allocation of resources among its schools; reduction of racial isolation; and special education.


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.

NCLB: Schools Must Continue to Make Progress

What happens if a school declines in standardized testing? 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.

Written By: Joseph Maya 2013

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.

Written By: Joseph Maya 2013

No Child Left Behind

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 Role of NCLB

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.”

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.

Am I Allowed Access to My Child’s School Records in Connecticut?

Although the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act serves to protect the privacy of student educational records, it also requires school districts and schools to give parents and students access to the student’s records and an opportunity to seek to have records amended if they believe the records need correcting.  Further, schools must annually notify parents and eligible students of their rights under this act.


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.

Your Child’s Residency Status

Local and regional boards of education are statutorily required to provide free school accommodations to each child who is a permanent resident of the school district and is between the ages of five (5) and twenty-one (21) years old, provided they have not graduated high school. School administrators should (but do not always) determine your child’s residency status prior to his or her enrollment in the school district. If residency issues arise, your child’s school district has the right to exclude him or her from attending school if it is determined through a formal hearing (which will be discussed below) that your child resides in another district.

Where will my child be deemed a resident if I am a divorced parent?

If your child is part of a family in which you are married to or live with your child’s mother or father, your residence will be deemed your child’s permanent residence. Questions may arise when you are a divorced parent and your child spends equal time residing at each parent’s home. Under these circumstances, your child will be able to attend school in the school district in which either parent resides. If your child confirms living with both parents it is likely that the school board would allow you to choose the school district your child will attend even if your child may only spend half the time in that residence.

What if my child lives with other family members or friends?

There are circumstances in which your child may maintain residency and attend school in a school district in which neither one of his or her parents resides. Under these circumstances, it must be determined when your child established this permanent residency. Connecticut law states that, “children residing with relatives or non-relatives, when it is the intention of such relatives or non-relatives and the children or their parents or guardians that such residence is to be permanent, provided without pay and not for the sole purpose of obtaining school accommodations…shall be entitled to all free school privileges accorded to the resident children of the school district in which they then reside.” This statute confirms three key elements.

Three Elements of Determining Residency

First, such residency must be intended to be the permanent residency of your child. Although there is no clear-cut definition as to what this entails, there are certain factors that the state has set forth that may be relevant in determining whether this residence is in fact intended to be your child’s permanent place of living:

  • Where the majority of your child’s clothing and personal possessions are located.
  • Town of issue of a library card.
  • Where your child may attend religious services.
  • Place of club affiliations (e.g. cub scouts, boy scouts, etc.).
  • Where your child spends substantial time when school is not in session.
  • The place where your child would go if he or she left or was not permitted to attend school.

Second, the “provided without pay” provision was enacted to avoid payment to relatives or non-relatives simply to enable your child to attend a certain school. Lastly, the “not for the sole purpose of education” provision was enacted to preclude your child from residing in a particular school district for the sole benefit of obtaining a free education. In order to make sure that these statutory requirements are satisfied, school districts may require submission of certain documentation as proof or they may even request a signed affidavit attesting to pertinent facts in support of compliance with the law.

What type of documentation may I need to produce in order to establish my child’s residency in a particular town or school district?

Your child’s board of education may require a parent, guardian, relative or non-relative, emancipated minor or pupil eighteen (18) years of age or older to provide documentation sufficient to establish that your child’s residence is permanent, provided without pay and is not for the sole purpose of obtaining school accommodations. Documents that may be provided as proof of permanent residency include: copies of deeds, rental/lease agreements, tax bills, utility bills, driver’s license and voter registration cards.

Furthermore, a signed affidavit may be requested by the school district in which your child attends school to assist in determining your child’s permanent residency. Prior to making the request for documentation or a signed affidavit attesting to your child’s residency, the school district must first specify in a written statement the basis upon which it has reason to believe that your child is not entitled to particular school accommodations.

What if my child’s home is located on a town boundary line?

If your child resides in a dwelling (single, two or three family house or condominium unit) physically situated within the municipal boundaries of more than one town, he or she will be considered a resident of each town and may attend school in either school district. The town line must actually bisect your child’s dwelling edifice and not just the real property. If the boundary line traverses only the land, your child will only be eligible to attend school in the town in which the actual dwelling is located.

What is the hearing process if my child’s residency status is challenged by the school district?

If your child’s board of education denies school accommodations to your child based on residency, they must inform you as a parent of your due process right to a formal hearing and the basis for their conclusion that your child is ineligible for those particular school accommodations. Following proper notice, you have the right to request a formal hearing before your child’s board of education to challenge denial of schooling.

The school board is obligated to convene such a hearing within ten (10) days after receipt by the school board of your written request for a hearing on the matter. You may be represented by counsel during this hearing, but at your own expense. You will have the opportunity to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and make an argument regarding any issues that are in dispute. If your child has been denied school accommodations based on residency, you as a parent bear the burden of providing proof by a preponderance of the evidence regarding your child’s residency.

The school board must make a stenographic record or tape recording of the hearing and issue a finding within ten (10) days following the hearing. You may request a copy of the transcript or recording and the school board must provide you with such within thirty (30) days of your request. During the hearing process, if you so choose, your child may continue attending school while the resolution of the matter is still pending.

Do I have the right to appeal a decision made by my child’s local board of education?

As a parent you may appeal to the State Board of Education the decision of your child’s local board of education regarding its initial finding concerning your child’s residency status. As in the case of the initial hearing, your child may continue attendance at school pending the resolution of the appeal. Please note, that if an appeal is not taken to the State Board of Education within twenty (20) days of the mailing of the finding of the initial hearing then the decision of the local school board shall be final.

If an appeal is taken, the hearing board must render its decision within forty-five (45) days after the receipt of the notice of appeal. An extension may be granted at the discretion of the Commissioner of Education upon an application by either party describing the circumstances requiring an extension. If the hearing board on appeal decides that your child was not a resident of the school district and therefore was not entitled to free school accommodations, the board of education may assess and seek reimbursement of tuition against you, the parent.

In the event of nonpayment, the board of education may seek to recover the reimbursement of tuition through available civil remedies. Finally, any party (parent/guardian or the school district) aggrieved by the findings of the State Board of Education may appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court.

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 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…..

What is a Child’s Planning and Placement Team (PPT)?

Under Connecticut law, the Planning and Placement Team, or PPT, is a critical component in determining your child’s special education needs and the services to be provided. The IDEA refers to this resource as the Individualized Education Program Team (“IEP Team”). The PPT will be involved in most every request or decision made pertaining to your child, including: determining whether your child should be evaluated, and deciding which evaluations will be given to your child and whether your child is eligible for special education and related services. As a parent, you will be asked to participate as a member of the PPT. Parents should participate, since you can provide unique and valuable insight into your child’s special education needs.

Required Members of a PPT

The IDEA requires that the IEP team (PPT in Connecticut) be composed of the following:

(i) the parents of a child with a disability;

(ii) not less than 1 regular education teacher of such child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);

(iii) not less than 1 special education teacher, or where appropriate, not less than 1 special education provider of such child;

(iv) a representative of the local educational agency who–

(I) is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
(II) is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and
(III) is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the local educational agency;

(v) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in clauses (ii) through (vi);

(vi) at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and

(vii) whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.

PPT Meeting Attendance

A member of the PPT shall not be required to attend an IEP meeting, however, if you and the local educational agency agree that the attendance of such member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting. Further, a member of the PPT may be excused from attending a meeting when the meeting involves a modification to or discussion of the member’s area of the curriculum or related services, if you and the local educational agency consent to the excusal and the member provides input into the development of the individualized education program prior to the meeting.

As a parent you have the right to understand the proceedings of the PPT meeting, and, if necessary, the school district may need to arrange for a language interpreter or a sign language interpreter. Additional parental rights at a PPT meeting include a conference telephone call if you are unable to attend the meeting in person, tape recording of meetings (all participants must be informed the meeting is being taped) and the right to invite any advisors of your choosing, including counsel, at your own expense.

A PPT meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the local educational agency is unable to convince you as a parent to attend. The school district must keep detailed records of its attempt to make an arrangement for a mutually agreed upon time and place to conduct the meeting. These records should include telephone calls made or attempted along with the results of those calls, copies of correspondence sent to you including any responses they received and detailed records of visits made to your home or place of employment and the results of those visits.

Scheduling a PPT Meeting

When scheduling a PPT meeting, the school district must work with you as a parent in scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreeable time and place. Connecticut law requires the school district to notify a child’s parent at least five (5) school days prior to the meeting in order to allow for attendance. Written notice of the PPT meeting must be provided to a child’s parent and include the purpose, time and location of the meeting along with who will be in attendance.

The school district must also inform you of your right to bring other individuals who have knowledge of or expertise concerning your child. Further, the school district must give notice that if your child is sixteen years old or younger and it is found by the IEP team to be appropriate, he or she may attend the meeting, provided the purpose of the meeting pertains to your child’s postsecondary goals.

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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.

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