Posts tagged with "special education law"

How NCLB Implements it’s Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Who Refers Children to Special Education?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written By: Joseph Maya 2013

School Learning Environment

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

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

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 improvement of schools and school districts serving students from low-income families.

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

More specifically, NCLB requires states to strengthen test standards, to test annually all students in grades 3-8, and to establish annual statewide progress objectives to ensure that all students achieve proficiency within 12 years. There are no Federal standards of achievement; each state is required to set its own standards. Test results and state progress objectives must be stratified based upon poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and English proficiency to ensure that “no child is left behind.”
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Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.

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

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.

What is a Child’s Planning and Placement Team?

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Bullying Under Connecticut Law

In 2011, the Connecticut legislature passed a comprehensive anti-bullying law that defines bullying to mean repeated communications, including electronic communications, or repeated physical acts or gestures by a student directed to another student in the same school district that:

(i) Causes physical or emotional harm to the student who is the target of the bullying or damages this or her property,

(ii) places the student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property,

(iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the student,

(iv) infringes on the rights of the student at school, or

(v) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

Bullying includes, among other things, a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics.

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

School Bullying and Connecticut Law

Phoebe Prince was a fifteen-year old girl who had moved from Ireland to attend South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Instead of enjoying her teen years, however, she was for several months relentlessly tormented by classmates. Despite months of verbal and social media attacks by other students—she was called an “Irish slut” and “whore,” had her books routinely knocked out of her hands and received threatening text messages—the school failed to take action, even as Phoebe informed administrators about the bullying. On January 14, 2010, after a classmate threw a Red Bull can at her from a car while she was walking back from school, Phoebe hung herself in a stairwell.

Phoebe’s suicide stands as a tragic testament to the negative impact bullying may have on students. Connecticut, as other states, is not immune to such tragedies. In 2002, a Meriden high school student killed himself after enduring months of verbal and physical abuse. Even when bullying does not drive students to suicide, it may have other harmful effects. According to a recent survey, Connecticut high school students who admitted to being bullied are more likely to experience depression, sleep less, skip school and attempt suicide.

Fortunately, both Connecticut and the federal government have recognized the impact of bullying and have made genuine efforts to address the problem. While there are currently no federal anti-bullying laws, the U.S. Department of Education has, among other things, created a federal task force to elicit ideas from the public, held a bullying summit, and sent a “Dear Colleagues” letter reminding schools that they may be liable under federal civil rights laws for bullying among students.

For its part, Connecticut passed a sweeping anti-bullying law, which took effect on July 1, 2011, expanding school staff training, addressing cyber-bullying, devising statewide assessments, and delineating further responsibilities for schools. The General Assembly has outlined specific criteria and listed a number of actions that would qualify as bullying, including cyber-bullying. However, parents should not limit themselves to the language of the statute. They should consult the school handbook and the record of verified acts of bullying (described below) for more specific information.

What kind of actions qualify as bullying?

Starting July 1, 2011, the General Assembly redefined bullying 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 that student;
4) Infringes on that student’s rights at school; or
5) Substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school. ”

Building on federal civil rights laws, the General Assembly has also clarified that bullying based on any of the following traits would also fall under the definition:

• Race or color
• Religion
• Ancestry
• National origin
• Gender
• Sexual orientation
• Gender identity or expression
• Socioeconomic status
• Academic status
• Physical appearance
• Mental, physical, development or sensory disability

Perhaps most importantly, the General Assembly has honed in on cyber-bullying, which is “any act of bullying through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.” Under the definition, the use of email, text messages, live web streams by a student or group of students to ridicule or humiliate another student would be considered cyber-bullying.

Nevertheless, parents should still consult the school’s bullying policy for more detail as to what behavior qualifies as bullying since districts and local boards may have modified the definition. Parents can usually find the policy in the school handbook or on the school website. If the policy is not available in the school publication or website, parents should ask for a copy of the policy, which the school is required to provide immediately upon request.

The local board also must establish a procedure for each school to maintain reports of bullying in the school and maintain a list of verified acts of bullying, which they also have to make available to parents. The list, at a minimum, should provide some details on each individual act. Regardless of the format, the school cannot include the names of any students involved in the action under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The federal act also forbids schools from informing parents about the consequences imposed upon the bullying child.
How can parents inform schools that their child is being bullied?

As part of a required safe school climate plan, the local or regional board of education must have a process in place for students to anonymously report to school employees acts of bullying. Under the statute, “school employees” include a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, paraprofessional, or anyone who has regular contact with students through the performance of his or her duties. The board must notify parents annually about the process by which students can make such reports.

Because students are often and understandably scared to report these acts for fear of retaliation, the board must also provide a way for parents or guardians of the afflicted students to file written reports of suspected bullying. Moreover, any school employee who witnesses an act of bullying or receives word from a student of such an occurrence must notify the safe school climate specialist (who we will discuss later on in the section) or another school administrator if the climate specialist is not available, no later than the next school day after the bullying takes place. The school employee must file a written report within two days after the bullying incident.

To encourage people to report acts of bullying, the statute insulates school employees, students, and parents from any resulting lawsuits provided they follow the relevant provisions outlined in the statute and act in good faith. This immunity extends to local boards that are making good-faith efforts to implement a safe school climate plan or investigate bullying incidents. This immunity does not attach if their actions were reckless, willful, or wanton.

Before filing a bullying complaint, parents should consider meeting with administrators or teachers to discuss the bullying incident. Given the immediate and harmful impact that bullying has on a child, parents should involve the relevant school authorities as fully and early as possible. If parents and school officials cannot informally resolve the situation, parents should file a formal complaint. Prior to filing, parents should gather as much documentation as possible. Documents reflecting conversations that parents have had with their child and/or the bully, relevant written communications with school staff, messages passed around the Internet, accounts of previous attempts to address the situation, and expert evaluations from social workers, physicians, or counselors would assist parents in making a strong case on behalf of their child.

Parents should specifically cite to and make clear that they are invoking both the Connecticut anti-bullying law and the specific policy of the school district. It is important to spell out the bullying incident in as much factual detail as possible, including the names, dates, locations, nature and the length of time of the bullying. Finally, parents should address the complaint to the school principal, with copies to teachers, the local board, social workers and counselors.

Once parents file the complaint, it is the obligation of the school to ensure the safety of the student who is being bullied. To ensure that the school is working towards this goal, parents should consult frequently with the relevant school staff as to what steps it is taking to address the issue and assess the success of such efforts.
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Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.

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