Posts tagged with "Special Education"

What Should I Do if My Child Has Been Denied Special Education?

Schools may often refuse to make reasonable accommodations for children who need special education.  If your child has special education needs, the school must accommodate for the child under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You have many rights in this situation such as the right to a manifestation hearing.  You may also have the right to file a complaint against the school district.  You should obtain an education attorney as soon as possible to educate you on your rights, and help you get the accommodations your child needs and deserves. 


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

What Services Are Required for School-Aged Children with Autism in Connecticut?

Children with autism are eligible for special education and related services in Connecticut.  State and federal law does not require local school districts to provide particular services for children with autism.  These laws do require school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a free and appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs.

Specific services for autistic children depend on his or her disability and individualized educational program.  This program is established by the child’s planning and placement team.  A planning and placement team is a group consisting of the child’s parents, teachers, and educational specialists that evaluate the child’s services annually.


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.

PPT: What if the School Gets it Wrong?

As the parent of a special education student, you have the right to, and should, participate fully in your child’s PPT meetings. If you cannot attend the meetings due to your schedule, you should request to participate by telephone or video conference. You also have the right to be represented by counsel at those meetings. Our attorneys will work with you to help the planning and placement team develop an IEP that is individually tailored and absolutely appropriate for your child.

Unfortunately, sometimes the planning and placement team – for whatever reason – makes the wrong decision. At that point, you have the right to request an administrative hearing before an impartial hearing officer and, ultimately, through the court system. There are, however, several procedural requirements and time limits that you must keep in mind. Our attorneys will work with you to identify all available options and quickly and efficiently determine the most appropriate plan of action for your individual situation while ensuring compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations.

Special Education Re-Evaluations

Each student identified as special education eligible must be re-evaluated at least once every three years, but not more than once per year (unless the student’s parents and the school district agree that more frequent re-evaluations are needed). If you feel your child’s educational needs have changed, you should request a re-evaluation so that your child’s IEP can be modified accordingly.

As your special education student approaches the end of his or her FAPE (graduation from high school or age 21), PPT meetings will increasingly address your child’s transition to post-secondary life. Children change as they grow (as do their educational needs), and modifications to individualized education programs must inevitably follow. Our attorneys are available to help your family effectively address your child’s developing needs on an ongoing basis.

Placement in Appropriate Education Programs

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

Sometimes, public schools simply do not offer the services that your child’s special education needs require. At this point, it may be possible to place your child in an appropriate private school and seek reimbursement from your school district for the associated costs. In order to do this, you must request a due process hearing and prove to an impartial hearing officer that not only does the private school meet your child’s educational needs, but that the school district failed to provide your child with a FAPE in a timely manner. Furthermore, you must comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements or your reimbursement award may be denied or reduced.

Significantly, one misstep in this process can mean losing your right to reimbursement – there are time limitations and notice requirements to comply with, and it is important to know all the details before a parent unilaterally places a child privately. Our experienced attorneys will make themselves available to guide and assist you in making a quick and efficient determination of the most effective plan of action for your family, while protecting your rights under applicable regulations.

What is “Gifted and Talented” and What If My Child Is Identified as Such?

While reading a parent’s education law guide written by attorneys here at Maya Murphy, I was initially surprised to read the following: “A child requiring special education in Connecticut includes not only children with disabilities but also those who are found to be especially gifted and talented.”[1] Indeed, “a child requiring special education” is not limited to those deemed eligible pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; see my previous post), but a child that:

[H]as extraordinary learning ability or outstanding talent in the creative arts, the development of which requires programs or services beyond the level of those ordinarily provided in regular school programs but which may be provided through special education as part of the public school program.[2]

The Regulations Concerning State Agencies go into greater depth as to what constitutes “gifted and talented,” “extraordinary learning ability,” and “outstanding talent in the creative arts.”[3]

You may be asking yourself, “But how do I know my child is gifted and talented?” The State Department of Education produced a very informative list of FAQs, one of which directly addresses this question:

Some children are able to concentrate for long periods of time at a very young age or demonstrate their gifts and talents by using a large vocabulary, constant questioning, demonstrating unusual creativity, performing advanced math calculations, and/or exhibiting exceptional ability in specific subject areas.

Not all children, however, demonstrate their potential abilities and talents in the traditional manners mentioned above. Thus, concerned parents should consult with child development specialists, such as their local school officials, pediatricians, or higher education personnel for more information.[4]

Gifted and Talented (GaT) Programs

The rules governing gifted and talented (GaT) are somewhat similar to the mandates stemming from special education classifications under IDEA (and associated state law codifying its requirements). Schools districts must “provide identification, referral and evaluation for gifted and talented children.”[5] However, offering GaT programming is optional: “(c) Each local or regional board of education may provide special education for children requiring it who are described by subparagraph (B) of subdivision (5) of section 10-76a and for other exceptional children for whom special education is not required by law.[6] 

Thus, if you are the parent of a child identified as GaT and your school elects not to offer special programs or services, they are not denying your child the free appropriate public education, or FAPE, as is required under federal law.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

However, if your school district refuses to identify, refer, or evaluate your child for GaT status pursuant to Connecticut law, it is imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding gifted education, special education, or any other education law 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 (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.10.

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76a(5)(B).

[3] Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies § 10-76a-2.

[4] “Gifted and Talented – QA,” by the State Department of Education. Accessed October 5, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&q=320948

[5] Id. at § 10-76d-1.

[6] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76d(c).

Todd Video Highlights Cyberbullying Epidemic

In the wake of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd’s heart wrenching YouTube video and subsequent suicide (reported on here), much has been written about social media’s impact on Todd’s plight. Since her death on October 10, users have continued to post hateful messages on a Facebook page, justifying their cruelty with “freedom of speech” claims.

Yesterday, a Canadian journalist wrote an article discussing Canadian New Democratic Party’s MP Dany Morin’s response to the Amanda Todd tragedy.[1] Speaking to Canada’s House of Commons yesterday, which had the opportunity to consider new legislation addressing cyberbullying, Morin stated: “Nowadays, with cyberbullying, with social media, it has gotten to a breaking point.”  Speaking of his own high school experience, Morin, who is gay, noted that though bullying existed, Facebook and other means of social media didn’t exist.  With social media, there is no break from the bullying – it’s 24/7.

Todd’s death, which made international headlines, highlights how cyberbullying has been exacerbated by social media.  As previously reported, school administrators have acted swiftly, hosting seminars and training sessions for parents, students, and faculty members, in an attempt to educate authority figures on how best to recognize and combat bullying.  State legislatures are enacting laws aimed exclusively at cyberbullying, or amending online harassment laws to encompass the specific area of cyberbullying.  But the law continues to remain murky, wrapped up in freedom of speech and First Amendment concerns.

It is important, if you have concerns about bullying against yourself or a loved one that can only be resolved through legal action, to consult with an attorney experienced in the complicated maze of education law.  If you do have questions, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., in our Westport office, at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/15/cyber-bullying-on-social-media-is-at-a-breaking-point-says-ndp-mp-championing-private-members-bill/.

What is Special Education, and Is My Child Eligible For Such Services?

The State Board of Education believes each student is unique and needs an educational environment that provides for, and accommodates, his or her strengths and areas of needed improvement. The Board also believes that a unified and coordinated continuum of educational opportunities and supports serves and benefits all students.

– Excerpted from the State Board of Education’s “Position Statement on the Education of Students with Disabilities”

Every parent who has the best interests of their child at heart would most likely agree with the above statement. Making sure your child receives the best K-12 education they can is certainly the goal. However, this may appear less attainable to parents who are uncertain about the future of their disabled child, or who don’t even realize that their child has special needs.

Special Education Eligibility

Under Connecticut law, which mirrors federal statutes, “special education” is specifically designed instruction tailored to meet the individualized needs of a child identified as having a disability.[1] “A child who is eligible for special education services is entitled by federal law to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE)… [which] ensures that all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education at no cost to the family.”[2] FAPE is an “unqualified right” that a school district cannot thwart or undermine due to the accompanying expenses.

However, determining whether your child is eligible may seem intimidating, but the process is more straightforward than you would expect. As a baseline, your child must be between ages 3 and 21, and “Connecticut school districts are obligated to provide special education and related services to children five years of age or older until the earlier of either high school graduation or the end of the school year in which your child turns twenty-one years of age.”[3] Related services include “transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services… as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education” (except for surgically implanted medical devices).[4]

Disability Classes

Next, you must establish that your child has one or more of the enumerated classes of disabilities, as found directly in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:[5]

  • Autism
  • Hearing impairments (including deafness)
  • Mental retardation
  • Orthopedic impairments
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Specific  learning disabilities
  • Speech or language impairments
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairments (including blindness)
  • Other health impairments – this includes “limited strength, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, a heart condition, hemophilia, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome”[6]

If your child is of the proper age and has one of these disabilities, you must next determine whether or not his or her educational performance is adversely affected. If the answer is yes, “a special education program must be developed to meet their unique educational needs.”[7] This is known as an Individual Education Program, or IEP, which will be the subject of an upcoming post.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

 


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76a(4).

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education. 2007. Accessed October 5, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.8-9.

[4] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, § 602(26).

[5] Id. at § 602(3)(A)(i).

[6] See Footnote 2.

[7] See Footnote 3.

Developing Your Special Education Child’s Individualized Education Program

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

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

Individualized Education Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

 


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

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

[3] Id. at 5.

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

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

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

Requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

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

Case Details

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

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

The Courts’ Decisions

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

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

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

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

Impact of the Addison Case

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

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

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

–     

If you have any questions regarding your child’s education, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.