Posts tagged with "Special Education"

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.

            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 . . . .”

            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.

            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.

            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.

Growing Awareness Surrounding Bullying of Students with Disabilities in Fairfield County

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Bullying has gained the attention of the media over recent years, but despite the focused spotlight, bullying is rampant in our society.  Among the easiest targets are children with special needs.  They are, on average, at a greater risk to be bullied than their non-disabled counterparts.  This is in part because special education children make easy targets. It is often harder for children with disabilities to recognize which behaviors are socially appropriate and those that are not.

Many organizations are stepping up to the challenge of educating the community and parents on the complex issues surrounding bullying of students with disabilities. The Stratford Special Education Teacher and Parent Association recently held a presentation on “Bullying of Students with Disabilities.” The presentation focused on how to help schools avoid litigation stemming from the targeting of children with special education needs. The hope is to set up systems in schools that address bullying before it becomes a problem.  Interestingly, the presentation also focused on teaching parents how to work with the school system to effectively develop plans to prevent harassment of their children.  It is important that parents work with school administrators to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that encourages students to learn, develop self-advocacy, and social and life skills necessary to reduce disability related harassment.

In addition to parents and school administrators working together to reduce and bring awareness to bullying and its drastic effects, it is also important to be familiar with the laws that protect children with disabilities.  At Maya Murphy, P.C., we have experience dealing with Education Law, harassment or bullying, Special Education Law, and discrimination.

By Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

What Parents Need to Know About Special Education Law

The state and federal governments enacted various regulations to protect a student with disabilities and to ensure that he or she obtains a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Parents play a key role in the success of any special education program implemented for their children. Given the complexity of special education law, it is important to understand the significant responsibility a parent has in the special education system.

Referral to Special Education and Related Services

This is the first step in the process to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services. Parents should be aware that you have the right to request such a referral.  The referral must be in writing.  School officials also have the ability to make a referral.  However, a parent is often in a better position to suspect any disabilities, and can make an early referral to special education services through Connecticut’s Birth to Three program, prior to enrollment in school.

Planning and Placement Team (PPT)

The PPT reviews all referrals to special education. As a parent of a child, you have the right to be actively involved in the PPT, and are, in fact, a valued asset of the PPT.   A PPT generally consists of the parent(s), one of the child’s educators, a special education teacher, a representative of the school district, a pupil services personnel, and the child (depending on age).   As a parent, you have the right to include other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child.  As a valued member of the PPT, the school district must try to schedule meetings at a mutually agreeable time and place for you and must notify you, in writing, at least five (5) school days prior to holding the meeting.

Evaluations, Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE), and Reevaluations

The evaluation is the study used to determine a child’s specific learning strengths and needs, and ultimately determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. As an active participant, a parent can assist the PPT in designing the evaluation.  That is why sharing with the PPT all important information concerning your child’s skills, abilities, observations, and needs can be extremely beneficial to the process.  If you disagree with the evaluation conducted by the school district, you have a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE).  Such an IEE can be obtained at the school district’s expense, unless the school district can prove its evaluation is appropriate or that the IEE does not meet the school district’s criteria. If the school district believes that its evaluation was appropriate, it must initiate a due process hearing (or pay for the IEE).  In either event, you have a right to an IEE. However, if the school district’s evaluation is found appropriate, the parent will have to bear the cost of the IEE.  Reevaluation must be performed at least once every three (3) years, or sooner if conditions warrant. At the reevaluation, the educational needs of your child will be assessed, along with present levels of academic and related development needs of your child to determine whether your child continues to need special education and related services and whether your child’s IEP needs to be modified.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP is a written plan that describes in detail your child’s special education program created by the PPT. Given the IEP is designed specifically for your child, it is vital that as a parent you exercise your right to be actively involved in the PPT meetings.  The IEP is designed to identify your child’s current levels of education and functional performance and any modifications or accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum. A child with a disability must, to the maximum extent possible, be educated with his/her nondisabled peers.  This is called the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). By law, you are entitled to receive a copy of your child’s IEP within five (5) school days after the PPT meeting was held to develop or revise the same.

Informed Consent

Prior to evaluating a child for the first time, a school district must obtain the parent’s written informed consent.  Informed consent means that a parent has been given all the information needed to make a knowledgeable decision. Written informed consent must also be obtained prior to the initial placement into special education, before a child is placed into private placement, and before a child is reevaluated.  As a parent, you can refuse to give your consent and you can withdraw consent once it has been given.  Giving consent for an initial evaluation does not mean that consent was given to place a child into special education or for any other purposes.  A school district must obtain separate written informed consent for each.

Placement

To the maximum extent possible, your child must be educated with his/her nondisabled peers in a general education classroom.  Removal from the school that your child would attend had he/she not had a disability, should only occur when the nature or the severity of the disability is such that educating your child in that setting cannot be achieved satisfactorily.  If this is the case with your child, the PPT must find an appropriate educational placement as close as possible to your home, at the cost of the school district.  While you can place your child in private placement on your own, there is no guarantee of full or partial reimbursement from the school district and that will ultimately depend on the findings by a hearing officer.

Disciplinary Procedures

The school district’s code of conduct applies to all children, with or without a disability. Prior to any suspension or removal, your child has the right to an informal hearing conducted by a school administrator. If it is determined by the PPT that the behavior was caused or related to your child’s disability, then your child may not be removed from the current education placement (except in the case of weapons, drugs, or infliction of serious bodily harm).  It is the PPT’s obligation to conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan.

Access to Records

If your child has not reached the age of majority, as a parent you have a right to inspect and review his/her school records. The request must be in writing. The school district must allow you to review the records within ten (10) school days from your request or within three (3) school days if you need the information for a PPT meeting.  Connecticut law provides that you are entitled one free copy of your child’s records, and the school district has up to five (5) school days to provide you with that copy.

Due Process

A parent has the right to ask for a due process hearing as a result of the school district’s refusal to consider or find that your child has a disability, to evaluate your child, to place your child in a school program that meets his/her needs, or to provide your child with a FAPE.   A parent may bring an advocate or attorney with them to aid throughout the hearing.  A hearing officer will make a final decision within 45 days from the start of the timeline.  Generally, while a due process hearing is pending, a child’s classification, program or placement cannot be changed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are three ways, other than a full due process hearing, to settle disputes between parents and the school district. The first is the Complaint Resolution Process, wherein a parent files a written complaint with the Bureau of Special Education, alleging the local school district has violated a state or federal requirement.  Within sixty (60) days, a written report which includes the Bureau’s findings, conclusions, corrective actions and recommendations, will be mailed to the Complainant.  The second alternative is mediation. Both parties (the parents and the school district) must agree to mediate the dispute.  At mediation, if an agreement is reached, it is placed in writing and is legally binding.  All discussions during mediation are confidential.  The last alternative is an advisory opinion. This is a non-binding opinion, issued by a hearing officer, after a brief presentation of information by both parties.  After receiving the advisory opinion, the parties can decide to settle the dispute or proceed to a full due process hearing.

By: Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

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

 

Special Education and COVID-19: Impact on your Child’s Section 504 Plan or IEP

In March of 2020, many Governors across the country closed their schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) published guidance for local school agencies on how to appropriately handle special education and services to children with disabilities during the ongoing public health crisis. The DOE has emphasized that school districts’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) school districts should not prevent distance instruction.  Accordingly, special education services should continue during the period of remote learning from home as much as feasible.

During school closures due to the virus, if local education agencies (“LEAs”) continue to provide educational opportunities to general student populations, children with disabilities are entitled to receive the same educational opportunities that are being afforded to general student populations.  Specifically, children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”), pursuant to Section 504 and the ADA.   LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan.  In the event of school closures, an IEP Team or PPT may, but is not required to, consider remote or distance learning plans in your child’s IEP, as long as the instruction is meaningful.

During the COVID-19 national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner that are typically provided to students.  While it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some school districts, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or sign language educational services, some disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online.  For example, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and speech or language services by way of video conferencing may all be successfully instituted remotely for students with disabilities.  Teachers providing special education plans may have to create more specific daily or weekly plans for a special needs child who is now at home for the rest of the school year.

Additionally, the DOE guidance includes IDEA timelines for state complaints, IEPs, reevaluations, and due process hearings and encourages school teams and parents to work collaboratively and creatively to meet IEP timeline requirements. If a child has been found eligible to receive special education and related services under the IDEA, the IEP Team must meet and develop an initial IEP within 30 days of that determination and IEPs must be reviewed on an annual basis.  However, due to COVID-19, parents and school districts may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including video conferences or telephonic conference calls.  Of note, due to the pandemic, when making changes to a child’s IEP, the parent of a child with a disability and the school district may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making changes and can develop a written amendment or modification to the child’s IEP.

A reevaluation of a child with a disability must occur at least every three years, unless both the parents and school district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. However, a reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing evaluation data when appropriate, without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined that additional assessments are needed.

In regard to state special education complaints, absent agreement by the parties, a state may be able to extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution, if exceptional circumstances exist.  The DOE has now stated that exceptional circumstances include a large number of state workers unavailable or absent from work for an extended period of time due to the pandemic.  In regard to due process hearings, the parties can come to a mutual agreement to extend the 30-day resolution deadline due to COVID-19.  Additionally, a due process hearing officer may grant a specific extension of time at the request of either party to the hearing.

Moreover, when a child with a disability is classified as needing homebound instruction because of a medical problem, as ordered by a physician, and is home for an extended period of time, generally more than ten (10) consecutive school days, an individualized education program (IEP) meeting could be necessary to change the child’s placement and the contents of the child’s IEP.  If a child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and has to be absent from school for an extended period of time while school is open, parents or guardians may be able to make arrangements with the LEA to provide homebound instruction special education and related services.

If you have any questions about special education and related services during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Attorney Joseph Maya at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@mayalaw.com for a complimentary consultation regarding your matter.

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 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.

Special Education Discipline and Interim Educational Settings

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Children that require special education and related services must comply with a school district’s student code of conduct. That being said, the disciplinary procedures that apply are somewhat distinct from those used with non-special education students. In an article posted yesterday, I described the expulsion process for special education students in more general terms – today, let’s narrow that focus.

If your special education child faces a disciplinary action, his or her planning and placement team (PPT), of which you may be a member, will schedule a meeting to conduct a “manifestation determination.” In other words, the PPT will figure out whether “your child’s behavior was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to his or her disability.”[1] The PPT will also figure out whether the school district failed to implement your child’s individualized education program (IEP), thus prompting the misbehavior. The manifest determination must be conducted no later than ten (10) days after a decision to change your child’s placement.[2]

If the PPT concludes that your child’s behavior did not result from his or her disability, he or she will be disciplined consistent with that received by any other student who behaved in the same way. However, if the PPT establishes either that the behavior “was a manifestation of his or her disability or was due to a failure to implement his or her IEP,”[3] the PPT must perform a functional behavioral assessment (assessment) as well as create and implement a behavioral intervention plan (plan).[4]

The assessment is used to gather information that may shed light on why your child acted the way he or she did, as well as “identify strategies to address your child’s behavior.”[5] In turn, the plan should be designed in a way so as to teach your child how to properly behave, as well as deter and eliminate negative behaviors.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that your child could be removed from his or her current placement and into an interim educational setting (IES). In most instances, this alternative placement must not exceed ten (10) days and is determined by your child’s IEP. In limited situations, however, your school district may decide to place your child in an IES for upwards of forty-five (45) days. This is without regard to the results of the PPT’s manifestation determination. The three circumstances where this may occur are as follows:

Your child carried or possessed a weapon to school or to a school-sponsored activity.
Your child knowingly possessed or used an illegal drug, or sold or solicited the sale of a controlled substance on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.
Your child inflicted serious bodily injury upon a fellow student, staff member, or any other person while on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.

If you, as a parent, disagree with any decision relating to the above, you have the right to file for a due process hearing.[6] Unless you and the school district agree to otherwise, your child will remain in the IES until either the placement expires or a post-hearing decision is rendered.[7] Your local education agency must hold the hearing within twenty (20) days of the filing, and the hearing officer must render a decision within ten (10) days after the hearing.[8] Furthermore, the hearing officer has authority to your child’s regular placement if he or she “determines that removal was not valid or your child’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability.”[9]

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline, special education, or other education law matters, 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., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., pp.31.

[2] 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(e).

[3] See Footnote 1.

[4] 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(1)(i)-(ii).

[5] See Footnote 1.

[6] 34 C.F.R. § 300.532(a).

[7] 34 C.F.R. § 300.533.

[8] 34 C.F.R. § 300.532(c)(2).

[9] See Footnote 1.

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What is the Process for Expelling a Special Education Student?

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In my previous post, I discussed the requirements of alternative educational programs, or AEPs, that must be followed in the wake of a student expulsion. However, if you are the parent of a child that qualifies for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is imperative that you understand that an entirely different set of rules applies.

“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.”[1] A special education child’s misconduct does not obviate the school district’s statutory duty. Therefore, before an expulsion hearing occurs, the child’s planning and placement team (PPT), which includes the parent(s), will schedule a meeting to determine whether or not the child’s misbehavior was caused by his or her disability. How the question is answered will impact the PPT’s course of action.

If the answer is “yes,” expulsion will not be pursued. Rather, the PPT will reevaulate the child and potentially modify his individualized education program (IEP) “to address the misconduct and to ensure the safety of other children and staff in the school.”[2] If, instead, the answer is “no,” the standard expulsion procedures[3] are followed. However, an AEP that is consistent with the child’s special educational needs must be provided by the school for the duration of the expulsion.[4]

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, 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., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., at pp.8-9.

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(i).

[3] See Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a).

[4] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(i).

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Developing Your Special Education Child’s Individualized Education Program

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

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]

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.

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., and Robert L. Keepnews, 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.

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Evaluating Your Child’s Special Education Needs and Services

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

An initial evaluation occurs right after a child’s referral for special education, which the planning and placement team (PPT) uses to determine “your child’s specific learning strengths and weaknesses and needs, and to determine whether or not your child is eligible for special education services.”[1] You have the right to participate in the PPT, and thus have the valuable opportunity to provide all relevant information related to your child’s abilities, needs, and skills. Other information that the PPT considers is that collected by the school district and its employees: “informal and formal observations, a review of homework, standardized tests and other school records and information.”[2] However, the process must be conducted in a nondiscriminatory manner (consider the disproportionate placement of minority students in special education, discussed here), and you have the right to refuse consent or revoke it at any point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 7.

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