GRADUATION RATE CLIMBS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

On Monday President Barack Obama announced that US high school graduation rates were the highest on record. Graduation rates for the 2014 – 2015 school year reached 83.2%. California’s graduation rate for 2014 – 2015 was 82%. The US high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is 64.6%. While the rate has gone up there is still a disparity among different groups of students.

Obama applauded the gains, he also reminded everyone that there is still work that needs to be done so everyone can succeed.

Schools and parents should work together to make sure students with disabilities are supported in a way that promotes growth in learning and, ultimately, makes graduation possible.

 

DOCUMENTING AN IEP MEETING

IEP team meetings typically involve the exchange of a lot of information and opinions. Parents must determine how to best document the meeting. One way is to record the meeting using an audio recording device. The second is to take notes.

Can I Record the Meeting? Federal law does not address whether or not parents have the right to record an IEP meeting. In California, however, parents have the right to record an IEP meeting if they give at least 24 hours notice in writing. (California Education Code Section 56341.1(g)(1))

Should I Record the Meeting? I disagree with advocates who suggest that parents should always record an IEP meeting. In my opinion, the right to record a meeting doesn’t always mean the parents should record the meeting. Parents should evaluate their own circumstances before deciding whether or not to record the IEP meeting.

I personally have made the decision to record certain meetings and not others. Here is some insight into why I made those decisions:

Consideration to Record a Meeting. The few meetings I recorded involved contentious issues or team members. If I had a history with a team member who made outlandish statements about my child or my decisions as a parent I would record the meetings. I felt it would help keep everyone focused on our objective as an IEP team. I also had some meetings where I strongly disagreed with the reports written by team members and recorded the meetings to ensure I was allowed to present my side to the team.

Decision to Not Record a Meeting. There have been times where I have made the decision not to record an IEP meeting. Those meetings were usually ones where I had an IEP team that worked well together. I felt it showed my trust in our ability to work together. I always knew that if there was an unexpected issue in the meeting I could always refuse to sign the IEP and follow up with written correspondence that supported my objections.

Taking Notes. You should always be prepared to take notes at an IEP meeting. Be sure to bring a pen, paper, and, if you prefer to use it, a computer. If you don’t record the meeting, this will help you keep track of the issues discussed.  If you bring a recording device and it fails to work then you still have the ability to document the meeting.

Whether or not a parent decides to record an IEP meeting they still maintain their right to have their positions stated in the IEP. Before signing the IEP you should review the notes section written by the district representative. Most representatives are willing to include notes you feel are important. If they refuse then you can ask for your own notes page or take the draft IEP home and write your own notes. One caution is to make sure that your requests are reasonable. Don’t use the notes page to record derogatory statements about the IEP team. Focus on your positions and why you believe they should be considered.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

504 PLANS: SAMPLE MODIFICATIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS

As a part of the 504 meeting the team will need to determine what accommodations and modifications will be needed to access curriculum and remain in the least restrictive environment.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of some modifications and accommodations:

CLASSROOM:

  • Preferential seating (away from distractions – away from door, window, pencil sharpener or distracting students, near the teacher, a quiet place to complete school work or tests, seating student by a good role model/classroom “buddy”)

CLASS SCHEDULE:

  • Adjusting class schedule (schedule those classes that require most mental focus at beginning of school day, schedule in regular breaks for student throughout the day to allow for physical movement and “brain rest”, adjustments to nonacademic time)

COURSEWORK:

  • Adjustments to grading (modifying weight given to exams, breaking test down into segments and grading segments separately, partial credit for late homework with full credit for make-up work, grade pass/fail)
  • Extended time for testing (especially helpful for students who tend to retrieve and process information at a slower speed and so take longer with testing)
  • Modification of test format and delivery (oral exams, use of a calculator, chunking or breaking down tests into smaller sections to complete, providing breaks between sections, quiet place to complete tests, multiple choice or fill in the blank test format instead of essay)
  • Modifications in classroom and homework assignments (shortened assignments to compensate for amount of time it takes to complete, extended time to complete assignments, reduced amount of written work, breaking down assignments and long-term projects into segments with separate due dates for completion of each segment, allowing student to dictate or tape record responses, allowing student to use computer for written work, oral reports or hands on projects to demonstrate learning of material)
  • Assistance with note taking (providing student with a copy of class notes, peer assistance with note taking, audio taping of lectures)
  • Modification of teaching methods (multisensory instruction, visual cues and hands on activities, highlight or underline important parts of a task, cue student in on key points of lesson, providing guided lecture notes, outlines and study guides, reduce demands on memory, teach memory skills such as mnemonics, visualization, oral rehearsal and repetitive practice, use books on tape, assistance with organization, prioritization and problem solving)
  • Providing clear and simple directions for homework and class assignments (repeating directions, posting homework assignments on board, supplementing verbal instructions with visual/written instructions)
  • Promote participation in class (ask questions, enlist student to present the lesson)
  • Allow extra time to review assignments before turning in assignments

HELP FROM OTHERS:

  • One-on-one tutoring
  • Appointing “row captains” or “homework buddies” who remind students to write down assignments and who collect work to turn in to teacher
  • Organizational assistance (including teacher/school representative meeting with student at end of each class or end day to check that homework assignments are written completely in homework notebook and needed books are in back pack, providing organizational folders and planners, color coding)

SPECIAL MATERIALS:

  • Extra set of books for student to keep at home
  • Highlighted textbooks and workbooks

BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

  • Use of positive behavioral management strategies(including frequent monitoring, feedback, prompts, redirection and reinforcement)
  • Ignore minor misbehaviors

COMMUNICATION

  • Setting up a system of communication (such as a notebook for weekly progress report, regular emails or phone calls) between parent and teacher/school representative in order to keep each other informed about the student’s progress or difficulties. Notify parent of homework and project assignments and due dates

HEARING IMPAIRMENTS

  • Adults and students should be reminded not to speak with hands or other things in front of their mouths.
  • Videos should be captioned for the student.
  • A personal FM device can be used to amplify lectures, assemblies, and daily announcements.
  • Use computer-aided instruction and other audiovisual equipment.

VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

  • Provide enlarged printed materials.
  • Use books on tape.

ALLERGIES

  • Avoid allergy-causing substances.
  • Inservice necessary persons: dietary people, peers, coaches, etc.

PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS

  • Allow extra time between classes.
  • Adapt physical education curriculum.
  • Provide shorter school day.

 

If you have any questions about your particular situation please contact Kristin Springer at (925) 551-1041. 

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

REVISED RULE TO THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

The Department of Justice issued a rule to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to incorporate statutory changes to the ADA, which were set forth in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and took effect on January 1, 2009. The rule took effect on October 11, 2016.

The Department of Justice is making changes to clarify the definition of “disability” in Title II and Title III regulations. The term disability shall be used broadly and should not demand extensive analysis. This expansion should allow more students with disabilities to qualify for a 504 Plan.
The revision also expands the definition of “major life activities” by providing a non-exhaustive list and including the operation of major bodily functions. The requirement that a disability “substantially limit” a major life activity shall also be interpreted broadly. If the impairment substantially limits an individual’s ability to perform a major life activity as compared with most people in the general population then it is a disability.

DO I NEED A SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEY?

Special education involves the interweaving of federal and state laws. If you have a child with a disability or suspected disability you may be asking yourself whether you need to hire a special education attorney to receive services from your local school district. There is no requirement that a parent or guardian be represented by an attorney. Each situation should be analyzed individually. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. BEING PROACTIVE HAS BENEFITS

In most cases the child with the disability will be enrolled in a school district for a number of years. Parents and guardians will be working with the school district to negotiate services for their child during those years. It is important that the parents or guardians and the rest of the IEP team have a good relationship. Going into an IEP meeting with reasonable expectations supported by the law will help parents and guardians avoid some common disagreements.

  1. SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEYS KNOW THE LAW AND CAN GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE

An attorney who works in special education law knows the rights and limitations of the federal and state laws governing special education. Attorneys have special training to research and study the laws. They can help guide you through the process and advise you of the appropriate actions based on your child’s individual needs.

  1. ADVOCATES ARE NOT REGULATED BY LAW

IDEA states that the IEP team may include “individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child” at the discretion of “the parent or the agency.” At this time California law does not provide for regulation or licensing of non-attorney advocates. Therefore there are no standards of competence for non-attorney advocates.

  1. ATTORNEYS CAN TAKE AN OBJECTIVE LOOK AT YOUR CASE

An attorney will look at your case objectively. They can help you put together a reasonable plan for advocating for your child. They can also help you determine whether your child’s IEP or the decisions of the IEP team are reasonable.

  1. ATTORNEYS MAY BE RECOVERABLE

If you are the prevailing party in a due process hearing you are likely entitled to recover some or all of your attorney’s fees from the school district. (20 USC Section 1415(i)(3)(B) – (G); 34 CFR Section 300517; and CA Ed Code Section 56507(b)) Fees paid to advocates and expert witnesses are not reimbursable. Recovery of an attorney’s fees may be denied or reduced in certain circumstances so it is important that the attorney you choose understands the law regarding reimbursement of an attorney’s fees.

Representing a child with a disability as a part of an IEP team can be intimidating. You do not have to be alone in this process. I believe every parent should have the choice of being supported by an attorney. As such I keep my expenses and fees low. I would be happy to discuss your case with you and help answer any questions you may have.

If you would like to contact Kristin Springer, you may email her at specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net or call (925) 551-1041.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

 

 

 

VIRTUAL SCHOOLS SERVING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES

Today, the parents of a child who has a disability have choices in education, including virtual public schools. Virtual public schools are public schools. They are not private schools. They are governed by public entities such as public school districts, independent, non-profit charter school boards, and state education agencies.

In August the US Department of Education, OSERS, issued guidance to virtual public schools. The guidance focuses on the requirements of IDEA for public virtual schools.

Virtual Public Schools Are Subject to IDEA

Virtual schools must implement the evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP), and least restrictive environment requirements under IDEA.

Virtual Public Schools: Child Find Responsibilities

Each state and school district, must have child find policies and procedures in effect to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the state, including those who attend virtual schools, who are in need of special education and related services, regardless of the severity of their disability, are identified, located, and evaluated.

School districts, including virtual schools that operate as school districts, should review the state’s child find policies and procedures as well as their own implementing policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that children with disabilities who attend virtual schools are identified, located, and evaluated.

Virtual Public Schools Must Provide FAPE

Children with disabilities attending virtual schools have the same right to a free appropriate public education as children attending brick and mortar schools. States and school districts must ensure that children with disabilities are getting the special education and supports that they need to be successful in school.

Communication with the Virtual Public School

If your child has a disability, or you suspect he or she has a disability, which affects his or her ability to access their education then you should contact the administration of your virtual public school. In most cases you will be the best resource for alerting the school that your child may qualify under IDEA.

If you are transferring to a virtual public school, and your child has an IEP, you must send a copy of your child’s IEP to the virtual public school. They should have a special education department to help process the current IEP and set a meeting for the new members of the IEP to meet.

My Experience with a Charter School

I home schooled my son who has a disability under a public charter through independent study. He had an IEP in place before entering the public charter school. The school administrator was difficult to work with and challenged our decision to pull a child who had social struggles out of a brick and mortar public school. However, with some negotiation, we were able to agree to an IEP that provided my son with FAPE. We home schooled with the public charter school for 3 years and found it to be a positive experience.

If you have questions about your legal rights regarding this issue, feel free to contact me. I can be reached at 925-551-1041 or specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

 

 

SUPREME COURT TO DEFINE EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT

If your child with a disability has an IEP then you are aware of the confusion surrounding what level of educational benefit is required from an IEP.

On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court granted review of the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, No. 15-827. The legal question is: What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with a free and appropriate education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Does the educational benefit have to be “merely more than de minimis”?

The parents in Endrew removed their autistic child from public school and placed him in private school. The parents argued their son was not making adequate progress and his new IEP offered much of the same as the previous year. The parent’s claim for tuition reimbursement was denied on the basis that “some” educational benefit was received from the public school.

In Board of Education v. Rowley 458 US 176, the Supreme Court held that in order for a school district to meet its obligation to provide FAPE under the IDEA, the student’s program must be reasonably calculated to confer an educational benefit.  The Supreme Court left the legal standard for “educational benefit” undefined.

The federal government recommended the Supreme Court review the case. The Supreme Court is reviewing the case in order to provide guidance to the lower circuit appeals courts. The circuit courts are divided as to whether the standard should be “more than de minimis” or something more rigorous. The 9th Circuit Courts follow the “some educational benefit” standard. The federal government sided with the parents in Endrew. The question is recurring and important.

 

To learn more about Mrs. Springer you may visit her website at http://www.trivalleyspecialedattorney.com.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

 

OCTOBER 2016: NATIONAL ANTIBULLYING MONTH

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center started the campaign to bring awareness to bullying prevention.

Bullying is a serious problem in our schools. In 2015, the National Center for Educational Statistics acknowledged that one out of every four students (22%) reported being bullied during the school year. While bullying is a problem among all children, there is a higher rate among children with disabilities. Other studies have found that children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. (Disabilities: Insights from Across Fields and Around the World; Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009 )

On October 21, 2014, the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Office issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to address bullying of students with disabilities. This letter was written to address the persistent problem with bullying that occurs in schools today. This blog will incorporate and expand on information from that letter.

GENERAL LEGAL GUIDELINES

There are no federal laws that directly address bullying. However, some bullying falls under federal civil rights laws. The US Department of Education and Department of Justice have stated that schools are obligated to address conduct that is:

  • Based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion;
  • Severe, pervasive, or persistent; and
  • Creates a hostile environment at school.

California Education Code Section 48900(r)(1) defines bullying as: any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct… directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:

  • Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance.
  • Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

Students with Disabilities: IDEA/504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education under IDEA and Section 504.  When bullying affects a child’s ability to gain meaningful educational benefit from his or her 504 Plan or IEP the result may constitute a school’s denial of FAPE.  In order to deny FAPE, the criteria above must be met as well as the following:

  • The school officials must have known or should have known about the bullying; and
  • The school did not respond appropriately.

DISCIPLINE/REMEDIES

 Suspension/Expulsion: According to California Education Code Section 48900.4, students can be suspended or expelled if they engage in bullying.  Before recommending suspension or expulsion, the school must determine that the student has “intentionally engaged in harassment, threats, or intimidation, directed against school district personnel or pupils, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the actual and reasonably expected effect of materially disrupting classwork, creating substantial disorder, and invading the rights of either school personnel or pupils by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment.”

IEP/504 Plan Review: The team can call a meeting to ensure the student continues to receive FAPE. The team shall decide whether the student’s needs have changed and whether additional or different services or accommodations are needed to ensure FAPE.

Compensatory: An action may be brought tuition reimbursement for an alternative school, counseling, monetary damages, and other services necessary to provide FAPE.  

Should you have any further questions, please contact Kristin Springer at specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

 

 

 

EDUCATIONAL ADVOCACY TIPS

Whether you have a child with a disability or not these steps can help you advocate for your child.

  1. Create relationships with school staff and others who can help.

Building relationships with your child’s teacher, district staff, and anyone who can help your child will keep the lines of communication more open. Try to maintain a positive and helpful approach. Listen carefully and ask clarification questions.

  1. Be persistent, yet flexible.

Don’t agree to something you think goes against what your child should receive under the law. However, the process will go more smoothly if you keep an open mind. Stay calm and stick to your key issues. Remember that you can always ask to think about options that you hadn’t previously considered.

  1. Maintain an educational paper trail.

Always keep copies of all reports, report cards, progress reports, evaluations, IEPs, and other documents you receive regarding your child.

  1. Communicate in writing.

Put all requests in writing and confirm oral or telephone requests in writing.

  1. Identify the problem and possible solutions.

Make sure you write a list of issues you want to address with the school. Next, figure out what type of resolution you think is appropriate. Make an action plan and follow it.

  1. Know the law.

Learn about your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These will help you understand your child’s rights and limitations under the law.

  1. Don’t give up!

 

Should you have any further questions, please contact Kristin Springer at specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)

 

 

DISCIPLINE: FUNCTIONAL BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENTS AND BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION PLANS

Discipline of children with disabilities is a hot topic. In this blog post I will address proactive measures IEP teams must take to prevent or minimize behavioral issues. In future posts I will address measures schools must take for code of conduct violations, especially ones that result in disciplinary removal from school ten days or more.

On August 1, 2016, the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to clarify the need for behavioral supports in IEPs. (See http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/files/dcl-on-pbis-in-ieps–08-01-2016.pdf) The California Department of Education has a page dedicated to Behavioral Intervention Plans. (See http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/ac/bip.asp)

Introduction

In order to provide positive behavioral support to students with disabilities, federal and state laws require schools, in certain circumstances, to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). A functional behavioral assessment is used to identify the purposes of specific behavior and help IEP teams select interventions and strategies to address the problem behavior. The information gained during the assessment process is then used to create a positive behavioral intervention plan.

When is an FBA Required

The IEP team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports and strategies to address problem behaviors when:

  • The student’s behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability; and
  • The student’s behavior impedes the student’s learning; or
  • The learning of other students.

(34 CFR Section 300.324(a)(2)(i))

Process of the FBA

Although federal and state laws do not define a FBA, OSERS has clarified that the FBA’s focus is to identify the purpose behind a student’s behavior. IDEA requires all evaluations must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather information about the child, and assess the child in all areas of the suspected disability.

Persons Who May Administer FBA

California Education Code Section 56320(b)(3) requires assessments be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel and must be administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments, except that individually administered tests of intellectual or emotional functioning shall be administered by a credentialed school psychologist.

A certified behavior analyst may conduct behavior assessments and provide behavioral intervention services but are not required. (Cal. Education Code Section 56525)  Assessments shall be conducted by persons who are “competent to perform the assessment”. (Cal. Education Code Section 56322)

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)

If the IEP team determines the student’s conduct was due to the student’s disability the team shall implement a BIP for the child. If a BIP was already in place then the IEP team shall review and modify it, as necessary. The IEP team may also include measurable goals in the IEP to address a student with a disabilities’ behavior.

Behavioral Supports

According to OSERS “Dear Colleague” letter:

Research shows that school-wide, small group, and individual behavioral supports that use proactive and preventative approaches, address the underlying cause of behavior, and reinforce positive behaviors are associated with increases in academic engagement, academic achievement, and fewer suspensions and dropouts. In short, children are more likely to achieve when they are directly taught predictable and contextually relevant school and classroom routines and expectations, acknowledged clearly and consistently for displaying positive academic and social behavior, consistently prompted and corrected when behavior does not meet expectations, and treated by others with respect.

Behavior supports must be supported by peer-reviewed research. (34 CFR Section 300.320(a)(4))

On-line Tools for Schools, Parents, and Caregivers

The US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has created Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS). Their website is http://www.pbis.org. The California Department of Education maintains the Positive Environments, Network of Trainers (PENT) Website to help educators write effective behavioral plans. (See http://www.pent.ca.gov/ ) There is no one size fits all solution for each student. Both websites provide information to schools and families in an effort to define, support, and teach appropriate behaviors and create positive school environments.

Should you have any further questions, please contact Kristin Springer at specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)