In our July 27 blog post, we shared information to help you prepare for a safe transition back to school in light of new guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in favor of reopening schools this fall.
We wanted to share a recent article from the New York Times about the pandemic's toll on children with special needs. The stories in this article echo stories we have heard from our clients. As a result of being home, children have become aggressive and, in some cases, injurious to themselves or others, as a result of not having the structure, support, and human interaction they need. Parents are feeling physically burnt out and emotionally overwhelmed from supporting their special needs children full time on their own. The article is available here.
It is imperative that students with disabilities be able to transition back to in-person learning safely as soon as possible. We understand that parents may be having heightened anxiety and mixed feelings about transitioning back to school, and we wanted to forward an article we found regarding how to handle anxiety over back-to-school decisions. The article can be accessed here.
We also wanted to let you know that you can access important new information about the Department of Education's (DOE) health and safety protocols for the upcoming school year, including criteria to open schools and keep them open, and what happens if someone gets sick, by visiting the DOE's website here.
My mission is to explore how other countries around the world are dealing with education and special education issues.
I would like to visit and observe different types of schools that have proven records of success, wherever those schools may be. I would like to meet with school directors and administrators, government officials, leaders in the business world, and others who are responsible for implementing education systems or otherwise connected to education to learn more about how education is being addressed in their communities.
If you know of any remarkable schools in other parts of the world (especially special needs schools), please let me know about them. If you know of any education experts who are engaged in remarkable work in this field, please introduce me to them.
Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the above. Read more about my mission here.
Friday, August 7, 2020
In our July 27 blog post, we shared information to help you prepare for a safe transition back to school in light of new guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in favor of reopening schools this fall.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
You can visit msacommunity.org for additional information.
Monday, July 27, 2020
All signs indicate that in-person instruction in New York City will resume in September and our firm wants to make sure you have the information you need to prepare for a safe transition back to school.
As you may be aware, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued new guidelines in favor of reopening schools this fall. The CDC emphasized that the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms children with disabilities. We believe it is imperative that students with disabilities be able to transition back to in-person learning safely as soon as possible.
When New York City schools re-open, school will consist of a combination of in-person instruction and remote learning (what is being termed "blended learning"). There will be staggered schedules, face coverings, social distancing, and deeper sanitizing. Recently there has been talk about incorporating outdoor learning as well. District 75 schools for students with disabilities will have in-person instruction for all of their students, and students with IEPs will be instructed in person as much as possible.
Families can opt to have 100% remote learning. If they choose to do so, they have until August 7 to inform the Department of Education of their decision.
NYC also will be offering childcare for parents of young children who are not in school yet and children who are enrolled in blended learning programs for their remote learning days.
Private schools have been rolling out their own "return to school" plans, which may differ from each other, but likely will include a combination of the NYC public school measures noted above.
New York State has issued overall guidelines, but it will be up to New York City to figure out the details on its own. You can stay up-to-date with NYC Department of Education updates here.
Our firm is here to speak with you regarding your circumstances and guide you patiently through these unusual times. If you are an existing client and you have any questions or concerns regarding the above, please contact the associate attorney assigned to your case to discuss the matter further, or contact our office administrator to schedule a virtual meeting.
If you are not currently a client and you would like to discuss your child's educational rights and explore moving forward, please reach out to our office to schedule a consultation.
Friday, July 10, 2020
SCOTUS Decides Espinoza et al. v. Montana Department of Revenue et al. And Protects Freedom Of Religion
- Montana's Constitution barred government aid to any school controlled by a church, sect, or denomination (the "no-aid provision")
- The Montana legislature created a program to provide tuition assistance to parents who send their children to private schools; tax credits were granted to anyone who donated to organizations that awarded scholarships to students attending private schools
- The Montana Department of Revenue chimed in regarding the scholarship program and prohibited families from using scholarships at religious schools
- The Montana Attorney General warned the Department of Revenue that excluding religious schools from the program would very likely violate the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against the schools and their students
- This lawsuit was brought by parents who were blocked from using scholarship funds for their children's tuition at a religious school, on the basis that the Department of Revenue's rule discriminated against them on the basis of their religious views and the religious nature of the school they had chosen
- It is noteworthy that the scholarship organization highlighted in the decision focused on providing scholarships to families have children with disabilities
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Although I do not know exactly what school in the fall will look like, there are a few things I can say confidently. When in-person school does re-open, it likely will look different than it ever did in the past. It could include various measures including staggered schedules, face coverings, and social distancing within classrooms. Based on what our firm has seen so far, some parents are going to take a wait-and-see approach, while others are going to view their current circumstances as an opportunity.
- Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not re-enrolling their children in private special education schools right now. The result: coveted spots at some of NYC's best private special education schools, which typically have waiting lists, may actually have openings. New families who are ready to act swiftly and commit to the new school year may be able to ensure their child's enrollment there when in-person schooling resumes.
- Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not pursuing evaluations to identify their child's needs and determine an appropriate program. The result: families who are pursuing evaluations are finding that they are able to get appointments without the typical months-long wait list. They will be able to secure evaluations on an expedited basis and will be prepared for applying to schools and justifying their child's placement to their school districts. Those who are not pursuing evaluations now will be dismayed when the masses decide to pursue them later and appointments become scarce again.
- Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not engaging legal services. The result: those who are engaging legal services will have the advantage of being able to file their due process complaints early. This will minimize delays resulting from the case backlog at the impartial hearing office due to a shortage of impartial hearing officers, allow for faster adjudication of parents' claims and, if they prevail, result in faster disbursement of funds by the school district.
These are trying times and no one knows for certain how the situation will develop. Don't let that stop you from taking the necessary steps to set your child up for success when in-person instruction does continue.
Friday, June 19, 2020
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
School Districts May Be Permitted To Re-Open This Summer For In-Person Special Education Instruction
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Next Steps is a one, two, or three year program for students aged 18-21 who require additional support to become more independent before transitioning to adulthood whether that may mean higher learning, supportive employment, or something else.
This is particularly exciting for me because helping special needs children transition to adulthood is a mission that has been close to my heart since my 2013 visit to the Ann Sullivan Center, a private special education school in Lima, Peru (see our firm's December 8, 2013 blog post for details).
Here are some of the highlights of the Next Steps program based on today's presentation:
- Skills Training
- Individualized programming and goals to help students achieve successful outcomes
- Student-interest driven programming to increase academic, social, vocational readiness
- Greater independence by engaging in community activities
- Student-Run Business (i.e., "School Store")
- Focus on planning, purchasing, succeeding as a business, advertising, managing inventory, customer service skills, operating cash register
- Work on social skills, mathematics, and developing regular and meaningful customer relationships
- Career-interest assessment to determine students interest and strengths and match students with internships based on their interests and strengths
- Transition support professionals ("job coaches") provided at internship sites
- Opportunities to practice work-related social skills
- Academic Classes
- Personal Finance
- School store, banking, shopping, personal finances, making bank deposits/withdrawals, real-life functional math skills
- Literacy & Communication
- Current events, topical discussions, public speaking, resume writing, presentations, writing emails and letters
- Daily Living Skills
- Maintaining a household, hygiene, other activities part of one's daily routine
- Nutrition & Health
- Community Time
- Technology & Coding
- Visual Art / Performance Art
Feel free to contact our office if you would like to find out if tuition funding may be available to you through your local school district based on your rights pursuant to the IDEA, or if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances further.
You can access more information about the Next Steps transition program on the school's website.
Friday, May 22, 2020
Monday, May 18, 2020
In particular, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is proposing to modify the regulations in the following key ways:
- Amending 200.1(x) to remove the restriction that all IHO candidates be licensed in New York State;
- Further amending 200.1(x) to reduce the number of years of experience and/or practice for attorney candidates from two years to one year;
- Further amending 200.1(x) to allow for the certification of non-attorney IHOs to hear complaints filed in New York City only;
- Amending 200.5(e) to require IHOs to maintain student confidentiality;
- Amending 200.5(j) to require IHOs to render decisions in a consistent format; and
- Amending 200.5(j)(3)(xii) to allow IHOs to conduct hearings by video conference.
- Allowing for the certification of non-attorney IHOs would raise serious concerns because:
- Adjudicating special education due process matters requires analyzing testimony and evidence, following the rules of civil procedure and motion practice, and ruling on objections, which a non-attorney would not be sufficiently equipped to do;
- An IHO must be familiar with and understand how to apply legal precedent, including case law governing the procedures pertaining to litigation in this field (e.g., Jose P. and L.V.);
- IDEA cases involve complicated and nuanced matters that require careful analysis;
- Pro se parents who are not being represented by an attorney themselves have a right to the good judgment of adjudicators who have legal backgrounds;
- Allowing non-attorney IHOs could result in a greater number of appeals, which would be costly for school districts.
- Allowing hearings to be conducted by videoconference would be beneficial in many ways:
- Greater efficiencies in the impartial hearing process, as has been observed with the emergency measures implemented during COVID-19;
- Reduction in the current backlog by streamlining cases;
- Convenience for parents and those needing to balance childcare or work responsibilities;
- Safety considerations as people would not have to attend hearings in person at the impartial hearing office, which may not yet have proper protocols to address COVID-19.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
I am diverting from the last few blog posts and posting this simply to provide a moment of diversion.
In our March 26, 2017 blog post, I wrote about the impact that the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen had on me. Recently I saw a video of Ben Platt and the cast of Dear Evan Hansen performing the song You Will Be Found remotely (following an intro by James Corden).
This song is particularly apt right now when so many are feeling lost and anxious. I am sharing it here and hope that it brings you a moment of diversion and joy:
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
The webinar will be 60 minute long (the last 20 minutes are for Q&A) and topics will include a 2-phase plan for the family, adult & couples self-care, signs of distress in kids, parenting tips to keep the peace, how to increase bravery in kids and tele-CBT for families.
The webinar will be repeated 18 times between April 13th to 26th.
No RSVP is required. You can just follow the directions in the link below to join.
TONIGHT: Free Virtual Parent/Caregiver Workshop: Navigating IEPs and Distance Learning During The COVID-19 Pandemic
The workshop will provide strategies and time for general Q&A geared toward families of children with special needs who are experiencing enormous strain as a result of the current situation.
In particular, the following topics will be discussed:
- Strategies for distance learning (including related services) for children with IEPs
- The IEP process during the pandemic and how schools are proceeding with applications and placements
- Strategies for self-care, time management, and balancing school and family life during the pandemic.
Free Basic Wills And Health Care Directives For Healthcare Professionals On The Front Lines Of COVID-19
You can learn more here:
Monday, April 13, 2020
Some areas that could be affected if waivers are granted pursuant to this provision include a school district's "child find" obligation, procedural timelines, what constitutes a valid IEP meeting, a child's right to a timely IEP meeting and impartial hearing, and compensatory education for this period.
We are writing to emphasize the importance of taking action now to oppose these waivers and speak up about protecting the rights of children with special needs.
You can take action by contacting Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as your representative in the House of Representatives, to tell them to protect the civil rights of children with disabilities.
Your message should state the following:
- No waivers are needed to IDEA (as IDEA already contains significant flexibility)
- Congress needs to provide additional funding to states so that they can meet the needs of students with disabilities during this pandemic.
Below are links for you to follow to contact the appropriate individuals:
- Senator Charles Schumer - https://www.schumer.senate.gov/contact/email-chuck
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/email-me
- Find your Representative - https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Monday, April 6, 2020
You may have seen the 4/4 NY Times article summarizing the issue and what's at stake. I am enclosing a link to the NY Times article here. .
The passage of the new federal law with this problematic provision could result in U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos waiving special education rules (particularly those under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) as school districts struggle to educate children during the ongoing crisis.
Secretary DeVos has 30 days from the law's passage to ask Congress for the authority for waivers from the IDEA.
We are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide further updates soon.
Monday, March 23, 2020
As per our previous post, the United States Department of Education (DOE) issued guidance regarding the provision of services to children with disabilities.
Remote learning raises concerns for students with special needs who may not have the attention span or otherwise have the ability to sit and learn distantly without an instructor physically present. Please consult with our office if you have specific questions about how remote learning affects your special needs child.
Friday, March 13, 2020
U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance For Provision Of Services To Children With Disabilities During Coronavirus Outbreak
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
The concept of helping special needs children transition to adulthood is one that has been close to my heart since my 2013 visit to the Ann Sullivan Center, a private special education school in Lima, Peru that educates children with severe developmental impairments.
In my December 8, 2013 blog post reflecting on my trip, I highlighted the Ann Sullivan Center's emphasis on functional skills, job training, and supportive employment over an individual's lifetime.
This week's MCC conference reminded me of the importance of this subject. Some of the highlights of the conference for me were Dr. Mary McDonald's discussion about the skills we should be teaching children from a young age so they are able to transition better when they approach "the cliff" (i.e., the loss of services as a special needs child becomes an adult), and a panel discussion about the programs available to adults with special needs.
We spend so much time, energy, and resources supporting and nurturing special needs children until high school graduation or, in some cases, the age of 21. Why stop providing such support and services simply because these individuals have reached adulthood?
Click here to view recent media coverage regarding the MCC Transitions conference:
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
If you would like to listen to the radio program, you can tune in to WSNR 620AM at 11 p.m. this Saturday. The interview will also be available online at that time at www.talklinecommunications.com.
Following the interview we will post a link to the interview on our firm's website and social media channels.
If you have questions relating to the program or you would like to discuss your particular circumstances, please feel free to contact our office.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
I know intuitively that it's a momentous occasion. Still I needed to clarify for myself why. I gave it some thought while in the gym this morning and then it hit me!
The answer is best represented in the form of a number: 5,256,000
Since the founding of our firm on December 3, 2009, I have spent 5,256,000 minutes consciously, unconsciously, and subconsciously dreaming, imagining, thinking, learning, planning, sweating, executing, growing, building, striving, evaluating, and improving in order to establish and grow a special education law firm and to realize a unique vision of what that firm should be like and how we could make a difference in the world.
It has not always been easy but it has always been gratifying. And I am so fortunate to be working with a wonderful team of people who feel the same way.
Together, in our own special way, we are changing the world. Not in the global sense of eliminating poverty, or eradicating disease, or bringing peace. But, on an individual scale, one family at a time, we are securing supports and services for children with special needs; helping them to achieve meaningful educational progress; and, to the extent possible, improving their chances of leading independent, productive, and happy lives. At the end of the day it's all about the kids -- a message I understand more clearly every day now that I am the father of three children myself.
We have accomplished so much over the last 10 years and I am so proud of what we have built. How much more can we accomplish in the 10 years ahead?
I am excited by the possibilities!
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
I think about my family at home and I am filled with joy. When my daughter was born 2 years and 3 months ago, I discovered emotions I never knew. Since my twin boys were born 5 months ago, I have basked in the beauty of the father-son bond (2-for-1 in my case). In an unexpected way my relationship with my children has deepened my connection with my parents. And through it all, my relationship with my brilliant, wonderful, and supportive wife has grown more special as we build our family and continue our journey together.
I think about my "work family" and I feel energized by, and proud of, the relationships we have nurtured with each other and the way we have collaborated to fulfill a mission bigger than ourselves. It is a remarkable thing to be excited about coming to work each day, and I am lucky to be working with such a dedicated, thoughtful, and passionate group of people as we strive to help children with special needs.
And when I think about our clients, I am so deeply appreciative of the trust and confidence they have placed in our firm to protect what is most precious to them and to fight for their children's educational rights.
During this Thanksgiving break, we hope you have time to reflect on the love you feel for your children and the joy they bring to your lives.
Best wishes to you and your family for a very Happy Thanksgiving!