New Mission

New Mission

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.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Speaking Engagement at Robert Louis Stevenson School

I have been invited to speak at the Robert Louis Stevenson School on Thursday, November 21 regarding the special education process and the right to funding.  I am providing the relevant information below for all who may wish to attend.  Please feel free to forward this information to anyone else who might be interested:

Navigating the Special Education Process and the Right to Funding

Want an inside look into education funding for your child or client?

Robert Louis Stevenson School welcomes parents and professionals to an evening of understanding the mechanisms of tuition reimbursement, featuring
expert special education attorneys Adam Dayan and Michelle Siegel.

Get an overview of the law and the steps needed to secure funding for
an appropriate educational setting.

Gain insight as you hear from their broad experience
through a presentation that includes a Q&A.

See how a school like Stevenson can provide an appropriate education for the overall development of your child or client.

Join us: 

November 21, 2013
6:30 PM
Robert Louis Stevenson School
24 West 74th Street
New York, NY 10023

Matthew G. Mandelbaum, PhD
Director of Outreach
Robert Louis Stevenson School

Friday, October 11, 2013

Education Mission # 1: Peru

As a follow-up to my 7/17/13 blog post, I am excited to say that my education mission is on! I will be visiting Peru in November to learn more about what is happening down there. I was asked to write a paragraph explaining the purpose of my visit, and I summarized it as follows:

En mi experiencia como abogado de educación y "educación especial," he tenido la oportunidad de luchar por individuos con habilidades diferentes para assistirlos obtener los programas y servicios que necesitan para avanzar y transformarse en miembros independientes y productivos en la sociedad. En los Estados Unidos, tenemos leyes extensas y generosas para proteger a los estudiantes que tienen varias discapacidades psíquicas y desórdenes del desarollo. Ya sė que países diferentes tienen leyes diferentes; algunas les dan mas servicios, y algunos menos. Recientemente, he desarollado un interės en lo que otras paises en el mundo están haciendo en el campo de educación, en general, y "educación especial," en particular. Me gustaría reunirse con personas del gobierno, del sector de las empresas, y del sector privado para aprender más. Si el gobierno tiene planes para mejorar o ampliar acceso a la educacion para individuos con habilidades diferentes, me gustaría comprender que acciones está tomando. Si hay empresas que se han hecho esfuerzos extraordinarios para emplear e incluir a individuos con habilidades diferentes en sus empresas, me gustaría saber cómo nació el programa, cómo se opera, quiėn tiene los requisitos para el empleo, y quė planes hay para crecerlo. Naturalmente, tambiėn estoy interesado en observar programas de "educacion especial" en las escuelas de Peru. Verdaderamente, esa es una de las razones principales de mi visita. Me gustaría comprender quė son los metodos filosóficos y pedagógicos que están utilizando, cómo los estudiantes están progresando, cómo se los integran con la sociedad convencional, y dónde hay espacio para mejora según las escuelas.

Here is the basic English translation: 

As an education and special needs attorney in the United States, I have had the opportunity to advocate on behalf of individuals with different abilities to help them secure the special programs and supports that they require to achieve progress and become independent, productive members of society. In the United States, we have broad and generous laws to protect students with various kinds of learning and developmental difficulties. I realize that different countries have different laws; some provide more services, others less. Recently I have become very interested to learn about what other countries around the world are doing in the area of education, in general, and special education, in particular. I would like to meet with individuals from the government sector, corporate sector, and private sector to learn more. If the government has plans to improve or expand educational access for individuals with different abilities, I would like to know what actions are being taken. If there are companies that have made extraordinary efforts to employ and include individuals with different abilities in their companies, I would like to know how that program came into existence, how it functions, who is eligible, and what if any plans there are to expand. I am also interested in observing special education programs in Peru. Indeed, that is one of the main purposes for my visit. I would like to understand what philosophical and pedagogical approaches are being utilized, how children are progressing, how they are being integrated into mainstream society, and where the schools believe there is room for improvement.

Looking forward to an interesting and meaningful adventure!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A.R. v. New York City Department of Education

I saw the documentary Salinger recently so, as I'm writing this blog post, J.D. Salinger is fresh in my mind. There's something about that last scene in The Catcher In The Rye depicting children being saved just before falling off the edge of a cliff that has had a deep, visceral, and lasting impact on me. I think that profound scene can be related to the practice of special education law, which at times involves saving children with special needs from falling toward academic failure and developmental stagnation when they have been neglected by their local school districts. I think families who are the most needy - those who have children with special needs AND lack necessary financial means - require the most help because school districts can be especially difficult in these kinds of cases. The recent case of A.R. v. New York City Department of Education, 12 Civ. 4493 (PAC), is one example of our legal system upholding a child's rights in the face of a school district that would have preferred to let the child fall off the cliff.

On appeal, the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in A.R. considered a parent's claim for private school funding as a result of the district's conceded failure to provide an appropriate public school education. The school district admitted it didn't do its job, but still didn't want to pay for the kid's services. The Court addressed a number of issues, including whether a parent's financial need and inability to fund the cost of a private placement should bar an award of funding for the private program. Those familiar with this area of the law may recall the case of Mr. and Mrs. A. v. NYC Department of Education, where the SDNY considered this issue and determined that, where parents lack the financial resources to front the costs of private school tuition, parents who satisfy all other factors have a right to retroactive direct tuition payment relief.

In A.R., the school district argued that the parent obviously couldn't afford to front the cost of the tuition, that the parent never made any payments to the private placement, that the private school never demanded payment, that the private school waived its right to payment by failing to enforce the terms of the enrollment contract, and that the enrollment contract was a sham. The SDNY rejected all of these arguments. The SDNY affirmed the decision in Mr. and Mrs. A., quoting from that case and saying that "it would be a grave error to conclude from the fact that [the parent] did not have the means to pay for a private placement that her daughter is precluded from receiving the free appropriate public education that the IDEA is intended to guarantee." In A.R., the SDNY said that "[t]he fact that [the parent] ultimately expected to prevail in her claims against the DOE does not indicate that she believed that she had no obligation to pay under the contract." Therefore, the contract was not a sham. With respect to the district's assertion that the parent never intended to send her child to a public placement, the Court observed somewhat mockingly that "[t]he DOE pretends to have peered into the [the parent's] mind and ascertained that she 'never seriously considered sending the Student to a public placement," and pointed out that there is a difference between (1) wanting a private school and, at the same time, being open to public school recommendations if they are appropriate, and (2) not being open to public school recommendations at all. With respect to scenario (1), "[s]uch a view is entirely consistent with a permissible desire to keep the Student enrolled at the same school she had been attending . . . , but a willingness to consider other forthcoming proposals from the DOE," said the Court.

As a result, the parent's claim was upheld and the school district was ordered to fund the cost of the child's private placement.

So, although a child's IDEA-mandated rights are not always respected and enforced by local school districts, there is a legal system to which parents can appeal in order to ensure that their children receive the programs and services that they require to continue progressing and growing, and staying far away from the edge of that cliff.