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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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Small Law Firm Symposium at the New York City Bar Association

I attended the Small Law Firm Symposium at the New York City Bar Association today.  I've attended similar events in the past and always glean valuable takeaways by the time the day is over.

Noteworthy topics at today's event included understanding/identifying unconscious bias, ethical considerations in the business of law (e.g., referrals and fee splitting), and building resilience to optimize one's performance in the practice of law.    

The highlight of the day for me was Stefanie Marrone's session on creating an online presence and utilizing social media to develop your firm's brand.  Stefanie delivered a wealth of information in a small amount of time with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.  She spoke in depth about how to maximize the benefits of social media, particularly Linked In; developing content for your audience; building a network of referral sources; and increasing your firm's visibility.

I had some time to catch up with Stefanie at the networking reception at the end of the day, as shown below:


Throughout the day there were plenty of opportunities to network with fellow attendees.  I enjoyed catching up with familiar faces and meeting others in the field.

For those solo or small firm practitioners who have not attended the annual symposium before, you may find that it is a good way to stimulate your brain about how to grow your firm while interacting with other attorneys who are on a similar journey.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Speaking Engagement at Academics West on Tuesday, November 5

On Tuesday, November 5 I will be participating in an education law panel discussion at Academics West, a private therapeutic educational program that offers students with special needs a flexible and supportive learning environment. 

The focus of the discussion will be about enhancing your advocacy for your child with special needs by securing the appropriate legal and clinical expertise.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about some of the resources available to children with special needs. 

I will discuss the ins and outs of the special education legal process; Dr. Jennifer Oratio, a pediatric neuropsychologist, will discuss testing and accommodations for students with learning differences; and Lexi Hill, the Director of Admissions at Academics West, will discuss Academics West's work with students who have complex learning and social-emotional needs.

I am providing the relevant information below for all who may wish to attend.  If you would like to attend, please make sure to RSVP to Scott Apgar as indicated below.

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone else who might be interested.

Friday, October 25, 2019

SuperLawyers Recognition and Article

I am pleased to announce that I have been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star for the second consecutive year.  Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

I am also happy to share an article in which I was quoted about how parents can advocate for the education of a child with special needs.  The article was featured in the October 2019 issue of Super Lawyers Magazine and can be accessed by clicking on this link.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"Substantially Similar" for Pendency Purposes

Parents considering transitioning their child from one school placement to another school placement should be familiar with the concept of pendency and the "substantially similar" standard in situations where the prior placement was funded by the parents' local school district (District).

Two instances in which the "substantially similar" standard could become relevant are as follows: (1) pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) a child was previously funded at a state-approved nonpublic school (NPS) and parents are transitioning their child to a different NPS or an independent private school for which they are seeking funding; (2) pursuant to an impartial hearing officer's (IHO) Findings of Fact and Decision (FOFD) the child's placement was determined to be a particular school placement for which funding was ordered and now the parents are transitioning their child to a different placement for which they are seeking funding.  

Parents initially may balk at the idea of changing their child's placement and/or having to initiate litigation in order to secure funding, which always involves a certain amount of risk.  Prevailing case law, however, sets forth that if the child's new placement is "substantially similar" to the previous placement, the District is required to maintain the child in the new placement during the pendency of legal proceedings.  This is a powerful legal mechanism for parents who have identified an appropriate new placement but do not have the means to lay out the tuition owed.  It is also very helpful to schools that would like to accept students who are the right fit for their program but would have difficulty waiting for a final outcome of the case before starting to receive funding from the District.

Through pendency, if the new placement is determined to be substantially similar to the previous one, the District will be required to make tuition payments to the new placement retroactive to the date of the filing of the due process complaint (DPC) through the conclusion of the legal proceedings.  This makes it possible for parents to enroll their child in the new school placement with the security of knowing that the tuition will be funded during the interim regardless of the final outcome of the case on the merits.

Recent federal court cases address the substantially similar standard under pendency.  For example, in Navarro Carillo v. NYCDOE, 384 F.Supp.3d 441 (S.D.N.Y. 2019), the student was placed at iHope, an independent private school for children with brain and injuries or disorders for the 2017-2018 school year.  An IHO determined that iHope was the student's appropriate placement for the 2017-2018 school year.  Subsequently, for the 2018-2019 school year, the parents decided to enroll their child in a different but similar school, iBrain, and sought pendency for iBrain.  I won't go into the full administrative history of the case here; however, I will note that the case made its way to federal court and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that, based on the substantial similarity between iHope and iBrain, the District had an obligation to fund iBrain during the duration of the legal proceedings pursuant to pendency.

This issue was addressed in other federal court cases as well.  See Abrams v. Carranza, 2019 WL 2385561 (S.D.N.Y. 2019); Soria v. NYCDOE 2019 WL 3715057 (S.D.N.Y. 2019).  I am not going to discuss those cases in depth here.  However, I will note that in Soria it was made clear that the fact that parents unilaterally moved the student (as opposed to being forced to do so due to the prior program shutting down, for example) was not a relevant consideration.  It was also made clear that parents must present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the two schools being considered are substantially similar.  Considerations for the "substantially similar" analysis might include the type of school, the size of the classrooms, the type of curriculum, the credentials of the teachers, the student's daily schedule, and the related services and supports provided.  For more about related services considerations in this context see Angamarca v. NYCDOE, 2019 WL 3034912 (S.D.N.Y. 2019).

The overarching point here is that if a student was previously enrolled in a program funded by the District, whether pursuant to an IEP or FOFD, just because the parents are transitioning their child to a new school placement does not mean that the stream of funding from the District will be cut off.  As illustrated above, if the new school placement is substantially similar to the old school placement, parents may be entitled to continue receiving funding for the new placement during the pendency of their legal proceedings until a final decision is reached regardless of the final outcome of the case.  

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Dyslexia Event at the NYC Bar Association on Monday, October 21

There is full-day seminar on dyslexia happening at the New York City Bar Association on Monday, October 21.

The event is intended for lawyers and non-legal professionals, and will be available live and via webcast.

This program promises to provide lawyers and clinicians an inside view into how the special education system works for families with potentially dyslexic and diagnosed dyslexic children.  From the initial identification problem to selecting the right intervention services to litigation pitfalls and pointers, the panelists will walk attendees through the stages of the special education system as it relates specifically to identifying and representing a child with dyslexia.
More information about the event can be found here for those who might be interested.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Reflection & New Beginnings for the Jewish New Year

The Jewish New Year ("Rosh Hashanah") and the changing of the seasons marks a great time for reflection and new beginnings.  

Although Rosh Hashanah does not start until this evening, I have been doing some pre-holiday reflection.  One of the insights I had thorough my introspection is how important family is to me.   

Three months ago my wife gave birth to beautiful twin boys (in that moment, the adults became outnumbered by the children).  What a miraculous experience that was from start to finish: watching my wife carry twins, witnessing their birth, bringing them home from the hospital, and watching them grow.  Every day I am amazed to see two same-age babies staring back at me when I pop in to their room.  Just recently they started smiling and moving their arms and legs to show excitement.    

Watching my 2-year-old daughter grow and develop over the last year has blown my mind and filled me with joy.  I didn't realize what an adventure it would be watching her experience the world.  A year ago she was saying individual words; now she's cracking jokes.  Just yesterday she made me laugh when we were walking home being playful and she said to me, "Tell mommy...daddy being so silly...daddy craaaazy."  

On a professional level, while our firm has grown a great deal, both in size and in the number of clients we serve, the most remarkable thing for me has been the "work family" we are building.  Our team consists of individuals who are passionate about our work and who care about getting to know each other, learning about each other's interests, celebrating happy occasions, growing together professionally and personally, and supporting each other during difficult times.       

On a related note, this past year I read a phenomenal book called Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of the online shoe and clothing company Zappos.  The book, which illustrates Tony Hsieh's unique approach to working with others, inspired me, energized me, and has influenced our firm's approach to client service, team building, and office culture.  

I am excited about building on the lessons I gleaned from Tony Hsieh, and continuing to clarify our mission, grow our firm, and further enhance our office culture in the year ahead.  

To all of our clients and the professionals who support them, to my work family and my family at home, and to others who may be reading this post, I hope the year ahead is one filled with health, happiness, joy, and hope.  

I hope you are able to take this time to reflect on where you've been and think about where you'd like to go over the next year.    

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year and a wonderful new beginning!  

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Office Outing: Beat The Bomb

Beat The Bomb seemed like it could be the perfect team-building activity.  That's what our firm was looking for so we decided to give it a shot.

On Tuesday evening last week we headed to an office building in Dumbo for our paint challenge.  Upon arriving we entered a dimly lit bunker-type atmosphere:


After checking in and getting settled, our first task was to pick a team name.  One suggestion was "Marshmallows," for the white hazmat suits we would be wearing and the delicious snack we would resemble.  Others suggested using the first initial of each team member's name to form a word: MAPAS, PSAMA, ASPAM.  Spam caught on; we also really liked marshmallows.  Thus "A Spam Marshmallow" was born and our team's identity forged.

Having named our team, we were ready for the garb.  We hopped into our faux hazmat suits and later geared up with helmets and gloves.

We communicated, strategized, and made our way through 4 rooms, each room presenting a different challenge that required collaboration.  The objective for each room was the same: do our best with the challenge presented in order to earn time for the 5th and final room -- "the bomb room."

We programmed computer screens, slithered between laser beams while crossing from one side of the room to another, and memorized and utilized color and shape patterns.

We then proceeded to the bomb room for a video game challenge and our chance to beat the bomb.

Though we didn't succeed in beating the bomb (few do), we destroyed a handful of targets, got smothered in paint, and ended the evening in smiles and laughter.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Planning Beyond Tomorrow: Special Needs Panel Presentation on Wednesday, July 24

I will be participating in a panel presentation called Planning Beyond Tomorrow on Wednesday, July 24.  The purpose of the presentation is to connect with individuals who have, or work with, children with special needs and to educate the audience about how to plan appropriately for the needs of a person with special needs.  On the panel I will be joined by Dr. Lauren Tobing-Puente, a licensed psychologist who has experience assessing children's unique profiles; Sarah Moskowitz, a trusts and estates attorney who has experience with wills, supplemental needs trusts, and guardianship; and Jacqueline Engel, a financial advisor who has experience with financial planning, tax strategies, and government benefits.  I will be presenting on the topic of defending children's educational rights and pursuing appropriate educational programs and services.

Below please find a copy of the flyer containing more information about the panelists:


Here is a link to the formal invitation, including the event location and RSVP information:

http://jacquelineengel.nm.com/EventSite.cfm?event_ID=87333

Please RSVP if you plan to attend.  It will be a great event and we hope to see you there.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Father's Day

This Sunday I will be celebrating my second Father's Day.  During the course of the day, I expect that my wife and I will reflect on my daughter's birth 21 months ago, how much she has grown since then, and the happy memories we have shared together as a family.

I continue to be amazed by my daughter's development.  The way she has learned to put words together, for example, is fascinating ("Daddy, sit, floor" or "more...melon" or, on occasion, "some...pancakes").  She is attuned to the weather ("sunny day" or "windy").  When she has had a rough day and just wants to cuddle up and unwind, she asks for "cozy" and "book."  She has learned how to tug on our heart strings, asking for "huggies," especially when we are putting her to sleep at night and she wants us to stick around longer.  She has become fast friends with her gray plush dog and runs around our home asking "Gray, where are you?"  Her problem solving abilities impress me too.  Like when something fell underneath the couch out of our reach and she suggested "broom" to help us corral the item.  When I came back from the gym sweaty one morning, she said "yucks" (admittedly, with some prompting from my wife) followed by "clean, head, shower."  Every day is an adventure and the first 21 months have been quite a ride. 

At the same time that my wife and I will be reflecting on the past, we will be looking to the future.  In particular, we will be wondering what our lives will be like in just a few short weeks when my wife is expected to give birth to twins.  I cannot imagine what life will be like then but were are very excited (and a little nervous) to find out.

To the other fathers out there, on behalf of my family and my firm, I would like to wish you a very special Father's Day.  I hope it is a day filled with joy, togetherness, and quality time with your children and loved ones.

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Office Outing at Chelsea Piers

On Tuesday evening this week we unglued ourselves from our chairs, separated from our desks, and just generally unplugged in order to enjoy an office outing playing mini golf at Chelsea Piers.

While the faces below may look friendly, the competition was on and the stakes were high.


The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the breeze was delightful as we made our way through the golf course.  We challenged each other over 18 holes and, at the conclusion, a winner was crowned and a prize was awarded.   

It was a great night and a fun time all around!

Monday, May 20, 2019

MCC Seeds Of Hope Gala 2019

Last week Amled, Phil, and I attended the Manhattan Children's Center's (MCC) Seeds Of Hope Gala at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.


It was a beautiful evening with tasty dishes in a spacious room overlooking the Hudson River. Rain and fog obstructed the view at the start of the evening but eventually cleared to reveal captivating views of the river and skyline as boats scurried by and nighttime descended.

As always, it was nice to catch up with old friends and meet new people. The absolute highlight of the evening was bumping into a client and learning that she and her son would be featured in the evening's video. As is sometimes the case, Amled, Phil, and I hadn't met this child previously, even though our firm has been representing him for the last several years. We were filled with joy to see and hear how much he has grown and developed over his years at MCC. Following his progress through a multimedia lens in this unique setting was special, and, needless to say, quite different from our normal perspective based on progress reports and legal documents.

Watching the video, I was reminded of the beauty in the work that we do. It is an amazing feeling to observe the results of the special education supports we fight for on our clients' behalf.

Thank you to our client for her courage in sharing her experiences at the gala, and for the opportunity to represent her son and to play a role in his growth and development over the years.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Manhattan Star Academy Open House on Tuesday, May 7

Manhattan Star Academy (MSA) will be offering an Open House on Tuesday, May 7 for families who would like to learn more about the school's program.

MSA is a private special education school located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that seeks to support and empower children with global developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, speech and language delays, and neuro-developmental disabilities.  MSA utilizes a comprehensive, tailored approach to meet the needs of children with a variety of skill sets.  Academic curricula and classroom structure incorporate elements from Applied Behavioral Analysis/Verbal Behavior, TEACCH, and Floortime models. 

I will be attending the Open House to field questions from parents regarding the special education legal process, including how to pursue tuition reimbursement.

If you think you might be interested in attending this event, please see below.

OPEN HOUSE

Manhattan Star Academy will be offering an Open House on Tuesday, May 7 at 9:30 a.m. at 180 Amsterdam Ave, 2nd floor, sanctuary.

You can register for the Open House here: 


Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the individuals listed below.

Thank you for your continuous support of Manhattan Star Academy.

Martina Remy
Coordinator of Admissions
msaadmissions@yai.org
646.795.3850, ext. 1810

Phyllis Platin
Assistant to Coordinator of Admissions
646.795.3850

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Autism Awareness Day

Today is Autism Awareness Day and I wanted to recognize it with a short post.

I first became aware of autism in the spring of 2005.  I was completing my psychology major while abroad at Middlesex University in London.  That experience altered the course of my life.  Had it not been for a small section in a psychology textbook at a school in the UK that sparked my interest in autism I might not be where I am today.

Over the last 15 years I have seen autism awareness increase exponentially.  Organizations like Autism Speaks have been instrumental in driving scientific research and educating the public.  Schools dedicated to instructing students with autism have mushroomed.  Legal battles have been fought and won.  Fundraisers like Night Of Too Many Stars have utilized celebrity to promote the cause.  Sesame Street has introduced Julia, a character with autism, to make children more aware of and sensitive to their peers.

I am proud to have represented numerous children with autism over the last 10 years of practice in the area of special education law.  Oftentimes children with autism require the most intensive interventions.  Our law firm is committed to fighting for the full array of services that they may require, both in school and at home, intensively and consistently, to ensure that they achieve meaningful progress in order to become independent, contributing members of society as much as possible.

I continue to be amazed by the strength of the parents we work with and the skills, expertise, and dedication of the professionals who work with our clients who have autism.

I look forward to continuing to spread awareness about autism and fight for those families who are affected by it.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

COPAA 2019 in New Orleans

This weekend I will be attending the 21st annual Council Of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) conference in New Orleans. 

The conference is a great opportunity to review recent developments in special education law and catch up with colleagues who practice in this area.

I am especially looking forward to the following break-out sessions:

  • The Markedly More Demanding Standard: Endrew F., Z.B., N.P. and the Promise of Special Education
  • Beyond the Black Letter of the Law: Innovative Strategies to Rescue Drowning Students, Develop Appropriate Programs, and Police Their Implementation

Besides the conference, I am excited to be heading to New Orleans for the opportunity to catch up with some family, enjoy delicious food, and bask in the warm weather. 

I also just want to take a moment to note how far our law firm has come since 2010 when I attended my first COPAA conference in Saint Louis and the firm was just a few months old.  Over the last nine years, our law firm has become one of the premier boutique special education law practices in New York City.  In 2018, the firm helped approximately 150 families secure appropriate placement and/or funding for their children in more than 30 schools.  Our team grew to include a second associate attorney, a paralegal, and a full-time office administrator. The firm consists of a dynamic legal and administrative team that focuses on representing individuals with a wide range of special needs and we have earned a reputation for exceptional results and outstanding client service.  

I am grateful for the families we have been able to help and the wonderful people I get to work with every day.  And I am looking forward to continued growth and client service in the future.