- 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
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, July 10, 2020
SCOTUS Decides Espinoza et al. v. Montana Department of Revenue et al. And Protects Freedom Of Religion
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: