Firm News & Updates

Special Education Strategies For the New School Year

By Atty. Jeffrey L. Forte

We are past the halfway point of summer vacation and parents everywhere are crowding local stores for the annual “Back to School” shopping spree, with cute backpacks and new sneakers high on their agenda. For parents of children with special needs, however, the priorities at the beginning of a new school year may look a bit different.

For some parents, the beginning of the academic year is already kicking off with Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings — meetings that you have been planning for months and waiting to schedule all summer. As a parent of a child with special needs, you must prepare thoroughly. Here are a few pointers to help parents obtain the most helpful and advantageous special education strategies for their children.
Be sure to request your child’s school records. In particular, be certain to request any evaluations, progress reports, and proposed goals and objectives well in advance of the IEP meeting. These documents can be cumbersome and you will need sufficient time to review all the details and have time to dissect the information provided. Request that the documents be provided to you at least three to five days prior to the IEP meeting.

Consult with your outside community service providers regarding the information supplied. It is important to get their input on the results of the evaluations and any proposed goals and objectives. It is completely appropriate for you to get a second opinion from experts who know your child best.
Organize your child’s education records. It is best to create a binder to quickly access information that may be relevant to the decision-making process at an IEP meeting. It is a new school year, so this means a new binder with current information about your child’s education. This binder will come in handy when preparing for an IEP meeting or when discussing your case with outside experts, or perhaps with a special education attorney.

Communication with your child’s IEP team should never be limited to just the annual review. Be proactive and establish effective methods of communicating with your child’s IEP team on a regular basis right from the beginning of each school year, and, of course, at your child’s annual review.

As a parent, you are a member of the school team and as such should be actively and thoroughly informed about your child’s education on an ongoing basis. It is important to promote effective communication with your child’s IEP team:

Establish a daily or weekly home and school communication log (via electronic student portal or on paper.) The communication log is a method for school team members to broadly share information about the learning, social, and physical activities your child participated in across the school day (including services delivered by special service providers). As a parent, you should participate in the development of the communication log so that it captures the information that is important to you.

Set up regular parent meetings (monthly or quarterly depending upon child’s level of need) with your IEP team. Parent meetings can serve multiple functions but generally speaking can be a time for team members to share information about your child’s progress, discuss ways to promote the generalization of acquired skills in the home/community setting, share and review data, troubleshoot, and discuss changes in the home setting, to name a few.

Effectively communicating with your IEP team also means that you should be prepared to participate in the discussion about your child’s progress and/or evaluations. This means you will need to formally request (in writing) that you receive any progress reports, evaluations, data, or related documents that will be reviewed at your child’s IEP meeting ahead of time. This is a critical request and one that should be done before each and every IEP meeting.

Be sure to always formally request any methods of communication at an IEP meeting to be included on the IEP. Remember, if it is not included on the IEP then it is likely not to happen. Parents often make the mistake of not formally making these requests and leave the IEP meeting without a clear solution to the communication issue. It is important to clearly share the concern with the IEP team with regards to communication but also propose a solution by making a formal request to include the solution (e.g., communication log, parent meeting, data review meeting, etc.) on the IEP.

If you have a concern, question, or simply something to share with your school team about your child, do not hesitate to contact them. It is critical to your child’s education and overall wellbeing that you establish an open line of communication.

In my experience, some families have expressed frustration with establishing effective methods of communication with their IEP team or have encountered other stumbling blocks preventing the smooth application of special education services. If this is your case, then do not hesitate to contact an outside advocate to discuss how you can move forward with promoting effective communication methods with your child’s IEP team and making sure your child receives the education to which he or she is entitled by law.
Attorney Jeffrey L. Forte is certified in special education advocacy. For more information visit http://www.fortelawgroup.com/, (203) 257-7999. Forte Law Group is one of only a very few law firms within Connecticut that is dedicated to exclusively representing families and children with special needs.

What is School Refusal & What Are Your Child’s Educational Rights?

School Refusal Defined

School refusal is often described as a disorder of a child who refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems staying in school.1 Some of the criteria commonly found in school refusal matters involves a student with severe emotional distresses about attending school.2 This can include depression, somatic symptoms, anxiety and temper tantrums. Often is the case that parents are aware of the student’s absence because the child, despite the willingness to do schoolwork, persuades the parents to stay home during school hours because home is considered the safe environment.

The impact on a child that exhibits school refusal characteristics can be disastrous for both the student and parents. Depression, anxiety, bullying, substance abuse and dropping out of school can be real concerns. A working parent may also have to take family leave or unpaid sick leave to stay home with their child that is showing school refusal tendencies. That is why it is imperative if your child is exhibiting signs of school refusal to immediately be proactive in collaborating with your school district administrators and/or a certified child advocate or special education attorney so that a therapeutic school reintegration program is part of your child’s IEP.

 

Your Anxious Child’s Educational Rights

School refusal cases are complex. It often involves a labyrinth of understanding local school policies and rules, state and federal statutes and education regulations. School refusal cases may also lead to truancy issues. In Connecticut, “truant” means a child age 5 to 18, who is enrolled in a public or private school and has four unexcused absences from school in one month or ten unexcused absences in any school year.3 The enforcement and investigation of Connecticut’s truancy laws are handled by local and regional boards of education, local police and courts.4

Excessive absenteeism can also trigger various legal protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The IDEA defines “Child Find” as the state having policies and procedures to ensure that all children with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services are located, identified, and evaluated.5 Section 504 also provides that a school district must conduct an evaluation of a student who, because of handicap, need or are believed to need special education and related services.6  Excessive absenteeism may also lead to complications with IDEA eligibility determination, placement decisions and delivery of services, such as the location, frequency and willingness of the student.

 

Emotional Disturbance

Once a child is found with challenges that may include failing grades, excessive absenteeism and/or behavioral concerns the child may be determined eligible under the IDEA pursuant to the disability category of Emotional Disturbance (ED). Emotional Disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance7:

  1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors.
  2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers or teachers.
  3. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  4. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associate with personal or school problems.

Common errors can include the failure to identify a student with the qualifying disability of ED under the IDEA, a misdiagnosis, failure to refer for initial evaluation or the complete lack of conducting a comprehensive evaluation. The blame may also be placed on the parents by claiming that there is an issue in the home setting itself.

 

Addressing School Refusal in the IEP

There are a number of ways and strategies to address school refusal in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Homebound tutoring is an essential program that needs to become part of the student’s IEP while school reintegration strategies are put into place. Short term goals and objectives should be specific and measurable with regards to homebound tutoring. Student and parent counseling should also be considered as a related service. In addition, positive behavior supports and interventions that address school refusal behavior should also be considered.8 Reevaluations that address the why and what regarding the student’s absenteeism may also be necessary, including psychological, psychiatric, risk assessment and social skill evaluations. Lastly, private placement at a therapeutic based school that emphasizes academic programming may also be warranted along with specialized transportation.

 

To conclude, school refusal matters are challenging. School districts that do not provide an ambitiously appropriate program for a student’s disability related to absenteeism may qualify for rights under the IDEA.

For more information about school refusal, call 203-257-7999 or email jforte@fortelawgroup.com to schedule an appointment with special education lawyer and certified child advocate, attorney Jeffrey Forte of Forte Law Group LLC.


1https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/school-refusal

2Wanda P. Fremont, M.D., State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York, Am Fam Physician. 2003 Oct 15;68(8): 1555-1561. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1555.html

3Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 10-198a

4https://www.cga.ct.gov/2000/rpt/2000-R-0957.htm

534 CFR 300.11; 20 USC 1401(3); 1412(a)(3)

634 CFR 104.34

734 CFR 300.8(c)(4)(i)

834 CFR 300.324(a)(2)(i)

Private Special Education Programs and Therapeutic Schools in Connecticut for Children with Special Needs

Forte Law Group, a special education and child advocacy law firm, has compiled an extensive list of private special education programs and therapeutic schools that are available to children with special needs in Connecticut. The list of schools is provided in alphabetical order, as well as by county, with a hyperlink to the website of each school.

Alphabetically by school

Adelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services – Cromwell and Manchester, CT
www.adelbrook.org

American School for the Deaf – West Hartford, CT
www.asd-1817.org

Arch Bridge School at Wellspring – Bethlehem, CT
www.wellspring.org

Ben Bronz Academy – West Hartford, CT
www.benbronzacademy.org

Benhaven – North Haven, CT
www.behaven.org

Boys & Girls Village – Milford, CT
www.bgvillage.org

Carmel Academy – Greenwich, CT
www.carmelacademy.com

CCMC School – New Britain, CT
www.ccmcschool.org

Cedarhurst School – Hamden, CT
www.cedarhurst.yale.edu

Chapel Haven – New Haven, CT
www.chapelhaven.org

Community Child Guidance Clinic – Manchester, CT
www.ccgcinc.org

Connecticut College Children’s Program – New London, CT
www.conncoll.edu

Connecticut Junior Republic – Litchfield, CT
www.ctjuniorrepublic.org

Eagle Hill School – Greenwich, CT
www.eaglehillschoo.org

Eagle House Education Program – Hartford, CT
www.thevillage.org

Elizabeth Ives School for Special Education – North Haven, CT
www.capsef.org/Members/memberview.asp?programid=27

Foundation School – Milford and Orange, CT
www.foundationschool.org

Franklin Academy – East Haddam, CT
www.fa-ct.org

Futures School – West Hartford, CT
www.futures-ct.org

Gengras Center School – West Hartford, CT
www.gengrascenter.org

Giant Steps School Connecticut School – Southport, CT
www.giantstepsct.org

The Glenholme School – Washington, CT
www.theglenhomeschool.org

Grove School – Madison, CT
www.groveschool.org

High Road Academy of Wallingford – Wallingford, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Hartford High – Hartford, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Hartford Primary – Hartford, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of New London – New London, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Norwalk – Norwalk, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Wallingford – Wallingford, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

High Road Academy of Waterbury – Waterbury, CT
www.catapultlearning.com

Hope Academy – Orange, CT
www.hopeacademyct.com

IPP (The Institute of Professional Practice) – Stratford, CT
www.ippi.org

Intensive Education Academy – West Hartford, CT
www.ie-academy.org

The Learning Clinic – Brooklyn, CT –
www.thelearningclinic.org

The Light House – Groton, CT
www.lhcampus.com

LINKS Academy – New Canaan, Stamford and Riverside, CT –
www.linksacademy.org

Lorraine D. Foster Day School – Hamden, CT
www.ldfds.com

Manchester Memorial Hospital Clinical Day School – Manchester, CT
www.echn.org/clinical-day-school

Meliora Academy – Meriden, CT
www.melioraacademy.net

Milestones Behavioral Services (formerly Connecticut Center for Child Development) – Milford and Orange, CT
www.mbs-inc.org

Natchaug Hospital Inpatient School – Mansfield, CT
www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools/departments-services/the-inpatient-school-program

Natchaug Hospital Journey School – Mansfield, CT
www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools/departments-services/the-journey-house-school

Natchaug Hospital School – Mansfield, Danielson, Enfield, Norwich, Old Saybrook, and Willimantic, CT
www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools

Northwest Village School / Northwest Village School – Plainville, CT www.wheelerclinic.org/your-student/northwest-village-school

Oak Hill School – Hartford, CT
www.oakhillct.org

Options Educational Services – Hartford, CT
www.capsef.org/Members/memberview.asp?programid=90

Oxford Academy – Westbrook, CT
www.oxfordacademy.net

PACES (Positive Attitude Concerning Education and Socialization) – West Hartford, CT
www.asd-1817.org/asd/paces

Pinnacle School – Stamford, CT
www.pinnacle-ct.org

Raymond Hill School – New Britain, CT
www.klingberg.org/programs-services/raymond-hill-school

Rushford Academy – Durham, CT
www.rushford.org/programs-services/rushford-academy

Saint Catherine Academy – Fairfield, CT
www.stcatherineacademy.org

SARAH, Inc. (KidSteps Family and Children’s Center) – Guilford, CT
www.sarah-inc.org

Solterra Academy – New Britain, CT
www.solterraacademy.com

The Southport School – Southport, CT
www.southportschool.org

The Speech Academy – Easton, CT
www.thespeechacademy.org

Spire School – Stamford, CT
www.spireschool.org

St. Vincent’s Special Needs School Program – Trumbull, CT
www.stvincentsspecialneeds.org

The Susan Wayne Center of Excellence – Thompson, CT
www.jri.org/services/ct/educational-and-residential/susan-wayne-day-school

The Transition Academy of Mount Saint John – Deep River, CT
www.mtstjohn.org

Touchstone School – Litchfield, CT
www.nafict.org/services/educational-services/touchstone-school

Villa Maria Education Center – Stamford, CT
www.villamariaedu.org

Waterford Country School – Waterford, CT
www.waterfordcountryschool.org

The Webb School – Hartford, CT
www.instituteofliving.org/programs-services/the-webb-school-programs

Westport Day School – Wilton, CT
www.westportdayschool.org

Whitney Hall School – Hamden, CT
www.childrenscenterhamden.org/programs/whitney-hall-school-residential

Winston Preparatory School – Norwalk, CT
www.winstonprep.edu

Woodhouse Academy – Milford, CT
www.woodhouseacademy.com

Wooster School, Prospect Program – Danbury, CT
www.woosterschool.org/page.cfm?p=559

Yale Child Study Center School – New Haven, CT
www.medicine.yale.edu/childstudy

 

Alphabetically by County

 

Fairfield County

Carmel Academy – Greenwich, CT www.carmelacademy.com

Eagle Hill School – Greenwich, CT www.eaglehillschoo.org

Giant Steps School Connecticut School – Southport, CT www.giantstepsct.org

High Road School of Norwalk – Norwalk, CT www.catapultlearning.com

LINKS Academy – New Canaan, Stamford and Riverside, CT – www.linksacademy.org

Pinnacle School – Stamford, CT www.pinnacle-ct.org

Saint Catherine Academy – Fairfield, CT www.stcatherineacademy.org

The Southport School – Southport, CT www.southportschool.org

The Speech Academy – Easton, CT www.thespeechacademy.org

Spire School – Stamford, CT www.spireschool.org

St. Vincent’s Special Needs School Program – Trumbull, CT www.stvincentsspecialneeds.org

Villa Maria Education Center – Stamford, CT www.villamariaedu.org

Westport Day School – Wilton, CT www.westportdayschool.org

Winston Preparatory School – Norwalk, CT www.winstonprep.edu

 

Hartford County

Adelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services – Cromwell and Manchester, CT www.adelbrook.org

American School for the Deaf – West Hartford, CT www.asd-1817.org

Ben Bronz Academy – West Hartford, CT www.benbronzacademy.org

CCMC School – New Britain, CT www.ccmcschool.org

Community Child Guidance Clinic – Manchester, CT www.ccgcinc.org

Eagle House Education Program – Hartford, CT www.thevillage.org

Futures School – West Hartford, CT www.futures-ct.org

Gengras Center School – West Hartford, CT www.gengrascenter.org

High Road School of Hartford High – Hartford, CT www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Hartford Primary – Hartford, CT www.catapultlearning.com

Intensive Education Academy – West Hartford, CT www.ie-academy.org

Manchester Memorial Hospital Clinical Day School – Manchester, CT www.echn.org/clinical-day-school

Natchaug Hospital School – Mansfield, Danielson, Enfield, Norwich, Old Saybrook, and Willimantic, CT www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools

Northwest Village School / Northwest Village School – Plainville, CT www.wheelerclinic.org/your-student/northwest-village-school

Oak Hill School – Hartford, CT www.oakhillct.org

Options Educational Services – Hartford, CT www.capsef.org/Members/memberview.asp?programid=90

PACES (Positive Attitude Concerning Education and Socialization) – West Hartford, CT www.asd-1817.org/asd/paces

Raymond Hill School – New Britain, CT www.klingberg.org/programs-services/raymond-hill-school

Solterra Academy – New Britain, CT
www.solterraacademy.com

The Webb School – Hartford, CT www.instituteofliving.org/programs-services/the-webb-school-programs

 

Litchfield County

Arch Bridge School at Wellspring – Bethlehem, CT www.wellspring.org

Connecticut Junior Republic – Litchfield, CT www.ctjuniorrepublic.org

The Glenholme School – Washington, CT www.theglenhomeschool.org

Touchstone School – Litchfield, CT www.nafict.org/services/educational-services/touchstone-school

Wooster School, Prospect Program – Danbury, CT www.woosterschool.org/page.cfm?p=559

 

Middlesex County

Refer to schools within the counties of Hartford, New Haven, and New London.

 

New Haven County

Benhaven – North Haven, CT www.behaven.org

Boys & Girls Village – Milford, CT www.bgvillage.org

Cedarhurst School – Hamden, CT www.cedarhurst.yale.edu

Chapel Haven – New Haven, CT www.chapelhaven.org

Elizabeth Ives School for Special Education – North Haven, CT www.capsef.org/Members/memberview.asp?programid=27

Foundation School – Milford and Orange, CT www.foundationschool.org

High Road Academy of Wallingford – Wallingford, CT www.catapultlearning.com

High Road School of Wallingford – Wallingford, CT www.catapultlearning.com

High Road Academy of Waterbury – Waterbury, CT www.catapultlearning.com

Hope Academy – Orange, CT www.hopeacademyct.com

IPP (The Institute of Professional Practice) – Stratford, CT www.ippi.org

Lorraine D. Foster Day School – Hamden, CT www.ldfds.com

Meliora Academy – Meriden, CT www.melioraacademy.net

Milestones Behavioral Services (formerly Connecticut Center for Child Development) – Milford and Orange, CT www.mbs-inc.org

Rushford Academy – Durham, CT www.rushford.org/programs-services/rushford-academy

Whitney Hall School – Hamden, CT www.childrenscenterhamden.org/programs/whitney-hall-school-residential

Woodhouse Academy – Milford, CT www.woodhouseacademy.com

Yale Child Study Center School – New Haven, CT www.medicine.yale.edu/childstudy

 

New London County

Connecticut College Children’s Program – New London, CT www.conncoll.edu

Franklin Academy – East Haddam, CT www.fa-ct.org

Grove School – Madison, CT www.groveschool.org

High Road School of New London – New London, CT www.catapultlearning.com

The Light House – Groton, CT www.lhcampus.com

Natchaug Hospital School –Norwich and Old Saybrook, CT www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools

Oxford Academy – Westbrook, CT www.oxfordacademy.net

SARAH, Inc. (KidSteps Family and Children’s Center) – Guilford, CT www.sarah-inc.org

The Transition Academy of Mount Saint John – Deep River, CT www.mtstjohn.org

Waterford Country School – Waterford, CT www.waterfordcountryschool.org

 

Tolland County

Refer to the counties of Windham, New London, Middlesex and Hartford.

 

Windham County

The Learning Clinic – Brooklyn, CT – www.thelearningclinic.org

Natchaug Hospital Inpatient School – Mansfield, CT www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools/departments-services/the-inpatient-school-program

Natchaug Hospital Journey School – Mansfield, CT www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools/departments-services/the-journey-house-school

Natchaug Hospital School – Mansfield, Danielson, and Willimantic, CT www.natchaug.org/programs-services/schools

The Susan Wayne Center of Excellence – Thompson, CT www.jri.org/services/ct/educational-and-residential/susan-wayne-day-school

 

Disclaimer: This list is intended for informational and educational purposes only. The reader should contact the school(s) for further information.

5 Quick Tips for Promoting Effective Communication with Your Child’s IEP team

Communication with your child’s IEP team should NEVER be limited to just the annual review.  Be proactive and establish effective methods of communicating with your child’s IEP team on a regular basis from the beginning of each school year or at your child’s annual review.  As a parent, you are a member of the school team and as such should be active and thoroughly informed about your child’s education on an ongoing basis.  Here are a few tips on how to promote effective communication with your child’s IEP team:

1. Communication Logs are a Must.

Establish a daily or weekly home and school communication log (via electronic student portal or paper).  The communication log is a method for school team members to broadly share information about the learning activities your child participated in across the school day (including activities delivered by service providers).  As a parent, you should participate in the development of the communication log so that it captures the information that is important to you.

2. Parent Meetings are Essential.

Set up regular parent meetings (monthly or quarterly depending child’s level of need) with your IEP team.  Parent meetings can serve multiple functions but generally speaking can be a time for team members to share information about your child’s progress, discuss ways to promote the generalization of acquired skills in the home/community setting, share and review data, troubleshoot, and discuss changes in the home setting, to name a few.

3. Be Prepared.

Effectively communicating with your IEP team also means that you should be prepared to participate in the discussion about your child’s progress and/or evaluations.  This means you will need to formally request (in writing) that you receive any progress reports, evaluations, data, or related documents that will be reviewed at your child’s IEP meeting ahead of time.  This is a critical request and one that should be done before each and every IEP meeting.  For more information on how to prepare for an IEP meeting go to http://www.fortelawgroup.com/ten-quick-tips-advice-prepare-iep-meeting/.

4. Formally Request Methods of Communication on IEP.

Be sure to always formally request any methods of communication at an IEP meeting to be included on the IEP. Remember if it is not included on the IEP then it is likely not to happen.  Parents often make the mistake of not formally making these requests and leave the IEP meeting without a clear solution to the communication issue.  It is important to clearly share the concern with the IEP team with regards to communication but also propose a solution by making a formal request to include the solution (e.g., communication log, parent meeting, data review meeting, etc.) on the IEP.

5. Never Hesitate.

If you have a concern, question, or simply something to share with your school team about your child do not hesitate to contact them.  It is critical to your child’s education that you establish an open line of communication.  In my experience, some families have expressed frustration with establishing effective methods of communication with their IEP team.  If this is your case, then do not hesitate to contact an advocate or education law attorney to discuss how you can move forward with promoting effective communication methods with your child’s IEP team.

 

Forte Law Group is one of only a very few law firms within the state of Connecticut that is dedicated to exclusively representing families and children with special needs. Whether you need an attorney to attend your child’s PPT meeting, represent you during mediation, or need an attorney to bring a due process action against the school district, Forte Law Group stands apart because we provide our clients with an unprecedented amount of legal and educational guidance, resources and support throughout the entire scope of your legal representation.

Attorney Jeffrey L. Forte is both an advocate and lawyer who is certified in special education advocacy. For more information visit ForteLawGroup.com, follow us on Facebook at or call us at (203) 257-7999.

 

What’s the Law on Recording a PPT / IEP Meeting in Connecticut?

Parents often ask me whether they are allowed to record their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting. Here in Connecticut, an IEP meeting is referred to as the Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) in which to discuss the child’s IEP. To fully answer this question, we will first examine what the law in the state of Connecticut says about whether or not you can record a PPT / IEP meeting. After that, we will briefly discuss strategy and recommendations on recording an IEP meeting.

Connecticut Law

In Connecticut, there are two court decisions that rule parents have the right to record a PPT / IEP meeting. The court decisions are E.H. v. Tirozzi, 735 F. Supp. 53 (D. Conn. 1990) and V.W. v. Favolise, 131 F.R.D. 654 (D. Conn. 1990). Both decisions are referenced in a June 4, 2003 letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which states their position on audio recording an IEP meeting.

In the first case, the court held that a parent, whose native language is other than English and has difficulty understanding English, has the right to tape record her child’s IEP meeting. In the second case, the court held that based on the parent’s own disability, the parent has the right to record the IEP meeting. In addition, in the second case, one of the two parents had a scheduling conflict and was not available to make the PPT / IEP meeting and requested a verbatim record to better understand what transpired.

It is important to highlight the court recognized the mother’s right to record her child’s PPT/IEP meeting in its entirety, including “over the objection of any member” of the planning and placement school team. E.H v. Tirozzi, 735 F. Supp at 57 (emphasis added). The court provided that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Act is designed to help implement the individualized education plan (IEP) for the educational benefit of the child with a disability and the child’s parents. Under the IDEA, the parents are both an essential and equal member of the planning and placement team to help develop their child’s IEP. Thus, if the parents have difficulty understanding what is taking place at their child’s IEP meeting, they are effectively being deprived of one of the procedural safeguards under the IDEA, which is to participate and effectively evaluate their child’s IEP with the planning and placement team. A recording of the meeting allows the parents to go home and review what was said at the meeting again and again so that they may more fully assist in the development of their child’s IEP. Id. The court further held that the refusal from members of the school team to be recorded does not outweigh the legitimate and substantial interests under the IDEA of ensuring the parents right to meaningful participation in the PPT meeting. Id. at 58.

Strategy and Recommendations

As a practical matter as well as professional courtesy, if you do plan on recording your child’s PPT / IEP meeting, I strongly recommend you inform the school team, in writing, of your intention to do so in advance of the meeting. First, in the spirit of being collaborative and supportive with your child’s school team, you do not want to be perceived as being sneaky or secretive about recording the meeting. This is especially true if the matter goes to due process before an impartial hearing officer. Second, by providing the school team with advance notice, time will neither be delayed nor wasted on the day of the PPT / IEP meeting with the school team trying to find or locate an official school recording device to preserve their record. Lastly, even if your local education agency or school district has a policy in place (most do not) that limits or prohibits a parent’s right to record the PPT / IEP proceedings, there must be exceptions to that policy to ensure that the parent is able to understand the proceedings, which include a parent’s right to understand and participate at the PPT / IEP meeting, parent availability to attend, and other intellectual or physical factors that may interfere with a parent’s right to fully and equally understand and participate in the development of their child’s IEP.

For more information about recording a PPT / IEP meeting, call 203-257-7999 or email jforte@fortelawgroup.com to schedule an appointment with special education lawyer and certified child advocate, attorney Jeffrey Forte of Forte Law Group LLC.

Comprehensive Dictionary of Special Education Acronyms

© Forte Law Group, November 2017
By Jeffrey L. Forte, Connecticut Special Education Lawyer and Certified Child AdvocateA

AAC        Augmentative/Alternative Communication
ABA        Applied Behavior Analysis
ABC        Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence
ABS         Adaptive Behavior Scale
ADA        Americans with Disabilities Act
ADD       Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADLs       Activities of Daily Living
ADR        Alternative Dispute Resolution
AE           Age Equivalent
AEM       Accessible Educational Materials
AIM        Accessible Instructional Materials
ALD        Assistive Listening Device
AP           Advanced Placement
APE         Adapted Physical Education
APR        Annual Performance Report
APS         Approve Private School
AS           Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum
ASD        Autism Spectrum Disorder
ASL         American Sign Language
AT           Assistive Technology
AYP         Adequate Yearly Progress

 

B
BASC      Behavior Rating Scale for Children (test)
BCaBA Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
BCBA      Board Certified Behavior Analyst
BCBA-D Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral
BD          Behavior Disorder
BEC         Basic Education Calendar
BESB      Connecticut Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind
BIP          Behavioral Intervention Plan
BOE        Board of Education
BYOD     Bring Your Own Device
 

C
CA           Chronological Age
CAP         Corrective Action Plan
CAPD      Central Auditory Processing Disorder
CAPT      Connecticut Academic Performance Test
CBA        Curriculum-Based Assessment
CBA        Child Development Association
CC           Closed Captioning
CCSS       Common Core State Standards
CDC        Center for Disease Control and Prevention
CDT        Classroom Diagnostic Tools
CF            Cystic Fibrosis
CFR         Code of Federal Regulations
CGA        Connecticut General Assembly
CGS         Connecticut General Statutes
CMT       Connecticut Mastery Test
COP        Community of Practice
COPAA   Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
CP           Cerebral Palsy
CPAC      Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center
CSDE      Connecticut State Department of Education
CST         Child Study Team
CTAA      Connecticut Alternative Assessment
CTAPP    Connecticut Tech Act Project
CTEDTECH  Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology

 

D
DB          Deaf/Blind
DCF         Department of Children and Families
DD          Developmental Disability
DDS        Department of Developmental Services
DIS          Designated Instruction and Services
DMHAS Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services
DOE        Department of Education
DORS     Connecticut Department of Rehabilitation Services
DS           Down Syndrome
DSM-V   Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
DSS         Department of Social Services

 

E
EBR        Educational Benefit Review
ECE         Early Childhood Education
ECSE       Early Childhood Special Education
ED           Emotional Disability
ED           U.S. Department of Education
EDGAR Education Department General Administrative Regulations
EHA        Education of the Handicapped Act (now IDEA)
EHDI      Early Hearing Detection and Intervention
EI            Early Intervention
EIS          Early Intervention Services
ELL          English Language Learner (previously ESL)
ER           Evaluation Report
ESD         Extended School Day
ESQ         Esquire/Attorney/Lawyer
ESSA       Every Student Succeeds Act
ESY         Extended School Year
ETV         Educational and Training Voucher
EVT         Expressive Vocabulary Test

 

F
FAPE       Free Appropriate Public Education
FAS         Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FC            Facilitated Communication
FERPA    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
FBA         Functional Behavioral Assessment
FLG         Forte Law Group, a Special Education & Child Advocacy Law Firm (that’s us!)
FOIA       Freedom of Information Act

 

G
GAD       Guardian Ad Litem
GE           General Education or Grade Equivalent
GED        General Equivalency Diploma
GLE         Grade Level Expectations
GORT-4  Gray Oral Reading Test, 4th Edition
GT           Gifted and Talented

 

H
HI            Hearing Impaired
HO          Hearing Officer
HOH       Hard of Hearing
HQT        Highly Qualified Teacher

 

I
IA            Instructional Assistant
ID            Intellectual Disability (to replace MR)
IDEA       Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IDEIA     Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004)
IEE          Independent Educational Evaluation
IEP          Individualized Education Program
IFC          Intensive Foster Care
IFSP        Individualized Family Service Plan
IHE         Institute of Higher Education
IQ            Intelligence Quotient
ITP          Individual Transition Plan

 

J
JD            Judicial District or Juris Doctorate
JF             Jeffrey Forte, Special Education Lawyer & Certified Child Advocate (that’s me!)

 

K
K              Kindergarten
 

L
LD           Learning Disability
LEA         Local Education Agency
LEP         Limited English Proficient
LGBT      Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
LRE         Least Restrictive Environment

 

M
MA         Medical Assistance or Mental Age
MD         Multiple Disabilities or Muscular Dystrophy
MDR      Manifestation Determination Review
MDT       Multi-Disciplinary Team
MID        Mild Intellectual Disability
MH         Multiple Handicapped
MOU      Memorandum of Understanding
MR         Mental Retardation (replaced by ID)
MS          Multiple Sclerosis
 

N
NCLB      No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act)
NGSS      Next Generation Science Standards Test
NIMAS   National Institute of Mental Health
NPA        Nonpublic Agency
NPS         Nonpublic School (private)

 

O
O&M      Orientation and Mobility
OAH       Office of Administrative Hearings
OEC        Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
OCA        Office of the Child Advocate
OCD        Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
OCR        Office of Civil Rights
OCS         On-Campus Suspension
ODD       Oppositional Defiant Disorder
OHI         Other Health Impaired
OI            Orthopedically Impaired
OT           Occupational Therapy

 

P
P&A        Protection & Advocacy
PALS       Peer-Assisted Learning System
Para       Paraprofessional
PASS       Plan for Achieving Self-Support
PBS         Positive Behavioral Supports
PBIS        Positive Behavior Interventions and Support
PBSP       Positive Behavior Support Plan
PCA         Personal Care Assistant
PD           Physical Disability
PDD        Pervasive Developmental Disorder
PEAC      Performance Evaluation Advisory Council
PEI          Spanish acronym for IEP (Plan Educativo Individualizado)
PL            Public Law
PLP         Present Level of Performance
PLEP       Present Level of Education Performance
POA        Power of Attorney
PP           Paraprofessional
PPT         Planning Placement Team
PQA        Program Quality Assistance
Pre-K      Pre-Kindergarten
PS            Preschool or Private School
PSN         Procedural Safeguards Notice
PT           Physical Therapy
PTA         Parent-Teacher Association
PTI          Parent Training and Information Center
PTSD      Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PWN       Prior Written Notice

 

Q

 

R
RAD        Reactive Attachment Disorder
RBT        Registered Behavior Technician
RFP         Request for Proposals
RR           Re-evaluation Report
RS           Related Services
RSP         Resource Specialist Program
RTI          Response to Intervention

 

S
SA           Self-Assessment
SaS          Supplementary Aides and Services
SAT         Scholastic Assessment/Aptitude Test
SB           Spina Bifida
SBAC      Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
SBBH      School Based Behavioral Health
SCTG      School Climate Transformation Grant
SE            Special Education
SEA         State Education Agency
Sec 504  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
SERC       State Education Resource Center of Connecticut
SCC         Self-contained Classroom
SDC         Special Day Class
SDE         State Department of Education
SDI          Specifically Designed Instruction
SED         Serious Emotional Disability
SEPTA    Special Education Parent Teacher Association
SERC       State Education Resource Center
SESP       Special Education Surrogate Parent
SH           Severely Handicapped
SI             Sensory Integration
SIB          Self-Injurious Behavior
SLD         Specific Learning Disability
SLI           Speech/Language Impaired
SLP          Speech Language Pathologist
SPED      Special Education
SPDG      State Personnel Development Grant
SPOA      Specific Power of Attorney
SRBI       Scientific Research-Based Interventions
SSDI        Social Security Disability Income
SS            Scaled Score
SSI           Supplemental Security Income
SSIP        State Systemic Improvement Plan
SST          Student Study Team
STEM     Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
STOs       Short-Term Objectives
SY            School Year

 

T
TAG        Talented and Gifted
TDD        Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf
TBI          Traumatic Brain Injury
TP           Transition Planning
TS            Tourette Syndrome
TScore
TSS          Therapeutic Staff Support
T-TA       Training and Technical Assistance
TTY         Teletypewriter (phone system for the Deaf)

 

U
UDL        Universal Design for Learning
U.S.C.     United States Code

 

V
VI            Visually Impaired/Visual Impairment
Voc Ed Vocational Education
VR           Visiting Resource or Vocational Education

 

W
WAIS      Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale
WIAT      Weschler Individual Achievement Test
WISC-IV  Weschler Intelligence Scale for Childre, 4th Edition
WPN       Written Prior Notice

 

X
X-Axis     In Mathematics, the horizontal axis

 

Y
Y-Axis     in Mathematics, the vertical axis

 

Z
Z-Score

© Forte Law Group, November 2017
For more information, contact Forte Law Group at (203) 257-7999.

What Does Licensure for Behavior Analysts Mean for Your Child with an IEP?

It has been long overdue! Governor Malloy has signed a budget bill that includes licensure for behavior analysts in the state of Connecticut. What does this mean? How does this impact your child’s services or IEP?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a graduate level independent practitioner who has met the requirements established by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to become certified in providing assessment and treatment based on the principles of applied behavior analysis. Behavior Analysts are able to supervise the work of individuals implementing behavior analytic services such as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), special education teachers, paraprofessionals or any other individual implementing behavioral analytic strategies.

Licensure for Behavior Analysts will be put into effect July 2018. What this means is that the prior to licensure the field and practice was not regulated in the state of Connecticut. Since the establishment of the BCBA credential in 1998, twenty-nine states have enacted licensure for behavior analysts in order to increase consumer protection for the vulnerable population of individuals that Behavior Analysts serve by putting forth regulations at the state level. More specifically, licensure offers protection to students receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services across all settings including home, school, and community. ABA is an established evidence-based practice that many individuals benefit from particularly those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Many of these individuals receive ABA services through their IEPs and now the state can assure that the individuals providing these services are not only credentialed but also licensed by the state of Connecticut.

For more information related to how licensure for behavior analysts will impact your child’s IEP please do not hesitate to contact the Forte Law Group, LLC at (203) 257-7999.

Attorney Jeffrey Forte to Participate at ASRC Annual Fair

Attorney Jeffrey Forte of Forte Law Group LLC will be a legal exhibitor the 2017 Annual ASRC Autism Resource Fair. Autism Services & Resources Connecticut (ASRC) will be hosting the annual fair on November 4, 2017 from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Oakdale Theater Complex located at 95 South Turnpike Road in Wallingford, Connecticut.

This event historically draws hundreds of attendees seeking more information about autism resources in Connecticut. The event is free to attendees based on the support of participating service providers, like Forte Law Group LLC, supporting this event. Be sure to stop by our table to meet Attorney Jeffrey Forte and to learn more about Forte Law Group. For more information about the fair, visit http://www.ct-asrc.org/

Attorney Jeffrey Forte has been invited to co-present ACES BAES

Attorney Jeffrey Forte has been invited to co-present at the fourth annual ACES Behavior Analysis in Education Series (BAES). ACES Behavior Analysis in Education Series provides continuing education opportunities to behavior analysts, teachers, therapists, parents and administrators and will address important areas in the application of behavior analysis in education. Mr. Forte will be co-presenting with Professor Michael F. Dorsey, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, of Endicott College.

The title of the presentation is The Behavior Analyst and Independent Educational Evaluations. To register, click here.

History of Special Education: Important Landmark Cases

FORTE LAW GROUP PRACTICE PAPER:

HISTORY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION: IMPORTANT LANDMARK CASES

Abstract

Historically, children with disabilities received unequal treatment in the public education system throughout the United States. During and shortly thereafter the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, many parents and advocacy groups for children with disabilities began their own movement by using the U.S. federal court system to compel states to provide equal educational opportunities and rights for children with disabilities. The early cases discussed in this practice paper reflect how the legal rights of students with disabilities emerged, eventually leading to FAPE (free appropriate public education) and the enactment of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 20 U.S.C. Section 1400.

“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.”

– Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the unanimous United States Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954)

Purpose

The purpose of this practice paper is to provide a brief examination and overview of the history of early disability litigation by focusing on the foundational cases that paved the way for the right to education of children with disabilities. The cases that will be discussed include:

  • Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
  • P.A.R.C v. Pennsylvania, 343 F. Supp. 279 (E.D. Pa. 1972)
  • Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia, 358 F. Supp. 866 (D.D.C. 1972)
  • Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982)
  • Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988) and
  • Timothy W. v. Rochester, New Hampshire, School District, 875 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989)

Constitutional Right to Education: A Misnomer

To most Americans, there is a common misconception that providing a child with the right to a public education is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. This is incorrect. Education is the responsibility of the states.

“The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. implies that education is the responsibility of the state government. That education is a state – not federal matter – was seen as essential by the founders of this country. This was because state governments were seen as being closer and more connected to the needs of the people.” Yell, M. L., Rogers, D. & Rogers, E. L.  (1998); see also, The legal history of special education: What a long strange trip it has been, Remedial and Special Education19, 219-228.

Despite the lack of an inherent federal right to public education, the United States Supreme Court in the early disability cases applied the due process and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to compel states to not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Constitution, Amendment 14.

Exclusion Was the Rule

Prior to the foundational disability rights cases being decided, exclusion of students with disabilities was the rule across the United States. One of the earliest reported cases that supported the philosophy of excluding students with disabilities was decided in 1893, where the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the “expulsion of a student solely due to poor academic ability” on the ground that the student was too “weak minded” to profit from instruction. Watson v.  City of Cambridge (1893); see also Principal Web Exclusive, “The Evolution of Special Education,” Keli J. Esteves and Shaila Rao, November/December 2008, pg 1.

Nearly thirty years later in 1919, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in ordering the exclusion of a child from public school, held that “the very sight of a child with cerebral palsy will produce a depressing and nauseating effect” upon others. Beattie v. Board of Ed. of Antigo, 169 Wis 231, 232, 172 N.W. 153 (1919); see generally, Wrightslaw.com. Even the Supreme Court of the United States, on the issue of involuntary sterilization, ruled that “[i]t is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind … Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes – Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Throughout U.S history, states consistently and routinely enacted state statutes and regulations that allowed school officials and administrators to exclude children with disabilities from receiving public education. All of this changed with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Brown v. Board of Education

Decided in 1954, the Brown decision ruled that segregation within public schools was illegal, thereby ending as a matter of law segregation based on race. The Brown case determined that the “separate but equal” doctrine established by the Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, in providing “separate education facilities” based race was, in fact, inherently unequal and violated the equal opportunity and due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

As relating to education rights, the Brown court held “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments … It is the very foundation of good citizenship” and “such an opportunity where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.” Id., at page 493.

Notably immediately after the Brown decision in 1954, the Executive Director of the then-named “National Association for Retarded Children,” Dr. Gunnar Dybwad, drew attention to the Supreme Court’s decision with parents and disability advocacy groups, suggesting that this historical case had huge potential and opportunities for children with special needs. See, http://www.disabilityjustice.org/right-to-education.

Based on the Brown decision, one of the first and early pieces of federal legislation that was established to provide federal aid to assist Local Education Agencies (LEA) in meeting the needs of “educationally deprived” children was the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (P.L. 89-10) (ESEA). Authorized for one year, the ESEA authorized federal funding to states to establish sponsoring institutions and centers for “children with handicaps.” ESEA was amended and improved for nearly over the next two decades until it was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 and then reauthorized in 2004..

Extending Brown to Children with Disabilities: P.A.R.C. & Mills

There are two cases from the early 1970’s, P.A.R.C. and Mills, that used the Brown decision to specifically address the issue of education for children with disabilities. At this point in American history, unlike today, there were millions of children with disabilities that were either denied enrollment in public schools, insufficiently served by public schools or alternatively were sent to institutions of deplorable conditions. In both of these cases, the courts applied the Brown decision by using the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to provide parents of children with disabilities specific rights to challenge and strike down state law that denied their child from the right to a public education.

P.A.R.C v. Pennsylvania

In P.A.R.C., the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued that the exclusions of “retarded children” complained of are based upon four state statutes. The first state section provided, in part, that the state board of education is relieved from providing a public education to any child that a psychologist determines is “uneducable and untrainable.” The second section allowed the state to indefinitely “postpone” the admission to public school any child who has not attained the “mental age of five years.” The language of the third and four sections provided additional unreasonable excuses for the state board of education to deny disabled children the right to a public education.

Thomas Gilhool, is the attorney that represented the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (P.A.R.C.). Attorney Gilhool relied on the Brown case to bring forth a class action for P.A.R.C. on behalf of 14 children with developmental disabilities. He argued that under PA state law, these children were denied access to public education based on these four state sections. The plaintiffs argued that, under Brown, their rights were violated under the equal protection clause and due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

The parties entered into a consent agreement, which was then approved by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The court entered the consent agreement. Much of the court language used by the parties and the court in this case laid the framework for the rights which are now provided to children with disabilities within federal and state statutes under the IDEA. For example, in clause two of the consent agreement, we find the framework language to what is now referred to as an IEP meeting, as well as due process: “No child of school age who is mentally retarded or who is thought by any school official…or by his parents…to be mentally retarded, shall be subjected to a change in educational status without first being accorded notice and the opportunity of a due process hearing…” Clause three also provides court-made language that laid the groundwork for an IEP meeting. Most importantly, the consent agreement stated “Expert testimony in this action indicates that all mentally retarded persons are capable of benefitting from a program of education and training … It is the Commonwealth’s obligation to place each mentally retarded child in a free, public program of education and training appropriate to the child’s capacity.” This is, in part, the framework for FAPE and the IDEA.

Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia

As the P.A.R.C. case was being decided in Pennsylvania, the Mills case was being decided in the District of Columbia. Mills expanded the ruling of P.A.R.C. beyond children with developmental disabilities to children with behavioral, mental, hyperactive and emotional disabilities from being denied placement in a public education.

Similar to P.A.R.C., the school system in Mills agreed that it had a legal obligation “to provide a publically supported education to each resident of the District of Columbia who is capable of benefiting from such instruction.” However, unlike P.A.R.C., the school system in Mills argued that it was incapable to do so because of lack of financial resources.

The court held that no child may be denied a public education because of “mental, behavioral, physical or emotional handicaps or deficiencies.” The court further provided that the defendant school system’s failure to provide an education could not be excused by claiming insufficient funds, specifically stating “if sufficient funds are not available to finance all of the services and programs that are needed and desirable in the system, then the available funds must be expended equitable in such a manner that no child is entirely excluded from a publicly supported education consistent with his needs and ability to benefit therefrom.”

Subsequent to P.A.R.C. and Mills, twenty-seven other federal courts followed these two decisions, which eventually lead to the federal legislature passing federal laws in which to guarantee a free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities. One of the federal laws that emerged from these decisions was the 1975 Education for all Handicapped Children Act, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Under the IDEA, all public schools that accept federal funding must provide a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities. IDEA also requires that each child with a disability have an “individualized education program” (IEP) that must be implemented in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE). One of the very first cases that addresses the term “appropriate” is Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (982).

Board of Education v. Rowley

In Rowley, the Court further elaborated on what is deemed appropriate under FAPE. Amy Rowley was a deaf child that performed better than the typical child in her mainstream classroom and was easily advancing from grade to grade in LRE with the use of a FM hearing aid. During an IEP meeting, Amy’s parents requested the school district provide Amy with a qualified sign-language interpreter in all of her classes, asserting that under the IDEA, such measures were deemed “appropriate.” After losing at due process and the review levels, the Rowleys appealed to the U.S. District Court and won. The school district then appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision whereby the school district then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in Rowley is what is meant by the IDEA requirement to a free “appropriate” public education. After reviewing the legislative history and intent of the IDEA, the Court held “the intent of the Act was more to open the door of public education to handicapped children on appropriate terms than to guarantee any particular level of education … We conclude that the “basic floor of opportunity” provided by the act consists of access to specialized instruction and related services which are individually designed to provide educational benefit to the child.” Thus, the Rowley decision clarified that children with disabilities were entitled to “access” to an education that provided an “educational benefit.” A school district does not have to “maximize” each disabled child’s potential.

The Rowley decision also held that the “Procedural Safeguards” of the IDEA are just as equally important as the substantive program offered to the disabled child. Therefore, a court’s inquiry under the IDEA has two parts. First, whether the state complied with the procedural safeguard of the act. Second, whether the child’s IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to benefit from his educational plan. The Court also held that under the IDEA, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Honig v. Doe

The Honig decision is a landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with the issue of expelling a disabled child based on actions arising out of that child’s disability. In Honig, the Court ruled that a school district may not unilaterally exclude or expel a disabled child from the classroom setting for dangerous or disruptive conduct growing out of their disabilities.

The child in this case, John Doe, was a 17-year-old boy that had significant challenges in his ability to control his behavior, impulsivity and anger towards others. His grandparents argued that a child with a disability, who is disciplined based on actions arising out of that child’s disability, may not be subjected to school disciplinary actions including expulsion, without the right to due process under the IDEA. The court emphasized the importance of a school district following the procedural safeguards contained with the IDEA, which includes the right to due process and an IEP meeting.

The Honig case is a landmark decision because the Court created what is now known as the “ten-day rule,” which allows a school to only suspend a child for up to ten days without parental consent or court intervention. Moreover, the Court ruled that a student could not be removed from school if the inappropriate behavior is a result of their disability. Now, under the IDEA, a child may be expelled for up to ten days for disciplinary infractions and up to forty-five days for dangerous behavior involving weapons or drugs. However, if a school is seeking a change of placement, suspension or expulsion of a child in excess of ten days, an IEP meeting must be held to review the causal relationship between the child’s misconduct and his disability. This specific meeting has become known a “manifestation determination” review. From a clinical prospective, the Honig decision also gave rise to the need of BCBAs conducting what is known as a “functional behavioral assessment” or an FBA.

Timothy W. v. Rochester, New Hampshire, School District

The last landmark case in the context is special education law is the Timothy W. case. In this case, the plaintiff-appellant Timothy W appealed an order from the district court that held that a child that is profoundly handicapped is not eligible for special education if he cannot benefit from such education.

The First Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and stated that the purpose of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act is “to assure all handicapped children have available to them … a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs …”

In this case, Timothy W disabilities were severe. The school district argued that his disability was so severe that he was unable to benefit from any provided education. The Court held that the act provides for a zero-reject policy and that under the act such severally disabled children are in fact given the highest priority and protection under the act itself. Related services were also defined as equally important as special education needs. Thus, related services, such as OT, PT, SLP, AT, socialization, eating, dressing and daily living skills are all encompassed under related services within the act.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this practice paper addresses what are the landmark cases that helped to develop the educational rights of children with special needs and disabilities. As an attorney that exclusively represents children with special needs, it is up to us to help further expand and define these rulings to continue to improve and build upon our client’s rights to a free appropriate public education.

Ten Quick Tips and Advice to Prepare for the IEP Meeting

Ten Quick Tips and Advice to Prepare for the IEP Meeting

If your son or daughter is receiving special education and related services under the IDEA it is important that you as the parent prepare for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or PPT (Planning and Place Team) meeting in order to develop the IEP for your child with the school team. Here are a ten quick tips and advice to prepare yourself as a parent for the IEP meeting.

  • 1. Set a meeting time that works for you.

By law, you have the right to have the IEP meeting scheduled for a time that is mutually convenient. If the date or time proposed by the school district simply does not work for you, it is reasonable to not accept that time and to propose an alternative date and time that is more convenient.

  • 2. Know who is coming to the IEP meeting.

This tip may sound simple, but it is very important. The form (i.e., Notice of Planning and Placement Team Meeting) that is sent home by the school will inform you of who will be in attendance. You will want to review this form to know who will be in attendance so you may prepare your agenda around who is attending.  Additionally, you may also request that school team members who are not listed on the form attend including a paraprofessional.  Anyone that is listed on the form as scheduled to attend must be in attendance on the day of the IEP meeting, unless you agree to excuse them from the meeting, which only is some cases is acceptable.

  • 3. Prepare your agenda in advance.

Develop a pre-meeting IEP worksheet for yourself ahead of time. The pre-meeting worksheet should include pertinent items such as the date, time, and location of the meeting. It should also include answers to common questions such as, what is the purpose of the meeting, who requested the meeting, who is attending the meeting, what are your goals for the meeting, what action(s) do you want the school to make and what, if any, is preventing the school from providing you with what your child needs. These questions may seem simple, even obvious, but after several school meetings, you will want to refer to your pre-meeting IEP worksheet to stay organized and evaluate if you are succeeding in developing your child’s IEP with the school team.

  • 4. Review your child’s most recent IEP. 

Again, this is another simple tip, but one that is often overlooked. Pull out your child’s most recent IEP and review it. Read the notes from the teachers for each goal and objective. Look to see if any progress has or hasn’t been made against each goal and objective and review any data that is being used to determine if a goal has been achieved.

  • 5. Know what your child needs are for related services.

An important question to ask yourself as the parent is whether your child is receiving all of the related services he/she needs. Related services such as transportation, speech and language, audiology, psychological, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, and/or counseling are just some of the related services that your child may be entitled to in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA. Any warranted related services must be included within the IEP.

  • 6. Know your child’s current levels of performance.

Before the meeting, you will want to know how your child performs with regards to reading, math, spelling, physical education, and socialization to name a few domains.  You can find this information by reviewing testing and/or assessments that have been conducted in each IEP domain for your child.  The IEP team should be using contemporary data or assessments to guide the development of appropriate goals and objectives for your child.

  • 7. Maintain professionalism at your child’s IEP meeting.

If the meeting isn’t going your way do not engage in any comments or conduct that causes you as the parent to be viewed as adversarial, angry, or rude. Remember you as the parent are an equal part of the IEP meeting. Keep your anger in check and keep calm. If you feel like you are going to lose your cool or become emotional, take a break to gain back your composure.

  • 8. Do not feel the need to rush.

Developing your child’s IEP is incredibly important and you should never feel rushed. You may ask to reschedule an IEP meeting if the school team did not allot sufficient time to complete the IEP, address all of your concerns or answer any of your pertinent questions. At times, the school team may need a qualified decision maker. If one is not present, ask to reconvene the meeting when an administrator is available to be present.

  • 9. Do not consent to the IEP on the day of the meeting.

You will be provided with a draft IEP on the day of the scheduled IEP meeting; however, you should request that you receive copies of all documents (e.g., evaluations, progress, reports, draft IEP, data, and any other documents that will be reviewed at the IEP meeting) prior to attending the IEP meeting.  The school team should provide you with these documents at least three (3) days before a scheduled IEP meeting but you must request these documents in writing.  Let the school team know that you would like to review the finalized IEP and share with them that you expect to have made a decision regarding implementation of the IEP after reviewing the IEP. After the IEP meeting, review the documents thoroughly and reflect on what was discussed at the meeting.  The school team will provide you with the finalized IEP five (5) days after the IEP meeting.  After ten (10) days the school will move forward with implementing the IEP.

  • 10. If things go awry, bring an advocate or attorney with you.

The important tip here is don’t go it alone. If you are scheduled to attend an IEP meeting where you are planning to request new services and you suspect the district will deny these requests, are in disagreement with the goals and objectives proposed by the school team, or disagree with an evaluation/assessment that was conducted by the school team and are planning to request an independent educational examination (IEE), you should plan on retaining an experienced advocate or attorney that knows special education law.

Forte Law Group is one of only a very few law firms within the state of Connecticut that is dedicated to exclusively representing families and children with special needs. Whether you need an attorney to attend your child’s PPT meeting, represent you during mediation, or need an attorney to bring a due process action against the school district, Forte Law Group stands apart because we provide our clients with an unprecedented amount of legal and educational guidance, resources and support throughout the entire scope of your legal representation.

Jeffrey L. Forte is both an advocate and attorney who is certified in special education advocacy.

How Are My Child’s IEP Goals & Objectives Developed?

How Are My Child’s IEP Goals & Objectives Developed?

Parents often times find themselves overwhelmed when reviewing their child’s proposed IEP goals and objectives.  It is not an easy task.  In deciding if your child’s proposed IEP goals and objectives are appropriate ask yourself the following questions. 

What assessments/evaluations/data were used to guide the development of my child’s goals and objectives?  It is best practice for educators to gather information about your child’s performance with skills in each of the IEP domains (e.g., academic/cognitive, communication, fine and gross motor, social/behavioral, employment, independent living, health, self-help, etc.) prior to developing their goals and objectives.  Data and direct observations (in some cases through a formal assessment or evaluation) are intended to inform educators with regards to the child’s specific strengths and needs and will guide the team in developing appropriate, meaningful, and ambitious targets for your child’s IEP. 

Are the goals and objectives “ambitiously appropriate?” It is important for your child’s goals and objectives to be tailored to their specific needs.  Under Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education that meets their individual needs.  Therefore, assessment of your child’s individual needs is critical and you as a parent should feel very comfortable inquiring about the appropriateness of your child’s goals and objectives and how they were individualized based on their strengths and needs. 

Are the goals and objectives meaningful? Your child’s goals and objectives should be relevant to their development.  In other words, the targeted skills must serve a purpose particularly in advancing your child’s learning in the community.  Question if the goals and objectives are functional and will contribute to improving your child’s learning and quality of life in the future.  

Is there anyone who can help me evaluate if my child’s goals and objectives are appropriate?  Access the resources you may have in your community.  If you have outside (home/community) providers who know your child well ask them to review the proposed goals and objectives.  If they have provided independent evaluations then use the information and data they have gathered to assess the appropriateness of the goals and objectives.  An advocate or attorney can help you connect with resources in your community to assess your child’s needs and make recommendations for school teams to consider when developing your child’s IEP.  Forte Law Group frequently collaborates and consults with leading clinical experts within specialized fields to support our team and the families we represent in gaining a better understanding of your child’s unique case.  An attorney can also help determine if goals and objectives are written in a manner that are observable and measureable and help you navigate through the ins and outs of developing your specific child’s IEP.

Preparing For Your Child’s IEP Meeting

It is the beginning of a new school year and parents everywhere have participated in crowding local stores for the usual “Back to School” shopping spree. For parents with children with special needs the beginning of a new school year looks a bit different.

For some parents, the beginning of the school year is already kicking off with an IEP meeting that you have been waiting to schedule all summer. And others have a few months to plan for their child’s IEP meeting. Regardless, as a parent you must prepare for the IEP meeting. Here are some tips for getting ready for your child’s IEP meeting:

First, be sure to request your child’s school records, particularly any evaluations, progress reports, and proposed goals and objectives well in advance of the IEP meeting. These documents can be cumbersome and you will need sufficient time to review all the details and have time to dissect the information provided to you. I would recommend requesting that the documents be provided to you three to five days prior to the IEP meeting.

Second, whenever possible, consult with your outside community providers regarding the information provided to you. It is important to get their input on the results of the evaluations and any proposed goals and objectives. It is completely appropriate for you to get a second opinion from the experts who know your child best.

Third, organize your child’s education records well in a binder for you to quickly access information that may be relevant to the decision-making process at an IEP meeting. It is a new school year so, this means a new binder with contemporary information about your child’s education. This binder will come in handy when preparing for an IEP meeting or when discussing your case with your special education attorney.

Our firm helps parents to prepare for IEP meetings by conducting a comprehensive records review. We also often attend IEP meetings on your child’s behalf to ensure your child’s IEP complies with the IDEA.

Is Now the Time to Really Call a Special Education Lawyer?

Of course, there is no exact correct answer to that question. As a parent myself, only parents know when and what is best for their own child. However, if your child is not receiving a free appropriate public education at school, chances are a comprehensive consultation with a special education lawyer is immediately warranted.

IDEA, FAPE, CHILD FIND and IEPs

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all children with disabilities to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE starts with a school’s responsibility to identify that a child has a disability (Child Find) and create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to suit the needs of the child. Parents need to be persistent, dedicated and above all else aware of the many services and accommodations that their child is entitled to under the law. As early as this point within your child’s special education, many parents will often find themselves in the situation asking, “is now the time to really call a special education lawyer?” Here are a few things to consider when asking yourself that question.

INVESTING IN YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE

Hiring a special education lawyer at any part during the special education process is making a sound investment in your child’s education and future. Like any investment, if you don’t make the right one, the potential return on your investment is diminished, undervalued or could be a total loss.

DON’T GO IT ALONE

If you’re still considering whether hiring a special education lawyer for your child’s needs is worth the return on investment for your child, consider this — there’s an interesting national study that was conducted in 2015 that examined the success rate of parents at due process hearings over the past 35 years. The study revealed that parents proceeding without an attorney at due process hearings prevailed only 14% of time, whereas parents that were represented by an attorney prevailed in 58% of cases. While these statics should not be interpreted as evidence that hiring a lawyer improves the chances of success, these numbers do demonstrate the value and potential long-term, return on investment that a special education lawyer brings for you and your child’s representation throughout the special education process.

EMPOWERING PARENTS

A good special education lawyer will bring value by educating and empowering parents to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their child’s case. Often is the situation that parents may think they have the correct strategy or right clinical provider in place for the betterment of their child without realizing there are flaws or legal issues with their strategy.

NOT JUST FOR LITIGATION

Retaining a special education lawyer isn’t just for litigation. An experienced special education lawyer also plays an important role throughout your child’s special education process long before litigation even becomes necessary. In fact, by retaining an experienced special education attorney early on in your child’s case, due process is often not needed because your attorney may collaboratively negotiate with your child’s planning and placement team all the while securing the best outcome for your child.

PROBLEM SOLVER

Hiring a good special education lawyer is also hiring a problem solver for situations that arise throughout your child’s special education. As a problem solver, an experienced special education attorney provides value by:

-securing your child’s entire educational records;

-requesting an evaluation or IEP meeting;

-preparing for a special education eligibility meeting;

-preparing and advocating an IEP meeting;

-evaluating an IEP proposed by the school district; and

-navigating the many other complex and confusing special education process on behalf of you and your child.

Forte Law Group has worked with many families and students with special needs. We successfully obtain benefits under FAPE for our clients guaranteed by the IDEA. Contact us to discuss how we may more fully answer your questions.