<![CDATA[The Law Office of Lillian E. Wong<br />​A Special Education Attorney - Blog]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 09:18:30 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[US DOE Defines "General Education Curriculum"]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:41:13 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/us-doe-defines-general-education-curriculumPicture
On November 15, 2015, the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued an important new "Dear Colleague" letter.  

For the first time, OSERS provides a definition of "general education curriculum" under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA").  Previously, IDEA did not provide a definition of "general education curriculum," despite requiring that a child's IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum." 20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(1)(A).

Now, "general education curriculum" means the curriculum that is based on the State's academic content for the grade in which a child is enrolled. As a result of this new interpretation, annual IEP goals must now be aligned with State academic content standards for the grade in which a child is enrolled.  

​In the case where a child's present levels of academic performance are significantly below the grade in which the child is enrolled, OSERS instructs the IEP team to draft goals that are "sufficiently ambitious to help close the gap."

The entire document (here) provides useful guidance for OSERS educators, parents, educational advocates and special education attorneys.  

<![CDATA[DESE Advisory - PACs and Social Media]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 17:12:26 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/dese-advisory-pacs-and-social-mediaPicture
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently updated its Administrative Advisory regarding Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (PACs or SEPACs) and their use of social media.  You can read the entire advisory here.

The advisory makes it clear, that while PACs can use social media to communicate and share information, social media cannot replace the requirement for in-person,  open and public meetings.

<![CDATA[Q&A: 10 Day Requirement for Independent Evaluations]]>Sat, 14 Nov 2015 21:30:07 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/qa-10-day-requirement-for-independent-evaluationsPicture
Question: I know that the IEP team is required to meet within ten days of receiving an outside evaluation, but what days count?  I think it is school days, but what about half-days or professional development days?

Answer: Yes, the law does require the IEP team to convene and consider the independent educational evaluation (or "IEE") within 10 school-days.  Here's exactly what the Massachusetts regulation requires:

603 CMR. 28.04 (5)(f) Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent education evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent education evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate.

Next, you need to look at the part of the regulation that defines a "school day":

603 CMR 28.02(5) Day shall mean calendar day unless the regulation specifies school day, which shall mean any day, including a partial day, that students are in attendance at school for instructional purposes.

So, half-days count as a school day, but full-day professional development days do not, because students are not in attendance at school for instructional purposes.

If you have questions about the laws related to special education and independent evaluations, including neuropsychological evaluations, contact the North Shore law office of Lillian E. Wong.

<![CDATA[Lillian Wong Named 2015 Super Lawyer Rising Star]]>Fri, 06 Nov 2015 15:55:53 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/lillian-wong-named-2015-super-lawyer-rising-starPicture
We are pleased to announce that for the third consecutive year, Attorney Lillian Wong has been selected to the Super Lawyer New England Rising Star list for her work in School and Education Law.  

Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. No lawyer pays to be selected to the list.

Lillian Wong is a special education attorney who represents and advocates for children's educational rights throughout Massachusetts.  Her office is located in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

<![CDATA[Settlement Agreements are Public Records]]>Fri, 06 Nov 2015 15:27:57 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/settlement-agreements-are-public-recordsPicture
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in Champa v. Weston Public Schools (SJC 11838) (October 23, 2015) recently decided that private settlement agreements between public school districts and parents, once redacted of personally identifiable information, are public records subject to disclosure. Previously, many school districts believed that disclosure of settlement agreements violated the Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) and its Massachusetts equivalent. 

Settlement agreements are a frequent dispute resolution mechanism parents and districts utilize to avoid the time and cost of litigation.  One of the standard terms of a settlement agreement is a confidentiality clause.  It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this decision has on special education disputes going forward. Will Districts continue to insist on confidentiality in settlement agreements?  Will clients decide to request settlement agreements to compare their outcome against the work of another attorney or law firm and then possibly pursue malpractice actions? What information will be considered “personally identifiable?” (Arguably, more than a student's name will need to be redacted as it would be fairly easy to confirm the identity of the student simply by cross-referencing the name of the special education placement and the school district).  

In my opinion, this decision is a win for the press, a loss for school districts and a toss-up for parents and students.  Parents are now entitled to more information about deals offered to other parents, but Districts may now be more reluctant to offer a concession to Parents if they know that compromise could be broadcast throughout the community.  The District’s increased reluctance to settle, combined with the decreased protections for student’s educational records, may ultimately result in a loss for students.
For more information about special education settlement agreements, student's educational privacy rights, and disputes with public school districts, contact the Massachusetts law firm of Lillian E. Wong today.

<![CDATA[Available Resources vs. FAPE]]>Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:43:41 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/available-resources-vs-fapePicture
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to meet the needs of students with disabilities without regard to the cost. The law refers to this as a Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. 

The FAPE mandate is at constant odds with the reality of  limited school district budgets.

Oftentimes, parents are told by their district that the district’s IEP proposal does meet the student’s needs, but the parents suspect the services and placement offered in the IEP are simply a reflection of the programs and services available in the district.

A recent BSEA decision by Hearing Officer Lindsay Byrne, In RE: Jolene and the Natick Public Schools, BSEA # #1400521, confirms that this suspicion is often a reality.  The Hearing Officer finds that the District violated the law when they offered “what [programming] was available rather than thoughtfully considering and planning for [the Student’s] individual learning needs.”

When a student requires a placement or service that is not currently available in district, the district is responsible for identifying and funding that placement or service.  If the district refuses to comply with the law, parents often choose to hire a special education attorney or advocate to help them secure appropriate placement and service for their child, whether in-district or out-of-district.

If you are concerned about your child's IEP, contact the Boston area Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today.

<![CDATA[Free Search Engine for Massachusetts Sped Law]]>Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:14:21 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/free-search-engine-for-massachusetts-sped-lawPicture

Attorney Daniel Perlman, formally a staff attorney at Massachusetts Advocates for Children and now in private practice, has created a wonderful new (FREE!) search engine.  It is easy to use and is quickly becoming an essential legal resource for special education attorneys, educational advocates, and parents of children with disabilities.

Bookmark http://www.specialedlaw.com/ and search Board of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA") decisions and rulings, DESE guidance, laws, and regulations in Massachusetts.   You can also sign up to be notified when new decisions are release. 

Thank you Dan, for creating and maintaining this website. 

<![CDATA[Mass Advocates for Children Youth Fellowship]]>Mon, 02 Mar 2015 19:50:50 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/mass-advocates-for-children-youth-fellowshipPicture
Massachusetts Advocates for Children invites young adults 18-26 with Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or Intellectual Disability to apply for a state-of-the-art Young Adult Leaders Fellowship that offers an opportunity to learn the professional skills needed to advocate on behalf of other youth with disabilities.  The Fellowship is a partnership between Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston.  The Young Adult Leaders Fellowship involves a one year part-time advocacy training under the direction of the Autism Center advocate and senior attorney. This is a half-time time fellowship, and a small stipend is provided.  

More information and the application is available

<![CDATA[Special Education Law from A to Z]]>Wed, 04 Feb 2015 15:53:51 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/special-education-law-from-a-to-zPicture
Attorney Lillian Wong will be one of the faculty members presenting in a 2-day practical course, Special Education Law From A to ZThis comprehensive seminar will lay out all the essential requirements surrounding IEP development, discipline procedures and due process hearings.

Crowne Plaza Boston-Woburn
15 Middlesex Canal Park
Woburn, MA 01801

May 5 and May 6, 2015 from 9:00am - 4:30pm

Day 1

  1. Unravelling Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) Complexities
    9:00 - 10:15, Daniel T.S. Heffernan
    1. Definitions of FAPE: IDEA vs. Section 504
    2. Definitions of Disabilities under Each Law
    3. What Services and/or Accommodations Must be Provided?
    4. Who is Protected?
  2. Evaluation and Eligibility for Special Education Services
    10:30 - 11:45, Eileen M. Hagerty
    1. Procedural Safeguards for Parents, Students and Schools
    2. Documenting Parent Input
    3. Evaluations: Timelines, Testing and Best Practices
    4. Defensible Classroom Observations
    5. Determining Eligibility: Need for Services, Adverse Impact, Etc.
  3. Developing and Implementing Defensible IEPs
    12:45 - 1:45. Eileen M. Hagerty
    1. Team Meetings: Ensuring all Members are Present
    2. Components of a Legally Defensible IEP
    3. Implementing IEPs: Monitoring, Documenting and Reporting
    4. Amending IEPs
  4. Fulfilling Critical Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and Placement Decision Obligations
    1:45 - 3:00, Janine A. Solomon
    1. LRE, Mainstreaming and Inclusion: What Must Schools Provide?
    2. Continuum of Alternate Placements
    3. Placement Decision Requirements
    4. Factors that Can and Cannot be Considered
    5. Changes in Placement: Necessary Procedures and Review
  5. Essential Components of a 504 Plan
    3:15 - 4:30, Paige L. Tobin
    1. How 504 Plans Differ From IEPs
    2. Substantial Limitations and Major Life Activities: What are They?
    3. Curriculum Modification and Specially Modified Instruction
    4. Appropriate Evidence to Support 504 Plan Components
    5. Ensuring 504 Plan Accommodations are Reasonable
Day 2

  1. Managing Behavioral Issues: Avoiding Critical Mistakes
    9:00 - 10:00, Lillian E. Wong
    1. Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs): Who Should be Involved?
    2. Creating Useful Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIPs)
    3. Handling Disagreements with Parents
    4. Restraint and Seclusion: Current Legal Perspectives
  2. Discipline and Expulsion Essentials for Special Needs Students
    10:00 - 11:00, Michael J. Joyce
    1. Legal Rules Governing Removal or Expulsion
    2. Providing Services During Disciplinary Removal
    3. Handling Disciplinary Changes in Placement
    4. Multiple Suspensions and Denial of FAPE
  3. Manifestation Determination Reviews (MDRs)
    11:15 - 12:15, Lillian E. Wong
    1. Ensuring Proper Timelines and Procedures for MDRs
    2. Essential Documentation for MDRs
    3. Determining the Cause of Misbehaviors: Disability, Failure to Implement the IEP or Neither?
    4. Proving or Disproving Schools Followed IEPs, FBAs and BIPs
  4. Bullying and Special Education Students
    1:15 - 2:15, Michael J. Joyce
    1. When is Bullying a Denial of FAPE?
    2. Moving Bullied Students to Safer Environments: Legal Considerations
    3. Addressing Bullying Through IEPs and 504 Plans
    4. Legally Appropriate School Policies and Staff Training
  5. Special Education Records: Handling Difficult Situations
    2:15 - 3:15, Pamela S. Milman
    1. What is and isn't an Education Record: IDEA, Section 504 and FERPA
    2. Email as Education Records
    3. Who is a Parent and What can They Access? IDEA and FERPA Definitions
    4. Retaining, Amending and Destroying Educational Records
  6. Due Process Rights: Ensuring Appropriate Practices During Disputes
    3:30 - 4:30, Heather Gold
    1. Due Process Overview and Statutes of Limitations
    2. Notice Requirements and Timing Issues
    3. Informal Dispute Resolution: Mediation, Resolution Sessions and Negotiation
    4. How to Prepare for a Due Process Hearing
    5. Appealing Decisions
<![CDATA[Help Improve the Massachusetts IEP Form]]>Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:33:42 GMThttp://www.lillianwongesq.com/blog/help-improve-the-massachusetts-iep-formPicture
Massachusetts is revising its Individualized Education Program (IEP) Form.  

The goal of the IEP Improvement Project is to achieve an updated, meaningful and user-friendly form that works well for all educators, families and students.  

Help improve the form by sharing your thoughts and opinions .  Email: improveIEP@doe.mass.edu

If you are concerned about the appropriateness of your child's IEP, contact the North Shore Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today for an initial consultation.