Hearing Officer Rosa Figueroa's most recent decision, In Re: Student v. Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District – BSEA # 17-07353 & # 18-04291, is a page turner. The family comes across as highly-distrusting and the district as exceedingly accommodating. The most interesting sentence of the decision, however, is what Hearing Officer Figueroa says about parental rights:
A parent’s right to meaningful participation does not equate to micromanagement of a case to the point of stifling every process and impeding determinative decisions by those with the knowledge and experience to make them.
The right to to parental participation in the IEP process is important, but it is not unlimited. It is important for parents to understand their role in the special education process and to accept the advise of experts that have the student's best interest in mind.
It is common for parents to worry when a child returns home from school upset. Parents of children with disabilities, especially nonverbal children or children who have difficulty communicating, experience an extreme form of this worry. Not only are these children unable to tell their parents about their day and why they are upset, they are also more vulnerable to bullying and harassment.
Today, the U.S. First Court of Appeals will hear a case (Pollack v. Regional School Unit 75) that started when a nonverbal boy from Maine came home from school uncharacteristically upset. His parents proposed a solution - they asked their son's school to allow him to wear a recording device throughout the day. When the school said no, citing in part the privacy rights of the other students, the family sued. To date, two hearing officers, one lower court judge and a jury have denied the parents' request. You can read press coverage of the case here.
The First Circuit Court’s decision in this case could have important implications for school students throughout the First Circuit, including Massachusetts.
2017 was an eventful year in the world of special education. At the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Endrew F., its first special education case in over thirty years. The unanimous Court held that FAPE requires a school to offer an IEP that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances." The Court further emphasized that “every child should have a chance to meet challenging objectives.”
The U.S. Department of Education also made headlines throughout 2017. At the beginning of the year Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education after a contentious confirmation hearing and a historic tie-breaking vote by the vice president. In October, the Education Department rescinded 72 "outdated, unnecessary or ineffective" special education guidance documents. In December, the Department published a guidance document further explaining Endrew F. and empathizing the importance of "challenging objectives" under IDEA.
In Massachusetts, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA") began implementing the new Endrew F. legal standard. Due to the similarities between Endrew F. and the previous First Circuit Court standard, the change did not have a noticeable effect on the Hearing Officers’ decisions. At the end of the year, Massachusetts lawmakers removed the essential ban on bilingual education that had been in place for fifteen years. Now English Language Learners with and without disabilities can receive instruction in English or their native language. Regulations for this new law are expected in 2018.
On December 7, 2017, the United States Department of Education ("U.S. DOE") published a document aiming to help parents and other stakeholders better understand the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, 137 S. Ct. 988.
In Endrew F., the Court interpreted the free appropriate public education ("FAPE") requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") to mean that "a school must offer and IEP [individualized education program] that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances." The Court further emphasized that "every child should have a chance to meet challenging objectives."
This new Q&A document explains that Endrew F. defined a uniform FAPE standard for all students under IDEA. The U.S. DOE further states that the "chance to meet challenging objectives" requirement applies to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals based on the unique circumstances of the child. Finally, the U.S. DOE assures parents that the Endrew F. decision did not affect parents' due process rights under IDEA.
If you live in Massachusetts and have a question about your child's IEP and progress, contact attorney Lillian E. Wong . Attorney Wong represents students in the greater Boston area and throughout Massachusetts.
A year ago, this student with dyslexia was anxious, depressed and hated going to school. She was not making progress in reading and was keenly aware of her learning differences.
Now that she is in the right educational placement she is proud of who she is and the progress she is making!
The special education litigation process can be long, emotional, and challenging, but the results can also be incredibly rewarding.
Thank you to the family who shared this picture with me! I am thankful for all my clients and their families.
If you have a child with a language-based learning disability or dyslexia contact the Boston area Law Office of Lillian E. Wong, LLC to schedule an initial consultation. Attorney Wong represents students with disabilities throughout Massachusetts.
We are pleased to announce that for the fifth 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 north of Boston in Topsfield, Massachusetts.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided, 8-0, in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, that families do not have to exhaust remedies under IDEA when rights are fully supported by the ADA and Section 504. This is a huge deal in the special education legal community. It means that families do not need to wast time and money asserting concerns in a forum that can not address their needs before proceeding to a court that can. You can read the entire decision here.
A big THANK YOU to this family for bringing their fight all the way to the Supreme Court and sharing their story.
Educators, including teachers, professional support personnel, and administrators, are generally required to hold a license issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to be eligible for employment in public schools in the Commonwealth. The Public Lookup tool provides information about the current status of educator licenses in Massachusetts. You can find the tool here.
Attorney Lillian Wong advocates for the educational rights of children on IEPs throughout Massachusetts. Her office is located in the greater Boston area.
Is your child on an IEP?
Is your child angry, sad, anxious, acting out or withdrawn?
Are you concerned about how your child is behaving?
Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD, Conduct Disorder or other emotional problems?
ARE YOU HAVING A PROBLEM UNDERSTANDING AND COPING?
You are not alone. NAMI Basics is for you!
NAMI Basics is a 6 week education program for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents living with emotional and behavioral issues. NAMI Basics is taught by understanding teachers who are parents or caregivers of children with similar issues. Taking NAMI Basics will give you the tools you will need to help you make the best decisions possible for the care of your child. You will learn communication tips, how to problem-solve and the skills to help you cope with the emotional impact of caring for your challenging child. You will find out about the IEP process, insurance, benefits, diagnoses and treatment.
Read more and preregister here.
As a special education attorney, Attorney Lillian Wong represents and advocates for children with emotional and behavioral challenges throughout Massachusetts. Contact her North Shore office today for more information.
|The Law Office of Lillian E. Wong||
the law office of lillian e. Wong
It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
The Law Office of Lillian E. Wong, LLC
15 Morningside Drive
Topsfield, MA 01983
15 Morningside Drive
Topsfield, MA 01983