Attorney Wong joins leading Massachusetts Attorneys for Children with Special Needs in Response to Settlement Agreement Investigation
Yesterday, in response to a recent news story about the role of settlement agreements in special education disputes, many of Massachusetts' leading special education attorneys for students with special needs, including Attorney Lillian Wong, issued the following statement:
To Channel 5 News:
The undersigned are attorneys who represent parents and children in education cases throughout Massachusetts. Some of us work for not-for-profit law firms and others engage in private practice, but we all have substantial experience with the settlement process as well as with special education litigation in Massachusetts.
Your recent story about settlement agreements in special education cases was somewhat misleading in appearing to suggest that such agreements are an unusual and perhaps inappropriate practice. While all students are entitled to a free appropriate public education from their local public schools, as in many areas of today’s society, it is not unusual for there to be disputes between the participants in the process. In the vast majority of all special education matters, parents and school districts work together and agree on appropriate accommodations, services and programs for special education students.
However, for a small fraction of all special education students, parents and school districts disagree about how a school district should provide the student with a free appropriate public education. When these matters cannot be resolved at the local level, parents have the right to go to a due process hearing before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.
Like any litigation, a special education hearing can become expensive and risky. Therefore, many parents choose to enter settlement agreements, even paying part of the costs of special education programs, rather than go to a full hearing and risk losing. This is reflected in statistics from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, indicating that over the last 10 years between 95 and 97 percent of all of these disputes are resolved without a full hearing. (See attached) This is not an unusual statistic. In Superior Court in Massachusetts the percentage of all types of litigation disposed without a trial is strikingly similar. (See attached)
As with any area of law, the terms of settlement agreements vary based on the individual facts in the case, including the strength of the merits of the case. Thus, the very fact that settlement agreements vary does not necessarily mean that the agreements are unfair or that they reflect discrimination or favoritism. To suggest otherwise is both misleading and unfair.
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.
Attorney Lillian Wong will be one of the faculty members presenting in a 2-day practical course, Special Education Law From A to Z. This 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
On November 4, 2014 Attorney Lillian Wong will be one of the featured presenters at the Know Your Rights! Program’s education session.
Know Your Rights! educates non-profits on legal issues relevant to their clients and is a collaboration between Mintz Levin, the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, Inc. (WBA) and the Women's Bar Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc. (WBF), the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA), American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities (ABA), One Family, Inc., and the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston.
The presentation will take place at the MBA at 20 West St. in Boston and will also be accessible via webinar.
Attorney Wong is pleased to announce that she has joined the American Diabetes Association's Advocacy Attorney Network, a group of attorneys from around the country dedicated to ending discrimination against people who have diabetes. Attorney Wong has previously advocated for clients with diabetes , and her work with the American Diabetes Association will focus on education issues. The American Diabetes Association website contains a number of helpful documents about advocacy and legal rights for students with diabetes in the school setting. You can find those documents here.
If you have a child with diabetes and are concerned about school-related issues, contact the Boston area Law Office of Lillian E. Wong. Attorney Lillian Wong represents parents and their children throughout Massachusetts.
We are pleased to announce that Attorney Lillian Wong has been selected to the 2013 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 parents and their children throughout Massachusetts.
A lot of my potential clients really don't need a special education attorney and I'm not reluctant to tell them. Does that make me a bad business person? I don't think so. Clients who aren't ready for legal representation are more likely to be unhappy with the experience.
So what are indicators you aren't ready to hire an education attorney?
(1) You've haven't considered working with an advocate.
If you need help navigating the special education process, you should first consider hiring an educational advocate. Not only are advocates usually less expensive than attorneys, working with an advocate can provide you with the support you need while maintaining a more collaborative approach with the school district. Advocates spend more time at IEP meetings and with school officials than attorneys, and often have a better sense of the underlying institutional dynamics within your district. Some advocates specialize in particular types of disabilities. If you've tried working with an advocate before and you weren't happy with the quality of representation, consider working with a more effective and experienced advocate instead of immediately thinking you need an attorney.
(2) You want to scare the school :
If your reason for hiring an attorney is simply to scare the school district, you will probably be disappointed. Special education law is about advocating for your child's needs. If you and the school district disagree about your child's needs, there are mechanisms in place (settlement, mediation, due process hearings) for dispute resolution. A special education attorney can help you with this. If you don't have a dispute about your child's needs or don't want a resolution, you should not hire a special education attorney.
(3) You don't know what your child needs.
You shouldn't hire an attorney to assess your child's needs. Most attorneys are not educators or learning specialists. They cannot evaluate your child nor can they recommend educational supports, services, or placement. Even if they could, no hearing officer and judge would give the attorney's educational recommendations any weight because attorneys are considered inherently biased. A qualified special education attorney can refer you to professionals who can help assess your child's learning profile and help you understand, from a legal perspective, how to find credible, effective experts. An attorney can also help you request additional testing from the school district. But here's the truth - a good educational advocate can often help you navigate the assessment process, and can do so at a fraction of the cost.
(4) You're the only one who knows what your child needs:
Remember how your attorney is considered inherently biased and therefore can't make educational recommendations? As the parent you're considered even more biased than the attorney! If you believe your child needs a specific support, program or service, you need to prove why with expert advice and/or peer reviewed research.
(5) You don't know what you want.
Maybe the school district has proposed an in-district program and the independent evaluator has recommended an out-of-district placement. You are unsure which placement is appropriate so you contact an attorney. This is an important decision, but not one an attorney should make for you. Remember, your attorney is not an expert in determining your child's needs. That said, an attorney can be extremely helpful in explaining the legal implications of each option, which will help you make an informed decision.
Once you are ready to hire a special education attorney, it's important to choose the right one. Find my advice on that process here.
Still not sure what to do? Feel free to contact The Law Office of Lillian E. Wong for initial consultation.
Attorney Lillian Wong is pleased to announce that she has accepted seat on the advisory board of Autism Asperger's Digest.
AADigest debuted in 1999 as the first national magazine published for the autism community. Its purpose is to provide practical, actionable information to help parents and professionals improve the quality of life and quality of care for individuals on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin, Ph.D is one of the magazine's regular contributors.
The AADigest Advisory Board is comprised of professionals, parent-professionals, parents and individuals with ASD. Attorney Wong is honored to be the only special education attorney on the board.
If you have a child with Autism, Aspergers, or PDD-NOS or any other Autism Spectrum Disorder and have questions about special education law and IEP rights, contact the North Shore Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today.
Special education law is always changing. That's why the best special education lawyers and advocates never stop learning.
In order to better advocate for her clients, Attorney Wong attends conferences and connects with other special education experts.
Here is a sampling of presentations Ms. Wong has recently attended:
The Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals has released its statistics for its fiscal 2011 year. From July 1, 2010 until June 31, 2011 the BSEA received 8,348 rejected IEPs, an increase of 473 over the past year.
The statistics reveal that the majority of rejected IEPs resulted in a resolution long before a hearing decision was issued, and if the dispute reached the hearing stage the school district was likely to prevail. 809 cases voluntarily participated in mediation and 86% ended in a legally binding agreement. 544 parties requested hearings, but the vast majority of disputes were resolved before a decision was issued. Only 35 hearing decisions were issued and the school district prevailed outright in 63% of the time, the parents prevailed in 20% of the decisions, and 17% of the time mixed relief was granted.
School districts were represented by counsel 100% of the time. Of the 22 cases where the school districts fully prevailed, parents were represented by an attorney in 9 cases (40% of the time). Of the 7 cases where parents fully prevailed, parents were represented by counsel in 5 cases (71% of the time). These statistics highlight the importance working with a special education lawyer when pursuing a due process claim.
Read the entire report here.
If you are considering filing a due process request with the Massachusetts Board of Special Education Appeals, contact the North Shore special education Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today.
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