On July 9, 2018, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA") ruled that the Andover Public Schools ("Andover") had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Law ("IDEA") by failing to provide a nine-year-old boy with dyslexia an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") that provides for a Free Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE"). The BSEA ordered Andover to reimburse the family for their costs of unilaterally placing their son at the Landmark School and found that the student continued to require intensive, specialized instruction in a fully-subseparate language-based program.
This victory is rare for many reasons. First, more than 90% of parties that request a hearing at the BSEA ultimately settle and do not go to hearing. (Read more about quiet victories here). Second, if the case does go to hearing, parents only prevail in about 20% of the cases. (Read more about other dispute resolutions mechanisms here). Third, because of the legal mandate to keep students in the least restrict environment ("LRE") hearing officers are incredibly reluctant to order this type of placement, especially when the student is in the early elementary years.
You can read the entire decision here. If you believe your child's educational rights are being violated, contact an attorney with experience litigating cases at the BSEA. You can learn more about BSEA hearings here.
On April 2, 2018, Russell Johnston, PhD, the Senior Associate Commissions and State Director of Special Education issued a Technical Assistance Advisory called "Addressing the Communication Needs of Students with Disabilities Through Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)" Dr. Johnston begins the advisory by expressing his concern that Massachusetts students with limited oral communication skills have insufficient access to AAC. The purpose of the advisory is to encourage more consistency in AAC services throughout the state and to remind schools districts of best practices and legal responsibilities.
You can read the entire advisory here.
Today, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ("DESE") issued an administrative advisory on graduation requirements for students with IEPs. You can read the entire document here.
The advisory specifically addresses whether and when a student may refuse a diploma in order to continue to receive transition and other special education services.
DESE concludes that a student cannot "refuse" a diploma, outright. At the same time, a student (or parent) can reject the graduation date on the IEP (based on FAPE) and invoke stay-put (thereby continuing to receive the services). The result of this procedure is similar to the outright refusal of the diploma, but the process allows for a more individualized approach and builds in dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation or a due process hearing.
If you have a question about transition services, graduation requirements, and FAPE, contact Boston area Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today.
On Friday, March 9th Attorney Lillian Wong will serve on the faculty of the MCLE School Law Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. MCLE’s 18th Annual School Law Conference 2018 examines the latest changes in school-related laws, regulations, and policies. Experienced attorneys and other school-related professionals distill the most significant updates of the preceding year into a single day of cutting-edge information and lively discussion.
Agenda l The Most Critical Issues Encompassing Education in 2018 l Education Law Update l Student Discipline and Educational Alternatives l Privatization and Choice l Curriculum and Student Assessment l School Safety l “Ask the Experts” Q&A Session l Networking Reception for Faculty and Registrants
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.
|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