Recovery High Schools – Legislation to Add Transportation Now in the Works

Readers may recall our posting in June 2014 regarding the need to fix a serious omission in legislation that supports the establishment of “recovery high schools” for students recovering from alcohol or other kinds of substance dependence or addiction. The four high schools that have so far been developed with the help of that legislation – in Boston, Beverly, Brockton, and Springfield – provide a powerful resource for students who, after achieving some hard-won success in recovery programs, would otherwise return to the very environments where they fell into trouble in the first place. Because the legislation has not included transportation, however, students who cannot find a way to get to and from those schools cannot access the great services they offer. Continue reading

New DESE Advisory: Charting a Course for Charter School Students Who May Need an Out-of-District Program

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) recently released an advisory concerning the responsibilities of charter schools to special education students. Although charter schools have been a feature of the Massachusetts school landscape for over twenty years, there are still misunderstandings about charter schools’ obligations to their students who require special education.  The DESE advisory addresses some of these issues. It focuses on a Massachusetts special education regulation found at 603 CMR 28.10(6)(a), which covers the responsibilities of the charter school and the student’s public school district (“district of residence”) in the event that a student with special needs may need to leave the charter school in order to obtain an appropriate education.  (This regulation also covers special education students who attend vocational schools, Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual schools, and schools attended through the METCO program.  However, the advisory targets charter schools specifically.) Continue reading

A Great New Parent-to-Parent Advocacy Resource

An elegantly written and wisely pragmatic new book – Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2014) – has been published this month to help parents navigate the special education system on behalf of their children.  The book was written by parents, Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves, who learned the ropes both by advocating successfully for their own child from preschool through high school, and also by engaging extensively with many other parents and professionals along the way to learn the wider and deeper elements of the process.  Their book carries the same gently persistent spirit, judicious sense of proportion, and sharp intelligence that marked their advocacy for their child, and the lessons they learned should help all parents of children with learning challenges – both those who are new to the process and those who feel frustrated and powerless after suffering multiple bureaucratic defeats along the way – avoid many common mistakes.  Continue reading

Task Force on Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: Public Hearings Begin on November 1st

Advancements in the education of children with disabilities as well as higher expectations for more meaningful and fulfilling post-high school lives have led to more opportunities for students with disabilities to attend college. Several laws have helped develop some of these opportunities.  When the cornerstone federal statute, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, was reauthorized in 2004, it and resulting regulations emphasized successful transition to post-school life as an important goal of the education of children with special needs.  A crucial component of the transition planning that school districts must begin when the student turns fourteen years old is the post-school vision.  Transition services are to be coordinated, results oriented, and based on the individual student’s strengths, preferences and interests.  Where appropriate, therefore, there is no barrier to have college as the post-high school vision for a student with disabilities. Continue reading

Don’t Get Taken for (too long) a Ride; Watch Out for Silent Waivers in an IEP!

Parents should keep an eye out for language in their IEPs that might have them unwittingly signing away the right to limit the duration of their child’s transportation to and from a placement to an hour or less each way.   Massachusetts special education regulations provide, at 603 C.M.R. §28.06 (8)(a):

The district shall not permit any eligible student to be transported in a manner that requires the student to remain in the vehicle for more than one hour each way except with the approval of the Team.  The Team shall document such determination on the IEP. Continue reading

Turning 40 – Are the Purposes of Chapter 766 Being Achieved? – An Invitation

A year from now, in September 2014, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the effective date of the special education reform act known as “Chapter 766.” (Although Chapter 766 was adopted in 1972, its full implementation was delayed for two years to allow educators and agencies time to prepare.)

Chapter 766 included a Purpose Section to describe the findings and purposes behind the Act.  Its key sponsors wanted to clarify the goals of the Act and the reasons for some of the changes it would bring about.  While that Purpose Section is not part of the codified general statutes of Massachusetts, it is printed in full in the first footnote to Chapter 71B in the annotated edition of the statutes and is referred to from time to time by courts and hearing officers.

We now, some forty years later, have an opportunity to look back at those findings and purposes and consider to what extent the aims embodied in Chapter 766 have been achieved.  Parents, advocates, educators and administrators are bound to have a wide variety of perspectives on this question. We would like to provide a forum on this blog for some of our readers’ thoughts and opinions on that subject.  We will also contribute our own thoughts from time to time, but for now, we would like just to open this up and invite you to comment.  Succinct and thoughtful comments are greatly welcomed; lengthy diatribes, not so much! Continue reading

U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Regarding Bullying of Students with Disabilities

Bully Free ZoneOn August 20, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (“OSERS”) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that explains, in clear and unequivocal language, school districts’ responsibilities to prevent and address bullying of students with disabilities. Continue reading