45 Years Old – Are the Purposes of Chapter 766 Being Achieved?

September 2019 will be the 45th 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.)

Five years ago we checked in with readers to invite their comments on whether the stated purposes of Chapter 766 were being met.  Comments from some of the advocates and political leaders who were behind the legislation in 1972 were eloquent, insightful and heartfelt. They included, for example, the following from Martha Ziegler, a great civil rights leader whose work in 1972 organizing the widely disparate interest groups of the world of disability advocacy into a cohesive lobbying force was a key factor in the success of the movement, as was her later work founding and presiding over the Federation for Children With Special Needs. Continue reading

Vigil for the Abuse Registry (Dana’s Law/Nicky’s Law)

We have represented numerous children and adults with disabilities who have been abused by caregivers in their residential schools and group homes. On occasion, the perpetrators of that abuse have been found to have previous allegations of abuse substantiated by the Disabled Person Protection Commission (DPPC).  While there has been an accessible registry of individuals with criminal charges maintained by the Commonwealth’s Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, known as CORI, there has been no corresponding registry for DPPC findings.  Continue reading

BSEA Applies Work Product Protection to Non-lawyer Advocate Materials and Communications; The Ruling also Stands as a Caution on Therapeutic/Medical Records

In a Ruling in the matter of In Re: Dorian issued on July 20, 2017, BSEA Hearing Officer Amy Reichbach held that the communications and materials of non-lawyer special education advocates are subject to the protections of the work product doctrine.  The hearing officer reasoned that such protection is necessary in order to minimize the potential chilling effect that discovery of such information would have on parents’ and their consultants’ ability to communicate freely when special education litigation is anticipated. The hearing officer’s analysis vindicates arguments that parent attorneys and advocates have advanced for some time now (see, e.g., our posting on the subject in June 2015).  We hope and trust that her reasoning will be adopted by her colleagues at the BSEA. Continue reading

A Superb Article on Endrew F. Closes Bill Crane’s Career as an Advocate for Children with Disabilities

Bill Crane has just posted an excellent article on the website for Mass Advocates for Children (“MAC”), analyzing and commenting on the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Endrew F. decision on the required standard for services and placements under IDEA.    Continue reading

Act Now or We May Lose Mass Health Funding for Special Needs Students

While we don’t usually pass along notices issued by others, we think that the alert below from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (“COPAA”) deserves your immediate attention and action.  We urge our readers to let their concerns be heard, as federal legislators appear to be acting behind closed doors to reduce Medicaid funding drastically in whatever provisions will be proposed to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Continue reading

Advocating over the Long Haul: Handling Stress and Staying in the Game

Note: The following is a transcript of Bob Crabtree’s remarks, delivered on Saturday, March 4, to attendees of COPAA’s annual special education advocacy conference upon his receipt of the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy.  His presentation was delivered over the internet as he was unable to attend in person.

Thank you so much, Dana (Johnson), and good afternoon to my friends and fellow warriors –

I am so pleased to have this award from COPAA.  I have loved watching this very special organization grow into a robust resource for families whose children struggle in school, and their advocates and attorneys.  COPAA stands tall, manifesting the great power that can be exercised through organizing people with widely varying interests around a common mission at a national level. COPAA educates and trains in special education law, fights to sustain and advance those rights, and speaks truth to power both directly at all levels of government, and indirectly through COPAA’s many trainees, as they assist parents in the clinches of Team meetings, negotiations with school districts and due process hearings.  Every state should have a comparable local organization – as Massachusetts does in its Federation for Children with Special Needs, the Mass. Advocates for Children, the Disability Law Center and others – but having COPAA so powerfully active at the national level provides an indispensable resource that greatly enhances the effectiveness of state organizations. Continue reading