Providing an IEP May Not Suffice if a District Fails in Its Child Find Obligation

Suppose a child exhibits troubling behaviors and/or difficulties learning basic skills in kindergarten or another early grade. Suppose further that, despite the child’s problematic performance, no teacher or other public school employee recommends that the child be evaluated. Perhaps that child passes through first and part of second grade with similar problems until finally a referral is made, an evaluation completed, and an IEP developed. Problem solved? Not entirely. The question remains whether the district should have taken these steps much earlier and whether any remedy is available to make up for the lost time and services.

The District of Columbia Circuit recently held that, although a school district’s provision of an IEP may satisfy the district’s obligations now and for the immediate future, parents may still be entitled to compensatory education for the months or years when their child was not yet on an IEP or identified as eligible for special education. Boose v. District of Columbia, 786 F.3d 1054 (D.C. Cir. 2015). Continue reading

Federal Guidance Regarding Speech-Language Services for Students with Autism

The Office of Special Education Programs of the United States Department of Education (“OSEP”) issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” letter on July 6, 2015 regarding speech-language services and evaluations for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Continue reading

Recovery High Schools: Bill to provide transportation is now up for Hearing

As we have mentioned in prior posts on this subject (here and here), Representatives Tom Sannicandro (Ashland), Liz Malia (Jamaica Plain), Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (Second Suffolk District), and many other interested legislators have filed a bill – H-1815 – to provide transportation to and from one of the Recovery High Schools in Massachusetts for students who are recovering from alcohol or drug dependence or addiction. Continue reading

Discovery of Information about Proposed Peers at the BSEA: A Practice Note

Why proposed peer group information is essential in BSEA proceedings

The capacity of a school district’s program to meet the needs of a student with a disability often depends heavily on the learning, behavioral, and social communication needs of the peers with whom the district proposes to group the student.   An inappropriate classroom cohort can significantly undermine a student’s ability to make effective progress.  For example, suppose that a child of average intelligence who has severe dyslexia requires placement in small classes where all core subjects are taught with a specialized language-based methodology.  Placing that student in a classroom with students who have different disabilities (such as emotional or intellectual impairments) that require different methodologies would not be appropriate.  Continue reading

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

Two Years Post-Newtown: What’s changed? What Needs to Change?

The Office of the Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut has issued a report outlining major factors contributing to the murder of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut two years ago.  Although the Yale Child Study Center had evaluated the young man who committed that atrocity and recommended mental health services and special education services for him, the responses of both his mother and the special education staff at the school were found to be tragically inadequate to address the emotional issues that made him a pariah at school and resulted in his avoiding school completely. Continue reading

The DESE is Seeking Comments on Proposed Restraint Regulations

In 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (then known as the Massachusetts Department of Education) promulgated regulations concerning the use of physical restraints on students.  603 CMR 46.01.  The stated purpose of the regulations was to “ensure that every student participating in a Massachusetts public education program is free from the unreasonable use of physical restraint.”  The introductory language to the regulations continued: “Physical restraint shall be used only in emergency situations after other less intrusive alternatives have failed or been deemed inappropriate, and with extreme caution.” The regulations addressed the use of physical and mechanical restraints, the prohibition of “seclusion restraints,” the training of school staff in the use of restraints, and the requisite reporting of the administration of restraints to school administration and families. Continue reading