We often hear from parents who have asked their school districts to give them copies of evaluation reports as soon as the reports are completed, only to be told that they cannot have those reports until two days before the Team meeting at which the reports will be considered. Many districts will take this position even though the reports in question may have been completed weeks before that meeting. In our opinion, the districts’ position in those cases is flat wrong. Continue reading
Category Archives: Practice Pointers
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
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
Thirty Days, Ninety Days, or Three Years: What is the Statute of Limitations for Parents to File for Attorneys’ Fees Under IDEA?
If parents prevail at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, they may file in federal court to recover their “reasonable attorneys’ fees.” 20 U.S.C. §1415(i)(3)(B). While it is clear under IDEA that parents must bring the claim at the BSEA for denial of FAPE within two years of the district’s alleged violation, the federal statute does not say when a claim for attorneys’ fees must be filed. Three federal district court judges in Massachusetts have considered this issue with different results. 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
An Observation on Observations: Do You Think Time’s on Your Side?
On the brink of a new school year parents and advocates may think that with 180 school days about to open up, there will be lots of time to complete the steps they need to accomplish to understand a child’s needs, to gather the evidence necessary to advocate for improved services, and to use that evidence successfully to bring about a better IEP and placement. Maybe, but for a more realistic idea of how much time may actually be available to accomplish those steps, let’s take an example and see how it may work out. 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
U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Regarding Bullying of Students with Disabilities
On 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
Update on DSM-5: IEP Eligibility for Students with Autism or Social Communication Disorders
We posted a comment at the end of May noting that the new DSM-5 definitions substituting “Autism Spectrum Disorder” for a number of autism-related disorders such as Asperger Syndrome do not affect the broader definitions of disabilities under IDEA or Massachusetts special education law. We urged parents and advocates to challenge any school districts that attempt to use the DSM-5 as a basis on which to deny an IEP to a child with a disability falling under this type of impairment. Continue reading
Latest Developments in Transition Planning in Massachusetts
Transition services are part of, and not separate from, a school district’s responsibility to provide FAPE. The IDEA requires transition services that are developed through transition planning by the IEP Team. Specifically, the IDEA requires every IEP, beginning no later than the one that will be in effect when the child is 16 years old (age 14 in MA), to include “appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based on age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills,” and to describe the “transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals.” 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(A)(i)(VIII). See also 34 CFR § 300.320(b). Continue reading