A Bit of Advocacy History

Take a moment, if you can, to check out an April 1975 letter from Harvey Liebergott, then with the Bureau of Information for the Handicapped in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notifying Martha Ziegler forty years ago this week of a grant of around $25, 000 to fund a pilot program under which the nascent Federation for Children with Special Needs was to play a key role in the development of systems to support regional information and referral centers throughout the country.  He estimated that a fully operational system of regional information and referral centers would cost on the order of ten million dollars – an amount that he could see “no chance of ever getting” – and he urged Martha to “think of the project realistically as a model that could be utilized nationwide to solve the most immediate problems of handicapped children with limited resources, and not as an ideal for solving all of the information and referral needs of parents in your particular state.”

Needless to say, the Federation took that $25,000, ran with it and became the gold standard of parent training and support agencies, then and now.

Rich Robison, the Director of the Federation, shared this wonderful bit of advocacy history this week.  He himself celebrated his 18th anniversary as the Federation’s Director yesterday, and we thank and congratulate him for all the tremendous work he has done through all those years – marked as they have been by enormous fiscal and political challenges – to sustain and expand the Federation’s role as a powerful voice and indispensible resource in the world of special education training and advocacy.

Taking Para-Sports to the Limit

Endless Abilities is an inspiring feature documentary film which illustrates the level of expertise of para-athletes across the country in a variety of sports. In 2012, after Zack Bastian was rendered paraplegic in a dirt bike accident, he and his three best friends drove across the country in search of individuals with physical disabilities who were doing amazing things in adaptive sports. This included rock climbing with athletes who were blind, riding waves with surfers with paralysis, and swimming with an athlete with muscular dystrophy. 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

To a Leader in the Field and My Friend: My Thanks …

Today Larry Kotin, my law partner for the last 32 years, my colleague for more than 40 years in countless collaborations on behalf of children and adults with physical, cognitive or emotional/behavioral challenges, and above all my friend through many thicks and many thins in both our work and our personal lives, will move from his position as a partner at KC&S to “of counsel” status. Continue reading

Breakfast and Lunch at Private Special Education Schools

In a recent memorandum to school superintendents, special education administrators, and approved private special education schools, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) clarified the requirements surrounding breakfast and lunch for students who attend private special education schools at public expense. The DESE stated, Continue reading

Take a Look for Yourself

The Wisdom of, and Right to, Observe Your Child’s Current or Proposed Special Education Program

We have all had experiences in our lives where things look different on paper than they do in reality or purported eyewitness accounts of some event turn out to be less than accurate or complete.  As many of us well know, the same can be true of IEPs and progress reports in their description of a student’s special education program.  In 2009, Massachusetts enacted a law to strengthen the right of parents and their evaluators to observe any current or proposed program for their child.  Massachusetts law (M.G.L. ch. 71B, §3; 603 CMR 28.07(1)(a)(3) accords parents, and by extension, their evaluators or consultants, a reasonable opportunity to observe their child’s program or proposed program. The rationale for the law, as delineated in the first sentence of the statute is: “To insure that parents can participate fully and effectively with school personnel in the consideration and development of appropriate educational programs for their child…”  Continue reading