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

First Quarter 2015 BSEA Commentaries

Each quarter, attorneys from KC&S Special Education & Disability Law practice group write commentary on rulings and decisions from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”).  The commentaries are published in the Massachusetts Special Education Reporter (“MSER”) and on our website.  Bob Crabtree’s commentary on decisions and rulings from the first quarter of 2015 is up on the KC&S website.   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

Parents are awarded an out of district placement after proving that the district’s program for a child with Autism and Intellectual Disability does not provide FAPE

A Brookline family has just prevailed in a decision issued by the BSEA’s newest hearing officer, Amy Reichbach, finding that the district’s program did not provide a FAPE and ordering Brookline to place the student at the RCS Learning Center in Natick.  In Re: Jacqueline, BSEA #1408578.  Attorney Dan Heffernan of our firm represented the family in this close, complex, and hard-fought case.  The decision highlights many of the types of issues that frequently arise where districts struggle to address the severe and multifaceted needs of children who require intense, systematic, consistent, and comprehensive services and need to be with peers who will provide for mutual learning and progress.  Districts do their best to meet such needs in most cases, but the lack of a sufficient cohort of students with comparable needs and the incompatibility of the normal structure of a regular school setting – generally open and flexible, expecting growing independence from all students – often make it difficult for a severely involved child to make meaningful progress.  Continue reading

Work Product Protection: Fishing For Parent Consultants’ Files at the BSEA Should Be Off Limits

Some school districts have increasingly been seeking production of parent consultants’ (non-lawyer advocates’) files in the discovery process at the BSEA. We believe that most documents generated by parent consultants should be shielded from disclosure as irrelevant and/or as subject to the doctrine of “work product.” We are posting here an excerpt from a comment that we recently published in the Massachusetts Special Education Reporter (“MSER”) in which we took the occasion to highlight the need to protect consultants’ work product. Parents’ access to consultants who can help them navigate the complexities of special education process is essential, we think, to the integrity and effectiveness of the system; that access should not be chilled by concerns over the possibility of school districts and their attorneys picking through their consultants’ files if litigation ensues. (Our full commentary on BSEA decisions and rulings in the first quarter of 2015 is published at 21 MSER C-1 and may be read on our firm’s website. 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

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.