The dedication of our public servants in meeting the educational needs of our community is manifest in their reaction to the Covid-19 shutdown. Continue reading
Encouraging Changes: DESE Provides Updated Guidance to School Districts Regarding the Provision of FAPE During School Closures
On March 26, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) provided an important update to school districts on their legal responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to their students with disabilities during the COVID-19-related school closures. This guidance, entitled “Coronavirus/Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions For Schools and Districts Regarding Special Education,” replaces the previous one that DESE published on March 17, 2020. Also on March 26, 2020, DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley issued specific recommendations to school districts about implementing remote learning models, entitled “Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 School Closures.” Continue reading
Reversing a FAPE Freefall? U.S. DOE Upholds Students’ Rights to Special Education During Coronavirus Crisis
On March 21, 2020, the United States Department of Education (“USDOE”), through its Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) and Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (“OSERS”), issued a Supplemental Fact Sheet, “Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities.” This guidance provides a necessary corrective to earlier guidance issued by USDOE on March 12, 2020 and by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) on March 17, 2020. Continue reading
KCS Settles Civil Rights Suit Against the Holyoke Public Schools for $950,000
KCS attorneys Daniel Heffernan, Alicia Warren, and Carl Misitano resolved a complex civil rights suit against the Holyoke Public Schools. The case arose out of the abuse and mistreatment of fifteen students with special needs in a program within the Holyoke Public Schools.The students, who were in grades four through eight, all had pre-existing emotional disabilities including anxiety and trauma-related disorders. The defendants included the municipal entities and various school employees. Continue reading
Bureau of Special Education Appeals FY 2019 Statistics and Trends
The BSEA statistics for Fiscal Year 2019 and the overview given of the year by BSEA Director Reece Erlichman provide interesting insights into not only the invaluable work of the BSEA, but also into some trends in the subject matter of special education disputes in the Commonwealth. Continue reading
New BSEA Commentaries Available!
Each quarter, KC&S attorneys provide commentary on BSEA decisions and rulings. Available now are the commentaries for the first quarter of 2019 (January – March), written by Melanie Jarboe, and the second quarter of 2019 (April – June), written by Alicia Warren. Continue reading
Issues in Special Education that Candidates Should Address
We are posting a link here to an article written by Bob Crabtree, of counsel with KC&S, regarding some of the critical issues surrounding special education and disability rights that candidates running for legislative and executive offices should address. Though IDEA is a federal law, states can establish increased requirements for special education and these are therefore issues to discuss with candidates for state office as well. The issues discussed in the article include: inadequate special education funding; the weakening of required standards governing IEPs; judicial decisions about recovery of attorneys’ fees and related costs; and the burden of proof in special education proceedings.
Special Education Today is a publication of the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.
New First Circuit Opinion Elucidates Exhaustion Requirement for School-Related Claims Under Sections 504 and 1983
The First Circuit has recently clarified the exhaustion requirements for school-related Section 504 and Section 1983 claims in light of Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Schs., 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017). In Doucette v. Georgetown Public Schools, #18-1160 (1st Cir. Aug. 26, 2019), a divided panel reversed a District Court decision that dismissed parents’ Section 504 and Section 1983 claims for failure to exhaust IDEA’s administrative process. Continue reading
Recording IEP Meetings
Neither federal law nor Massachusetts state law address the question of whether parents and/or legal guardians may be able to record IEP meetings. However, the Office of School Education Programs (“OSEP”) (which is part of the U.S. Department of Education) has issued some guidance on this issue. Continue reading
Providing Notice of a Unilateral Placement
Pursuant to both state and federal law, students with special needs are entitled to a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). If parents are dissatisfied with the appropriateness of the school district’s programming, parents have the right to place a student in a private school program at their own expense and seek reimbursement from the district. This is called making a “unilateral placement.” Whether or not a lawsuit seeking reimbursement will ultimately be successful depends on a number of complex factors that are beyond the scope of this post, but it is important to provide adequate notice to the school district of a student’s new placement. Continue reading