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

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

A Great New Parent-to-Parent Advocacy Resource

An elegantly written and wisely pragmatic new book – Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2014) – has been published this month to help parents navigate the special education system on behalf of their children.  The book was written by parents, Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves, who learned the ropes both by advocating successfully for their own child from preschool through high school, and also by engaging extensively with many other parents and professionals along the way to learn the wider and deeper elements of the process.  Their book carries the same gently persistent spirit, judicious sense of proportion, and sharp intelligence that marked their advocacy for their child, and the lessons they learned should help all parents of children with learning challenges – both those who are new to the process and those who feel frustrated and powerless after suffering multiple bureaucratic defeats along the way – avoid many common mistakes.  Continue reading

Task Force on Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: Public Hearings Begin on November 1st

Advancements in the education of children with disabilities as well as higher expectations for more meaningful and fulfilling post-high school lives have led to more opportunities for students with disabilities to attend college. Several laws have helped develop some of these opportunities.  When the cornerstone federal statute, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, was reauthorized in 2004, it and resulting regulations emphasized successful transition to post-school life as an important goal of the education of children with special needs.  A crucial component of the transition planning that school districts must begin when the student turns fourteen years old is the post-school vision.  Transition services are to be coordinated, results oriented, and based on the individual student’s strengths, preferences and interests.  Where appropriate, therefore, there is no barrier to have college as the post-high school vision for a student with disabilities. Continue reading

U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Regarding Bullying of Students with Disabilities

Bully Free ZoneOn 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

Seeking Services: Tips for Preparing for IEP Team Meetings and Beyond

Special education law explicitly requires school districts to meet the unique learning needs of students with disabilities to prepare them to succeed as adults in further education, employment and independent living. This is particularly important as students reach transition planning age, beginning at age 14 in MA.  Parents and advocates often face challenges when trying to ensure that school districts address students’ individual academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Continue reading

Special Educators Must Advocate for Children: the CEC Professional Standards for Advocacy

In 2011 I wrote a pair of articles for the Newsline of the Federation for Children with Special Needs describing the legal framework and offering some practical guidelines for public school teachers who wish to advocate for children with disabilities within their districts.  Teachers in that role must wrestle with several sources of resistance and limitation, including their own natural reluctance to engage in potentially adversarial interactions with colleagues and/or administrators; the possibility of subtle or not-so-subtle disciplinary repercussions; and the inevitable extra time and energy it requires to advocate effectively – becoming familiar and comfortable with the applicable rights and procedures, educating oneself about alternative solutions, learning to work with diplomacy amid one’s peers, and so forth – none of which extra time and energy is likely to be compensated in one’s paycheck. Continue reading