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
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
Observation of a student’s program or proposed program by parents or by their expert evaluators or consultants is a critical step in many cases for parents to make informed decisions about their child’s special educational services. In addition, an observation is a necessary ingredient of almost any case at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”), as hearing officers will often discount a witness’s opinion about a district’s program when that witness has not observed the program about which s/he is testifying.
In light of these considerations, it is disheartening that school districts so frequently throw unreasonable (and illegal) conditions and delays into the paths of parents and their experts who seek to observe a program. Examples include requiring criminal record checks, despite the fact that an observer will be accompanied by a school employee and not alone with students at any point; attempts to require that an observer provide a copy of her notes following the observation; long delays (often with phone calls and emails unreturned) in communications about scheduling; arbitrary limits on the amount of time that can be spent observing and/or the classes and activities that may be observed; last minute cancellations or postponements; scheduling unusual and unrepresentative activities (e.g., showing a movie or administering an exam) for the time an observer is at the program; and so on. All of these sorts of tactics play havoc with the experts, whose availability is typically quite limited, and with parents who must negotiate time away from work to observe a program. Continue reading
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