Photo of Jennifer Smith

Attorney focused on representing school districts, colleges, and universities.

We all know that out-of-state residential placements are a big deal in special education, because we work in schools every day and support these challenging decisions made by school personnel. Now, the issue is garnering attention outside of the schoolhouse. A recent article by NPR Illinois highlighted the significant numbers of such placements, the potential causes of the placements, and the costs to schools and the government. NPR called on Franczek education partner Jennifer Smith to provide insight on this issue of importance to all members of the special education community, including schools.

Continue Reading

Summer is upon us and so it’s the season for Extended School Year (ESY) services. What better time than now to brush up on the law in this area? Most special education school leaders are familiar with the regression/recoupment test, but many are less aware of the critical life skills test. What is it, and when does it apply?
Continue Reading

In 2017, the Supreme Court issued an opinion, Fry v. Napoleon, stating that unless parents/guardians seek relief that is also available under the IDEA, they need not exhaust IDEA procedures by filing a complaint for a due process hearing before filing a lawsuit under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Michigan federal trial court so that it could collect more facts and apply the “Fry tests” that the Supreme Court set forth in the case. Earlier this month, the trial court ruled in favor of the Frys, finding that the parents’ claims were not subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement because the parents were not claiming a denial of a free, appropriate public education (or “FAPE). The decision makes clear how important it is for school districts to identify requests for accommodation that are related to access and equity (and not the denial of a FAPE) from early on in the process and to handle them as required by Section 504 and the ADA. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that documentation regarding requests for accommodation thorough and clear. For more on the next chapter in this important Supreme Court case, keep reading!
Continue Reading

A District of Columbia trial court issued a ruling today requiring the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to implement a 2016 Obama-era regulation addressing “significant disproportionality” based on race and national origin in special education. What does this mean for schools? The regulation may bring changes to the data that school districts must report to state boards of education for purposes of the significant disproportionality analysis. There will also be changes to the remedial actions schools must take if a significant disproportionality is found. More on this interesting and important decision is after the jump.
Continue Reading

Where do you draw the line between pre-IEP-meeting preparation, which the law allows, and “predetermination” prior to the meeting, which can get schools into hot water? This was one topic discussed during our recent Franczek webinar, IEP Season is Coming . . . Are You Ready?, which included a “top 10” list of issues to keep in mind heading into the IEP season. We encourage you to watch the 30-minute webinar, which is available on demand on our website, but want to dig in on one issue raised in it: A major mistake that can turn permissive pre-IEP-meeting planning into prohibited predetermination. What is it? How do you avoid the risk? Read on!
Continue Reading

A caravan of Franczek’s special education attorneys is en route to Springfield to participate in the IAASE Twentieth Annual Winter Conference, and we couldn’t be more excited. As the new website for the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education explains, IAASE is the largest statewide organization of special education administrators in the country and

It has been a year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Texas. As many media outlets are reporting, although the shooting was supposed to be the one that “changed everything,” threats to school safety continue to be a fact of life in American schools. Yet there is much that we can learn and do in this constantly-evolving area, particularly as it relates to students with special needs. How do you properly address school threats from students receiving special education? If you will be at IAASE, you can come discuss this and other student mental health concerns with Franczek attorneys Jennifer Smith and Mary Deweese during their February 21 session on Mental Health Support for Students: The Legal Framework. We also hope you will join us for a unique opportunity to discuss threat assessments during our complimentary half-day conference on Assessing Risk of Violence: Effectively Evaluating Threats to School Safety with Dr. Nancy Zarse, an expert on threat assessments, at Elmhurst College on February 28. In the meantime, this blog post addresses what we think is the key issue to consider when addressing school threats from students with special needs. Read on to confirm that you are complying with this essential consideration.

Continue Reading

A recent BBC news story reported that a seven-year-old boy with leukemia who cannot attend school in person will attend virtually using an AV1 robot. The story reminds us of some of the benefits of using virtual technology for students with special needs, such as keeping the student safe while allowing him to feel a part of the classroom. Franczek attorneys Kendra Yoch and Jennifer Smith will be leading an interactive discussion about team decisions regarding the use of technology at the upcoming IAASE conference this week in Springfield. But once a team decides that a virtual technology is appropriate for a student, what legal risks should they consider? As with most technology issues in the school realm, the risks are manageable but should not be ignored. For a quick checklist of five issues to consider if a team decides a student should use virtual technology in the classroom, continue reading!
Continue Reading