Photo of Jackie Gharapour Wernz

Attorney representing educational institutions in a wide range of education and employment law matters.

AngelSense™, Amber Alert GPS™, Pocket Finder™, Filip™. The list of tracking devices for students with special needs constantly grows, and parents increasingly seek to send such devices with their students to school. The use of GPS is usually uncontroversial. But what if the device allows parents to listen into or even record what the student hears at school? Such functions can raise a plethora of legal concerns. In a recent due process decision from Nevada, an impartial hearing officer decided that parents of a student with Autism could not use the “listen-in” function of an AngelSense tracker at school. What does this decision mean for school districts across the country, including in Illinois?
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A recent Education Week Curriculum Matters blog post, “Meet the Moms Pushing for a Reading Overhaul in Their District,” is an important reminder of the challenges that can arise when parents and school staff do not agree on reading methodology for students with special needs. While the law allows schools to choose methodology for students receiving special education and related services in reading and other curricular areas, conflicts over curriculum choices can be expensive to litigate and can undermine parent-staff relationships. How do you minimize the risk of curriculum wars over reading methodology?
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We all know by now that some modifications and accommodations are required to provide students with disabilities equal access to extracurricular activities. But the details can be tricky for even the most well-seasoned special education professionals. Our own John Swinney will be tackling this and other exciting student activities topics tomorrow, April 12, 2019, at the Illinois Directors of Student Activities State Convention in Rosemont. He hopes to see many familiar faces there! For those who want a taste of what he will discuss on this hot topic, read on for the four key questions to ask (and insight on how to apply them)! 
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Most of the cases the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles involve disability discrimination, including claims that a school failed to implement an IEP or Section 504 plan. In our experience, however, OCR is often an afterthought for school employees who work in the field, and when OCR comes knocking school leaders often feel unprepared. Read on for five tips to help you feel more confident the next time you receive notice of an OCR complaint.
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In the realm of special education, the use of specialized jargon and unique terminology it the norm. Whether it’s terms that seem basic to us now, like “IEP” and “LRE,” or more of-the-minute phrases like “significant disproportionality,” those of us who work in special education law are expected to be fluent in a veritable alphabet soup of terms and phrases. Two of the most confusing phrases that we come across are “accommodation” and “modification,” so much so that a quick review of court, hearing officer, and Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) decisions shows these terms being used interchangeably, contradictorily, and downright confusingly from day to day. What are the differences between these words, and do those differences matter? Keep reading to find out!

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Maybe you’ve heard the proverb “A stitch in time saves nine,” but have you ever wondered what it means? According to Wiktionary, this old proverb comes from the idea of mending a small tear in clothes before it becomes a larger one. In other words, putting in a little effort when an issue first arises can prevent it from becoming a larger one later. We couldn’t help but think of this proverb recently when our own Dana Fattore Crumley and others on the Attorney Panel at the IAASE Winter Conference were asked whether a non-administrator can act as an LEA representative during an IEP meeting. Many ideas were shared, and one that deserves further discussion is the impact if that LEA rep does not have sufficient authority in situations where more than typical resources are at stake. What are the cautionary concerns you should consider in this situation? Read on for the answers.
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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.
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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

Schools often struggle when asked to evaluate or accommodate a high-achieving student who may also have a disability. In some cases, the student is what is known as “twice exceptional” or “2e,” which is a student with a disability who also exhibits high academic aptitude. In other rare cases, the student or their parents may be among those who reportedly seek accommodations not to address a disability, but to get ahead in the rat race of honors and AP classes, college entrance exams, competitive college admissions, and other challenges that face today’s high school students. How do you tell the difference between 2e students and students whose parents are exhibiting what we will call “accommodation-seeking behaviors”? What kinds of accommodations are required for students with disabilities who are nonetheless high achieving? For those of you who will be attending IAASE in Springfield this week, you can join Dana Fattore Crumley and Nicki Bazer for their session, Twice Bitten, Once Shy: Accommodating High Achieving Students Under IDEA and Section 504, on Thursday, February 21 at 10:15 a.m. For a sneak-peak on this interesting topic, keep reading!
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