Photo of Jackie Gharapour Wernz

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

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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We’ve all heard it before—schools only must provide a “serviceable Chevrolet,” not a Cadillac, to afford a student a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The analogy is often associated with the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case known as Rowley, which said that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires only a “basic floor of opportunity,” not that schools “maximize” a child’s educational potential. The “Chevy vs. Cadillac” analogy was coined and used by lower courts after Rowley, and suggests that schools need only provide a bare minimum of services to afford a student FAPE. However, the Supreme Court in Endrew F. recently rejected such a “minimalist” interpretation of the IDEA. Since then, we have wondered about the continued applicability of the Chevy vs. Cadillac analogy—does it still have a place in special education law after Endrew F? We think not, and in this blog post we offer a better analogy for school leaders looking for a key to providing students FAPE. If you’d like to learn more, keep reading.
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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.

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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!
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