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 What You Should Know About the Critical Skills Test for ESY

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?
Continue Reading Six Key Takeaways from Nevada Decision on GPS Tracker’s Audio Function

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?
Continue Reading Avoiding Reading Curriculum Wars in Special Education

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!

Continue Reading Accommodation or Modification: What’s the Difference, and Does It Matter?

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.
Continue Reading A Stitch in Time: Who Is Your LEA Rep at IEP Meetings, and Why Does it Matter?

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 This One Mistake Can Turn Pre-IEP-Meeting Planning into Prohibited Predetermination

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!
Continue Reading Twice Exceptional Students, Accommodation-Seeking Behaviors, and How to Tell the Difference

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.
Continue Reading Back to Basics: Rowley, Endrew F, and the Chevy vs. Cadillac Analogy

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 Year After Parkland: Do You Know the One Key to Addressing Threats from Students with Special Needs?

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 Virtual Technology in the Classroom: Five Legal Issues to Consider