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

A recent decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals (the highest federal court in the jurisdictions of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island) rebuffed attempts by a student’s parents to heighten the “[f]ree appropriate public education” (FAPE) standard under Endrew F. The court also applied the same standard used by the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Illinois, to analyze a claim that a school district failed to provide a student a FAPE in the “[l]east restrictive environment” (LRE). The decision is therefore a useful read for school leaders in Illinois and beyond. Don’t miss the key takeaways for school leaders at the end. Continue Reading First Circuit Refuses to Heighten the Endrew F. FAPE Standard or Find LRE Violation for Self-Contained Program Placement

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

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)!  Continue Reading Back to Basics: The Four Questions You Must Ask to Assess Requests for Modifications in Athletics and Extracurricular Activities

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 Recent Lower Court Decision in Fry v. Napoleon Sheds Light on New Exhaustion Standard

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. Continue Reading Back to Basics: OCR is at the Door – Five Steps to Mount Your Best Defense

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?

If you’ve ever been confused by the use of the terms “accommodations” and “modifications” in the realm of disability student rights, you’re not alone. Our friends over at LRP Publications, the makers of the Special Ed Connection website, asked our own Jackie Wernz to host an upcoming webinar on the topic because of the prevalence of confusion over the terms and how they come into play under both the IDEA and Section 504. The webinar, “Is This an Accommodation or a Modification? Understanding the Difference to Ensure Compliance,” will be held this Thursday, March 14, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. Central. More information can be found on the LRP website.

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?