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SPECIAL EDUCATION: Pro Bono Representation at IEP Meetings

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1 SPECIAL EDUCATION: Pro Bono Representation at IEP Meetings
Equip for Equality Explain my project. Describe handbook

2 Why do parents need attorneys to represent them on special ed matters?
Federal law is complicated Districts often violate the law and have attorneys to protect them Typical parents calling EFE – calling regarding a problem with their child’s special education services. oftentimes uneducated, sometimes have a disability themselves. Some of them are unable to read and cannot understand all of the paperwork the school has them sign. Even if the parents are able to read, the paperwork often consists of complex disability and legal terms that the parents don’t understand. Many are low-income, minorities. Dealing with other crises in their lives. Language barriers sometimes, as well as cultural barriers. Think about a parent faced up against an entire school district. Now think that the school district, in addition to its vast financial resources, also has an attorney specializing in special ed law. The parent clearly is facing a huge obstacle if facing a special ed issue on his/her own. School districts don’t take parents seriously. Oftentimes when a pro bono attorney becomes involved, the district starts taking the parent seriously. Example of Rashad – grandparent taking care of five grandkids b/c the mother was in jail. The 10 year old was constantly getting into trouble and the school called the grandma and informed her that they were moving her grandson to an alternative school. Kid had never been evaluated for special ed. Pro bono attorney got involved. District evaluated the student, found him eligible for special ed and agreed to keep him at the public school with a one on one aide to assist him. Grandmother was thrilled that her son didn’t get dumped in an alternative school and was able to stay with his friends at the public school and get the special ed he needs and deserves.

3 Special Education: Who Needs It?
Does a student have difficulty in school? Does a student need tools or services to understand materials or teachers in school? Does a student need help to get into the school or use school equipment? Does the school staff understand students’ needs? Maybe student needs Braille. There are a lot of disabilities that people could have and teachers may not know about every single one and may require training to understand a student’s disability.

4 Special Education Laws
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA) Section 504 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Act(FERPA) State Laws and Regulations IDEA is the main law

5 Special Education Laws
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA) 20 USC 1400 purpose 1401 definitions 1412 child find, LRE,FAPE 1414 evaluations, consent, eligibility, IEP, Placement 1415 Procedural Safeguards LRE – least restrictive environment FAPE – free appropriate public education IEP – individualized education program

6 Purpose of Special Education
To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living

7 How long does a student receive special education?
A student receives special education until the day before his/her 22nd birthday in Illinois.

FAPE SPECIAL EDUCATION DEFINED Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability,… Every student with a disability who requires special ed has the right to a FAPE. Important that it says NO cost to the parent. Unique needs – notes that every child is different and has different needs. Not every child with autism needs the same services as another child with autism. Note that the District does NOT need to provide the student with the “cadillac,” the best possible services. It is important to avoid the word “best” at IEP meetings. The District must provide the student with “appropriate” services and that’s the key word to use.

9 Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) 20 USC 1412(a)(5)
To the MAXIMUM extent appropriate children with disabilities… are educated with children who are not disabled. Removal nature and severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services CANNOT be achieved satisfactorily. Not every child can get a meaningful educational benefit in the public school classroom, even if they receive special ed services. However, the law has a preference for the child’s public school classroom, when possible. The reason behind this is that children with disabilities used to be dumped in a segregated school, much like African-American kids were in segregated schools. The lawmakers were very conscious of this. Some children may have to be placed in a private school in order to make progress and then the District has to pay for this. Example – Petrina.

10 Special Education Services
1. Request Written Request by Parent, State agency, or school may initiate request for initial case study evaluation Sample letters available Keep a copy with date and time it was delivered and to whom it was delivered Some of our pro bono attorneys now are helping families request evaluations and attending IEP meetings to find children eligible for special education. The schools often tend to ignore parents until attorneys become involved. Sample in the manual Case study evaluation – the name of the evaluation of a student for sp ed services 2 steps – request and consent.

11 Special Education Services
2. Consent Parent can include consent in request letter or School must provide parent consent form within 14 days of request We encourage parents to give consent in their letter to a school. There’s a template in the packet that I’ve given with an example of a request and consent letter for a CSE.

12 Special Education Services
2. Consent for Case Study Evaluations Parental Consent not referral, starts the Case Study Evaluation (CSE) timeline, which must be done within 60 CALENDAR days (IDEA) – a different timeline may be set by the state. (IL Admin Code: 60 SCHOOL days from Consent) From the day school gets consent, has sixty school days to do an evaluation. I always ask them to do it sooner and list reasons why I think they should, but legally, they have sixty school days. Note that sixty school days can easily turn into an entire school quarter

13 Special Education Services
Request Consent Case Study Evaluation (CSE) Eligibility Meeting –MDC Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting

14 Special Education Services
3. Case Study Evaluation Variety of assessment tools must be used Testing must be done in the “language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally.” Even if that is a fairly obscure language (I.e. Urdu), school has to find a psychologist who can test the child in that language if that will yield accurate information about the student and English won’t.

15 Special Education Services
Request Consent Case Study Evaluation (CSE) Eligibility Meeting –MDC Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting

16 Special Education Services
4. Eligibility Meeting –Multidisciplinary Conference Team of qualified professionals and parents decide Whether child is a child with a disability (1401)(3) 1. Disability – mental retardation, hearing impairment, speech or language impairments, visual impairments, serious emotional disturbance (emotional disturbance), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments (OHI), or specific learning disabilities (LD or SLD): AND 2. who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services If you are assisting a family in getting a child with a disability found eligible for special education, you may attend a multidisciplinary conference – sometimes just called an IEP meeting Just because a disability isn’t in this list, doesn’t mean that it is not considered a disability under IDEA. A lot of disabilities can fall under the other health impaired or serious emotional disturbance category. For example, ADHD falls under OHI. Depression, bipolar, or an anxiety disorder would fit under ED. Note that just b/c a child has a disability, that does NOT mean that child qualifies for special ed. If the child’s disability isn’t affecting the child at school, then the child does not require special ed

17 Special Education Services
Request Consent Case Study Evaluation (CSE) Eligibility Meeting –MDC Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting

18 What is an IEP? Legally binding Like a contract
Every special ed student has one Legally binding document. Look at it like a contract or a gameplan for the student. Lays out where the student’s starting point is and where we want the student to end up. Documents that talks about - the child’s strengths · the parent’s concerns for enhancing the child’s education · the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation · the child’s academic, developmental, and functional needs The school is legally responsible for following an IEP. That’s why it is so important to get everything you want for the child written into the IEP, because then the school has to follow it.

IF IT’S NOT WRITTEN DOWN IT DIDN’T OR WON’T HAPPEN Many times parents will tell us that schools verbally told the parent in a meeting that a certain thing was going to happen. If the school didn’t put it in writing, there’s nothing a parent can do to enforce what the school told him/her verbally.

20 Special Education Services
5. Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting IEP meeting held at least annually IEP TEAM Parents Not less than ONE regular ed teacher (if child IS or may be participating in regular education) Not less than ONE special ed teacher, or where appropriate…special education provider of such child Representative of Local Education Agency (LEA) IEP meeting is held to discuss the IEP and any changes that need to be made. Relatively informal meeting – sit around a table at the school. A lot of people tend to be there from the school but may come and go throughout the meeting, with parent’s permission. It’s a chance for the parent to talk about what she thinks the child needs and isn’t getting at school, any changes she’d like to see, what she’d like the child to be working on. Chance to hear from teachers about child’s progress, any challenges the child is facing, what the teacher thinks the child should be working on. Whomever is working with the child at the school should come to the IEP meeting, whether that’s a speech therapist, physical therapist, teacher, etc. We want people there who really know the kid. Rep of LEA – basically someone with the authority to make decision (oftentimes sp ed director)

21 Special Education Services
5. Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting IEP TEAM Continued.. An individual who can interpret the instructional implication of evaluation results Other individuals who have “knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate: and whenever appropriate, the child with a disability Individual who can interpret evaluations – psychologist, social worker, depends on the case. Attorneys are allowed to come to IEP meetings – parents have a right to say the attorney can come as someone who has knowledge regarding the child. Parents can invite whomever they want. If there’s a therapist outside of school who really knows the child or a psychologist or doctor, parent can invite that person. That person can participate via phone if unable to come in person. Whether you want a child to come to the IEP meeting really depends on the kid. Some kids are very uncomfortable with the idea of sitting at a meeting and hearing people talk about their academic weaknesses or other topics they find embarrassing. You could have the child come to part of a meeting if that is appropriate. You have to discuss this with your client. I’d say about 50% of the time my clients come to the IEP, 50% of the time they don’t. It’s important to talk with the student about what she/he would like to see come out of the meeting. You want to make sure the client is on board with what you are discussing at the meeting, even if the client doesn’t come to the meeting himself. This is especially important with older clients and when you talking about changing a client’s placement. The parent may want one thing but the kid wants something totally different. If it’s a really young child, you may go for what the parent wants. If it’s an older child, that child won’t go to school if he’s not happy with the setting, so you need to make sure before going into an IEP that the parent and child agree on a setting. I have never had an issue with this yet, but it’s important to think about this. Our retainers say that if the parent and child disagree, we can withdraw from the case. That’s never happened in any of my cases though. It can be empowering for students to attend their own IEP meeting. They know their needs better than anyone else does. If a student is capable of expressing his/her needs, then it’s good to have the student at the meeting. Sometimes good to have the student work with you ahead of time to write out what his/her needs are, what’s most difficult for her, what she views as easier, what works and what doesn’t in the classroom setting.

22 IEP Meeting Case manager will run the meeting Informal meeting
Sit around conference table at school

23 What’s in an IEP? Present Levels of Performance
Goals & Objectives/Benchmarks Progress Reports Special Education Services Related Services Supplementary Aids and Services Special factors Transition Services (IL 14 ½ and up) – IDEA 16

24 Present Levels of Performance (PLOP)
A Statement of the child’s academic achievement and functional performance – Present Level of Performance “PLOP” PLOP needs to be specific – Example – Johnny is below grade level in math. We have no idea where Johnny is in math. If Johnny is in seventh grade now, he could be at a fourth grade level in math or a kindergarten level in math. We need a more concrete idea of where Johnny is starting in order to measure his progress. Example – Johnny is performing at a third grade level in math computation and has trouble with multiplying two digit numbers. GO THROUGH SAMPLE IEP p.6 – show where PLOP would go, right next to goal. Maybe if the student’s working on a social work goal, the PLOP may be “Jen currently expresses her anger through the use of profanity in two out of three situations.”

25 IEP Goals A statement of measurable annual goals including academic and functional goals designed to Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability SMART goals – specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-sensitive Goal example – don’t want a vague goal such as “Jen will learn how to read.” You need to say how, for example, “Jen will learn how to read using X reading method so she can learn the letters of the alphabet and her vowel sounds.” Schools tend to be resistant to putting in a lot of detail, but you should try to get in as much as possible Or if Jen has trouble understanding what she’s reading a goal could say: Jen will read one paragraph stories out loud and be able to answer four questions about the content of the reading comprehension four out of five times. P. 6 SAMPLE CPS IEP – SHOW GOAL BOX. Multiple goals – for academic areas, but then also need social work goals for some students, physical therapy goals for another. Depends on what the child is working on. Each goal is on a different page of the IEP. And each goal should have a PLOP.

26 Progress Reports The parents need to know about their child’s progress
The IEP should specify how the parents will be notified of their child’s progress Through phone calls? s? On a daily basis? Weekly basis? Put that into the IEP.

27 Special Education and Related Services
IEP includes information about types of services a student receives Examples of related services – OT PT Speech therapy Social work Is the student receiving one on one services from a special ed teacher? Is the student in a classroom with only special ed kids, or is the student in a classroom with some regular ed kids? Will the student receive services in the classroom or will the student be pulled out of the classroom? This all needs to be figured out and written into the IEP. Related services – occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, depends on the child. If student receives one of these services, then there should be a goal for that service! p. 7 OF SAMPLE IEP – includes placement information. Separate class means child is with all special ed students. Consultative means it’s not a service the child is directly receiving, maybe that service provider checks in with the student’s teachers periodically.

28 Supplementary Aides and Services
This may be some type of accommodation the student needs Can include staff training i.e. a blind student needs documents in Braille, a student with a hearing loss needs to have a written copy of everything,would need an interpreter, student needs to use a special computer program in order to write an essay or in order to read Staff training – if staff needs more training on that disability. I.e. TBI CPS IEP P.5, SECTION 11 More examples – seat in front of classroom, extended time on tests, chance for make-up work. Last one transition plan – not going to go into detail about that, but needs to talk about student’s post-high school goals if the student is 14.5 or older.

29 What’s in the rest of the IEP?
See sample CPS IEP. Front page – sign in Talk about parental ideas and concerns and how we want to really beef up those sections. OTHER DISTRICTS’ IEPS LOOK DIFFERENT – but do contain similar info.

30 Reevaluation - every 3 years
Meet to discuss what information the school already has and what information is still needed reevaluation every 3 years UNLESS parent and school agree it is unnecessary We never recommend to parents that they waive their child’s right to an evaluation. A lot changes with a child in three years, and we need to find this out by evaluating the student. Sometimes want the child evaluated more often and that’s ok, parent can ask for a special evaluation to take place and doesn’t have to wait three years in b/w evaluations.

31 What do I do if I am representing a student at an IEP meeting?
You will receive an from within Winston & Strawn about pro bono opportunities. Respond to that , indicating your interest in taking the case. There are a few things you will always do, regardless of what type of case you are accepting.

32 What do I do if I am representing a student at an IEP meeting?
Inform EFE that you are interested in the case. We will give you the necessary information so you can perform a conflicts check. Obtain the necessary supervision within Winston & Strawn

33 What do I do if I am representing a student at an IEP meeting?
If you are able to take the case, inform EFE. Olga Pribyl will inform you which EFE attorney will be your backup on the case. Arrange a time to meet with the EFE attorney to get the file and ask any initial questions you may have. There will always be an attorney at EFE that is your primary contact on the case, the person you call with any questions or the person who can read a draft of your due process request or whatever else you may want help with.

34 What do I do if I am representing a student at an IEP meeting?
Review the file. Brainstorm about arguments in your favor, and arguments that are in the District’s favor. Call EFE with any questions you may have.

35 Meet with the Parent and Child
In the initial meeting, the parent and child will sign the retainer and you will discuss the family’s goals for the representation and what avenue you think you should try to achieve those goals (I.e. IEP meeting, due process request, etc.) A lot of times you will know ahead of time that you are going to file for due process right away, because EFE has unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the District to get what the family wants. You can also use this meeting to find out what the parent has tried to do to help his/her child and if there is any documentation of the parent’s actions.

36 IEP Meeting Once you and the parent have determined the goals of the representation and you have determined the arguments you are going to make to accomplish those goals, draft a letter to the District explaining your request for an IEP meeting and your arguments for what the student needs in order to make meaningful educational benefit Sometimes you may be arguing that the student should be spending more time in the regular education classroom to be around non-disabled peers. Sometimes you may be arguing that the student needs more intensive special ed services because he has not made any progress. It really depends on the case.

37 IEP Meeting Send the letter to the District Superintendent and school principal (or if there is a lawyer on the case, then to the lawyer) It oftentimes is not that detailed. Perhaps you are asking the District to evaluate the student and don’t know exactly what you want to request until you see the evaluations. Or perhaps the parent has an evaluation that’s been done privately and you already know, based upon those recommendations, what you want to ask for. Or sometimes law firms have hired experts in cases, when necessary, to determine what services the student needs.

38 IEP Meeting If CPS case, send letter to: Luis Rodriguez Director of Due Process & Mediation, CPS S. Clark St, 8th Floor Chicago, IL 60603 CPS fax: (773) Also suggest cc’ing the school principal on the letter

39 IEP Meeting Backup person at EFE will be happy to read a draft of the letter before you send it. Be aware that Luis Rodriguez is not good at returning phone calls or s, once you send him the letter. You will have to follow up with him often to get him to return your messages. His phone number is (773) and his is

40 How should you prepare for an IEP meeting?
Have a detailed conversation with the parent and student prior to the meeting. Know strengths/weaknesses of your arguments as to why the student needs what the parent and student are asking for. Shadow an EFE attorney at an IEP meeting prior to your meeting, if you would like.

41 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
You may have been provided with a copy of any evaluations done, and if so, you should review those ahead of time and speak with the parent about those. If you did not get those ahead of time, arrive at the meeting early, ask for the evaluations, and ask for a private room to review the evaluations and discuss them with the parent. You aren’t expected to understand everything in the reports that the psychologists and social workers write. It’s perfectly fine to ask for an explanation. You can frame it as “can you explain this section in layman’s terms so that Ms. X is able to understand?”

42 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
If the attorney is willing to talk with you before the meeting (either the day of the meeting or prior to that day) about the District’s position on the case, try and find out what the District is willing to do with the case. If the District is going to agree with what you want, you will not have to do as much at the meeting.

43 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
The IEP should be completed at the meeting. Occasionally, one part will not be completed and you will have to receive that part at a later date. I always ask for a draft copy of the IEP before leaving, even if the IEP is not completed. If the IEP is completed, do not leave the meeting without a copy for yourself and the parent! If you disagree with anything at the meeting, inform the IEP team that you will be writing a dissent on behalf of the parent and make sure that it is noted on the IEP that you will be writing a dissent (at CPS, this is noted on the lower right hand corner of page 1).

44 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
There will always be an EFE backup person available for you to call during the meeting if necessary.

45 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
After the meeting, you can take your time to write the dissent. I try to provide the dissent to the opposing counsel within a week’s time of the meeting. You can fax/ the EFE backup a copy of the IEP if you would like advice on writing a dissent.

46 What should you expect at the IEP meeting?
If the meeting was not successful, speak with the parent about what steps you think should be taken (if any)

1. DOCUMENTATION 2. INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION 3. REQUEST AN IEP MEETING 4. STATE COMPLAINT 5. MEDIATION 6. DUE PROCESS Not going to go into these specifically today b/c we don’t have much time to talk today. We are going to hand out a survey and people can let us know what you are interested in and we can discuss these topics further with the interested people. Will briefly mention documentation – we encourage all parents to document in a letter or all conversations with the school about their child. Even conversations at an IEP meeting should be documented. The parent can do so in a friendly manner by writing a “thank you letter” to the school, thanking them for coming to the child’s IEP meeting and working on finding an appropriate plan for the student. Another important form of documentation is writing a letter of dissent. If you and your client disagree with the team’s decision, you can ask to attach a dissent to the IEP. Either you can hand write a dissent right there, explaining what decisions you disagree with, or you can inform the attorney for the District that you will be writing a dissent that you want attached to the IEP and will get it to her in a few days. If you want to talk to EFE before writing the dissent, that’s a good way to buy yourself some extra time. You should make sure and list everything you disagree with in the dissent. I.e. if the school is refusing to write a goal teaching the child how to read, or if the school is refusing to include the methodology they are using to teach the child how to read (certain programs are scientifically based while others aren’t), you can write in your dissent that you disagree with the school’s decision not to list a specific methodology or not to include a reading goal. Example of simple dissent – Ms. Salinas and her attorney disagree with the IEP team’s decision to place Jack in a therapeutic day school for children with behavioral disorders. We believe that, given the proper supports and services, Jack can attend classes at his local public high school. After writing the dissent, you can decide on what the next step will be. IEE – can request an evaluation by independent evaluation at District’s expense. Need to follow specific procedure to do so. We can provide information if this becomes relevant in one of your cases. IF YOU DECIDE TO REP - If you decide to represent a student at the IEP meeting, your role at the meeting really depends on the individual circumstances of the client. You may know ahead of time that the school is agreeing with the placement that you and your client want and the IEP meeting may be somewhat of a formality, to fill out the appropriate paperwork. In that case, you may not play a huge role while at the meeting, and may take the backseat to the case manager and special ed teachers who are working on writing the goals and filling out all of the paperwork. Sometimes you have no clue what the school’s position is until you get to the meeting. I often ask to speak with the attorney before the meeting starts to see what the attorney’s position is. Some attorneys for school districts take a backseat to what their staff wants, while others will basically tell their staff what to say. It really depends again on the attorney and the circumstances in the case. It’s easiest to go into the meeting knowing whether the District is in agreement with you or not. State complaint – I.e. some pro bono attorneys currently working on a state complaint about a school district discriminating by saying that students with high IQs will not be allowed to get OT. Mediation – often done after file for due process, can be done before. Due process – run like a mini trial, is an administrative hearing with a hearing officer. If interested in doing a due process hearing, we will provide you with extensive information and samples of due process requests we have filed.

48 Questions???? If you decide you want to take a case, we have a large binder full of resources and tip sheets. The tip sheets will guide you on the steps you should take while working with the student and his/her parent. For example, the expulsion tip sheet gives you advice on how to prepare for the expulsion hearing, who to call if you want a continuance of the hearing, and what types of questions you want to ask the student at the hearing. We have a detailed sheet about IEP meetings as well. Examples of cases pro bono attorneys are handling – IEP meeting to keep a 12 year old student in the public school. Student has severe behavioral issues and school had not yet found him eligible for special ed, but was trying to kick him out to an alternative school. Rep at expulsion hearing and then keeping the case to negotiate a more appropriate special ed placement for the student Due process hearing to find student with a LD the appropriate types of services to teach him how to read Rep at IEP meeting and any further negotiations for a student who is not receiving enough behavioral supports at school and is always getting into trouble b/c of that State complaint b/c a district has a discriminatory policy of not providing occupational therapy to students who are high functioning academically.

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