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Special Education Advocacy at School Meetings NACC 2012 Erin Han, Esq. Richard Cozzola, LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) Janeen Barth Schlotzer, Advocacy.

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Presentation on theme: "Special Education Advocacy at School Meetings NACC 2012 Erin Han, Esq. Richard Cozzola, LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) Janeen Barth Schlotzer, Advocacy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Special Education Advocacy at School Meetings NACC 2012 Erin Han, Esq. Richard Cozzola, LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) Janeen Barth Schlotzer, Advocacy Services of the Jewish Federation

2 Advocacy outside the courthouse: the schoolhouse Preparing before a school meeting Advocacy at the school meeting Seeing through to the successful finale

3 School Meetings Are where decisions get made about the issues important to our clients (like courts). Occur in the place those decisions are either followed or ignored (not like courts). Have rules (just like courts). Have opportunities for advocacy (just like courts).

4 Types of School Meetings Domain or assessment planning meeting Eligibility conference Individual Education Program (IEP) Meeting Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) Meeting “Non legal” school meetings: RtI, School Based Problem Solving, Student Study Teams

5 Before the Meeting… PREPARING TO ADVOCATE

6 Obtain and Review Records Obtaining Records – Legal authority: FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g (1974). State Laws: ISSRA in Illinois – Better for parent or attorney to obtain? – What should be included? Report cards, daily attendance, discipline, security officer records, transcripts, parent communications, social worker/teacher/aid records, health records, schoolwork, data from RtI and school- based problem solving, , electronic, records, and video. – What if the school does not produce them? Enforcement. & Attorney Fee requests if allowed.

7 Obtain and Review Records Reviewing Records – Find out who works with the child and should attend the meeting (separate questions) – Get view of what problems are and aren’t documented System: Paginate – Utilize excel/other programs – utilize keywords. PAGEWITNESSCONTENTCOMMENT+/-

8 Obtain and Review Records Review with a view towards the upcoming meeting. – Domain: identify areas of suspected disability – Eligibility: Have a good handle on noted problems and who thinks what about the child – MDR: school compliance w/IEP & aspects of disability. What is your theory? Are you just going to gain knowledge and really come up with joint plan? How do records confirm/disconfirm your theory. – Talk with client if facts need to be confirmed – If you need to reconsider your theory.

9 R.S.V.P. Give advance notice of your planned attendance and intended purpose of the meeting. – May be legal necessity Rule 4.2 Communication With Person Represented By Counsel. In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or a court order. – Practically advantageous

10 Who you are to the school A lawyer An outsider Not aware of hidden agenda – Funding – Intra school/district politics – Someone at table may agree with you but not be able to say it. You don’t have to live with day to day consequences – Parents, Child, and School staff do.

11 How much time is this going to take? How much time did the school schedule? How much time did you schedule? – Come prepared

12 Assembling your Team Who supports your view – Caseworker – Outside Therapist – Probation officer – Parent – Evaluator for another purpose (SS/Custody/Foster care)

13 Working with Your Team Share your strategy in advance as well as the purpose of the meeting. Discuss talking strategies – Overall approach, e.g. Listening then responding. – What if you don’t understand a term – What is signal to be quiet – Stepping outside. Is your goal at meeting persuasion – gaining information or both.

14 Should the student attend? Maybe More likely “no” for eligibility or MDR More likely “yes” for IEP or BIP development Should the student be there for the entire meeting? – A special word about written anecdotals.

15 ADVOCACY AT THE MEETING

16 Tread Lightly What is your goal – Gaining knowledge – Advocating for a particular point. – Both Build rather than burn bridges – Agreement – Reinforcement with examples Know when to jump in – Decision times – Transition times Remember you have an unspoken strength --- your options after the meeting, e.g. due process

17 When you get into room Names and roles Room Diagram Agreement on purpose of meeting Learning time limitations Establishing rapport

18 Cover all your Issues IssueHow Discussed at MeetingConfirmed it is Incorporated in IEP Student’s participation in sports at gen ed high school Agreed so long as he is at Level 3 or higher Yes Timeframe for consideration of matriculation back to high school from TDS Agreed to discuss appropriateness before end of school year IEP confirms that meeting must occur in May.

19 Releasing Information Once information is in the school file, it will follow the student forever. Be sure to get appropriate releases for info you want introduced. Make sure there is a purpose in the release that benefits the student. Alternatives: therapist-introduced information.

20 Your roles at meeting Person who stands with the client (even if you are sitting). Translator – Of terms: ANECDOTALS, IEP, STANDARD DEVIATION – Of questions: Facilitator of stories from parent, family others. Information gatherer.

21 Using Breaks Well Gather more information Consider the perspective of another Team More time to negotiate with opposing counsel

22 Recording your Dissent Signing in Writing your Dissent What next?

23 Obtaining a Copy of the Finalized IEP Wait for it… Confirmation letter or . Get it soon while fresh in minds

24 Making your Exit In what tone do you exit the meeting?

25 Special Education Meeting MYTH: RtI Testing efforts should not be derailed by RtI RtI means data…get copies.

26 MDRs MYTH: Right from Wrong The actual law – 34 CFR § (e) “If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability; or if the donduct in question was the direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP” School “law” – “Whether the child knows right from wrong.”

27 The Aftermath: FOLLOWING UP AFTER THE MEETING

28 Legal options where parent is unhappy Wait and see File CC Independent Educational Evaluation File due process Going straight to court in rare cases

29 Separate Day Placements Visit at least 2 or 3. Student should Attend Questions to Ask for Visit: – Ratio – PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) – Time outs…where and how – Hands on? – Academics – Therapeutic component

30 Always end with your Client Explaining the results to the parent – Importance of monitoring – Importance of positive relationships at school Explaining the results to a student – Options – Help…extra time, etc.


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