Education Law Advocates, P.C.

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Education Law Advocates, P.C.
Education Attorneys

Laws and regulations affecting both children with disabilities and “regular education” kids change with time. New legislation is passed at the federal and state levels. New cases are decided by federal and state courts that affect the rights of special needs and regular education children.

Get empowered by learning more! These top websites can help. (Continued from home page).

Be a great advocate! Simple steps for better results at school.

IDEA 2004

As most parents know, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) went into effect on July 1, 2005. To read the act, click here and follow the link for IDEA 2004 in the table. To read about changes in IDEA 2004, click here.

The U.S. Department of Education has published final regulations for IDEA 2004 (see link on home page).  Pennsylvania has published its special education regulations to conform them to IDEA 2004, which finally became effective on July 1, 2008.

Feel free to contact us for more information on changes in federal and state law affecting children with disabilities.

The Gaskin Case

Many Pennsylvania parents have asked us for more information about the Gaskin settlement.

Lydia Rebecca Gaskin was the lead plaintiff in a suit first filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Education on June 30, 1994 by disabled children and children’s advocacy groups. The plaintiffs alleged they were unfairly denied the opportunity to receive a free appropriate education in regular classrooms with individualized supportive services or were placed in regular education classes without the supportive services they needed.

After ten years of litigation, a settlement between the parties was concluded.  Key provisions of the settlement include requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Education to do the following:

♦   Adopt policies, and adapt the IEP form, to require IEP teams to consider, and school districts to provide, a full range of supplementary aids and services to all students with disabilities who can benefit from education in regular education classrooms.

♦   Establish an advisory panel, consisting of a majority of parents of disabled children, to review system-wide progress in delivering individualized specially designed instruction in regular education classes.

♦   Identify, monitor and intervene, where necessary, in school districts most in need of compliance with the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements.  This will include the development of an LRE Index Score to help identify the school districts most in need of LRE-changes and a review of sample IEPs to help ensure compliance.

♦   Investigate each complaint by a student or parent of a violation of the student’s right to receive supplementary aids and services in the regular education classroom and, where a violation is found, provide monitoring designed to ensure that the violation is corrected with respect to that student and all similarly-situated students.

More information on the Gaskin settlement is available at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), http://www.pilcop.org, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education,  http://www.pde.state.pa.us/special_edu/cwp/view.asp?a=177&Q=109539.

Get empowered by learning more!  These top websites can help.

Knowledge is power! Learn and take action! As you learn more, and take action based on that knowledge, you will be surprised by the difference in the way you will feel and the results you will achieve.  This isn't rocket science! You can learn what you need to learn.  You can take the action you need to take to obtain the special education services that your child needs and is legally entitled to receive. You can make a difference in your child's education and in your child's future.

Here are five websites that will help you get to where you need to go. If you have a favorite, we would be glad to hear about it. And please tell us why you find it so helpful. Perhaps we will add it to our list.

Here are our “top five”:

“National” Websites

Wrightslaw: www.Wrightslaw.com

This is our hands-down favorite for a comprehensive website addressing special education law and sped issues. Pete Wright is a nationally-known special education lawyer. His wife, Pam, is a psychotherapist who has worked with children and families for many years.

This website has three features that we especially appreciate:

  • It's comprehensive. If it's an important issue for special education parents, you probably will find it discussed here. Want to learn about the new IDEA 2004, Section 504 or the No Child Left Behind Act? You can find information on each here. Want to know more about reading programs? Or IEP's? Or evaluations? Or how to advocate for your child? Or tips on how to write an effective letter to the school? You can find information and advice at this site.
  • It's in plain English. No “legalese” on this site. It is written in plain English. So it's easy to understand.
  • It's “searchable.” Website information is of no value if you can't find it. Wrightslaw includes a search box at the top of each page to make finding things easier.

We could go on and on about how much we like this website. But you get the idea. We really like it!

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA): www.copaa.net

COPAA is a non-profit advocacy group of attorneys, non-attorney educational advocates and parents who are dedicated to securing quality educational services for children with disabilities. We belong. It costs parents $50.00 per year to join. We think it is well worth it.

Here is what we like most about COPAA. It operates an on-line discussion group where parents, attorneys and advocates, including psychologists and other professionals, can raise questions and issues and receive helpful advice and information from other members of the on-line community. It's about getting connected with people who can help! A parent might seek advice on a problem she is having with an IEP, for example, and receive responses from parents, advocates or attorneys who have dealt with a similar situation.

Equally important, by participating in this on-line discussion group, you may be able to help another parent to benefit from your experience. Parents helping parents!  So it works both ways.

The other thing we like about COPAA membership is access to the searchable archives. That's often a helpful place to start when you have an issue you want more information about. In many cases, another parent has had to face the same issue as you, and information and advice on ways to deal with it are available in the archives prepared by attorneys and advocates.

Pennsylvania Websites

Education Law Center: www.elc-pa.org

If there is a better website for information on the legal rights of children and parents in Pennsylvania, we haven't seen it. The Education Law Center is a non-profit advocacy group working to ensure access by Pennsylvania students to a quality public education.

What we especially like about this site are the “fact sheets” on important topics for parents. Want to know more about early intervention services? Or charter schools? Or what to do if your child is being harassed in school? Information on these and many other topics is provided to parents in plain language that is easy to understand.

The site has been redesigned to make information easy to find. Try this. Click on its website address, www.elc-pa.org. Go to the "Find It" icon at the top center of the page, click on it, and then type the word, "evaluation," in the search box. Click on "Google Search" or press the enter key.  Voila!  See all of the information on the website dealing with evaluations?  Click on the article entitled, "Getting Your Child an Independent Educational Evaluation?"  It's a short, easy-to-read and very informative fact sheet on educational evaluations. Then click the back button to see the search results page again. Note that there is also a sample letter published by the Education Law Center that parents can use to request an IEE. So that's another thing we like about the site. Not only does the Education Law Center provide useful information on a wide range of special education issues, it also provides sample letters in an easy-to-use format for parents. Our advice:  add this site to your "favorites," and consult it whenever you have a question about special education and your legal rights.

PennsylvaniaTraining and Technical Assistance Network (PATTAN): www.pattan.net

We love this site! Want to know about the law? The key legislation is here. How about information on reading or math programs, regulations on gifted programming, the Gaskin settlement, assistive technology, early intervention, response to intervention, inclusiion, assessment and progress monitoring, tutoring, research-based interventions? The list goes on and on.

PATTAN also offers excellent and free training programs on-site for teachers and professionals, but also for parents, on such topics as goal-setting and progress monitoring. In addition to live workshops, it offers training materials on line fin the form of "workshops, guided practice, seminars, statewide conferences, distance learning, video conferences, and online courses." We have been very impressed with the quality of the training programs we have attended at PATTAN and the training materials included on the site. Check them out!  Click on www.pattan.net, then click on "Resources" at the top, and then "Training Materials." There's a ton of good information there. Then explore the other drop down menu items back on the home page. Explore the site! Enjoy!

Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Dispute Resolution: http://odr.pattan.net

The more you know about the law and the system for resolving disputes in Pennsylvania, the better you will be able to advocate for the educational services your child needs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, through its Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR), operates the programs for resolving disputes between parents and schools, including mediations and due process hearings.

At this website, you will find information on the dispute resolution process. Do you have general questions about going to due process? Would you like to know how many due process complaints have been filed in your school district? Would you like to read a decision by an appeals panel in a due process case just to get a better idea of how the system works? It's all here.

So these are some of our favorite special education on-line resources. Want more information? Call us now at 610.696.5006 or email us now by clicking on this link.

Be a great advocate for your child!

You can be more confident in dealing with the school. You can become a better advocate. You can get the services your child needs.

Get started now and you’ll be ready for fall. Here are some ways to get started.

►  Get Organized. Get all of your child’s education and other records, and organize them. Two of the greatest advocacy tools, in our opinion: a 3-hole paper punch and a 3-ring binder! Getting organized is easy, if you do it step by step. We’ve prepared an article that will walk you through it.  (Click here). If you would like to copy and paste a form letter we have prepared for delivery to your child's school to request her education records, click here. But get going!  Organizing your child's records is one of the best things you can do to become a confident, capable advocate for your child.

►  Plan. What is your child’s reading level?  What is her math level?  How much progress did she make month by month in school this year?  What do you expect her reading and math levels to be in a year?  In five years?  Is her IEP working?  If not, what steps are being taken to make it work?  If you don’t know the answers to questions like these, it’s time to learn more and start planning.  How should you start?  Sit down quietly for 15 minutes.  Type or write down everything you want your child to achieve by June 2007, academically, socially, physically. Write as fast as you can.  It doesn’t need to be perfect.  But get started.  Keep what you wrote.  You will want to refer to it from time to time and change it as you obtain new information.  But get that “map” in your head.  Later on, you can take a look at websites like www.wrightslaw.com for ways to refine your plan.  But here’s the key. Get started now. Think. Write. Plan. Take action!

►  Document important conversations. We advise parents to assume that their child’s case eventually will go to “due process” – even though that’s precisely the result you want to avoid. So here’s a good habit that will serve you well in the coming year: Promptly document all important conversations with the school. Create a paper trail that reflects well on you. You will be more likely to get the cooperation from school staff you need.  You will send a clear message to school folks that they need to be on their toes. You also will be better able to track what’s been done and what remains to be done.  Use email. It’s fast and direct.  Keep copies in a folder in your email program.  Your emails don’t have to be “’perfect,” and they don’t have to take a lot of time.  But they do need to be timely, polite and clear.  If you need to brush up on your email skills a little, and figure out how to store your emails so you can find them when you need them, do it now and you will be ready when the new school year begins.

►  Learn about tests and measurements. What’s a percentile score?  A standard deviation?  If your child achieved a subtest score of 10 on a standardized test, what does that mean?  What about an I.Q. score of 105?  Where does that place him in relation to his peers? What’s his “processing speed?”  You need to understand your child’s test results. You can understand your child’s test results. Here’s a link to what you need to know about tests and measurements.  http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/tests_measurements.html. It’s simpler than you think – and absolutely essential.

►   Contact an educational advocate. Do you attend IEP meetings alone?  Our advice: Don’t!  Did you know there are both fee-based and no-fee non-attorney educational advocates who may be able to help you identify your goals, prepare for an IEP meeting, participate in the meeting with you, and help you follow up?  We have listed some of them on our Web Links page.  (Click here). Of course, whether you choose to work with a particular educational advocate is completely up to you.  We don’t “recommend” a particular educational advocate. But we think there potentially is great value in working with an advocate.  This summer would be a good time to meet with one or two to see if they can help you.

►  Learn more about your legal rights. Education law isn't rocket science!  If you can read this, you can understand most of it. Start with the Education Law Center when a legal question comes up.  (www.elc-pa.org). We have identified other sources of easy-to-read information on the law in our article on the top law websites.  (Click here). We discourage parents from asking school folks to tell them what their legal rights are.  Sometimes, school administrators and others simply don’t know. And sometimes they may not have a real strong incentive to provide you with accurate information.  Let them look to you for information on the law.  Spend a little time this summer checking out websites that can help you quickly learn more about the law you need to know.  That way, when September comes, you'll be ready!

►  Develop a firm, persistent, positive and polite approach to school personnel.  Unless you are planning to remove your child from the public school altogether, you should consider your relationship with the school and district a “marriage without possibility of divorce.” (Okay, we know that’s a depressing thought!). But, depending on your child’s age, you may well be dealing with some of the same school folks for five years or much longer. So we think the best approach is firm but polite, persistent but cooperative. Doing the right things consistently is the strategy most likely to get the results you want. That means being organized, documenting conversations, learning what you need to know about tests, measurements and the law, making good use of available, low or no-cost resources, such as an educational advocate, and applying what we call the “4 P’s”: being persistent, prepared, polite and positive. And here’s a great book: Getting to Yes by William Urey. It will help you understand how to get what you want and what you are legally entitled to receive – without going to war.

For more information about what’s new in Pennsylvania law and practice affecting children with disabilities, including IDEA 2004 and the Gaskin settlement, call us now at 610.606.5006 or email us now!

ELA Education Law Advocates PC - Special Education Lawyers

The Culbertson Building
590 Snyder Avenue
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19382
Voice: 610.696.5006
Fax: 610.696.6590
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Education Law Advocates, P.C. skillfully represents parents and their special needs children in southeastern and central Pennsylvania, including West Chester, Lower Merion, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown and Upper Darby, and throughout the Philadelphia metro area, including Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Philadelphia, Lancaster County and Berks County.

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