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COPAA CONNECTIONS is the theme of this special issue of The Special Ed Advocate.
Our guest columnists are COPAA members Pat Howey(Indiana advocate) and Sonja Kerr (Minnesota attorney).
Pat Howey writes about her initial involvement with COPAA, and how this led her to associate with Sonja Kerr in a due process hearing on behalf of a disabled child. Recently, they received a positive decision in their case.
This special COPAA Connections issue includes Advice from Pat and Sonja Kerr's Tips.
When you finish our special COPAA CONNECTIONS issue, you'll see why we tell people to join COPAA!
1. The Power of COPAA By Advocate Pat Howey
My first contact with Pete and Pam Wright came in a phone call from Pete who granted my request to reprint one of their articles in my newsletter, FOOTPRINTS.
Little did I know that Pete's phone call would ultimately lead to a friendship with Sonja Kerr, the Minnesota attorney who represents children in special education disputes.
A year or so later, Pete called to tell me about a new group that was being formed -- the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys.
In January, 1998, I attended the 1st Annual COPAA Conference in Orlando, Florida where I met Sonja Kerr, and many of the nation's best and brightest advocates and attorneys for special needs children.
A few months later, Pete referred Peggy, a mother from northern Indiana to me. After several years in the public school special education program, Peggy's son was years behind his peers in his ability to read and write. Peggy had enrolled her son in the Forman School in Connecticut.
When I reviewed Robert's educational records, he had attended Forman for one year. An independent educational evaluation showed that Robert was making good progress at Forman. When he received specialized instruction that was "tailored to his unique needs," his educational achievement scores improved.
Because Robert was making progress at Forman School (but didn't make progress in the public school special education program), we decided that Peggy would request reimbursement for the costs of Robert's special education at Forman School. Peggy sent a letter to the school district requesting reimbursement, along with the results of the Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE).
2. Robert's Due Process Hearing & Decision
Not surprisingly, the school district refused Peggy's request for reimbursement. Eventually, the matter went to a due process hearing before an Independent Hearing Officer.
Sonja Kerr was Robert's attorney at the hearing.
The decision in Robert's case was positive -- one of the most positive hearing decisions to come out of Indiana in recent years. I hope this is only the first of many cases where Sonja and I work together for the parents and children of Indiana.
The decision in Robert's case is available in pdf format
(NOTE FROM WRIGHTSLAW: If you don't have Adobe Reader, you can download a free copy of the program from the Adobe site at http://www.adobe.com)
3. Advice From Pat: Drawing Lines In The Sand; Getting Answers To Your Questions: Using Follow-Up Letters
"Why can't we trust the system to do what's right for our kids?"
"Why does the school draw lines in the sand?"
"How can I get the IEP team to answer my questions and respond to my comments?"
In this new advocacy article, Indiana advocate Pat Howey answers questions from parents and advocates about:
* *Trusting the System To Do "What's Right" * *
* * When Disagreements Turn Into Power Struggles * *
* * Parents Have Power -- Use It Wisely! * *
* * The Dangers of Making Threats * *
* * Dealing with IEP Meeting Frustrations * *
* * The Power of Your Written Follow-up Letter * *
4. Tips From Sonja Kerr: "Wrestling With The Devil" (IEP Meeting Strategies, FAPE, & Measuring Progress
If you are preparing for an IEP meeting, you'll want to read Sonja Kerr's tips about IEP meetings, FAPE, and measuring progress.
"Parents often say that when they go to IEP meetings, the school staff won't answer their questions or listen to their requests."
"Here is a good approach that parents can use when caught up in the a IEP meeting quagmire."
Why does Sonja say, "This is like playing 20 questions with the devil?"
5. Be A More Effective Advocate - Join COPAA!
As Pat and Sonja know, COPAA helps members represent the needs of disabled children effectively.
If you are an attorneys or an advocate who represents disabled children, join COPAA. Don't procrastinate -- do it today!
* 3rd ANNUAL COPAA CONFERENCE *
The 3rd Annual COPAA Conference will be held in Houston on Friday, March 3-Sunday March 5.
The February 14 issue of The Special Ed Advocate newsletter included a list of topics and presenters:
To get a copy of the Full Conference Schedule
* REGISTRATION *
Registration is easy -- you can register by email, fax or mail. For registration information and forms, go to
BONUS: This Conference is Texas CLE approved (15.75 participatory; 1.25 ethics)!