The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

Live Blogging from the Institute of Special Education Advocacy – Please Join Us!

by Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw is live blogging all week. We hope you will join us for Day 3 from the Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA).

Day 1    Day 2 & 3     Day 4    Day 5

4:09 pm  Wrightslaw

Alternative Dispute Resolution Under IDEA 2004

Jim Comstock-Galagan is the Executive Director of the Southern Disability Law Center (SDLC), New Orleans, LA.

Dispute Resolution

  • Due process Complaints
  • State Complaints

Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • Mediation
  • Resolution Sessions

Mediation is available before and after a party requests due process.

Resolution sessions are required after a due process complaint is filed.

Parties may request mediation even if they do not file a due process complaint.

Jim discussed mediation requirements as well as issues of confidentiality and costs.  However, it is difficult to mediate a portion of  FAPE.  All FAPE, not a portion, is required. So, for the right case, mediation may work really well in some circumstances.

“All discussions that occur during the mediation process are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or civil proceeding.”

The state is responsible for the costs of mediation. The Mediation Agreement is enforceable in state or district court.

” If parties choose not to use the mediation process, the SEA or LEA may choose to offer an opportunity for parents and schools to meet with a disinterested party who will explain the benefits of and encourage the use of the mediation process to the parents.” The state is also responsible for this cost.

Basis of Due Process Complaints – timelines

Parents must file a due process complaint within two years.

The due process complaint must include
(1) the name of the child,
(2) the address of the child’s residence,
(3) the name of the child’s school,
(4) the child’s contact information if the child is homeless, (5) a description of the nature of the problem relating to the proposed or refused action, and
(6) a proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the parent or school district at the time.

You cannot get Resolution session if you have not filed for Due Process.

The school may not bring an attorney to the meeting unless the parent is accompanied by an attorney. Unlike mediation sessions, discussions during resolution sessions are not required to remain confidential.

Instead of filing a due process complaint, parties may also file a State Administrative Complaint. State Administrative Complaints are another form of dispute resolution included in IDEA 2004


Print Friendly

3:23 pm  Wrightslaw

Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

Jim Comstock-Galagan is the Executive Director of the Southern Disability Law Center (SDLC), New Orleans, LA.

Jim shares his own story to explain how his personal experience shapes who he is today.

If you want people to understand the matter of inclusion, you make them understand it for themselves – how it would relate to them.

Jim understood when his mother first walked him to elementary school.  He was told he could not attend – he needed to go across town to the “crippled children’s school.” Jim’s mother said, “I’m telling you, he is NOT going to crippled children’s school.” Inclusion mattered to Jim’s family.

Jim knew he was not going to the crippled children’s school – the only school he knew he would attend, was college.

So his family adjusted so he could attend a Catholic school nearby.  “Why can I not go to school with my brothers?” Jim wondered. He was sad.

So his family adjusted again, in order to allow all the brothers to go to the same Catholic school.

“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle.” Dr. Martin Luther King.

Jim says he is here today – because inclusion is really important. He asks for words to describe the feeling of being “included”:

“belonging, value, acceptance, happy…”  This is what children feel when they are included.

Words that might describe feeling excluded, segregated:

“rejected, hurts in the pit of your stomach, inadequate, devastating, abandoned, unsupported, resentment…”  What does this feel like for kids who are excluded?

How do kids feel when they are stuck in the trailer, in the room down the hall, when they are segregated from others?

What do the other kids say about these kids? “We never see them.” We need to be aware of how we are educating kids, kids with and those without disabilities.

Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

Doesn’t everyone have human limitations? We all need and have accommodations. Accommodations are the DNA of community life. We all need accommodations to be included.

Things are only perfectly good for people with disabilities when they are perfectly good for everyone else.

Schools use 17-20 accommodations in classrooms  so that teachers (like Jim’s wife) can teach.  What happens when the school is asked to provide several accommodations for a child with disabilities?

Part of being a good advocate is to create the connection between a child, the principal, the school attorney, the IEP Team.   Make people see these issues in ways that would “not be OK” for them. Passion and emotion count!

No one should be comfortable when they propose to segregate a kid. Inclusion matters to everyone.

Print Friendly

1:53 pm  Wrightslaw

Strategies for Working with Schools

How to Get Meaningful Outcomes WITHOUT Getting Mean

This session is being presented by Angela Ciolfi, University of Virginia School of Law. Angela is the legal director of JustChildren, a program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, and

Emily Suski, Georgia State University’s College of Law/Atlanta, GA
Emily teaches in the Health Law Partnership (HelP) Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University’s College of Law.

Top 10 Strategies

10.  Know the Child

9.   Know the Law.  And Bring it With You. Figure out any “unique” issues.

8.  Know Who Your Client Is. (The child, the parent, the foster parent, the surrogate parent…?)

7.  Know Whom the School Attorney Represents. Build a better relationship with the school attorney.

6.  No Surprises.  Give the School a Chane to Do the Right Thing.  (Don’t “hide the ball” – let the school know what you want, in writing. Know the Letter to the Stranger format).

5.  Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Know and understand your documentation. Know any forms involved.  If any issues can be resolved before the meeting, take care of these early.

4.  Be Realistic and Open-Minded.  Realistic and achievable goals, yet specific and measurable.

3.  (You) Give Prior Written Notice. Put it in writing. Create your own clear, written, record with a parent (advocate) attachment to the IEP.

2.  “Suing” is the Last Resort.

1.  Leave the Gun (at home). Take the Cannoli. Know what is in the school’s best interest to negotiate effectively.

Print Friendly

1:22 pm  Wrightslaw

Enjoying lunch today with  Mrs. Pat Haymes, Office of Dispute Resolution, VA Department of Education.

Ms. Haymes shares information about IDEA, NCLB and ESEA and covers topics such as reading, eligibility, student progress, receiving FAPE, looking ahead to future years in education.

Because we don’t know what ESEA will look like, we are not sure about what the re-authorization of IDEA will look like.

She also shares thoughts on:

  • training for teachers and administrators
  • new guidance (perhaps new laws on the books) for restraint and seclusion
  • identification and RTI
  • tiers of intervention
  • use of technology
  • virtual schools
  • challenges from change to definition of autism
  • meeting transition needs
  • eligibility and eligibility categories

Whatever changes are to come, if we continue to focus on the kids, we will overcome these challenges.


Print Friendly

11:57 am  Wrightslaw

School Perspective Panel

A presentation and open Question and Answer session with this panel is underway.

Professor Patty Roberts introduces the Panel.

Jason Ballum, School Attorney, Reed Smith LLP /Richmond, VA

Gail Hardinge, Clinical Associate Professor in the School Psychology, College of William and Mary/Williamsburg, VA

Paula Edgette, Supervisor of Special Education, Williamsburg James City County Schools/Williamsburg, VA

Kathleen Velez, Lead Instructional Specialist for the Department of Special Education, Williamsburg James City County School Division/Williamsburg, VA



Print Friendly

10:54 am  Wrightslaw


Kayla Bower, Director of the Oklahoma Disability Law Center presents a CLE session on Ethics.

Two Components:

  • Procedural – achieving an outcome (process)
  • Substantive – making choices (how you approach something)

Ethics, standards of conduct and moral judgement, is the most challenging part of decision making.

The special education advocacy taught at ISEA could best be described as legally-based advocacy.

Ethics issues are not always finely drawn for special education advocates.  If you are in the process of developing a profession (special ed advocacy) ethics are important for the well being of the public – as well as the advocates well being.

The problem is identifying the ethics and obtaining a commitment to follow those ethical rules. Legally-based advocates are most like the existing paralegal profession.

There are no universally recognized ethical standards specifically tailored to special education advocates. Kayla presented nationally recognized sources of core beliefs and guidance on Ethics Code.

Utilizing the NFPA Model Code as a guide, a special education advocate’s code might develop under these main headings as:

  • A special education advocate shall achieve and maintain a high level of competence.
  • A special education advocate shall maintain a high level of personal and professional integrity.
  • A special education advocate shall maintain a high standard of professional conduct.
  • A special education advocate shall serve the public interest by contributing to the improvement of the special education system and delivery of special education services, including pro bono publico services.
  • A special education advocate shall preserve all confidential information provided by the client or acquired from other sources before, during and after the course of the professional relationship.
  • A special education advocate shall avoid conflicts of interest and shall disclose any possible conflict to the employer or client, as well as to the prospective employers or clients.
  • A special education advocate’s title shall be fully disclosed.
  • A special education advocate shall not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

“Core beliefs influence the approaches of the special education advocate on substantive issue.  The advocate should strive to identify these core beliefs and then share them openly with families and students they assist.

As the special education advocate profession develops, more formalized statements of core beliefs will emerge.”

“As advocates we have common values.  In fact, we are here today because of our values and commitment to others.”

There are no model core belief statements for special education advocates. Within the protection and advocacy system, principles of legally based advocacy are based on the following core beliefs:

  • Equality, Equity, and Fairness
  • Meaningful Choice and Empowerment
  • Supports and Participation
  • Independence
  • Cultural Competency
Print Friendly

9:32 am  Wrightslaw

Professor Patty Roberts conducts a session: Negotiating with the school – Getting to YES.

Katie at School

Professor Roberts will work with the mock IEP Team and the school to attempt to design a program for Katie, a fourth grader who has Athetoid CP which causes combination of tightness and looseness in muscle tone. Katie specifically needs help at lunch – her food should be pureed and she needs help to eat.

This mornings role play exercise is to generate thoughts/discussion about individual IEP team members, their position and their interests. How do these positions/interest impact IEP team decisions?

  • Interests of the family
  • Interests of the school
  • Why do they take these positions
  • Others (not on the team, community-wise) who have stake in this negotiation
  • Is there objective criteria available to support these positions?
  • Are all required protocols being followed?

Preparing for Negotiation – Inventing Options

  • Define the problem
  • Diagnose the problem – causes; barriers to solving problem
  • Determines the approach: possible strategies/broad ideas
  • Action Ideas for resolution – must have your best alternative for reaching agreement to resolve the problem.

The Mock IEP Team includes:

1. Katie’s Mom- describes Katie, who she is, her personality, hopes for the future. Also tells us why the IEP meeting was requested, Katie’s needs and challenges, what program and services she thinks Katie needs.

The main concern is providing an appropriate lunch time for Katie – preparation of appropriate food and assisting Katie to eat.

The class discusses Katie’s needs and services that might be required in her IEP to meet these needs.

  • Remain in cafeteria for lunch
  • LRE
  • Advancing Katie’s wishes
  • Safety in food preparation
  • Entitlement to inclusion
  • Social components
  • Academic components

2. Katie’s attorney presents his position as he represents Katie.

The class continues to discuss Katie’s needs for appropriate supports and services,  LRE, accommodations, social and emotional needs, etc.

What about appropriate training for school personnel, cafeteria, transport, etc. who are involved with Katie.

Another attorney (or involved professional) interest: timely resolution.  What about attorney fees? Professional egos?

3. Special Ed Director: “You’ve GOT to be kidding me?!”

Can’t Katie eat the regular lunch? Maybe the school could provide a part time aide, but not full time. OT could maybe train the aide.  But OT services not available.

Class discusses what are reasonable accommodations.  Concerns about why the school takes the position it did.

  • Requests aren’t reasonable
  • Doesn’t want outsiders
  • District doesn’t have resources
  • Passing the buck to others/mom
  • Parents’ responsibility
  • Could provide in-house training to existing staff (aide/OT)
  •  Where would Katie eat – actually? There was no position of the Sped Director about where Katie would eat, her safety while eating, and emergency plan.
  • Sped director seems to think this is not her issue – more a central office issue (or a specific building issue).

The class discusses the lack of attempt at compliance, collaboration. Is the Sped Director overwhelmed by requests, needs of all students, fatigue factor involved. Perhaps didn’t realize this request fit in her realm – was not really academic, social, etc.

4. Special Ed Teacher: has always wanted Katie mainstreamed, found Katie very academically capable. No reason that Katie cannot be in an inclusion setting. Believes LRE is regular ed class with accommodations. Opposed to her coming back to self contained class. Already overwhelmed, many aides quit because of work load. Will attend and add input at IEP meeting. Willing to train someone to puree Katie’s food.

Expresses interest in focusing on others in her class who need her – and finding the most appropriate setting for Katie.

5. Regular Ed Teacher:  concerned about Katie’s safety in her classroom.  Suppose she chokes? Who is liable? What about food at class activities and parties. Will she be responsible for pureeing all this food? Time and staff constraints.

Class is concerned about lack of knowledge or training to work with Katie. This training needs to be provided for Katie to make progress in this classroom.

Class discussion notes that the focus of the “mock” school personnel seems to be on Katie’s challenges rather than her strengths – what’s best for Katie.

5. Katie’s Aide: Katie does a great job, has great potential. I assist her in cafeteria, classroom, throughout the day. Afraid lack of appropriate accommodations will get in the way of Katie’s progress in the general ed curriculum. Her main interest seems to Katie the person – not Katie the disability.

6. OT: did not attend meeting.  Gives her report to the Principal.

7. Principal: Provides a report from the OT. OT feels Katie would be better in self contained class. Principal feels they are currently meeting Katie’s needs as required.


Print Friendly

9:31 am  Wrightslaw

Accessible Trial Experience

Professor Fred Lederer  describes for us the video and technological capabilities of  the world’s most technologically advanced courtroom.

The McGlothlin Court Room, where ISEA 2012 meets, has the most assistive technology installed in a courtroom at one time.

Professor Lederer is demonstrating the assistive technology available in the courtroom.

He takes us through the experimental trial in 2006 – the Lab Trial. This trial was designed to demonstrate what could be done with techology to assist people with hearing, seeing, moving while in a courtroom.

This includes the use of wheel chair lifts, Segway, a wide range of audio and video technology for individuals with special needs.

From the latest hardware to cutting edge software, the McGlothlin Courtroom serves as a testing bed for the latest advancements in courtroom and legal technology.

The Courtroom is equipped for videoconferencing and employs the latest generation of court reporting technology, including the ability to publish real-time transcription to the Internet.

Print Friendly

9:17 am  Wrightslaw

Wednesday,  July 25, 2012

Networking starts early at ISEA as class members from different states breakfast together.

On the schedule today:

  • Negotiating with Schools – Getting to YES! (role play)
  • School Perspective Panel
  • Lunch with a State Department of Education Representative
  • Strategies for Working with Schools
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Ethics (for CLE credits)


Print Friendly

3:57 pm  Wrightslaw

Advocating for Children with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System by William B. Reichhardt Esq.

“Cases that I will remember for the rest of my life involve talking with parents about their biggest fears when their children get older. They fear that their child will have a serious run-in with the police, or that he will assault a police officer and be put in jail. They fear that as the child gets older, he will not be protected from harm at school. If you have fears, you need to document your concerns.”

“I am concerned that if you share these worries with the kids, it is counter-productive. You add another burden to the child. Kids have enough to worry about.”

The Nature of the Juvenile Justice Problem in Virginia

Although rates of juvenile crime have decreased steadily, a recent report from the Legal Aide Justice Center in Charlottesville reveals that:

In 2009-10 School Year- 90,500 Individual Students were suspended or expelled from school in Virginia. (would fill 4,500 classrooms)

In 2009-10, 75% of all short term suspensions were for minor acts of misconduct- i.e. – disrespect/ obscene language or gestures.

Disproportionate Discipline

The Washington Post recently reported that in the Washington Metropolitan Area, African American students are suspended or expelled at a rate 3-4, and Hispanic Students 2 times that of White Students. – this seems to track national statistics.

Nationally, Special Education Students are subject to suspensions and expulsions at twice the rate of general education students. – for the 2009-10 school year, Fairfax County Public Schools reported that 43% of over 700 students recommended for expulsion were special education students.

Education and Mental Health Concerns in the Juvenile Justice System 

In the 2010 Annual Report from the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice:

  • 54 % of children admitted to Juvenile Correctional Facilities had identified mental health disorders other than ADD or substance abuse.
  • More than half of children admitted to the Reception and Diagnostic Center had identified learning deficits.

Why? Many people believe “We need to take the kid to court to get him help.” If the child is convicted, the Court can order services. This is where an advocate who knows special ed can be very helpful – talk to the juvenile probation officers, defense counsel, prosecutor.

Philosophy of the Juvenile Court Law

In most States – Law to be construed liberally, remedial in character

Main Concerns: The welfare of the child and family, the safety of the community, rehabilitation of the juvenile and the protection of the rights of victims.

How Special Education Students Come in Contact with the Juvenile Court 

  • Referred by the school for truancy or other “status” violations.
  • Charged with a criminal violation for a school based offense – for which there is also school discipline.
  • Charged with a community based offense with nexus to school – for which there is also school discipline

Principles of Legal Advocacy in Juvenile Court Cases 

All children charged in the Juvenile Court are entitled to a competent, thorough and vigorous defense. This should not be compromised for the purposes of seeking “help or services for the child”.

There is no conflict between due process and the best interests of children.

Severe thunderstorm, power flickering. Session will resume later.



Print Friendly

1:56 pm  Wrightslaw

Discipline of Children with Special Needs by William B. Reichhardt, Esq.

Our starting point are children who have been identified as having a disability under IDEA or Section 504. Students who have not yet been determined eligible under IDEA prior to the misconduct may invoke the procedural and due process protections if it is later determined that they were eligible at the time.of the misconduct.

The school is deemed to have knowledge of a child’s disability if:

  • The parent has expressed written concern that the child may need special education services.
  • The school notes pattern of behavior or performance that indicates a need for special education services.
  • The parent has requested an evaluation for eligibility for special education services.

To be an effective advocate, you must be credible, intelligent, and .. To me, this is the essence of effective advocacy.

Short and Long term Suspensions

  • Short term suspension – up to 10 consecutive school days or 10 cumulative school days in a year.
  • Long term suspension – more than 10 consecutive school days.
  • Expulsion: 365 days

Ten Day Rule

  • A special education student can be removed to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting for not more than 10 consecutive days without this removal being considered a change of placement.
  • Be aware of patterns of short-term removals that act as placement changes. May be called something different – a placement that is not his placement in the IEP.

Continuation of Services

This is an area of law that continues to cause confusion. Some schools believe they don’t need to provide any instruction while the child is suspended or expelled. Or schools believe that because he’s suspended, they can change placement.

What is a Change of Placement?

A change of placement occurs when:

– child has been removed from more than 10 consecutive school days; or

– the child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern –

  •  Series of removals total more than 10 school days in the school year.
  • The child’s behavior is substantially similar to previous incidents of removal.
  • Consider total amount of time/proximity of removals.

In-School Suspensions

In school suspension may not be considered a change of placement triggering due process if:

– The student is afforded opportunity to progress in the general curriculum

– the school continues to provide services under the IEP

– student continues to participate with nondisabled students to the same degree

Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)

  • If the child is faced with expulsion or long term suspension (over 10 days), the school must determine whether the behavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability.
  • If a manifestation, the disciplinary suspension must end and the behavior must be addressed through the IEP process
  • MDR must be done within 10 days from the date of the suspension/expulsion decision (removal of the child from the placement)
  • MDR is done by the IEP team

Special Circumstances when a MDR is not Required

The student may be removed to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days without a MDR if:

– The student is in possession of a weapon at school, on school premises or at a school activity.

– The student knowingly possesses, uses, sells or distributes illegal drugs while at school or school functions.

– The student has inflicted serious bodily injury on another person at school or on school premises.

Criteria for the MDR

  • The behavior for which the child is being disciplined was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability, and /or
  • The behavior was the direct result of the schools failure to implement the IEP.

If the Behavior is a Manifestation of the Child’s Disability:

  • The school must either – conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement a behavior intervention plan (BIP) or
  • If a BIP has already been developed, review the plan and modify as needed.

If the Behavior is not a Manifestation of the Students Disability

If the behavior was not a manifestation of the students disability, the student is subject to the same discipline for misconduct is children without a disability – however, the student must continue to receive education services to allow the child to progress under the IEP.

* * We are taking a short (5 minute) break, then Bill will wrap up the presentation on discipline and begin with juvenile justice. Stand by!

3:27 pm. Discipline of Children with Special Needs begins …

Preparing for the MDR: Marshalling the Evidence

  • Quickly obtain the discipline packet from the school – incident report, student’s statement, witness statements, teacher summaries etc. (ask about video tape).
  • Review all current evaluation material for the student (school /private testing); prior FBA’s, BIP’s
  • Identify potential experts – therapists, physicians etc. – get releases

Basics of Defending the MDR

  • Have a thorough understanding of the nature and scope of the student’s disability.
  • See how the school has previously described the manifestation of the student’s disability- in the IEP, FBA, BIP.
  • Objectively assess the defense of the MDR. Do not stretch credibility.

Preparing Expert Input for the MDR

  • Experts such as a child’s therapist or physician should have a clear understanding of the criteria for the MDR.
  • Give experts a copy of the incident report and student statement(s).
  • In giving written or verbal input, expert should reference specific facts of the incident and link to the child’s disability using the MDR criteria.

MDR Tactics from the Trenches

If you need more time to gather existing relevant evidence,  offer to do a written waiver of the 10 day rule.

If refused, offer the waiver in writing and cite the reason. This could help you on appeal.

If your experts are helpful, get releases for them to speak to the school about the MDR criteria, in addition to written submissions.

If you have a good defense,  turn the MDR into a collaborative problem solving effort. Focus on “ direct substantial relationship.”

Prepare your response to the “intentional misconduct” argument by school personnel who “don’t believe in special ed.”

Behavior Intervention Plans

Should be written and should describe specific positive behavioral interventions.

Are used to help a student with behavioral problems function in the least restrictive environment.

Should be made part of the student’s IEP (but not required).

Expedited Due Process Hearing

Parent may request if:

  • Contest “non causal” MDR finding
  • Disciplinary placement decision

School may request if child dangerous in current setting.

Common Appeal Issues in Discipline Cases

  • Findings and Procedures in the Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)
  • Denial of FAPE by extended homebound exclusion without adequate services.
  • Failure to provide FAPE in an alternative learning environment

3:52 Presentation Ended


Print Friendly

12:22 pm  Wrightslaw


Behavior and discipline are complex subjects.

Attorney Mark Kamleiter has just begun to discuss this complex topics. Mark is founder and owner of Special Education Law and Advocacy, a special education law firm in FL. He is President of STAND (Statewide Advocacy Network on Disabilities).

We’ll continue to post the details.

Evaluations: You Need to Be Proactive.

Functional behavioral assessments and positive behavior support or intervention plans are legally required when a child’s behavior deteriorates to the oint where punitive consequences are putting child’s education at risk.”

“I need an expert to be observing the child – scientific data, not an observation from the teacher who says she cannot control him.”

There are excellent interventions to keep the child from reaching that point.

Parents fear behavioral evaluations because they are  concerned about how the behavior data will be used. There are several considerations:

1. Behavior problems ultimately harm the child and interfere with access to learning.

2. Behavior problems, if left unaddressed, are generally perceived and treated by school personnel as intentional misconduct, requiring punitive measures.

3. It is true that, left to their own devices, most schools’ idea of behavior evaluation is a list of the “bad” behaviors the child engages in, with some record of frequency. This is why it is vital that the advocate insist upon a more professional, informative assessment, that also explores the function of the behavior.

4. A good positive behavior support plan can have the effect of turning the school from reflexive punitive measures, by providing a well thought-out hierarchy of behavior management tools.

The law (34 CFR Sec. 104.35) does not require a functional behavior assessment until the school is considering expulsion or suspension beyond ten accumulated days.

This is such a vital evaluative tool that I request this assessment as soon as I perceive a significant behavioral problem. It is better to prevent a regrettable behavioral incident, than try to use the evaluation to defend a behaviorally disordered child after he has committed some serious offense.

Nature of the Assessment:  Examines the function of a child’s behavior. In other words the evaluator examines the child’s behavior to determine why the child is acting the way he/she is.

The evaluation also attempts to determine if the behavior is  a “manifestation” of the disability, or is independent of the disability.

Function of a Behavior

Concept: Behavior is motivated by a need. The behavior serves the child in some way. If we can determine what the behavior is doing for the child, we can successfully plan a way to deal with the behavior. This approach focuses upon the interaction of the behavior with the child, rather than focuses on the behavior itself. This allows for an individualized, focused approach.

Positive Behavior Support Plan 

Basic elements of a good BIP.

1. Target behaviors. Concentrate on a limited number of target behaviors (1 to 3)

a. Behavior description. Describe target so that a person who does not know the child would recognize it.

b. Behavior Data. Vital to collect data on:

  • antecedents
  • frequency
  • severity, and
  • duration
  • Intervention used.

A baseline of the behavior must be defined, followed by data collection, to measure progress (or lack of progress).

2. Replacement Behaviors.

3. Prevention of target behavior.

4. Occurrence of target behavior.

5. Evaluation process.


Print Friendly

12:01 pm  Wrightslaw

Section 504

This class of 47 students returns from the morning break, ready to learn about Section 504.

Kayla Bower, executive director and senior litigation attorney for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, opens the next session with an overview of the importance of  Section 504.

Kayla introduces Dr. Harry Gewanter,  pediatrician and pediatric rheumatologist who will discuss using Section 504 to advocate for children.

Kayla Bower asked if the participants had a copy of the ADAA: Additional Guidance from OCR.

Many did not. She cautioned, “This is part of your role as an advocate. Your ethics require advocates to know the current status of relevant laws.”

“You will not prevail when you represent a child’s interests unless you have a person like Dr. Gewanter as an expert in your case. That is the role that medical and mental health professionals play.”

“How many of you work with children who have Medicaid? Most of you do. If a child has Medicaid, all medically services are paid for by Medicaid. This includes psychological evals, MD evals.”

Dr. Gewanter says, “Kayla is right. Half the Medicaid recipients in the country are children.”

“Medicaid is the best medical benefit program for children. When Congress developed the law, they asked pediatricians what services children needed, then put these services into the law.”

504 Plans are Safety Nets

“I view 504 plans no differently than safety nets under tightrope walkers or fire drills. This is essentially disaster planning. You may never need it, but you want a plan in place, just in case your child needs it.

“IMO, all children with chronic conditions should have at least a 504 plan, regardless of how well they are doing at the moment.”

Health Care Plans

“Health Care Plans or similar LEA euphemisms are certainly easier to create and possibly easier to implement, but since they have no official legal standing, violations are unenforceable.”

Sample Documents

Dr. Gewanter showed the class several sample letters he uses for different purposes.

Child Study Request (short)

Child Study Request (long)

504 Support Letter

In the 504 support letter, Dr. Gewanter  wrote to request 2 sets of books, to limit distance child had to travel, that child needed to be allowed to stand, stretch, and move around. She also needed extra time for tests and homework.

Dr. Gewanter used the letter to educate school staff about the problems faced by this child:

“She may have an increased number of absences, tardies, and/or early dismissals as a result of her chronic illness and/or appointments, request that she be granted dispensation from official attendance policy if necessary. This child is receiving medication that increases the risk of infections. The school needs to notify family if she is exposed to potentially serious illnesses.

“This does not mean she needs to be isolated or treated much differently than her peers. We need to lower our threshold of notification and response in these situations.”

“You always want to educate people at school about the child’s condition and ask them to educate other staff. A letter may include a statement like this:

“All staff involved with Mary need to regularly remind themselves and others of these issues, especially since she will appear well most of the time.

I’m here to help you so please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Key points for letters

* Include diagnosis and appropriate code(s)

* Link this to the appropriate statute

* List possible issues and potential solutions – Have the Student and Family Start the List

* Acknowledge potential problems

* Offer to help and support the school since you know it may be difficult for them



Print Friendly

11:29 am  Wrightslaw

9:50 am. Professor Patty Roberts is up. Professor Roberts described the purposes of IDEA and governing principles of the law — FAPE, LRE, and meaningful parental participation. She described sources of law = federal statutes, federal regulations, judicial decisions, state regulations, and Guidance documents from state and federal departments of education.

Professor Roberts reviewed the components of IEP, and that goals and services must be tailored to the child’s unique needs, not the child’s disability category or services that are available. “The IEP is a process and a document – it’s a roadmap for delivering education and services to meet the child’s unique needs.”

“It’s important to understand what is possible for the school to do, and what is reasonable for the child to do. You need to use principled negotiation strategies, and recognize underlying interests, not just stated positions.

Professor Roberts provided practical strategies to prepare for IEP meetings, discussed the importance of parental participation, the strengths of the child, the parent’s concerns for enhancing their child’s education and offered suggestions for effective parent involvement.

She described the required components of the IEP – present levels of performance, measurable annual goals, special education and related services, assistive technology, accommodations and modifications. She also described components that IEPs need to include – behavioral intervention plans, related services, supplementary aides and services, and transition services.

Professor Roberts moved on to educational placement – how placement should be determined and that placement needs to meet the child’s unique needs. To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are to be educated with children who are not disabled – the least restrictive environment.

Next, she described issues related to implementation and revision of IEP, and why monitoring progress is so important.

Print Friendly

9:41 am  Wrightslaw

IEPs with Pete Wright, Esq. and Patricia Roberts, Esq., William & Mary Law School Special Education Advocacy Clinic.

Pete began by reviewing the statute about Individualized Educational Programs, as amended in IDEA 2004, and had participants highlight key portions of statute in their textbooks. He noted that the IEP statute is convoluted and difficult to follow. The special education regulations are organized more logically, so he used the regulations to describe the legal requirements of IEPs.

Pete also discussed the regulations that govern special education for military children with disabilities. He recommended that advocates who work with military children download “Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents” (DoD Instruction 1342.12). For example, when families relocate to a base in a different state, their children with disabilities are entitled to a comparable IEP.

Assume an IEP was developed in an annual IEP meeting. Assume that the IEP needs to be changed later. Does the IEP team need to meet to revise the IEP? No. The IDEA regulations clarify that the parent and school may agree not to meet, but may develop a written document to amend or modify the current IEP. (34 C.F.R. Section 300.324)

Pete described the Commentary to the IDEA regulations [ ] and gave examples of ways that advocates can use the Commentary in their work.

Pete described SMART IEPs – IEPs that are specific, measurable, use action words, realistic and relevant, and time-limited.

Pete also discussed the regulations that govern special education for military children with disabilities. He recommended that advocates who work with military children download “Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents” (DoD Instruction 1342.12). For example, when families relocate to a base in a different state, their children with disabilities are entitled to a comparable IEP.

Assume an IEP was developed in an annual IEP meeting. Assume that the IEP needs to be changed later. Does the IEP team need to meet to revise the IEP? No. The IDEA regulations clarify that the parent and school may agree not to meet, but may develop a written document to amend or modify the current IEP. (34 C.F.R. Section 300.324)

Print Friendly




Print Friendly

Tags:   · · 18 Comments

Leave a Reply

18 Comments on "Live Blogging from the Institute of Special Education Advocacy – Please Join Us!"

Notify of

Sharon L.
08/02/2012 12:18 pm

Debbie, My son has ADHD as well and did test out of LD as well. However his ADHD did qualify him for a OHI IEP (Other health impaired IEP). I had to go to the school, get a consent form and a form for his neurologist to fill out diagnosing him with ADHD and had a meeting with the school to go over. We tried my son on a 504 plan but it did not work well. There seemed to be no accountability by the school for the accommodations he needed. Once we got him on the… Read more »

07/30/2012 9:21 am

As an attendee I can attest to the powerful content of the entire week. I look forward to being able to share what I learned with my community in Northeastern CT. Every speaker was inspiring and I recommend this program to anyone that hopes to advocate for children.

07/26/2012 12:19 pm

In Puerto Rico , exist several issue with due process hearing, and all process of Special Education, OSERS have issue several letter about this, we dont see consecuense. It is a struggle keep fighting for our rights. Almost everything have to be solve partially with a complaint, because no one wants to make desicions in an IEP meeting.
What can I do to change minds and take responsability with a child witn special needs

07/25/2012 9:22 pm

I have, thank you for the link. I had advocates that have attended almost all your workshops come from Norfolk attend IEP meetings and they told us no to everything which was just simply using her old IEP and military interstate compact. She failed a the whole school year without any supports and accommodations. I finally agreed to them extending her 4th quarter, she was also on home bound instruction and did geometry summer school at home, she passed with a B, but failed the sol. We have been told that she has to pass sols in order to receive… Read more »

07/25/2012 7:01 pm

My apologies, I meant Dr. Pat wright.

07/25/2012 2:59 pm

Thank you so much for blogging the contents of this institute. This information is invaluable and I am so grateful for your willingness to post it. It’s the next best thing to being there in person :)

07/25/2012 2:38 pm

Hello! My name is Hafeez and I am a legal advocate I have been lately advocating for my children, one of which has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with anger issues and she have been failing in school for the last three years prior to her diagnose. We currently reside in California, I recently came into knowledge of a bill in California call AB 3236. Could you please take a little time if you can to explain what this bill may mean for the people in California, who has children without the type of mental disabilities that normally requires IEP… Read more »

07/25/2012 2:04 pm

I agree with most post, however I have another question. How is Mrs Wright over all Virginia schools and her and Mr. Wright are fully aware of how these schools are, at what point does she do something about it? Doesn’t she have the power to keep these schools on their toes.?

07/25/2012 1:55 pm

We are a military family in fort lee, va. We transferred here last summer with an updated iep from Alabama ,my daughter was a junior at prince George hs, they completely watered down her iep, and created an environment of failure. Why does it take me contacting the post command, making a congressional complaint, contacting 112th military caucus in order for her to receive comparable services? Why do they continue to do these things to all these children here on fort lee? And I even emailed Mrs. Wright and she never responded. The post command would also like for PG… Read more »

07/25/2012 1:14 pm

How do I get access to these presentations? Is there a fee?

07/25/2012 1:11 pm

My child was diagnosed with ADHD and Disgraphia at the end of last school year. I was told that his LD is not recognized by the schools and that he could not get an IEP but that he could get services with a 504 plan because of his ADHD. If their is no accountability with the 504, is there any way to force them to develop an IEP? My son had a IEP until he was 8 for a developmental disability and then the school said he tested out and didn’t need any services. They didn’t even realize he had… Read more »

07/25/2012 1:04 pm

Academic Director of small private girls school. the school is therapeutic. Many of students have learning issues and some have IEP’s. i have the flow of this now. comment: this is helpful. special education teachers are trained to write effective IEP’s. i agree with the speaker though, it still needs to be stressed. Many of the IEP’s have goals that are ok but without a means of getting it resolved and definitly not in a clear timely manner.

07/25/2012 12:51 pm

I may have attended if ihad known about it-
Just today, I think day 3 of the sessions I recv’d an email notice from Wrightslaw. Why not for day 1? Or a reminder that it was going on. Wrightslaw sends so many notices about “sales” on their products, but not so much about upcoming events such as this.

07/25/2012 12:40 pm

Thanks for the blog. It seems as if the same issues continue to be priorities such as establishing relationships with the schools. Many of our schools in the US are not totally sensitive to the needs of children with disabilities. Parents are so frustrated when they visit the schools because sometimes the school personnel fail to be good listeners. Thanks again.

07/24/2012 9:50 am

Will we be able to see the sessions online?