The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
August 17, 1998

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Issue -107

ISSN: 1538-3202

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The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, educational methods that work, and Internet links.

We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. Back issues of The Special Ed Advocate are archived at our web site -


As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and subscription information can be found at the end of this newsletter.

(1.) ANNOUNCEMENT: The Special Ed Advocate Bookstore is Coming

(2.) OUR NEXT GUEST: Mary Jane White, Attorney for Daniel Asbury

(3.) MEDIATION: Minnesota Attorney Sonja Kerr and Pete Wright Share Concerns

(4.) PROGRESS REPORT: "The I.D.E.A. Book: The Special Education Law and How to Use It"

(5.) UPDATE: The "Understanding Special Education Series" Continues on AOL

(6) AOL Speaker Series: Evaluations: What Parents Need to Know About Tests and Measurements



(1) ANNOUNCEMENT: The Special Ed Advocate Bookstore is Coming . . . Soon

Learning to be an advocate takes time and hard work. Here is the advice we give to parents: For one year, go on an intensive program of self study. Immerse yourself in these areas:

1. Learning about the disability and how it affects the child;

2. Learning what needs to be done educationally to help the child (i.e. tutoring, remediation, assistive technology);

3. Learning about tests and evaluations;

4. Learning how to use statistics to measure educational progress;

5. Learning about your legal rights and responsibilities;

6. Learning how to negotiate;

7. Learning how to persuade - to make your case, clearly and compellingly.

As we worked on the website, you compiled a list of recommended books and resources. Then, we decided to build a Special Ed Advocate Bookstore. In this new Special Ed Advocate Bookstore, you’ll be able to find most of the books we recommend at conferences and training sessions. After we researched fulfillment and security, we decided to associate with amazon.com, "the world’s largest bookstore."

2. OUR NEXT GUEST: Mary Jane White, Attorney for Daniel Asbury

Subscribers to The Special Ed Advocate know about the $133,000.00 settlement in the Asbury ABA/DT/Lovaas case. Mary Jane White and Ken Chackes represented Daniel Asbury and his parents.

To refresh your memory, Daniel Asbury is a six-year-old child with autism. His school district placed him in one of their class-based preschool programs. After two years in this class-based preschool program, Daniel had made just two months of progress.

Daniel’s parents withdrew him from the preschool program and began an intensive program of ABA/discrete trial/Lovaas therapy. In this program, Daniel received 40 hours of 1:1 therapy a week. In less than one year, his skills had improved dramatically. Just before the due process hearing, the school district agreed to settle his case for $133,000, including damages and attorneys fees.

Mary Jane White and Ken Chackes argued that the IDEA requires school districts to use "effective practices" and "proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities." (From Congressional Findings, IDEA 97)

Despite this requirement, school districts around the country continue to place very young autistic children in self-contained "class-based" preschool programs. There is no objective evidence that the typical class-based preschool program works for children with autism.

States are responsible for ensuring that local school districts use educational programs that work - effective programs that are based on replicable research. After settling their case with the local district, Daniel’s parents filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri for failing to ensure that local school districts "use proven methods of teaching and learning" for young autistic children.

This weekend, Mary Jane White and her son visited us. She offered a comprehensive list of cases and research that she uses in her autism cases. Over the next several weeks, as time permits, we will be adding this information to our website.


Minnesota Attorney Sonja Kerr and Pete Discussed Some Concerns:

Sonja: Say, I saw your note about mediation - I have some concerns. Do you see school lawyers trying to use mediation as a discovery tool?

Here in Minnesota, one of the school lawyers publicly announced that this is one purpose of mediation. After hearing this, we are gun-shy about having our parents go to mediation without an attorney. When parents go to mediation alone, I try to have a good session with them first. This way, they are very clear about the purpose of mediation and what they can and cannot prevail on through mediation.

Pete: As you know, confidentiality is crucial to the success of mediation. Discussions and admissions by the parties must be confidential. Without this confidentiality, the real purpose of mediation would be to gain tactical advantage in subsequent litigation.

Most parents don’t realize that in law, settlement discussions are usually confidential. If the case is not settled, information from settlement discussions may not be used or disclosed in a subsequent trial.

If lawyers try to use confidential information obtained in mediation or in settlement discussions, this could lead to very adverse consequences if the case ends up in Court.

Sonja: Some advocates are getting nervous about mediation too. These advocates accompanied parents to mediation. The school district is bringing their lawyers. At that point, the parent who - has no lawyer - starts looking to the advocate for legal advice. When this happens, I recommend that the advocate ask the school lawyer to leave the mediation session - or at least sit in an adjoining room.

NOTE: On Wednesday, August 26 at 9 p.m., Sonja will discuss "Your Rights in Mediation and Due Process" on the "Understanding Special Education" Speakers Series, sponsored by AOL.

For more information about Sonja and this series go to:



"The I.D.E.A. Book: The Special Education Law and How to Use It"

Many newsletter subscribers have written to ask about our books. Here is a progress report about "The I.D.E.A. Book: The Special Education Law and How to Use It"

The I.D.E.A. Book includes the full text of IDEA 97. It will include the special education regulations, Section 504, selected case law, and commentary. We have added "Tips" and "Alerts" to help parents negotiate through the special education minefield.

We have run into a problem with "The I.D.E.A. Book." As many of you know, the special education regulations were supposed to be released in April or May, 1998 (the proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register in October, 1997).

The newly amended IDEA 97 contains many important changes. These changes will affect how special education is provided, how decisions are made, and who must be consulted in making decisions. The amended law includes benchmarks to measure the child’s progress objectively, adds new members to the IEP team, requires that most children with disabilities will participate in district-wide testing programs, and more.

The new law includes several new provisions about early intervention, effective educational practices, and discipline. Many people wrote to the Department of Education with complaints or comments about the new law. The Department of Education postponed publication of the Final Regulations until they could sort through and respond to these complaints and comments.

The Rumor Mill says that the final regulations MAY be published in September, 1998. These delays have forced us to put "The I.D.E.A. Book" on hold until after the final regulations are available.

A few weeks ago, we sent the draft of "The I.D.E.A. Book" to our editor. After the new regs are released, we will send this book to the publisher.

We’ll keep you posted.


Some of the nation's top experts, specialists and authorities in their fields are available on AOL in the Better Health Conference Room, Wednesday evenings, 9 p.m., EDT.

"With IDEA 97 bringing about significant changes to this law, it is an important time to understand what this amended law does and how it works. A number of national experts on special education and civil rights disability law are on the roster."


August 19, 1998: Students Rights under The ADA, Section 504
Guest: Matthew Cohen Esq.

August 26, 1998: Your Rights in Mediation and Due Process
Guest: Sonja Kerr Esq.

September 2, 1998: Assistive Technology in Special Education
Guest: Susan Goodman Esq.

September 9, 1998: An LDOnLine Presentation
Guest: To Be Announced

For information:


(6) Evaluations: What Parents Need to Know About Tests and Measurements

On August 12, 1998, we were guests on the AOL Speaker Series. Our Topic was "Evaluations: What Parents Need to Know About Tests and Measurements."

The Text Log of this session is at



Double Tree Hotel/Mission Valley to Host COPAA in San Diego

The Double Tree Hotel - Mission Valley in San Diego, California, will host the 2nd Annual Conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), on January 29-31, 1999.

COPAA is an independent grassroots initiative to improve educational opportunities for children with disabilities. COPAA members consist of attorneys who represent children with disabilities, non-attorney advocates, and parents. COPAA's objective is to improve the quality and quantity of legal resources and information required to secure an appropriate education for children with disabilities. In addition to conducting training sessions, COPAA will publish newsletters and briefing papers and create a legal and advocacy resources databank.

"The DoubleTree at Mission Valley offered the best combination of location, meeting facilities and sleeping room rates for our members," Mr. Rosenfeld stated. He reported that room rates start at $99.00 (plus taxes) per night, single or double, and include free parking.

Reservations at this special rate are guaranteed only until December 25, 1998. To make room reservations, call (619) 297-5466 or FAX: (619) 688-4088.

The DoubleTree is located at 7450 Hazard Center Drive in Mission Valley, about a 15 minute drive from the airport. The hotel provides complimentary transportation from the airport and complimentary valet parking. The new light rail transit system, which stops almost at the hotel's door, will enable visitors to travel in and around San Diego for a very modest cost.

Initiated by The EDLAW Center of Hollywood, Florida, COPAA is also sponsored by a growing number of national and regional education advocacy organizations.


You know WHO we are but . . . WHERE are we?

A short history lesson first: Stingray Point was named by the famous English explorer, Captain John Smith. In the early 1600’s, Captain Smith sailed the Chesapeake Bay and charted this part of the New World. In his journal, Captain Smith wrote about a painful encounter he had with a stingray - he named the spot where he was stung "Stingray Point."

Afraid that their captain would die from his wound, his crew sailed across the Rappahanock River to the north shore where an Indian tribe lived. The Indians treated his wound with warm mud from a stream. He survived and named this stream "Antipoison Creek."

Pete loves maps. Early one morning, he designed some maps to show where our office is located. Here are two of Pete’s new maps. The first map shows the location of wrightslaw-dot-com, in relation to Richmond and Williamsburg:


The second map shows wrightslaw-dot-com, in relation to the Chesapeake Bay



In May, we went to Thailand where we had many adventures. We traveled through the mountains of Thailand on the backs of elephants. We rode up Thai rivers in longtail boats.

In the Photo Gallery, we added a picture of Pete, Pam, and Hillary riding up a river in a colorful Thai longtail boat. Amazing Thailand.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/ photo_thai_longtail.jpg


A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below.

He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"

The man below says: "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field."

"You must be a lawyer," says the balloonist.

"I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of no use to anyone."

The man below says, "You must be in business."

"I am, replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the lawyer, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were in before we met, but now you think it's my fault."

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