Monday, June 27, 2011

Special Education Summer (or Anytime) Checklist- Get Your Special Education Ducks in a Row

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Summer often can be a very different time for parents as school year woes fade away.  However, despite the new schedule, with kids at home, summer vacations, and other activities, parents should use the summer to make the upcoming school year more productive, for themselves and their kids.

Parents should try some of the below items (aka a short special education checklist) to make next year easier:

Organize
1)  Put student special education and other records into date order with the most current on top.
2)  Three-hole punch them and insert into a 3 ring binder.
3)  Separate by year (e.g. put dividers between school years).
4)  Tab key documents (IEPs, assessments, etc.) for easy reference, e.g. at IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings.

Compare
1)  Now that the records are in order, they should be reviewed and compared to see what is amiss and whether regression has been occurring.  For example, did last school year see a decline in grades or test scores from the year before?  Have special education services decreased at the same time?  What changed?  2)  Check and note down gaps in the records or missing reports.

Review
1)  Review the services the student was supposed to receive during the last school year per the IEP.
2)  Talk to the student to find out what they ACTUALLY received.  Review any notes taken evidencing services delivered and/or not delivered.
3)  List out what was missed.  For example, did the student receive only half of  the speech and language services?  Did they receive all occupational therapy (OT) sessions?

Decide what is needed
1)  Are any assessments due?  Check assessments to see if more than 3 years have gone by since assessment.
2)  Should certain areas be reevaluated?
3)  Any services that were missed should be made up as the student was entitled to these services.
4)  Do new placement options need to be explored?
5)  Do services need to be increased?

Meet with professionals who can help you with your special education needs 
1)  Meet with an education attorney to go over the last IEP, findings, and to get the attorney's take on the situation.  The education attorney may also need to be involved to make things go smoother.
2)  Meet with any outside providers who can evaluate needs and ensure the placement is appropriate.

Request the items needed and/or wanted in writing to the District
1)  Assessments which may be needed
2)  Services which were missed
3)  Records that may be missing from the parent's files
4)  An accounting of all service hours which were actually delivered (e.g. OT, speech and language, etc.)
5)  Evidence (e.g. a sign-in log) showing the services were actually delivered.
6)  An IEP meeting (as needed).

This special education checklist should keep parents of special education students busy during those long summer days and should make the future go better.  When the press of an IEP meting comes, a parent with a great binder and actual knowledge of what was missed, done, and/or what is needed, can better argue the points and is more likely to get what they want.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where Do You File an Expulsion Appeal and What Are The Time Limits for Filing?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

If a student goes through a school expulsion hearing in California and are unsatisfied with the results (e.g. they lose and are expelled), they must act quickly to appeal the expulsion decision.

Per California Education Code section 48919, within 30 days of the decision by the Board of Education, an appeal must be filed with the local County Board of Education.  So, if you are in Sacramento the appeal would be lodged with the Sacramento County Board of Education, Woodland would go to the Yolo County Board of Education, Roseville with the Placer County Board of Education, and so on.

The date of the decision for purposes of calculating the thirty day expulsion appeal timeline usually begins the date the Board of Education met and made their recommendation in the student expulsion matter.  If a family is in a District where the Board of Education assigns the expulsion hearing to a panel, the decision is not final until the actual Board of Education rules on the matter.

It is vital that the expulsion appeal request be filed timely with the county board.

If a parent signed a negotiated agreement (often called a "stipulated expulsion" aka agreed expulsion), the appeal right is usually waived by the terms of the agreement.

If a parent will appeal an expulsion, it is important to review the matter with an attorney prior to filing, to evaluate the bases for the appeal.  If a parent does not lay the expulsion appeal bases out clearly or meet the requirements, their appeal may be rejected or may fail.  As such, a little legal preparation and input can be very helpful.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

College Free Speech on Campus Case- Yu V. University of La Verne

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

This week, the California Court of Appeals, Second District, issued a decision in the matter of Yu v. University of La Verne.  This case, involving a private college and law school, is very interesting and explores the free speech rights of college students.  It also may be applied outside of its limited forum (private university) in the future.

Yu involved law student Katrina Yu who was punished for alleged plagiarism and academic dishonesty when she submitted an assignment which contained verbatim internet content.  The assignment also contained content alleged to have been copied from another student.  In May of 2010, Yu and three other law students were informed that they were being investigated for plagiarism and academic dishonesty.  While the other university students involved negotiated an unknown outcome, Yu took her matter to a three panel hearing within La Verne.

After the hearing, the panel issued a decision where Yu was to receive no credit for the class and a "0" grade on the record.  Yu appealed to the Dean.  In the La Verne policies, it states that the Dean may increase a student's punishment.

The Dean reviewed and raised Yu's punishment to a year suspension and a letter of censure, presumably along with the other punishments recommended by the panel.

Yu thereafter filed a request for a preliminary injunction (order from the court) to halt the implementation of the Dean's punishment.  The reason alleged was that Yu had been punished for the exercise of her free speech (aka First Amendment) rights for filing an appeal to the Dean (e.g. she alleged that her punishment was increased ONLY because she appealed).  The request for preliminary injunction was filed under Education Code section 94367.

Yu's request was denied by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals found that Yu's communication to the Dean was within Yu's free speech rights, but that she had not shown that she was punished solely for her exercise of speech to the Dean, as required by 94367.  They denied her request.

This case if very interesting and useful as far as the discussion of the free speech rights of college students.  It also holds a lesson in what can happen if a plea deal is not accepted.  College students should go into their appeals cautiously as the outcome can be more than the student bargained for and can involve a punishment not previously contemplated.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Special Education Agencies With Acronyms Parents Should Remember - OAH, CDE, OCR, OSEP, Area Boards

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

There are so many special education resources for parents, I thought I would briefly explain just a few and provide links for parent use.

1)  OAH- Office of Administrative Hearings:  This is a very critical agency in California for parents.  OAH is where parents file due process hearing requests to attempt to resolve special education placement, service, FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education), and other special education issues.  Information on how to proceed, and even a searchable opinion database can be accessed at their site.

2)  CDE - Procedural Safeguards Referral Service:  This is the branch of the CDE (California Department of Education) which takes complaints for failure to implement an IEP, procedural failures of districts and other district issues.

3)   OSEP- the Office of Special Education Programs:  OSEP is a branch of the United States Department of Education (USDOE).  OSEP is more of an advisory group to school districts and states.  However, they have many resources and do issue letters, summaries, and opinions from time to time.  These can be printed out and used as references for parents, or simply can be used to educate a parent on issues.

4)  OCR-  Office for Civil Rights:  This branch of the USDOE accepts complaints on disability (and other forms of) discrimination by schools and districts. OCR also has a huge library of information and issues OCR opinion letters interpreting the law which can be instructive.

5)  Area Boards:  Area Boards serve the developmentally disabled (DD) community as well as students with autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and other disabilities with manifestations similar to DD.  Area Boards provide services, education, and advocacy to qualified individuals and can fill in gaps missed by school districts.

These are just some of the myriad of acronym-wielding agencies which can be useful to parents in their special education fight for a free and appropriate education, aka FAPE.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How Do You Get Your Kids School Records Released?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

School records created by a high school, elementary school, private school, or school district, can loom as an unknown for many parents.  One way to debunk the mystery is to make a yearly request for the pupil records to be released.

Per California Education Code section 49069, a parent has an absolute right to access their child's records.  This right also transfers to a student when they are 18 years old.

The code states as follows:

Parents of currently enrolled or former pupils have an absolute right to access to any and all pupil records related to their children that are maintained by school districts or private schools.  The editing or withholding of any of those records, except as provided for in this chapter, is prohibited.

What this means is that parents of students of all school levels may review, inspect, and receive copies of  records concerning their children.  

Districts are also commanded by this code section to develop procedures for parents to obtain student records.  These procedures should be outlined in the school board policies. 

Schools can charge a per page copy fee for any records provided, but cannot charge for the time of the staff gathering the records.  

Parents should request their child's records in writing at least once a year, quoting the relevant board policy or Education Code 49069.  Parents can be shocked at just what is contained in their child's files and need to watch them.

If the school or school district hassles a parent on provision or fails to provide the records, the parent should have an education attorney send the request.  

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Can A Parent Withdraw a Student or Move Away To Avoid A Pending School Expulsion Hearing?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

As a California expulsion lawyer, I frequently meet with parents regarding pending school expulsions.  One of the questions which often comes up is whether, if the parent removed the student from the school or district prior to the expulsion hearing, the school district would still have jurisdiction to expel?  Yes.  A school expulsion hearing cannot be avoided by running or disappearing.

Once an expellable act is alleged to have occurred and an expulsion hearing is pending, even if a student moves out of state, the expulsion hearing may still proceed.  Not going to the hearing does not avoid the consequences no matter how much we wish that were so.  Additionally, when the student is enrolled somewhere else, their discipline records will follow them and they may be refused admission.

If a parent has committed to not returning a student with a pending expulsion hearing to a school district, the best thing to do is usually to try to negotiate the outcome.  In other words, a parent can go to district officials and try to negotiate a lesser punishment if they e.g. "don't show their face around there again..." for a certain time period.  This can help to resolve the school expulsion matter pre-hearing.

Be warned that a district can still say: "Well, he could not come back anyway if he were expelled so you have to go to hearing."  To overcome this, the best persuasive case needs to be made by parents even during pre-hearing discussions.

Sadly, a parent's pleas to strike a deal will often fall on deaf ears unless they involve a school expulsion attorney.  A large amount of my expulsion matters are resolved pre-hearing via negotiation as this is often the cheapest and most efficient way to handle the situation.  I have observed, however, that when a parent presents the same sort of offer I do to a district, they may be ignored as they are merely "the parent."

Regardless, it is always worth a shot to try to negotiate the best outcome if possible and with the strongest leverage a parent may have.  Often, as a school expulsion matter can be stacked against a student, the only potential leverage is involving an expulsion attorney specializing in education law.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.