Friday, December 14, 2012

Nine Things NOT To Do At School and One To Do


By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

I am continuously amazed at all the issues which plague students in school and the things which they get disciplined for daily.  I also find that parents too often "trust" the schools to do the right thing until the day they end up in my office.  As such, I thought I would make a list of some of my top things students and parents should NOT do.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, but contains items which sometimes get overlooked.  Frankly, I could probably list 100 or more "do nots," but 9 seemed enough for the day. 

1)  Do NOT forget your pocket knife in your pocket after camping or weekend activities, throw the same pants on, and bring the knife to school.  Can you say "expulsion recommendation?"
2)  Do NOT throw items which are improper on campus into your backpack "just for the weekend."  Inevitably these things get forgotten about and brought to school.  Only bad things happen after that.
3)  Despite students free speech rights, watch what you say or draw at school or in cyberspace while a student.  With all the terrible school shootings, schools are hyper-vigilant about "hit lists" and art which may depict people getting injured at school.  
4)  Do NOT count on the schools to "do the right thing."  No, that expulsion panel will not "see it your way" or "be reasonable."  Expect the worst and prepare for it.
5)  Do NOT NOT NOT trust the school to be the sole educator of your child.  Parents need to pick up a lot of slack as if they do not, their child may get left behind in their education and even labelled "learning disabled" due to being behind. 
6)  Do NOT "label" your child with a psychiatric condition or disability just because the school says you have to or punishes them constantly.  I have seen energetic 5 year olds suspended repeatedly and parents who felt forced to "label" them with a disease to keep them in school.  Labels have long term consequences.
7)  Do NOT allow your child to give verbal or written statements (usually requested during investigations) to the school.  Anything they say showing they did something wrong WILL be used against them.  Teach them to reply politely asking that you, the parent, be called.
8)  Do NOT let your kids get chummy with school personnel.  No, your teacher should not be taking your son for pizza, having them over for movies, or otherwise having private interactions with them.
9)  Do NOT put your child's education on auto pilot.

TO DO:  know your options when it comes to your kids and their education.  Explore placements other than just the public schools, such as charter schools, independent study, private home schools, and other school options for your child. Their education is key to their future success and you, the parent, are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their not being educated.  They are in school a short time.  Be sure to make the most of it, and of them.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, November 8, 2012

School Expulsions And Pressure To Waive Rights- Be Wary Before You Sign Anything

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Waivers of rights are significant things.  However, more and more, parents are subjected to high pressure to sign documents waiving their and their child's rights: to hearing, to a properly noticed hearing, to time limits for the hearing...in school expulsion matters.  Waivers under pressure can be disastrous for students.

One parent told me that their school district provided them with a document for a "stipulated" expulsion (meaning you simply consent to the expulsion in writing) and told them to sign by Friday or FACE A HEARING!  The parent had a picture painted of doom and gloom if they DID NOT sign the document.  Yet, the document bound their child to be expelled for the maximum time possible. Nothing at all would have been gained by signing the document and they could potentially have improved their punishment by simply going to hearing, or involving legal counsel.  How could they get worse?  The punishment they were to consent to was the most heinous possible in the situation.

To add to the trauma, the school official had misrepresented the expulsion potential, telling this parent that their child could be expelled for 1 calendar year, when the law actually limited the maximum expulsion time period to two semesters.  This parent was being told she would be getting a break if she signed the document immediately and that this "break" would disappear by X day at X hour.  The truth is, nothing would have been gained by signing the document, which issued the maximum possible punishment and took away the parents rights to be heard (at hearing) and appeal.

Another parent came to me after a district had pressured them to sign a waiver of time limits.  California districts must send notifications of an expulsion hearing out ten days in advance.  This district convinced the parent to sign a waiver of this timeline to have his hearing in a few days.  They also implied that the student would be out of school a shorter period of time if the hearing proceeded quickly. 

If the district wanted the kid back in school, they would have put them there.  The only reason to push the hearing would be to rush a parent through and get the child OUT of the district.  This is exactly what happened.  When this parent called me to explain, I was all over the breached time limit and the right to appeal--- until I found out about the waiver, which prevented an appeal on this issue.  

Parents mistakenly believe that if the hearing panel quickly hears their child, they will be returned to school.  Sadly, this may not be the case, so rushing is not the answer.  Had the parent not waived the time limit, he could have brought in legal counsel and may have had a better outcome.

Resist the tactics to get you to waive your rights in expulsion hearings unless there is a benefit for your child.  In my experience, there usually is not, unless REAL negotiations have occurred (e.g. with equal footing).  When in doubt, review with legal counsel BEFORE signing.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com

Best,
Michelle Ball
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, October 17, 2012

Social Media, Texting, Schools And Discipline: Students Beware

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

With the explosion of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like, along with almost constant texting and other electronic communication between students, schools have entered a new era of discipline.  Parents need to be aware of this and caution their children about who may be watching (or find out about) what they post, text, email, or otherwise communicate.

It used to be that schools would hear a report of nefarious activity and would only have traditional investigation techniques to rely on (interviews, searches).  No more.  Now they have "written" evidence available on the internet and phones. Schools still have to conduct their version of an investigation, however, their investigations often become much easier with the proof lingering on electronic devices and phones.

Postings can be misinterpreted as somehow being sources of substantial disruption or threats to the school which are expulsion-worthy.  For example, encouraging another student in a chat to handle a teacher problem by stating "get her" (meaning "handle it"), or laments to a "friend" containing a negative opinion about a teacher, may be mistakenly deemed threats of harm.  Both students described were placed up for expulsion for such slips of the tongue which were not intended for anyone beyond the audience (friend) nor as threats of any kind.

I fought and got both students back in school with no expulsion, but this would not have happened without attorney intervention and return can never be certain.  In the "old" days (not that long ago), such statements would vanish the minute they were uttered verbally to another student and would never get reported.  No more. Statements on-line or on a student's phone don't disappear.  Even if deleted on one student's device, they may remain on another student's computer or phone and can come back to bite.

I have had students in my office up for expulsion who thought a Facebook post was "private" and that only their "friends" could review it.  However, students find out the hard way that their "friends" parents may be reading their posts and sending them to the school, or a friend may have their phone searched.  An expulsion recommendation may ensue after the communications are read.

My best advice for parents who do not want to see themselves hauled in with a suspension or expulsion for matters which seemed out of reach, is to talk to your children about what NOT to post.  Students should first be informed that NOTHING THEY POST ON THE INTERNET OR TEXT, EMAIL, ETC. IS PRIVATE, regardless of what they may think.  Whether they can be disciplined for it legally or not is a whole different matter.  Students need to simply be cautions about what they post.  For, although the First  Amendment DOES still exist, caution can help a student avoid discipline for "threatening" (or other) comments altogether.

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

Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, September 26, 2012

Improved, But Still Confusing CIF High School Sports Transfer Rules

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Recently, the California Interscholastic Federation, aka CIF, the governing body for high school sports in California, softened their interdistrict transfer rules for the better.  It is still confusing, but students should benefit from this move.

Previously, there was a single transfer allowed without  a "valid change of residence" (a "valid change of residence" is moving house to house) prior to the tenth grade year.  Under the amended CIF Rule 207, a student may transfer without moving, and may be able to compete at a new school after a "sit out period." This can be during any year of high school, so long as this is their first transfer without a "valid change of residence."  

How this works is, say student A played junior varsity or varsity football at School X.  They thereafter transfer to School Y prior to the first football game that year without a "valid change of residence."  So long as this is the student's first such transfer, this football star can practice with the new team and may be able to play after an October first sit out period.  

If the same student moves to School Y after the first football game is played, the local CIF office will determine the student's sit out period individually.

Other restrictions also apply (not all listed here).  For example, a student may not compete in the same sport at two different schools during the same school year, and the transfer cannot be for discipline reasons.  So if Student A played football at School X that schoolyear, the student could not compete for the new
School Y football team that schoolyear.  Or, if a student moved due to an expulsion agreement, they also may be prohibited from competing at School Y.

For now, it should be easier for some students to switch schools and keep participating in their favorite sports.  For more information, see the CIF website here.  Go team!

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com


[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, August 27, 2012

School Suspension Or Expulsion For Bullying Under California Education Code 48900(r)

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Bullying has been a hot topic recently, due to its prevalence in schools: on the bus, in the classrooms, in the bathrooms, and generally wherever students interact.  Do you remember the school bully?  Or, maybe you have seen movie depictions such as the red haired youth with his raccoon fur hat who terrorizes the main character Ralphie in A Christmas Story.  Did you know that students can be suspended or expelled from school for bullying?

Per the California Education Code, section 48900(r), students who bully can be kicked out of school. Such discipline is limited to pupils in the fourth grade or above and the legal definition of bullying is as follows (summarized below):

"Severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act ...that has or could be "reasonably predicted" to have the following impact on a "reasonable pupil:" 

1)  Places the student in fear of harm (for themselves or their property).
2)  Has a "substantially detrimental effect" to the student's physical or mental health.
3)  Causes substantial interference with the student's academic performance.
4)  Causes substantial interference with the student participating in or benefiting from "the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school."

A "reasonable pupil" is defined as: "a pupil, including, but not limited to, an exceptional needs pupil, who exercises average care, skill , and judgment in conduct for a person of his or her age, or for a person of his or her age with his or her exceptional needs."

What this means in English and how this will play out is yet to be seen.  The legislature did attempt to limit the application of this statute in the fact that they require "substantial" interference in three out of four of the categories.  However, they did not provide a definition as far as what amounts to "substantial interference," nor explain what a "substantially detrimental effect" might be.  And I don't know about you, but some of the things kids do could put almost anyone "in fear of harm."

Most likely the schools will require a low level of proof.  The vague language here is doubly concerning when one considers that in the majority of expulsions, parents and students appear before a panel of hand-picked District employees who will hear and decide on the matter and the punishment.

Parents really need to ensure that they involve proper legal help if their children are up for expulsion for bullying as the right to attend school is an important right to fight for.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, August 2, 2012

School Districts Must Revise IEP Annually Or They May Not Be Providing A Free And Appropriate Education

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

In the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision Anchorage School District v. M.P. (July 19, 2012, No. 10-36065), the Court ruled that the lack of an updated annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) plan resulted in M.P. (student) not receiving a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE).  The Court also ruled that the parents were to receive reimbursement for private tutoring and attorneys fees.

In Anchorage, Judge Paez stated that a school district has only two options if the annual IEP remains unsigned (e.g. a parent wants more changes, rejects it, etc.). The District must then either:

1)  Continue working with the parents to develop an IEP which is accepted by all, OR
2)  Revise the IEP on their own and file a due process hearing to seek administrative approval of the proposed IEP.

This is significant.  There are many times that parents have a signed IEP, e.g. from 2 years ago, but no signed IEP since that time due to disputes.  However, as explained in Anchorage, this would evidence a lack of FAPE.  A district cannot just continue relying on the old outdated IEP while the child "advances" from grade to grade.  Rather, as the Court explained, they have "an affirmative duty to review and to revise, at least annually, an eligible child''s IEP."  If they do not, the district can be attacked for a lack of FAPE and may have to pay for services (compensatory education) provided by the parents during the time there was no FAPE.

The Court also was not deterred by the argument that the parents were too litigious and somehow stopped the annual IEP from being finalized.  Instead, Judge Paez opined that regardless of the parents exercise of their right to object, the district must update the annual IEP to ensure a student receives appropriate services.

This is a wonderful opinion for parents which should ensure that students don't get stuck with outdated IEP documents with pointless goals from many years before.  If there is an impasse, the school district must work with the parents to finalize the IEP or go to hearing. 

This is not a long decision and is a good read.  I encourage all parents of special education students to review it!

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 like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Does The School HAVE To Follow My Child's 504 Plan?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

I get frequent calls from parents with children on 504 Plans (disability accommodations plans) which seem symbolic due to lack of implementation at school.  Failing to follow the 504 Plan is completely and totally improper and schools can get in big trouble for ignoring 504s.

Some issues I see with 504 Plans are:

1)  Poorly written (e.g. not adequate number or specific enough accommodations), or
2)  Lack of enforcement, or
3)  No 504 Plan.

Presuming there IS a 504 in place with some form of accommodations included, parents should not be faced with the issue of compliance with the 504 by school personnel.  It should be written and done, right?  Unfortunately, 504 implementation issues are common.  For example, the 504 states that the student is to be seated in the front of the classroom, and the teacher refuses.  Or, the student is to be given classroom notes, but these never arrive.  Maybe the teachers treat the student like they are not disabled and refuse to do anything written in the 504.

A 504 is a legally binding document which sets forth items the school or district must provide and implement, period.  If they do not, their conduct could be found to be discriminatory.

If 504 issues exist, parents can bring in an attorney to straighten things out.  If attorney communication with the school district does not work, the parent and/or attorney can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.  Implementation of a well written 504 Plan can change a student's life at school, and can mean the difference between graduating and failing, good grades and bad.

It is very important that parents understand the importance of a 504 and know that they have the right to have the items in the 504 actually DONE at school regardless of balking teachers.  Don't let your school fail your child by ignoring this important document.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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 27, 2012

Schools, Colleges, And Current Trends In One Education Law Office

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

It has been a VERY busy year for my office, as our clients come from all across California and issues run the gamut.  With the internet, even MORE parents and students in trouble are finding me!  So, I thought I would reflect on what the recent trends have been in my office where I focus only on Education Law.

This year, I have seen a great number of interdistrict (between two districts) and intradistrict (within the same district) transfer issues.  It seems that many districts have been clamping down hard on students attending outside their area of residence.  My phones have exploded with issues where kids who may have been attending a school previously are suddenly denied entry, or the student expected to go to "School A", but now has to attend "School B" which the family thinks is a bad school.  It is distressing for all parties concerned, particularly the student! They don't know where they will attend, if they will have to make new friends, or what will happen.

I have also been handling a large amount of expulsions for a variety of matters, but have seen a rise in school expulsions for drug sales.  These are very sad situations where a student gets caught up in the moment and they do something wrong.

I have seen more college disability-related issues lately as well.  Disabled students in colleges need to ensure that they take the proper steps to notify the college of their disabilities and insist that proper accommodations be put in place.  Students also need to ensure that they are mindful of discipline policies, and that if they are punished, they force the college to follow its own policies on discipline (and state law).

Special education denials abound as well, as due to financial woes, it seems school districts deny more students or limit services.  This obviously leads to disputes!

Bullying by students and school staff (teachers, etc.) have hit my office, as well as expulsions for things on Facebook, in text messages, and otherwise.  This is a somewhat new area of punishment and it can be confusing.  I have found that many districts don't necessarily know or limit themselves to what the law requires in cases of internet or other electronic comments and can expel students technically outside their jurisdiction.  Expulsion for speech on the internet while off campus crosses over into the area of free speech and the First Amendment. Students retain their First Amendment free speech rights in the school setting, although that speech can be limited (see Tinker v. Des Moines and cases since this time).

There are so many more issues as well!  One thing which would help them all, and alleviate many parent complaints, is better communication with parents by school employees.  I often find that if better communication had been in place, the parents never would have ended up in my office in the first place.

What have your school issues been this year?

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, May 16, 2012

Was A Bad Grade Issued By Your Child's Teacher? Here's How You Appeal A Student's Grade In Califorina

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Have you ever felt that a public school grade was wrong in a particular class or that your child was graded unfairly on his student work?  California law has a solution for you!

Per California Education Code section 49066, the teacher determines the final grade for a student.  However the grade can be challenged for:

- Clerical mistake
-  Fraud
-  Bad faith, or
-  Incompetency

If one of these can be shown, the Superintendent or Board of Education for the school can overturn a grade issued by a teacher.  The teacher, however, is "to the extent practicable" to be included in discussions regarding the grade, and to be allowed to state orally or in writing, the reasons the grade was issued.

I have seen many bad teachers in my time, unfortunately, who may issue grades improperly.  If a grade issues because the teacher was incompetent, is discriminatory, is based on whim or fancy, or another error exists,  it can be challenged.  With college scholarships and admission on the line, challenging a grade can be a wise thing to pursue if there is a basis.

If you disagree with your child's grade, don't sit on your rights: challenge it.  Your reward may be a correct grade and a higher grade point average (gpa) for your child.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Five Steps To Take To Get Disability Accommodations In College

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Once a student transitions from high school to college, their world changes.  If they were a special education student with an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in their high school, they will not be anymore.  They may try to muddle through college without supports, and eventually may fail or drop out if they do not obtain some form of reasonable accommodations for their disabilities in college. But, what steps do students need to take to obtain disability accommodations at their college?

STEP ONE:  The first thing which a student who suffers from a disabling condition must do is NOTIFY the college they have a disability, preferably in writing.  In the college catalog or handbook, there is likely listed a disabled student services or other office to contact, which is in charge of setting up reasonable accommodations for disabled students.  So, step number one is to contact that office to start the process.  If possible, this should be done even before starting classes, to ensure accommodations are in place when the student enters their first class.  However, even if classes have started, the student may still request accommodations for their disabilities.

STEP TWO:  Next, the college student must complete and return the forms which will likely be provided by the college disability office, and provide EVIDENCE (medical documentation) that the student suffers from a disability that impacts a "major life activity."

STEP THREE:  The student then needs to ensure that either they or the office they are working with, provides the information to each of the student's professors.  Professors can sometimes be resistant to student disability plans, so if the student finds the plan is not being implemented or they are being treated differently, they need to go back to the disability office to seek help with enforcement.

STEP FOUR:  Tweaking the plan in place periodically will be important as needs can change depending on the class or setting.  Students with disabilities are not entitled to as much as they may have been in high school, but reasonable accommodations cover a vast array of supports, such as extended time on tests, note takers, testing in a separate location, technological supports, and many other useful items.  Not all students are entitled to the same thing and what will be provided will depend on the individual student's needs.

STEP FIVE:  If the disabled student cannot get reasonable accommodations, for example their professors will not implement them, and/or the college is refusing to provide them what they need, the student can attempt to resolve the matter internally via the college's own discrimination complaint process.  If the student does not want to file internally or their internal complaint is not successful, the student may also want to review potentially filing a discrimination complaint outside the college.  For public colleges, complaints may be filed with the United States of Education, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. For private colleges, students would want to review filing with the United States Department of Justice.  Time limits are in place for all filings so the student should submit complaints as soon as possible and should make themselves aware of all filing deadlines.

If you know a student in college who is having difficulties connected to their disabilities, please pass this on to them as lack and/or provision of reasonable accommodations can make the difference between the student completing or failing college.  With no college, their career choices may be more limited and their whole life may be altered for the worse for simple lack of reasonable accommodations in college.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, March 14, 2012

Transfers for Special Education Students Achieved- One Parent's Story About How The Law Office of Michelle Ball Helped

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

What if you cannot get a simple transfer for your special needs children, but believe they will not be appropriately placed otherwise?  My office was hired to assist one family who no matter what they did, could not get a transfer for their special needs children.  When my office became involved, we were able to gather enough information and communicate effectively, thereby persuading the district that the transfers should go through.

Here is what one of the parents involved had to say:

"I highly recommend Michelle Ball!  Michelle Ball is a fantastic education attorney. Our school district wanted to make a school placement within the district that was not in the best interest of our children (IEP, 504, and handicapped). The district was adamant that our request for transfer would not be allowed, seemingly in opposition to the law.  We felt existing law supported our requested placement based on the services available at the schools in the district. In the face of a unified negative response from all levels in the district, she [Michelle Ball] provided legal guidance and support that ultimately drove the district to change their position and grant our request.

While the whole experience was unnerving, we learned not to give in, and pushed for a placement that was in the best interests of our children. The district seemed to believe that time and cost were on their side and that we would eventually accept their decision. With Michelle’s counsel we were able to fight and drive the district to change their position to one that met our children’s needs rather than the needs of the district. The cost of fighting the decision, while not insignificant, pales in comparison to the long term results that the district’s placement would have had on the rest of our children’s lives, and by extension, ours. They now have a much better chance at a quality education and a successful life, as opposed to the prospect of a less successful education experience and the negative impact that would have on the rest of their lives.

Many thanks!
-RJJ"

Thank you RJJ!

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please note: This testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of a legal matter.

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, March 1, 2012

Do Parents Have The Right To Not Medicate Their Children? One Woman's Story

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Have you heard the story of Maryanne Godboldo?  This Detroit mother made a parental decision to remove her daughter from psychotropic medication to pursue non-drug alternatives after she observed negative side effects.  When she did, the local government authorities apparently did not agree with Maryanne Godboldo's medical decision, and thereafter stormed her home with police and a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team to take away her minor daughter, Ariana.  Maryanne's attempts to keep the police from taking away her daughter failed, but only after a ten hour stand-off at Maryanne's home in 2011.  Ariana was thereafter placed in a psychiatric facility for approximately one month.

Maryanne was criminally charged and incarcerated for 5 days.  The criminal charges were later dropped.  Thereafter, after months of fighting and many court appearances, Maryanne Godboldo finally had her parental rights restored.  Maryanne explains in the video below that "I did it because I wanted to save my child."  Eventually the order removing Ariana from her mother's care, based on her decision not to medicate Ariana, was overruled.

This story is heart-wrenching and horrifying.  The shock of it all is that this mother was arrested and separated from her thirteen-year-old daughter, allegedly all because she made a private medical decision.  The term "big brother" seems quite appropriate.

The video below is of Maryanne receiving an award from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a psychiatric watchdog group.  Check it out (and you may want to have some tissues nearby when you do).


This story should remind all parents that they need to be vigilant in protecting their children and their parental rights, as the government, which appears in the form of  your local school district or social services office (and many other forms), may not always be acting in the best interests of the parent or the child.  

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, February 15, 2012

Eight Things NOT To Do At A School Expulsion Hearing

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

As school expulsions are occurring at such an alarming rate to our children, it is important for parents to know what NOT to do when embroiled in an expulsion hearing.  

Here is what you should NOT do at a school expulsion hearing:


1)  Do not allow your child to testify.   Make the district prove their case, and don't do it for them.  One  exception could arise if your child has already fully confessed to having "done it" in writing.
2)  Do not forget to object to evidence.  If the school district attempts to admit evidence which should not be allowed into the hearing record (e.g. evidence from another student), object and ask for it to be removed.
3)  Do not get emotional at the hearing if you are the one making the arguments.  If you do not bring an attorney with you and are the one making the arguments to the expulsion panel or board,  you should not get emotional.  There is no crying or extreme emotion allowed when acting as the advocate for the child.  If a parent is testifying as a parent, emotion is fine, but not if your role shifts to the advocate making the case.
4)  Do not forget to prepare opening and closing statements and witness questions.  You must make an opening and closing statement, plus question any and all witnesses at the hearing.  However, in the heat of the moment, you may forget something, so do prepare an outline and list of anticipated questions for the hearing.
5)  Do not forget to submit documents.  Parents should submit a stack of character letters in support of their child along with any other evidence which can prove they did not do what they are accused of doing.  Gather and bring to the hearing all relevant documents and ample copies for all parties.
6)  Don't take it personally.  The school expulsion hearing may feel personal, but don't take it that way.  Act professionally at all times, or your credibility may be ruined.
7)  Don't forget the district will not "be nice" in the hearing.   Although everyone may be polite, this is war against your child.  Parents cannot go into an expulsion hearing believing it is a "light" process or procedure.  Expulsion hearings are very serious and have serious consequences.  Take them that way and you have a better chance of winning.
8)  Don't forget to bring witnesses to support your case.  Bring students or others with you to the hearing to support your case via live testimony.  If you can't get a hold of them, you need to request they be subpoenaed by the district.

These are some key items all parents going into an expulsion hearing should know.  Also, it is usually best to bring an attorney with you to the hearing, but the above should help if you are on your own.  

Best of luck in battling the lions when they come after your son or daughter.  I always tell my kids I will "slay any dragons" for them, and an expulsion is something you need to defeat, for like a dragon, a school expulsion could leave them scarred for life.


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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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.

Friday, February 3, 2012

California School Expulsion Case: John A. v. San Bernardino, An Oldie But Goodie From The California Supreme Court

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Parents often need all the help they can get in handling school expulsion hearings. One of my favorite cases to attack expulsion hearings for an utter lack of proper evidence is John A. v. San Bernardino City Unified School District, decided in 1982 by the California Supreme Court.

In this beautiful case, the California Supreme Court evaluated an expulsion of "John A." for allegedly being involved in a large altercation not witnessed by anyone but students.  At John A's expulsion hearing, no direct witnesses (e.g. students who actually saw or were involved in the fight) testified, other than John A.  Rather, the district's case revolved around reading a summary from the school into the record and written witness statements.  When John A. spoke, he explained that he did not strike nor kick the boys involved.  Rather, he said the boys were "play boxing."  He denied any racial connection, that he yelled derogatory terms, or that he chased anyone.  He also disputed the injuries alleged to two of the participants.

The district expelled him for an "unprovoked attack on two students." On appeal to the county board of education and even the lower court, the expulsion was upheld.  Although the lower court later allowed the district to submit 30 declarations showing that there had been threats against students involved in school hearings, it appears that no evidence of any threat from John A. to the witnesses was provided.

The California Supreme Court, overturned the expulsion, ordering it expunged from John A's records.  In its decision, Justice Broussard explained:  "A decision of the governing board to expel must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence..."   and  "It [district]  may not rely on administrative reports when evidence is conflicting and witnesses are readily available."

The court also discussed the denial of the right to cross examination and the evidence supporting the lack of witnesses (alleged witness danger), stating:  "While the risk of retaliation may be substantial in some cases, it does not warrant board reliance on reports in all cases or in the instant case where there is no showing or finding of a significant and specific risk of harm..."

This case is significant in that it reinforces the fact that a student may not be expelled based on hearsay alone (see also Education Code §48918(f)) and that if the district wishes to rely on written testimony instead of calling live witnesses, they must show that "disclosure of identity and producing the witnesses would subject the informant to significant and specific risk of harm...."

This case is music to my ears. It not only backs up the education code, but gives an example of what districts cannot do.  They cannot expel a student based solely on written statements without direct testimony showing the alleged act(s) occurred.  Also, if they wish to exclude a witness and use his or her written statement instead, they must make a specific showing regarding harm.  The legislature defines this further in Education Code 48918(f) as "unreasonable risk of psychological or physical harm."

For now, parents embroiled in an expulsion hearing must be aware that if their child did not confess to the alleged "crime" he or she is accused of, the district must provide at least some direct testimony at the expulsion hearing.  If the district wants to substitute written statements for live testimony, they must make a specific showing of potential harm to the witness should they testify.  This is an area which is often lacking and can be a great argument for appeal.  Districts frequently fail to bring anyone who actually saw the alleged incident to the expulsion hearing, which could give the county board or courts a reason to overturn the expulsion altogether on appeal.


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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can IEP Teams Say "No" To Special Education Services Based on Money Woes? No, No and No!

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Oftentimes parents attend an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, and although their child needs additional services to meet his or her goals, can be denied needed services based on reasons such as: "no funding," or "we just don't have the resources," or "that is not available here as there are no staff."  Are these legitimate reasons to deny a student services that will meet their unique needs?  No!

The whole special education system can be very overwhelming for parents and they often "trust" the IEP team to guide them on what their child should or should not receive as far as services, placement, and education.  Parents may also simply accept an IEP team denial of services based on money woes of the school district.  However, regardless of the funding problems school districts seem to be having right now, they cannot deny special education services based on those issues.  If a student requires a service (e.g. resource class, speech therapy, or a one-on-one aide) to receive an appropriate education to meet their unique needs, the district should provide the service.

If a district wants to deny services, they have to do so legitimately.  In other words, do a thorough assessment to evaluate, and prove the service is not needed.  If they do this, they may be able to "legitimately" defend themselves on a decision to reduce or deny services.  However, the bottom line is that many districts still will flat out say that "we can't afford speech and language therapy," and tell the parent to take a hike.  Sorry to say, but that is not legitimate.

If the district does not have staff to provide a service such as speech and language therapy, and the special needs student requires that service, the district has to provide the service another way.  For example, the district can pay a private therapist to deliver the speech and language therapy off site and can also pay for transportation to and from the therapy.  The district can't just say the child won't receive the service as they don't have the staff.  If the child needs the service to meet their unique needs, it needs to be provided one way or another.

This is one reason why recording IEP meetings is so crucial.  Often parents can document denials based on lack of money simply by recording the meeting.  When a school/district representative says "we don't offer speech and language due to the budget crisis," or words to that effect, the parents have a valid argument which they can later raise in a due process hearing to overcome the denial.

If a school or district is denying services based on money, parents need to stand up and say that is an unacceptable reason for the denial and demand the service be provided.

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. 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, January 23, 2012

School Expulsion Hearings: Parents Have The Right To Request Witnesses Be Subpoenaed

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

School expulsions seem to be everywhere now.  Expulsion hearings are very important, and parents need to know their rights.  One of these rights is the right to request that subpoenas be issued to potential witnesses when a school expulsion is pending.

The right to subpoena witnesses
 (order to appear before a body or face consequences)  is an important part of our judicial system.  Courts and other agencies must be able to hear the complete case, listen to all the evidence, and see if the "story" turns out to be true.  This subpoena right also exists in the context of school expulsion hearings, but the subpoena power rests with the school district in question.

California Education Code section 48918(i)(1) states as follows:
"Before the hearing has commenced, the governing board may
issue subpoenas at the request of either the superintendent of
schools or the superintendent's designee or the pupil, for the
personal appearance of percipient witnesses at the hearing. After the
hearing has commenced, the governing board or the hearing officer or
administrative panel may, upon request of either the county
superintendent of schools or the superintendent's designee or the
pupil, issue subpoenas..."


What this means is that parents may request that the district involved issue subpoenas for any actual witnesses who may have seen what occurred.  So, if Johnny is alleged to have stolen money and there was a witness, parents may ask that that person be ordered to testify at the hearing.  Often districts do NOT subpoena witnesses unless a parent asks them to.  Rather, districts instead attempt to get a child expelled based on sworn statements alone with no direct testimony.  This could cause trouble for a district on appeal if there is no confession.

If there is an important witness who will help the child's case, parents cannot expect the district involved to subpoena that person.  In fact, why would the district want to subpoena them as it would ruin their case?!  As such, parents need to actually request that witnesses be subpoenaed by the district in advance.  If the district will not issue the subpoenas, well that is another story for another day and a potential appeal to the board looms.  Chances are that most districts will subpoena witnesses when this is requested by parents.

This all may be confusing, so don't go it alone.  Parents, if you don't know your rights, bring someone in who does...

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
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]