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Attorney/Advocate Chat: Distance Learning and IEPs

Distance Learning and IEP
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Distance Learning and IEPs

Here is the information from the Attorney/Advocate chat that I hosted about distance learning and IEPs. The chat participants were me, and two attorneys, Laura Heneghan and Nickie Krebsbach. We took parent questions and in 90+ minutes, we covered many topics, including distance learning, related services, PWNs, retention, transitions and much more. You can either watch the video here, or read the transcription.

If you are looking for the list of resources that we promised and talked about yesterday, it is just past the video and image.

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List of Resources

Here are the resources we talked about yesterday. If I forgot something, let me know and I will find it and add it. (still a work in progress, as I have to comb through the transcript)

Attorney Chat Participants

Laura Heneghan found her passion in advocating for families and children with disabilities as a result of advocating for her own children with disabilities. Laura’s legal background combined with the skills she acquired as a parent navigating the special education system, gives her a unique perspective and makes her a strong advocate for others.  She strives to work collaboratively with school districts while advocating zealously for her client.  In addition to legally representing clients in special education issues, Laura volunteers as a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem in child abuse and neglect cases and serves as an Educational Surrogate for children in foster care through the CT Department of Education.

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Laura Heneghan: JD from Pace University School of Law, BA in Political Science from Binghamton University, Certificate in Special Education Advocacy from PELE Clinic at William and Mary Law School. Click image for more information or to contact.

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Nickie Krebsbach practices special education law in the Central Valley of California.  She’s currently trying to figure out how to do the job for free, because parents shouldn’t have to pay to fight for what their children are legally entitled to.  She and her husband have 3 kids, ages 12-18.  

Click image for more information or to contact.

Transcribed Chat: Special Education Attorneys + Special Education Advocate

Please note: I did not edit this transcription at all due to the length of it. I wanted to get this published asap. I will come back and do that, but if the transcription seems confusing, that’s why. Voice to text technology isn’t perfect yet.

Speaker 2: All right. Let’s see if we are on the page as we should be, refresh. Hey everyone, if you are on the Facebook page and you see me, can you give me a like or tell me where you’re from Oh yeah. We already have three Watchers. So if you could click like, tell us what your, where you’re from. Tell us about your quarantine. Is it showing up? It just occurred to me that we are supposed to get really bad storms here today and so I really hope that I don’t lose electricity during this broadcast, that would be interesting. Oh, great. We already think that’s happening in the world though, right We already have a bunch of people. Florida, st Louis, North Carolina, Illinois, long Island. Both Baton. I don’t know where that is. Oh, maybe she wants to say Boston. Just a typo. Oh, Norwalk. So we have Connecticut, Colorado. Good. Okay. So people can see us. Good. So first of all, welcome everyone. We’re going to officially get started in a minute. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Ohio, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pennsylvania, another Chicago, Arizona, Delaware, Wisconsin. Again, I’m trying to take a couple of sips of water now so my mouth doesn’t dry out. Tennessee,

Speaker 2: California. Yay. Another Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, North Carolina and other Delaware. Hello. Books County, Denver, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey.

Speaker 2: Everywhere. It looks like we are going to hit all 50 States. This is crazy. Awesome. Alright, well since have a lot of people on, I’m going to go ahead and get started. so that we don’t have to run way over time and I know people have a lot of, they want to hear a lot. You want to ask a lot. I’ve taken a lot of questions in the Facebook event if you missed it. But before we get started, I’m gonna introduce myself if it’s your first time here. I’m Lisa Lightner. I own this Facebook page. I also run the website a day in our shoes.com. There’s also a Facebook group where if we don’t get to your question today, we have many advocates in that group who can answer your questions. I have been an IEP advocate now for almost a decade.

Introduction of Speakers:

Speaker 2: I used to work for a County disability agency and now I’m on my own. I am located in Pennsylvania and wow, a lot of people. what else did I want to say about myself I don’t know. I love to talk about IDPs. I love to, I could, I could talk policy and procedure and IEP is all day long. with me today is Nikki Krebs box from California and she’s an attorney and another Copa attorney, is Laura Hennigan from Connecticut. So I will let them introduce themselves. Laura, why don’t you go first

Speaker 3: Sure. Hi. Thank you. so we said my name is Laura Hannigan. I’m an attorney practicing, solely in the area of special education and disability rights. I’m admitted in New York and Connecticut, but I currently practice solely in Connecticut cause that seems to keep me very busy. I’m happy to be here with all of you and this difficult, unprecedented time. I’ve been an attorney for many, many years. but switched over to special education after going through some experiences with my own children. I’ve got three children. I am fortunate right now that two of them are college aged and one is high school age. So going through this, they’re fairly self-sufficient and I can only hope to understand how difficult it is for all of you at this time trying to work and keep up your spirits and teach your children. and I’d like to thank Lisa from a day in our shoes, but the opportunity to be here, it’s just, she’s got an incredible resource on Facebook and her blogs and I’d like to thank Mickey, my co attorney for the opportunity to be here with her.

Speaker 2: Great. And where can we find you if, if parents want to find you

Speaker 3: I just want to find me. My website is special ed.law and my email is Laura at special ed that law.

Speaker 2: Okay. And I will send out links and everything as all my pitfalls. No, we’re gonna do all I ever did it all in one blog post and send it all out. Go ahead Nikki.

Speaker 3: Good morning everyone. My name is Nikki Krebs Bach. I’m an attorney and I practice for a family law firm here in the Valley of California.

Speaker 4: I’m a partner in green Krebs Bach law group. and my, my role at this firm is pretty niche-y. I practice just parents side special education law. prior to that I practiced law, and some litigation, but, but found my way into this area and this is the right fit for me. it’s an easy, Laura could agree with me. This is an easy, passionate, it’s is passionate for me. It’s an easy cause to get behind. like I said, parents, I’d only would never practice on behalf of the districts. but taking that drawn that line in the sand, I have three children, and I’m just here to do anything that I can help with. Lisa also, thank you for letting me be a part of this. I’ve followed your blog and your webpage for years now and I’m just grateful to be part of this conversation today.

Speaker 2: Thanks. And what can parents find you if they’re looking for you

Speaker 4: So our website is Visalia family lawyer.com. But my email address and feel free to reach out to me anytime. and I promise to get back to you with your questions. And G [email protected]

Speaker 2: Okay, great. And I’m actually, if you wanted to type that in, I’m on there. I should have told you guys this in our little pre chat on the right hand side. there should be a little box, just type something if you want to type it in there. you can, you don’t have to. And the reason that she said good morning is that because she’s in California. here it’s actually lunchtime cause I’m in Pennsylvania and Laura is in Connecticut, so, okay. So I don’t see too many questions yet on the right hand side. we did ask some pre questions or, you know, I don’t know. Do you want to lead it Let’s get started with, let’s discuss the, was it a memo I don’t know what we want to call it. Was it a guidance letter that came out from secretary Devoss this week Because it did just come out this week, right Yes. My days are starting to all this like one long day. but that did just come out this week. So let’s go over that and what that means for our kids.

Explanation of Recent Guidance from Secretary DeVos

Speaker 3: Okay. basically some short background is that children with disabilities primarily garner their rights from, individuals with disability act and section 504 of the rehabilitation act. Those are both federal laws and your child is required to be provided with a free, appropriate private education or faith. As many of you may have heard it. There currently is no waiver to FAPE, but there are some legislatures, let us, legislators that are trying to put in as part of the coronavirus aid relief and economic security act, the cares act, which I’m sure you’ve all heard about, requesting some significant waivers of obligations under these laws, including suspending the Ida yea, obligations for up to one year. secretary Devoss, the education secretary was asked by Congress to give some recommendations regarding what waivers to those laws and also the elementary and secondary education act would be recommended.

Speaker 3: And when I say waivers, it could be any of the timelines in the laws, any of the procedural or substantive rights, your ability to file for due process or to go through those things. And there was a lot of concern on the client side that she, that they would give recommendations to Congress, that there should be waivers across the, you know, blanket waivers of these things where our positioning was more that everything should be looked at kind of individually because it’s an individual act. And, we were pleasantly shockingly surprised on Monday when secretary Devoss released her recommendations and there were no waivers that would affect any timelines, procedural or substantive rights, the core tenants. And she even stated that most notably a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment should be provided for every child and that the department’s principles were based on the needs and the best interests of the individual student, not the system, which again, tremendous support of what we were really hoping. Ultimately the decision to provide any waivers. Eight waivers will be made by Congress, but you know, there’s a lot of weight in the education secretaries recommendations. but be assured that the association of superintendents is continuing to lobby to maintain waivers because, there’s a lot of obstacles in the way of school districts right now.

Speaker 2: Right. Okay. okay, so that’s a great segue cause I was going to say, well okay, great. She’s saying no waivers to IDEA 504. However, how it’s playing out day to day looks very different. and I just want to say as to the people watching right now and I’m seeing a couple of questions, up here, populate in my stream, we are going to keep our questions focused on kind of covert 19 pandemic distance learning situations. I’m seeing some general questions right now and I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to answer them right now just because this could go on. I mean we don’t know. certainly right now here on the East coast and the bigger States, they say we’re plaque towing. but that could all change. And of course there’s this talk of a second wave in the fall and all that. So I don’t want to get into, the questions that apply to every day because every day does, not, every day is not what we’re experiencing right now. We are so far from normalcy. I’m so sorry. Now I have to scroll back up. I did see a question. There’s, you know, that small population that just cannot learn from packets, they cannot learn from video. what can those parents do right now

Speaker 1: Okay.

Speaker 3: Nick, do you address that or you want me to,

Speaker 4: why don’t you go ahead and I’ll chime in with some supplement.

Speaker 3: Okay. So while there are no waivers and none of your rights have been changed under the federal laws, there’s both the federal and state guidelines promote flexibility and collaboration when working with the schools and the families and that there’s a lot of terms being thrown around, like the schools will be reasonable and act in good faith. And those are not generally legal terms that are associated with your rights for special education. But these are, again, I hate the word unprecedented at this time, but that’s exactly what we’re in. So if the, if the packets are not working for your child or you don’t have access to technology or there’s something standing in your way, as with any special education issue, your first recourse is to go to the teacher and discuss it. Your second recourse is to just work your way up the chain, go to the special education director.

Speaker 3: And if you’re not getting what you need at that point, this is a time to really reach out to your state department of education. They have emails, they have phone numbers. I used suggest emailing anything because then you’ve got documented and we’re going to say documentation a lot of times during this time with you because if your child is having trouble with the work that is being sent, you need to document that so that it can be addressed. and if there are other ways that you think your child would learn better, you as a parent are an equal part of any team for your child’s IEP or five Oh four services. And you have the right to chime in on what you think would work and put that in writing.

Discussing Distance Learning

Speaker 4: Right. And I was going to just echo that as well, Laura. I’m hearing out here in California, at least the districts in the central Valley, I’m just hearing a lot of nos. No, no, no. but I think that is a knee jerk response because I think that the districts here are just as, it’s just as uncertain on their side as it is on our side. And so, I’m advising my clients when they tell, you know, go out there and do some research, go find what providers, are, are actually available and willing and to, to provide these services to the child either through tele learning or, you know, by phone, by iPad, and deliver those options to the district when they just tell you, no, no, we’re not holding IEP meetings. And we all know that that’s not correct.

Speaker 4: And that’s not, and that’s not okay. No, we’re not providing tele learning. Go find out what’s available and take it to your case manager or, or find an attorney or advocate and try to get access to the district’s, counsel and say to them, you know, why is this particular service and this set of circumstances not appropriate, my child, why can’t you do that And put everything in writing. It’s easy for them to say no, it’s really hard for them to tell you why. so do, do the groundwork for them and then, and then make them tell you why no is an appropriate answer at this time.

Speaker 2: Right. And I think for those, and there’s some questions on the side about just options. I think, you know, you’re going to have to take the bull by the horns so to speak. And if the school district isn’t providing you options, go find options. You know, you know your child better than anyone and what would work for them, what will work if what the school district is offering is not gonna work. what will work and present them with that. I think,

Speaker 3: and just as a kind of practical example of that, I was on a, a call with a client in the school the other day and the child was not completing the worksheets because he’s got a writing disability and there he doesn’t have the support that he had in school so the parent doesn’t have the training to help. So it was really difficult. And the solution that we came up with is

Speaker 3: have had the parent videotape the child talking about the assignment and the parent can, the child can dictate to the parent what to write. But even even beyond that, cause sometimes dictating is hard. It’s just have the kid talk, get on a zoom call with the teacher and talk about what the student knows about the subject because what, what is your goal Is your goal to have the child right Or is your goal to have the child have the knowledge about the topic And if it’s to have the child know the knowledge about the topic, there are other ways to get that information. So it’s another burden to put on parents to say, go out and find resources, but there are some alternatives that you might be able to come up with that get the same information to the school that they need.

Speaker 2: Right. And that’s a good point. I mean, parents, there are a lot of burdens on us and I know that some of you are essential workers and not even watching right now. You’re going to watch this later on or tomorrow in a replay. and some of you are trying to work from home and do this cyber schooling or distance learning or whatever we’re calling it. And I know that you don’t need for me to tell you, well now going to do this. I think that you just have to take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. and that this is literally affecting every child across the nation right now. you know, all 50 to 75 million school aged children, I believe that we have in the nation. so, okay, so you touched on IEP meetings. Can a parent refuse If the school district wants to hold the meeting by telephone or virtually, can a parent refuse the IEP meeting and say, no, I’m going to wait until we returned to school

Speaker 3: The short answer is yes. The long answer is document because under normal circumstances, if a school tries to establish with the parent times and places for an IEP meeting and the parent refuses, the school can proceed with having it without the parent. Now as I said earlier, you are an equal member of the IEP team and they should take it that into account. If because of some reason you do not want to participate in a video and you’re willing to, I don’t want to use the word waive your rights, but you’re willing to postpone your rights to that IEP put in writing. You don’t waive any of your rights. And when I say writing an email is sufficient that you do not feel that the video method is supportive of what your needs as an equal member of the IEP team. That you are willing to wait until school resumed and though you don’t waive any of your rights, you understand that whatever currently is in effect will remain in effect until that time.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Online or Phone IEP Meetings

Speaker 4: Yeah. And, and I would agree with that as well. even though we’re all being, strongly encouraged to collaborate in this time of uncertainty, you know, I have, I have older, older parents. I have, guardians of children who are, you know, just scared of technology and just anything outside of just a phone call is, is frightening to them. and just, just do your best to explain and, and, try to see what you can get done through, through communications, through emails. we have come up with a few addendums to IEP without actually getting together to meet or in some cases I’ve had parents, you know, ask me to represent them at the IEP meetings and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t do that. I think it’s very important for the parents to be there along with that. But, we haven’t had any pushback here. getting quite honestly for the districts here in California that I work with, they’re, they’re just as happy if a parent declines and they’re willing to continue that IEP out until, you know, until calmer time. So we’re not getting any real pushback when a parent is not, gung ho on a virtual IEP meeting out here.

Speaker 2: You’re right. And I’ve, my advice to parents has been, you know, it’s going to be so chaotic when we return. I mean, I can’t even, you know, we all know that IEP season, if there wasn’t official IEP season, it would be March, April, and may. And that is when advocates and attorneys are, I mean, we just work 20 hours a day because there’s just so many IEP meetings going on. So I can’t even imagine what the backlog is going to look like as far as assessments and evaluations and IEP meetings and transition plans. And, so if you can do it now, you know, do it now and, and consider sending them notice if you’re a two party consent state, I mean, even if you’re in a one party consent state, it’s at a good etiquette, but let them know that you want to record it. now, you know, a zoom meeting is a perfect opportunity to record a meeting very easily.

Speaker 3: And I, I know that, around here, districts are really prioritizing what IEP meetings they want to hold because they don’t have the staff to do online teaching and hold all of these meetings and have parents available. So the priorities really going to transition. So child moving from preschool to kindergarten, from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school or aging out are the things that they’re really looking at. Or if you were in the process of having your triennial evaluations or your initial evaluations done and the evaluations are complete, I would encourage you to have that a IEP meeting because that will allow you to put in place the services that your child needs potentially. And you know, barring any regression for when school does resume.

Speaker 4: So, I’ll just, I’ll just add there. If you do have, if I, clients that I have that are willing to go forward with the virtual IEP, my advice is to have those IEP is to your point, Lisa, it’s going to be crazy when the court’s opened back up and administrative hearings open back up and everything gets back to normal. You know, I have no idea what kind of a, schedule we’re looking at in terms of finally being heard and finally get an IEP meeting scheduled. So if you’re, if you have parents that are willing to engage, do it. Now, a big focus for me is documenting, present levels of performance. And so whatever information you can get into the record, you know, I E an IEP team meeting or notes or recorded, meeting whatever you can get in there now is going to be helpful when we get back to school or back to, you know, normal circumstances when we try to determine the regression. And so, you know, whatever you can demonstrate to them once we have that, that full group there around the table again is going to be, it’s going to be excellent data to use when you determine, you know, what does my child need getting back into this.

Speaker 3: And to that point, it’s, it’s a unique opportunity right now for parents because schools are subjectively determining whether or not your child has, satisfactorily mastered their goals. Now you are currently in a position to see if those mastered, you know, the knowledge that your child has. If it’s carrying over to the domain of home. So the school say is your child is able to organize and to read all the sight words and you’re not seeing it. That’s a perfect, perfect thing to document and show that maybe the goals and objectives as they were written were not in fact masters.

Speaker 4: Right Right. Or, or you’ve demonstrated regression and they have to face that they have to.

Speaker 3: Right, right. How would you demonstrate regression How would you recommend a parent document that or begin to collect that data I think if you, if you look around even Pinterest, there are tons of forums and I’m sure at least if you don’t have one on your site, you will very soon to to take care of your child’s IEP, look at the goals and objectives and literally, you know, write them out and look at the present levels where they were. And if it, if it is as simple as sight words, that’s something that’s easy enough to, kind of keep track of this more subtle things. I would just keep a journal or keep an email log or something. It could be daily, could be a couple of times a week. What your child was able to do, what they were not able to do based on what the school is asking them.

Speaker 3: emotionally, socially, academically, all of those pieces really go into it. And I think the important thing to realize also is every child, whether they are a child with disabilities or without disabilities, is going to regress during this time. Nobody’s in, in a normal school environment. the exception I’ll say is I have heard of some kids who are flourishing in this because they don’t have the anxiety of the classroom situation or peers who you know, are bullying them or other things. So, but in general, every child is going to regress. So you ha you’re going to have to determine when school resumed, where your child’s then current levels of performance are and kind of write your goals and objectives moving forward. And there’s, I don’t think, and this is just my own opinion based on what I’ve seen heard and read, that there’s going to be time in the summer or the next school year to make up for all of the services that your child’s child is missing. Not that there won’t be cases where they can or that they should. but you’re also going to have to move into the next school year at some point. So you kind of, not that you want to clean slate because you definitely want to look at what, where your child has been, but when school resumes and if their evaluations needed, you need to determine what those present levels are and determine what your child needs based on where they are at that point in time.

Speaker 2: Oh, right. Sorry, I was listening to you, but I was also looking at the questions. I’ve been trying to reiterate to parents that yes, during this time, first of all, it can be a positive because for the first time ever, you have 100% control over your child’s environment. and that’s, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s significant. I think. cause so often it’s, you know, I wish people wouldn’t talk to him this way or I wish they would respond to him this way or, you know, you know, why don’t they know that this is a trigger Why don’t they know that this is sensory overload. and this is a great time for parents to really control that environment and get some great data. something else that you brought up that just kind of escaped me. Oh, I know just the other day in the Facebook group I brought up and I think that you guys are going to see a huge increase in clients with school refusal when we get back to, normal, whatever normal is going to look like. Because I do think that our kids with anxiety and other mental illnesses and overstimulation and bullying and they struggle to fit in and they struggle with the social skills. I think that those kids are doing really well right now and they’ve just completely decompressed. And, like you said, they’re flourishing. Yeah.

Speaker 3: And Lisa to that point, I expect see maybe some,

Speaker 4: new requests maybe that had not been made before in the history of that child’s education for maybe some home bound instruction. once we see, once these parents say, are you kidding me Like my kid’s doing great. Not only is he or she not regressing, but she’s, you know, leaps and bounds. And, and, I think that that’s awesome because then we can, we can, we can credit that progress to the parents, right Because so often parents don’t get any of the credit for what their children are, you know, progress we’re making. But, I expect to see many people coming in here to my office and saying, you know, I want to keep my kid home. He’s doing great and how do I, how do I get that done So,

Speaker 3: but I would, I would caution parents against using the word homeschooling and any of your communication, you know, homeschool is working so well. I really want to continue this. You’re not homeschooling unless you were previously before coven homeschooling. you are, you know, participating in distance learning that is supported by your school district because once you are putting homeschooling on the radar that you have a lot less rights and the school has a lot less responsibility. So, and the other piece to that is, is homebound instruction is considered one of the most restrictive environments because you’re moving kids from the social atmosphere and the extracurriculars and all the other pieces. So, while they’re, there may be some concern for, your child not wanting to attend school and the things that come about. I know Montana is slowly trying to open and parents are saying, I’m not sending my child to school.

Parents’ Concerns: Sending Kids back to school now or this summer.

Speaker 3: You’re going to run into issues with whether that legally you have to send your child to school. you’re gonna run into, you know, educational neglect if you’re not having your child learn. But all of these issues are unanswered at this point. There’s absolutely, and I think the educators, I really have to say, I think schools are working really hard to try and figure this stuff out and there’s just so much of it coming at them. and the decision makers are really at a high level. They’re at the federal department education, they’re at the state department of education, they’re at the governor, their executive orders. And then you’ve got really hardworking teachers, administrators who are just trying to get through to the next day. So, I don’t think they’re going to spend their time worrying about whether your child is back in immediately when school reopens because you as a parent have a legitimate concern for their safety and health.

Speaker 3: And throughout all of this, the primary concern of any of these governmental entities is the safety and health of your child. So I think you have a very valid argument and it may be that initially it’s difficult for your child to go back, but you may want to consider, you know, waiting a few weeks and having the, the distance learning continue. There’s going to be some kind of, mesh of distance learning and in school learning when we go back, that’s from everything I’ve seen there. You know, there’s talk of having kids alternate weeks or hours of the day so that they can keep classes small, keep distance between people. So there’s not going to be a trigger where everybody goes back to school on the same day. It’s going to be a process. And I think in, in the effort to be flexible, both ways, schools are going to understand that they’re going to have issues with us.

Speaker 2: Right. And I, and I think we also have to recognize that it’s when you live in a densely populated area as compared to a Montana, there are just so many differences in so many what ifs. And, you know, our, our governor has been very clear here in Pennsylvania that it’s not a light switch that we don’t just hit a calendar date and, okay, everybody go back. and like you said, they are trying to figure it out. we have here in Pennsylvania, and I know not every state has that, but we have what are known as public cyber charter schools. where it basically is, it’s, it’s, it’s home, you know, people call it homeschooling, but it’s basically a charter school, but it’s a cyber charter. I predict that we’re going to see a surge in enrollments in Pennsylvania and the other States that have cyber charters because they are on paper in Pennsylvania, a public school. So they are actually bound to section five. Oh, four in Ida. which is just,

Speaker 3: yeah, and honestly, I, my personal opinion is a large part of why education secretary device didn’t issue any waivers in these areas is cause she’s a staunch a supporter of charter schools and having schools evolve to be able to teach in the ways of technology that are going. So there are schools that are doing it. everybody else is just trying to catch up, but I think you’re right and there are other, you know, co-op options. there’s just a lot of options but it’s, everything’s unknown right now.

Speaker 2: Right. And, and for the record, I’m not a fan of cyber charters as they are implemented right now. and I could go on all day about that and their tuition set up and, and their, results compared to traditional publics and so on. but it is an option out there for many parents that I think they’re going to take advantage of. okay. So I’m just bouncing around here. He’s well has asked do we have the right to receive the same amount of time of related services as, as, as is currently written in their current IEP.

Buzzword: Reasonable

Speaker 4: So I, I, like Laura said, there are no waivers and every child is still entitled to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. But there’s an important little caveat in that, to the extent feasible or, or, you know, reasonable. And those are words that we’re not used to dealing with. we’re used to the word appropriate. We’re used to fighting for what’s appropriate. So, you certainly can ask for that exactly what’s written, but the chances are that that’s not what’s going to be delivered. and where I am, I’m a wide variation in what is written in the IEP and what the child is actually receiving. And what I’m experiencing is like, I always experienced a special education law is whoever is the largest, the biggest fire and the loudest at, you know, the law, the person who’s standing on the desk and doing a lot of screaming is probably the one that’s gonna get the attention. So, ask for what you, tell them what you’d like and ask and like I said, have them tell you why no is the answer but you have the right. But as a practical matter that is probably not what’s going to be delivered to the child because the resources are so strained right now

Speaker 3: and so tight on there. I, you know, I think the current standard is appropriate under the circumstances and reasonable within the school’s resources, which there’s a lot of room for interpretation there. The current legal standard from the Supreme court is that they have to deliver services sufficient to enable a child with a disability to make progress appropriate in light of his or her circumstances. The circumstances that are stated there are the circumstances of the child, some schools are and some States or interpreting the circumstance as the circumstance of the pandemic. And so we have to do what we can in light of the pandemic. That is absolutely not true. It’s the circumstances of the child that you need to keep in mind. So, as Nikki said, you, you still do have all those rights but there is going to be a reasonableness, looked at based on what the school’s resources are.

Child in process of Evaluations or Assessments

Speaker 2: no, my state has also Pennsylvania, we’ve come out with a directive or PDE or Pennsylvania department of education has come out with a directive and said, Nope, all assessments, all evaluations are on hold. a blanket statement that was the state’s guidance for States that haven’t given that guidance. what do you say to kids who are either due for evils in the middle of evils, pending evils, all that fun stuff.

Speaker 3: If your emails are not complete, there really is no way to complete most of these evaluations and keep them, and deliver them with fidelity of the test. There is a certain amount of in-person observation and interaction that has to happen, between psychologists, psychiatrists, OTs, PTs, all these people. So it is a valid point. I think what we’re going to see is, some independent providers, so not school psychologists, but independent psychologists. People are going to be looking to outside the school because the schools are going to be overwhelmed when they have to start determining present levels and using evaluations to do that. So if your evaluations have not been done, I, I don’t think that there’s a valid argument to have them done currently based on the distance learning. It’s, it’s not, if your school told you they could do it, you’re not going to get valid results.

Speaker 2: So parents just need to wait and, and I think it’s, we all have to just embrace the unknown and that we don’t know. and that we,

Speaker 3: no, if you, if you requested evaluations, there are different legal timeframes. And as secretary Devoss said, there’s no waivers. So if it’s 60 days from parent request, it’s supposed to be 60 days. However, we’ve got to be reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances. And in some States, the, like in Connecticut, the governor has said there’s a 60 day extension to any administrative proceeding. So it’s not clear whether that means it’s 60 days on top of the other 60 days or we just stopped time. So, if you’re not familiar with your state’s department of education website, I would become familiar with it because a lot of the guidance regarding timelines, evaluations, graduations, those types of things are going to be garnered from either your state department of education website or your particular schools. board of education website. Okay.

Speaker 2: All right. So what about the parents or students actually who were getting, let’s say, pull out small group for instruction or one-on-one or they had Perez and AIDS to keep them on task during this, you know, during their learning. And now that’s not, you know, you can’t really pull out a kid from their house or provide a one, you know, one-on-one aid can’t come to the house. And that’s a question that I’ve been fielding quite often.

Speaker 3: It’s true. You can have a one on one aide come to the house, but there’s no reason you can’t have a one on weight, one-on-one aid, through zoom or on the phone or, and I’ve got, several instances I know of where the power professional is on the computer that mirrors the student’s computer, throughout the day when they’re doing the learning part of the day. And those services are being delivered in a different fashion, but they are, they’re still being delivered. schools have been, at least around here, advice to not lay off furlough fire school personnel. So you’ve got a lot of situations where there are paraprofessionals or other people who aren’t actively teaching who are available and looking for things to do. So I would, I, you know, I would, I go back to the school and say, you’ve got these resources, there are ways to do this. And this is again, whereas the parent, you might have to suggest that the resolution I want to do with the paraprofessional, and it may not be the amount of time that your child is used to, but there’s no reason that that kind of resource can’t be given to you.

Speaker 5: Right. And we’ve been, we’ve been successful out here when, any of my clients have had one-on-one aides, in getting that one to one a to call in or a telephone or whatever level of technology and just level of, tele learning the family is comfortable with. We’ve been successful in getting that person, you know, to kind of resume the same, schedule. The, what’s been difficult out here however, is that these parents are now taking their children to work with them or taking them, you know, in the car with them, these essential workers taking the children because now they’re their daycare provider as well as essential workers, still trying to earn a living for the family. And so, I have, I have clients that are sitting in the, in the front seat of dad’s truck while dad is, you know, doing his essential job and the paraprofessional has logged in and so long as the father is somewhere where he has an internet connection, the child is still getting that service.

Related Services via Distance Learning

Speaker 5: But to your point, Laura, it is not a one, one to one. in terms of time, in terms of minutes and hours, it’s at this point it’s about a third. What I’m seeing is about, you know, if the child had an hour with the aid for round numbers, the child is probably getting about 20 minutes. But there’s no reason that that person who served as that child’s aid when the school was open, you know, unless they’d been furloughed and if they fit, unless they’ve been laid off and that case may be go find someone else and say, you know, how about this person then to presume that service for my child.

Speaker 2: Okay. To kind of piggyback on that, what about if there’s, I’m just looking at a reader or viewer question. If a child was re receiving Wilson or Orton Gillingham or something like that, and that’s not happening

Speaker 3: there. If your school was providing that service, there’s really no reason they can’t continue to provide that service. I’ve seen a lot of providers that are able to do it through zoom or Google meets one of these other things. one of the issues I’ve seen is that the child doesn’t have the manipulatives or the, the things that go with the program. Those can be provided to the child from the school and they should be. And if in that kind of instance, if your child was receiving a specific program and the school is denying that that program, I as an attorney would advise you to find somebody who can provide that for you, a private tutor where you could have deliver that service and notify the school district that that service will be delivered by somebody else and put in attending notice that you expect to be reimbursed for that service.

Speaker 3: Knowing that it’s not likely you’ll be reimbursed for that service. some schools may consider it, compensatory education. Others may not. It’s where if you’ve got that kind of specific issue, I would encourage you to reach out to an advocate or a special education attorney because those are fairly simple, straight forward things that can be resolved at a higher level of discussion than sometimes between the parent and the teacher. And just, you know, in general, I’m Nicky, Lisa and I were talking about this before. A lot of us as attorneys and advocates are providing a lot of unpaid advice and we’re listening to concerns and we’re trying to get information out and we’re doing these types of events because we understand that parents need and aren’t necessarily accessing it at the level we are because you don’t have the time of day to be looking at your department of education website and the superintendents and follow these things.

Speaker 3: That’s, that’s what our job is. So if you have kind of specific questions about that, I would encourage you to call an attorney or an advocate and have the conversation. Most of us are going to have that free consult with you and give you some advice or coach you kind of along. and you see in the, in the name of this presentation is Copa. And I just want to at least, I don’t know if you want to take a minute or you want me to just explain. Well, go ahead. Copa is a national nonprofit organization, the council of parent advocates and attorneys. And it’s exactly what it says. We’re parents, advocates and attorneys who from, I don’t know if it’s all 50 States, but if it’s not, I’d be surprised. We, act as resources and there’s a directory. So if you are in Wisconsin, there’s very few advocates and attorneys in Wisconsin, but if you need to find one, you can go to Copa and there’s a directory and you can identify somebody.

Speaker 3: They’re also, listservs and kind of blogs and coping. There’s a lot of legislative action. So even if you’re not a political or legislatively connected person, which a lot of us don’t have the time to. Copa also keeps you aware of things like secretary Devoss making her recommendations and they will launch a parent campaign. And if you have the language to notify your legislatures of what is in the interest of your child. So I encourage you to do, look at dot org you can become a member. There’s things on there, even if you’re not a member that you can utilize. And it’s a good place to identify people who have knowledge in the special education area because it’s a small area of law, but it’s fairly complicated. So your typical family lawyer or real estate lawyer won’t know the intricacies of this area of law. So I just encourage you to look to somebody who has some expertise and will be most likely willing to talk to you.

IEP Kids in Transition (to kindergarten, adult, etc)

Speaker 2: Great. Okay. I’m seeing a couple of questions on behavior and if you have a question about behavior and what are some ideas and things like that, I want to direct those viewers. I actually have done two Facebook lives, with BCBAs on that and they are on my videos page. So, I mean we specifically went over that as far as how to handle difficult behaviors at home and how to practice social skills at home via distance learning. We’ve, we’ve spent almost three hours on that, so please take a look over there. let’s talk about your kids who are in transition. They might be transitioning to a different building, they might be transitioning to kindergarten. they might be turning 21 this summer and those parents are very uneasy, and right, and certainly rightfully so. Will the current IEP, does that stay in place What happens what’s some guidance for those parents

Speaker 5: So first of all asked for an IEP meeting, you have to ask for that and document that request in writing and get that process started. because if you, I mean, you just, you have to have that position documented that you have reached out and you’re trying to, you know, get that ball rolling.

Speaker 2: And I mean, what if, let’s say, to go back to school in some fashion in September and you have a kindergartener. I know those parents are very, I mean that’s a very difficult transition anyway for parents. And now given this circumstance, what, what are some things they can do to be better prepared

Speaker 3: I would say that schools are pretty, they understand that kids coming into kindergarten under any circumstance or a vulnerable group of kids. So I would imagine that there would be a lot of consideration going into how kids are going to start, especially at that young age. I do know that one of the waivers that secretary Devoss did give was regarding, children who are three entering four and therefore we lose services from birth to three services are able to maintain those services until things kind of get back to normal. In terms of the IEP, as, as Nikki said, I, I would encourage if you have a transition to request an IEP, if, if it’s denied, document it and consider what the purpose of it is. Are you, trying to establish services for your child who maybe in kindergarten and it’s their first experience in the public school Is it a child who’s moving from elementary to middle school, which can really be a difficult transition. There is no reason that schools should not be having these transition type meetings and, IEP meetings at this point in time. ask for it. If you’re denied, that is a case where I would, I would call or email your state department of education and let them know that you have requested a transition meeting and it’s been denied and that I’m asking them for guidance on what you should do at that point.

Speaker 2: Okay. and for kids who are turning 21 now, March, April, may, June, what would be your rice for them

Speaker 3: I haven’t seen anything specific on that, but based on everything else, I would imagine that there would be some type of extension, whether it’s considered compensatory education or an extension of services. beyond that, typically when your child turns 21 social services takes over. so there may be some coordination between the education department and social services and those are going to really be individualized cases. So I would, I would talk to the school about it. in a lot of cases there is concerned about these as the parents are. and I don’t mean to demean the, you know, the issues that parents have, but people go into education because they care about kids, so they’re not looking to, to dump this. And some of it may be taken over by social, the social services. but they, they won’t be, everything that I’ve seen indicates that they won’t just be lost.

Discussion: School Shutdowns and Comp Ed

Speaker 2: Okay. and you just mentioned it in your last comment. Comp ed. I’m getting that question a lot and I just keep telling parents like, well, we don’t know. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but it’s, you know, I know some governors have thrown it out there. I believe it was in Betsy to bosses thing that it’s, that it’s an option. And I think, I think that the legislators who have said combat have been very, what’s the word I’m looking for Like generic and that they’ve said comp, you know, it’s not a guarantee, but that it’s an option.

Speaker 4: Comp ed is, is pretty ambiguous and it’s very vague and there’s no formula and it’s, to me, combat feels a lot more like a negotiation than anything else, in this area. But what we do know is that even the earliest guidance on this, when this whole thing first started was that combat was, was predicted, we predicted was, was included in the conversation. So the earliest guidance said, you know, be prepared, you know, whatever. and Laura, you have, you have the notes in front of you and I’m gonna misquote it, not word for word, but you know what, we’re going to come back to school and we’re going to reevaluate the performance levels and we’re going to find out how much regression there is. And then combat is going to be a big part of this conversation. and so the question for me is not whether it’s available, but the question for me is how hard is it going to be to get an appropriate level of compensatory education once we get back into the swing of things.

Speaker 4: We’ve got a lot of barriers. We’ve got scheduling barriers, we’ve got time constraints. And then you know, is the district going to be, I think it’s gonna be a district by district kind of situation. there are other districts that seem to be more open when it comes to, offering and providing compensatory education. And there are other districts that are, you know, that are real, I don’t want to say limited, but they’re a little more hesitant to provide those. So everything in this area of law is case by case, but comp ed is going to be a big conversation that we’re going to have and I don’t have any doubt that, that they’re going to come through. Right.

Speaker 2: I guess you said it perfectly. That’s the words I was looking for. A comp ed we know is going to be a part of the conversation. So how can parents be better prepared for that conversation

Speaker 3: but kind of, it’s a complicated issue because, and some of the guidance Nikki was referring to, I think it was March 20th or the original, us department of education did come out and say that if the child doesn’t receive services during a closure, the IEP team must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services are needed consistent with blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So,

Speaker 3: usually comp ed means that you’re getting the child to where they would have been had the services been delivered. This is a little more complicated because you’ve got coven where every child is regressing. So it’s going to absolutely be an individual basis because you, it’s not going to be an hour for hour, so you miss 16 hours of speech language. So now we’re going to make that up. How they would normally look at it is where the child was and where they are currently. But they’re also, I would think going to factor in the fact that every child is going to regress. So it’s absolutely going to be an individualized team decision. What’s required. There’s some talk about ESY, the extended school year being utilize this summer if, if schools open in any fashion to be used for some of that compensatory education time because the reality is when school opens, there’s not enough time in the day to make up for all the hours that I’m having missed at this point. So there may be some more vigorous, summer programs that happen. There may be some times where you as a parent, as we mentioned earlier, can supplement the services and seek reimbursement, but it’s, it’s going to, it’s not necessarily going to bring the student up to wool to where they would have been had Colvin not happened. I don’t think that that’s going to be the measure.

Discussion: School Shutdowns and ESY

Speaker 2: Okay. okay. You, it’s great that you can just keep bringing up the next topics. you mentioned you, you said the three magic letters, ESY, can a parent, should a parent expect a more vigorous ESY program Can they ask for one Should they expect and, or can they ask for, this year’s ESY to maybe be a remediation or, you know, I keep telling parents, we don’t know. You know, I don’t even know that we’re going to be back for ESY, but what, what, what is your gut feeling on this

Speaker 3: Well, the typical lawyer answer is it depends. And the realities that ESY, extended summer services are not even in the Ida. They’re in the regulations. And the purpose of typical ESY is to prevent regression. So it’s, it’s got a, a fairly, defined definition of gender, but it’s, it’s a fairly defined thing. So the, the bigger question is whether they’re going to alter the district’s kind of determination of ESY and it, it comes down to an individual district level. It’s not, garnered at the state level or the federal level. It really is an individual district’s ability to fashion their ESY program. Now that being said, what they cannot do is say that, okay, all of our kids with this disability are going to get this program for the summer. That’s absolutely not individualized. That’s never okay. Even though districts do it and it won’t be okay this year.

Speaker 3: however, if that’s what’s being offered and your child will benefit from it, you’re going to need to consider it based on the circumstances. And I can see schools may be doing that. You know, ESY always runs from this state to this state. Right. There is a violation. It’s not supposed to be predetermined when it runs. this year it may be extended, it may be kids are included in it. That wouldn’t have been an I as part of your IEP team. I would approach the school. If you feel that your child is significantly regressing and your child has not previously participated in ESY services, I would request that an amendment be made to the IEP to include those services because their aggression is occurring and the team is going to have to assess that on a case by case basis.

Speaker 4: Okay. But you’re going to have to be able to demonstrate that regression though. and you know, for the children that have, that have ESY, that box marked in their IEP, it’s because they have, the team has determined that there is documented regression in the child’s educational history. So, I mean, most of the districts I work with won’t just allow a child to be included in ESY unless you have a documented history of regression. And so to me it feels like it would, I mean the first question Lisa, you said was, can we ask for, and the answer is you can ask for anything. You could ask for anything. I say that all the time. So by all means, make the request and put it in writing. And you know, as a, as a lawyer, that’s what, that’s how you build your case. And that’s, that’s how you build a foundation.

Speaker 4: So don’t hesitate and follow your instincts. Parents, you know, you guys know your child better than anybody else. but it seems to me like, at least with the districts that I work with out here, they’re hesitant to add a child to yes. Why are at ESY services and child’s IEP without, you know, some real verified, progression. And so, I would wonder how much regression are the district’s going to need to see now if the child has not had ESY on their, on their, IEP and are the district’s going to take the parent’s words for it I’m seeing my child regress. Well, you know, you’re not the academic perfect. You know, you’re not the expert. We’re the experts. Yes. But I’m an important part of the team. And let me show you how he’s progressing. You know, I looked at the last event, you know, you could say, you know, I looked at the last benchmark, what, whether the districts were filling out those benchmarks or not, you know, March, 2020, this is what he could do. And here’s what he, here’s what he or she can do or can’t do now. So, you know, just parents jot down as much as you can. Somebody here, one of the three of us or one of the two of you mentioned, you know, taking video of your child and you know, anything, any sort of evidentiary, you know, demonstration is gonna help your case. So, I’m not hearing much about ESY out here in the central Valley of California. in fact, I have a couple of

Speaker 5: districts that have said we’re not going forward with the ESY even though tele learning is an option. they’ve just taken that, that position that it’s not going to happen. So

Speaker 3: I think you have to be, aware that ESY is bigger than special education because there’s teacher contracts that come into play, the hours that they have to work, who’s going to do it. There’s personnel issues and a lot of those issues are also going to have to be worked out in order to determine if the school has the personnel to have any type of more robust ESY services. And that’s not going to be determined until we’re much closer to that period of time. That being said, the other thing to keep in mind, there’s no reason you can’t have an IEP meeting over the summer. some schools hesitate to have them. And a lot of it is because again, their personnel is not there. But I think especially this summer, it’s definitely a reason to request service, an IEP meeting as we get closer to the school year for those vulnerable kids, like the transition kids, as we get closer to knowing what next year is going to look like. So don’t hesitate to ask for an IEP meeting over the summer. You may have to concede that not all members of the team will be there and you’ll have to weigh whether it’s worth it or not. But just keep in mind that there’s no prohibition to having it over the summer.

Speaker 5: Right. And down here, I’m sorry, go ahead Lisa. So out out here in California, we, we are hearing, you know, some discussion, some chatter about going back to school in July. I have no idea if that’s going to happen. This is evolving on a day to day basis, but if that’s the case, and to me that seems like a, you know, a massive undertaking because of the teacher’s unions, because of contracts as they’re written. But, you know, the, the, the state has a lot of abilities to do things under these kinds of times. So if we go back to school in July, if that’s what we decide to do out here in California, you know, all the more reason that you’ll have those teachers and the staff members and the AIDS and, and your child’s IEP team members available to have those IEP meetings. So if we, you go back to school, I think that’s going to be a really good indication that you probably can have a meaningful IEP. whether that’s virtual or whether that’s, I have no idea what it’s gonna look like in July in person or over the phone. But to me that’s a, that’s a positive indication.

If you weren’t watching, this part may seem confusing, but I lost electricity. Thankfully, they kept going!

Speaker 5: Are you guys still alive Yes. Did we lose Lisa, are you there Lisa

Speaker 3: Lisa,

Speaker 5: Laura Are you monitoring the Facebook page

Speaker 3: I see questions as they’re popping up. I just see one, can you just, why include math Yes, ESY can include the services that your child is receiving based on their IEP. it’s a team decision whether or not your child receives ESY. And then it’s a team decision as to what services because they’re going to look at where the regression is likely to happen. So if your child receives math, services through the IEP and there’s a likelihood of regression, they may be granted ESY for, moving forward. And I’m looking at us, are you able to see the questions looking at the questions ESY virtually. The other thing with the Y is as a parent you, the school’s responsibility is to offer it to students who qualify for it. But you as a parent have the right to refuse it. So if you are having a very difficult time with virtual learning and then you’re offered a virtual learning ESY program and you don’t see the benefit of it for your child, you have the right to refuse it.

Speaker 3: I again would just document why you’re refusing it, why it doesn’t work. And if there are alternatives for your child that you want to put them in, again, another opportunity to request that the school pay for it and submit your 10 day notice so that you are at least on the record that you’ve requested something and you have that to maintain your rights. And we keep saying, you know, maintaining your rights and that the end game and that is if you and your district can’t come to an agreement and you want to proceed and file for due process, which is essentially suing the school for not upholding your rights. that’s another process that right now is really in flux. So there are definitely federal and state timelines associated with due process. A lot of them are currently on hold, here in Connecticut, they’re just beginning to start mediations, which is a resolution part of the process by video.

Speaker 3: And as an attorney I have, I have some reservations about not having that face to face contact when you’re negotiating something with another party. but it may be the way that the world is going and we’ll have to adjust to this is how things are going to happen for, actual due process hearings. Courts are opening up a video, cross examination and witness testimony and all of that. So, I don’t think that the process is going to be sold forever. You can absolutely file something currently and it will start the process, but the timelines are absolutely changed a bit and it’s uncertain as to what those timelines are going to be at this time. So, you know, it, it, it feels like it could be, it could be really indefinite. So, but by all means start the process. Like you said Laura, right.

Virtual FBA?

Speaker 3: It looks like maybe Lisa lost power. okay. Yeah, she was worried about our storms. but I can see the questions. there’s a question about a virtual functional behavior assessment. I was actually on a, I see that I was on, a webinar with a BCBA board certified became around analyst who said absolutely an FBA can be done remotely. And then went on to explain that your child’s behaviors within your home while they’re learning are very important and can be addressed. you as a parent obviously are not a trained behavior therapist, but the BCP on IMS said that they could provide training to you as a parent and across the board, parent training is included in the Ida as something that is required. So I think I mentioned it earlier, if you don’t have access to the technology or the knowledge of the technology or you need to act as your child’s behavior therapist and you’re not trained, that can be amendment to be added to your IEP so that you can receive the appropriate training. some BCBA is maybe more comfortable with it than others. So I, I, you know, it’s probably going to be dependent sometimes their school BCPA sometimes they’re external BCBS. And I would say that part of it is a comfort level with that person and determining, but there’s no reason that you can’t have an FBA specific to your child’s behaviors that they can, they can observe your child through your computer and determine what the needs are. and have that revised once a school resumed

Speaker 4: as a temper, as a temporary interim sort of service. by all means, if you can do that, get, get some collaboration between the BCBA and the parent written into an addendum. and, and, and honestly that is actually very empowering for the parents. You know, let them district let the districts pay for that training. And, and during this crazy time, if I was sitting in the district shoes, you know, and if I had somebody that was qualified to, to teach and train the parent, not only are you empowering the parent and, and infusing that knowledge in them, you’re delivering what the child needs in terms of that service and you can kind of look at it as the parents doing the job of the district at that time. So I would think that that would be a pretty easy request for the district to grant.

Speaker 3: And I see, I mean, somebody stepping in and saying they don’t agree because the FBA should be based on the child’s behavior in school. And if we were in school, I would say absolutely right. If you’re having difficulties with your child’s behavior at home, with you acting as the teacher, there’s no reason that that can’t be, you can have a plan put in place and receive some training on how to handle that for now. And then again adjust it when your child returns back to school because there are going to be a whole lot of different behaviors when kids go back to school. There’s going to be honeymoon periods, there’s going to be nightmare periods. we don’t know what to expect when that happens. And all of these things are going to have to be reassessed. And when we say present levels of performance, it’s across the board. It’s your child’s socialization and their ability to participate in PE and all of these other things that they have been missing up until this point. I did see somebody else say, could we explain the acronyms And I’m sorry I have been trying. And it just becomes, typical to use use things. So if there’s a specific one that Nikki or I have used, just send us an email and we will tell you what it is. But moving forward, we will try to explain what the acronym stands for. I’m looking at questions.

Speaker 5: There was a question, Laura, while you’re scanning. There was a question about stay-put. if there is a, if there’s a new IEP presumably with some revisions or modifications and it’s not yet signed or executed or consented to, you know, what is the stay put situation and yes it is the last consent to IEP is always going to be the stay put position until you have some consent. So,

Private Schools and School Shutdown

Speaker 3: I never, I want wanted to talk private schools a little bit because there’s a lot of students who attend private schools, sometimes by parent placement and sometimes through district placement or kind of a mutual settlement agreement. And now those private schools are being called upon to have the distance learning plan and we’re getting some questions as to whether the private school is still responsible for that. And again, the lawyer answer is, it depends but it depends on the circumstance of why your child is at the private school. Private schools to some extent do a really good job of distance learning because they tend to be smaller and maybe have more resources. That being said, they, if you were, if you’re a place there because of your, your district has placed you there through your individualized program, then the IEP has to be carried out through the, the distance learning of the private school. If they’re not able to, the state put placement, maybe the private school, it may be your public school, depending on what your agreement is to have your child attend there. So at the end of the day, your public school is responsible for implementing the IEP. That would may be done through the private school. Some of these private schools are already shutting down because they’re, you know, they’re not getting enrollment. They don’t have the money. If that’s the case, everything would revert back to your, your, your public school.

Speaker 3: I just, what else do we have

Speaker 3: Okay. It’s time to renew a IEP. Is now a good time to talk about supports that may be offered Should we decide to keep her home another year we did talk about this a little bit earlier, that there are there going to be a lot of situations where parents want to keep their child home either because they flourished in this, distance learning environment or there’s anxiety about safety and the primary tenant of all of the administration, federally, state and locally has always been the safety of the faculty and the students. So I think you have a legitimate concern. If you’re concerned your school opens up and you’re not sure what to do, you just need to communicate that to your, to your district because attendance and those things are still going to be counted. But there’s, there’s even been waivers so far this year that, at least here in Connecticut, the attendance that’s reported to the state powers that be was cut off from the day that school stopped.

Speaker 3: So, at the same time, it’s kind of ironic that schools are calling out students for not being in attendance to their virtual school day. So there the benefit of not having to report attendance, but they are requiring attendance. So it is absolutely a good time to talk about supports that should be offered. I said earlier and I’ll just reiterate, I would not refer to what you’re doing as homeschooling because you don’t want to put on the table any, lack of rights that you have or have a school assume that you’re taking over. You have not officially, withdrawing your child from school, so you’re not homeschooling. You were distance learning with the school district,

Speaker 5: but Lord, that can be, that can take the form of homebound instruction. Right I mean it, it seems like,

Speaker 3: well you’re still responsible for the education. Yes,

Speaker 5: exactly. And so then, you know, if you can get, and home bound instruction is just considered a, you know, sort of a temporary thing. and, and that’s going to be just a really ripe area as we, you know, as, Oh, here we go. Lisa’s back. welcome back.

Again, if this is confusing, this is when my electricity came back on.

Speaker 3: Yeah.

Speaker 5: wow. Did you guys stay on What did you see Anything, I guess not,

Speaker 3: no blank space, but then people were notifying us that there was a lot of wind in Pennsylvania. So we figured maybe we’ll walk power.

Monitoring Regression during Distance Learning

Speaker 5: That’s what it was. And then like there was like a whole loud pop but the TV and the fish tank. So, but the fish are all alive. No worries. There we go. so situated, Lisa, there’s a question at the bottom, Paula Barry asks, if teachers are only providing videos, then parents are responsible for collecting data. Question. And the answer to that is you’re not responsible for anything. but it would behoove you in, in, in my opinion, to collect that data because as we’re saying, these children are going to regress. There’s no, there’s no doubt about that. So if you collect that data, you’re going to have something to show to the teachers, excuse me, to show to the district when we resume, that’s going to cement your argument for compensatory education. So rather than looking at it as a responsibility or obligation, I would look at it as an opportunity and you’re the one that’s going to be able to control that data. And you’re the one that’s going to be able to control, you know, the, the fidelity of that data because you’re the one that’s recording it. And so you’ll know that it’s legitimate. So do it by all means do it.

Speaker 3: And I see a couple of comments or questions popping up about how can maybe child doesn’t do it as well. with the video learning or you’re only getting packets or you’re as a parent, you’re just completely overwhelmed, which is understandable. and what I would say to that is do what you’re capable of and keep your wellbeing and your child’s wellbeing in place. If you don’t get every worksheet done every day, the world is not going to end and child is going to regress during this time. It just is bound to happen based on the circumstances. And the best we can do is the best we can do. and to Nikki’s point, you just need to keep the school notified that you are trying to engage, that your child is not responding, that this is not working. See if there are alternatives. But if, you know, you guys need a mental health day once in a while, I don’t think anyone’s going to hold it against you.

Speaker 3: Parents are really in a tough position right now trying to maintain their own lives and their jobs and their children’s education and everything else that goes along with that. So, you know, cut yourself some Slack, do the best that you can do and eventually this will all end. It may look different at the end of it, but, in some ways that may be a good thing. I think that there’s a lot of positives coming out of this and there are some kids who are responding extremely well to this type of learning. So we’re learning new things about learning even as we go through this.

Speaker 6: Yep. And I always, you know, I’m saying to parents, try it. I, I was the first one who was like, Oh my gosh, distance learning is never, ever going to work for us. It’s not going to work. What am I going to do You know, I’m going to be stuck here for weeks and weeks. and my son has responded to it very well. And you know, I say no, it’s not like regular school and no, he’s not making tremendous amounts of progress, but it’s beneficial. And at the end of the day, you know, that’s what matters. It’s a positive thing. It’s beneficial to him. It helps him. and know it’s not the same OT as, you know, the half hour video OT that we get a week is not the same as what he gets in school, but it’s, it’s still, appropriate for him and it’s beneficial to him. So try it, try everything, try, you know, you never know

Speaker 3: a child may make progress in some areas and not others. And the big thing that the argument’s going to be when we get back to any sense of normalcy is, was there educational benefit during this period and did your child make progress Well, that can be very subjective and I think school districts are going to try and make the argument that they provided services to the best of their abilities and that some progress was made. And that’s where as a parent documenting where the progress, if there was progress, admit there, progress my child, you know what it’s teaching them one-to-one, they really flourish. They are now enjoying reading these other skills really depleted because they didn’t have other interactions or these services. So it’s not a, a blanket of progress or no progress. It can really be based on the skills that are listed in the, in the child’s program.

Speaker 5: And if you can document that you’re one-to-one when you sat there next to your child, and, and helped him or her read and she, he or she flourished, that’s going to be a good, little bullet that you have in your arsenal when you go back to that IEP meeting. Once we resume and say, look, Hey this, this works like this, this support really worked. And so we would like to, what can this child accomplish when an expert like with a reading expert actually sitting down next to him, I’m just as mom. so, you know, try it, document it, and then present it as, you know, argument for your, as basis for your argument when you get back to back to school. And along to Lisa’s point about, you know, just give it a try. We were discussing the FBA earlier and there was a comment about, well, you know, we want to evaluate the child’s behavior in the school setting and obviously that’s not possible right now and that’s not even really relevant at this point in time, but there is information and there is benefit to evaluating the child in the, in the home setting.

Speaker 5: And so take what you can get. you know, the benefit might not be what it would look like if we were, you know, under normal circumstances. But again, just, just take everything that you can get because, any benefit is, is little benefit is still benefit.

Child being bullied during distance learning.

Speaker 3: Right. I see an interesting one just popped up about, kid being bullied on social media and reported it to the principal and they call all the parents. And the, the question is really the fact that the physical buildings are closed. What is the school’s responsibility I think it continues as it did before that, that schools, if it’s happening during school time, obviously school is going to be involved. I think if it’s happening with other students, you need to report to school and go through the same process as you would if school were in session, treated as if school was in session. Because right now the school is technically in session and it’s,

Speaker 5: yeah,

Speaker 3: it’s a little harder because kids are on social media on their own and not in the school buildings, but everything like title IX or discrimination or any of those things still applies. whether or not your children or your child is in the, in the physical school building. So report all those things, note all those things and follow up as you would if your child was in school.

Speaker 6: Right. And I, you know, I think when we think of bullying and we think of parents, a lot of us in my generation, we have that on. If you remember that episode of the Brady bunch where I forget one of the Brady’s was being bullied. So Mr. Brady goes to the guy’s house and it turns out the dad’s a jerk and a bully too. that’s not the norm. The norm is that the bully probably has very nice and very concerned parents who have no idea that this is going on. so if you can tactfully and professionally reach out to them and just say, Hey, you know, I think maybe your child is having a bad day cause he sent this to my kid or he posted this about my child on Snapchat. a lot of times parents aren’t watching their kids online activities enough and it’s just a matter of, you know, never attribute to malice what can be attributed to ignorance. The parents just don’t know. So you can always try that route too.

Speaker 3: And I think with all the technology that’s being utilized, teachers are getting more astute at being able to utilize it to funnel out the things that shouldn’t be happening. They’re learning that they can meet students, they’re learning. you know, and you need to know that if your kid is on zoom with other kids in the classroom and they’re seeing everything that’s going on behind you, that’s all fair game. And I say this, you know, as a warning if, if, if something is seen that a teacher normally would report as a, required reporter, they still need to report that something’s going on in your home that may be in danger in your child. So just be aware of the environment that your child is in when they’re participating on these things. but the schools are also getting better at keeping out. the, you know, the people that are breaking into the zooms and the inappropriate messages and all that stuff. Discipline remains the same. If your child is doing things inappropriate on the computer during the school day, they’re still going to be disciplined by the school in the same kind of way. I haven’t heard of any virtual suspensions, but I would imagine that at some point there’s going to be, you know, talk about how, how discipline comes in and whether or not that appears on your child’s record is probably up in the air because we don’t know what’s being maintained at this point. But just kind of keeping all these things in mind.

Speaker 6: Okay. quick note on, we talked about assignments, homework, things like that. What if a teacher has told the parents that this stuff is being graded and that it is mandatory and that you do have to hand in this homework

Student Retention and Distance Learning

Speaker 3: Oh, that, that’s driving me crazy because I’ve, I’ve had clients where the schools, you know, saying that they’re going to retain a kid who suddenly is failing a class because they’re not learning well in the virtual world. And, that’s absolutely a case where I think if you reach out to an advocate and an attorney, it’s a pretty quick conversation because the schools can’t use the lack of attendance to their benefit in some instances and then penalize your kids and other instances and the, it may be that they need to, as we talked about earlier, come up with alternative ways to determine whether your child actually has that information. Maybe the, the delivery of this model isn’t working for your child, but if they had a conversation on the phone with your child or your child could submit something in another, in a video fashion, I would talk to the teacher and I would, I would kind of work up the chain with that kind of thing because if your child was doing well before this, and this is affecting the way that your child is performing, they really should not be held against your child at this point.

Speaker 5: Okay. So the ultimate threat of course is due process, right It’s, it’s, we were going to do all we can to avoid having to go through the turmoil and expense and emotional cost of due process, but that’s always the option suing the school district. And so the, the hearing officer is going to ultimately evaluate whether you’ll response and the district’s response and your request and, and their response to your request was reasonable or not. And so, you know, ultimately the question question’s going to be the analysis will be, you know, was it, was it appropriate for the district to deny that and to, you know, it exactly that if he was doing fine now why the hard line position that he’s not doing fine during this uncertain time and we’re going to take this, you know, drastic, draconian decision to fail him from this class. So I think that that’s probably not going to be a fight that a whole lot of energy is going to be spent on,

Speaker 3: but at the same time, what I’m hearing, and if you look at other circumstances, I live in Connecticut and I’m very close to where Sandy hook was after that happened. It was impossible to follow through on anything in that district because they were given so much deference whether they should be or not. I’m not commenting on, they were given so much difference because of what the personnel in the school went through. And I think that schools who can show a good faith effort in trying to provide for your child in a reasonable way based on their circumstances, is going to go far with a hearing officer. These are, these are normal people who are just trying to make decisions. And so there are conversations that can happen before it gets there to resolve kind of these issues. Like Nikki said, that things that really shouldn’t have a whole lot of energy put into them. But I’m seeing more and more students are kind of being threatened with retention. and you know, and it’s an interesting piece because nobody’s learning the whole curriculum right now. So how are you going to retain somebody and show that they didn’t do something So, start with an attorney or advocate and just know that if the schools are doing things that seem reasonable, you just really have to take that into account. Right I think it’s a new word. You know, we’re like Nikki said a while back that we’re so, yeah,

Parent Documenting, PWNs, etc.

Speaker 6: I mean we’re so apart. You appropriate, appropriate, appropriate, you know, that’s been drilled into us for so long and now it’s, we have to add in reasonable and what is reasonable to ask for and what, what a hearing officer thinks is reasonable or you know, may not be what you think is reasonable. So, anyway, there’s an overarching, there’s been a lot of questions, but I think the overarching thing is receiving PWS nor ups what we call them here in PA. parents are receiving, they’re receiving them right now and what should they do. And I, you know, one mental hurdle that parents I think can’t get over is I write on these documents all the time. There’s nothing saying that a parent can not write on a permission to evaluate for them. There’s nothing saying that parent can not write. On a pwn right on them. No, I mean to me it write on it. If you’re agreeing to what it says for now, you know, right. That right above your signature. I agree to these changes for the duration of the COBIT 19 pandemic only.

Speaker 3: But I wouldn’t have no, none of my rights.

Speaker 6: Right. And I waived out of my rights. you know, you can add these things in. I don’t know. What other advice would you have for these PWI I mean, cause when I say the said issue a pwn so, so everybody, and you know, everyone in Pennsylvania is getting

Speaker 5: you girls earlier before the event that the districts out here are sending out templates, samples that just literally say dear parents or guardian and it’s a prior written notice coming from the district and it’s not individualized. The child’s name isn’t on there anywhere, date of birth, nothing like that. And it’s a prior written notice saying, we will continue to provide fake blah, blah, blah. Laura fill in like to the extent feasible and within the resources of the district, but just they’re basically saying, just know it’s not gonna look the same. and so I look at this document and I think, you know, what’s the point of this except for the district to, you know, check the box that they sent out, a prior written notice. But really it’s not, it’s not meaningful in any way. so yes, so right on there, right, if, if you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.

Speaker 5: Right. That’s the, that’s the long standing adage in special education. So, so right on there say, I don’t agree that my child should have a reduction in services right now. but I will agree to this, this and this and, and the district can look at this and say, so, okay, great. Ha. It’s funny that the parent wrote that, but you wrote it down and it’s on there. And if it ever gets to a due process hearing that’s going to come out as a piece of evidence and at least at least you’ll be able to argue that you, that you notified the district of your position on that. And it’s far better than just kind of sitting on your rights and doing nothing.

Speaker 3: So keep a copy of it. Right, right. And I think there’s a lot of these besides just the November pwn there’s a lot of these kinds of standardized documents I haven’t looking at one that’s an agreement to postpone evaluation, reevaluation and it’s a standard form that they, you know, they want parents to sign to waive their rights. Don’t waive any of your rights if you get a form that your SSI, I’ve also seen a big thing is if you want your child to participate in distance learning, you have to sign this. or if you don’t notify us, you’re agreeing. I mean I love that one. Yeah. And any of these kind of standard template things where you are potentially giving up rights. I would just follow it up with an email. I received your, you know, your note of whatever the title is. And while I agree that you can provide my child with services, I do not waive any of my rights.

Parents Getting Involved in Lobbying and Advocacy

Speaker 6: Right. okay. Stephanie, to address your question quickly just because Laura has addressed it several times. contact your state department of ed. If your school district is refusing to communicate with you at this time, contact your department of ed. somebody else had asked and oddly enough now since the, since my power out is my mouse isn’t working, somebody had asked about school funding and how can we in good faith ask for things when we know schools are struggling right now and they are going to continue to struggle because tax revenue is going down. another plug for Copa joined Copa. you know, full funding of Ida is, you know, that comes up often a parent membership to Copa is only 50 bucks a year. And, I don’t know if they have scholarships or not, if, if, if that’s, if you can not afford that. You could ask I think

Speaker 3: and just explain what Lisa’s saying. the IDEA is a funded federal law, but the program itself has never been fully funded. So there’s a lot of money that the federal government could put into it that would then take the, the burden off the States to supplement a lot of this. Now that being said, there is a lot of money going to the States and the schools currently or these things and they’re not necessarily telling them how they need to spend the money. So, the other piece to think about is though your schools are still incurring, you know, they’re still paying the bus company because eventually it’s going to come back. They’re still paying the people for, you know, the, the food service and a lot of schools are still providing meals to families, but they’re not paying a lot of their overhead brick and mortar.

Speaker 3: So in some ways schools are saving money. there it comes down state to state whether they’ll be able to carry that saved money over to the next budget or not. And again, I would, I would check your state department of education website because all of these things are going through, the governments, the governor’s office or the department of education office on what happens with these funds that may be extra at this point and where they can go. But the federal government is funneling a lot of money into education. And, again, Copa would, would keep you aware of where it’s going and when you might need to notify your legislatures about where the need is.

Speaker 6: Right. And I have a ton on the blog about lobbying and advocacy. It’s something I’ve actively been involved in for at least a decade, at least a decade in special ed. And I was, involved in other causes before that, before this became my passion project. so yeah, I mean there’s tons of tons of resources on my site and a Copa. and your parent training center and your, every state. And I have, I have a list of ’em with their contact information. Every state has a protection and advocacy group for disabilities. So, you can look up your States group. All right. We are just about at 90 minutes. So I’ll let you ladies wrap up with some final thoughts.

Speaker 3: Does a school have to provide speech and OT virtually And that’s a quick one. So that’s right. The answer is yes. Do they have the, the technological capability to do that and personnel who are able to, that’s a question, but yes, they should be providing those services to you virtually.

Speaker 5: But that could take the form of an SLP talking to the parents that could take the form of, you know, the SLP sending one, an email a week to the parents saying, try this, this and this. So there’s a wide, there’s a wide range of what those services could look like. And it’s going to be up to you to ask the school to provide a better level of that service

Speaker 3: right here. It’s not going to be the same hours that are being provided that are in your IEP.

Speaker 6: No. And it’s what is what is reasonable. and now that in many States the other shoe has dropped so to speak and that we know we’re not returning this school year.

Speaker 1: Mmm.

Speaker 6: I agree with this decisions. I’m not happy with it, but it does give you some closure in that, you know, we’re kind of in this for the long haul. So now is the time to say, Hey, I don’t, you know, call if you have to call because you don’t have a laptop, you need to call the district and say, can I get a loaner computer Can I get a loaner iPad And things like that.

Speaker 3: I could start my wrap up. I really appreciate everyone’s attention for the last 90 minutes and I hope that we were able to provide some valuable information and this information is changing on an almost daily basis. And I hope that you are able to focus right now on your children and yourself and your family and you’re able to, and we were able to provide some reassurance and helpful information. And I know we didn’t get to a lot of your questions. There’s probably a lot of answers on Lisa’s Facebook page. I am a Connecticut and New York attorney, but I’m happy to answer a question. We gave out my email earlier and Laura at special ed. Dot. Law. You know, Nikki, same thing. We, we, we go into this because we want to help people and we want to help children with disabilities and a lot of us have personal experience or have our own children with disabilities. So we understand the difference that can be made in a child’s life when they do get the things that they need. And I say that from the bottom of my heart. I have a son who is a junior in college who I never would have thought would be in college. and getting the right things done at the right times has been life changing for our entire family. So, I really, if there’s anything I can do personally to answer questions or help, I am here. Thank you.

Speaker 5: And I’ll just start with, giving a compliment to all of you that are participating in this program right now. you guys are doing the right things. You’re spending your time and, and listening and asking questions and asking the right questions and asking the followup questions and you’re doing it. All right. So, keep that up and follow your instincts. I know I said it before. If something doesn’t seem right to your, to your mom or dad’s spidey senses, then it probably isn’t. And, and, you have a lot of rights. This is, this is a very big, robust civil right, that, you know, unfortunately there’s a whole area of law that that is intended to, you know, address that and enforce that. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s unfortunately the nature of, of, the circumstances right now. So this is a historic, unprecedented time.

Speaker 5: And, we just take it one day at a time and like Laura said, absolutely reach out. If you have any more questions, reach out to either of us. And I’ve always said, I’d love to find out, I’d love to figure out a way to deliver these services, you know, to everybody across the board. And, for those of you that are tuning in now and tuning in later, thank you. And, Lisa, thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in this conversation. I just learned a lot here today from the both of you also from the questions from the, from the Watchers, so

Speaker 6: right. And, for those of you who are just joining late, this will live on the Facebook page in any eternity, for as long as Facebook exists, it will be there. I will also send out, I will gather the links and resources that the three of us talked about today as far as things that we told you to look forward to answer some of your questions. I will send those out in an email. I will post them in a blog post, which will go out on all forms of social media, within the next 24 to 48 hours. For those of you who I did not get to your question. I’m sorry. There were literally hundreds of questions and we, we, we just can’t sit here all day as much as we’d like to. I tried to avoid questions that were about IEP in general and not specific to pandemic time.

Speaker 6: I also, we did not get to a lot of the necessarily all the homebound questions, but hopefully if these two ladies can’t join me again, in the future when we do start to talk about returning to normal, we can maybe, you know, I will find someone if it’s not these two ladies to talk about home-bound, distance learning services and things like that. For those of you who wish to continue that and how to kind of get that as maybe a new placement. Cause I th I think it’s going to be popular. I think it’s going to be a common issue

Speaker 3: and I think we’ll be happy to come back. I forgot to plug, my firm has a podcast that’s fairly new, but we have specific issues on and just kind of general information. So I’ll give the link when we give our information, but it’s, special ed. Dot life and it’s need to know with Dana Johnson, I worked for her firm. So, just another resource and we’ll put out there, but I forgot to mention that earlier.

Speaker 6: Okay. I will definitely, I will add that to my list of resources. Okay. Well thank you so much ladies. Thank you for everyone who tuned in. next Thursday is who is next Thursday, cause I do this every Thursday at noon. Oh, next Thursday is, she’s the author of a book called capable and it’s about presuming competence and our kids being capable to do things. So, I can’t think of her name off hand, but you’ll definitely want to tune in next Thursday at noon Eastern time. So thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

Distance Learning and IEP
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