Thursday, May 31, 2007

Good Interview

I was interviewed by Education Week yesterday concerning the Winkleman decision. Apparently the word is out that I like to talk about this stuff!

It was a good interview. I was reminded of how much I enjoyed watching the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in Winkleman. Truly, democracy in action.

The writer asked one question that surprised me. He thought that because I do a lot of work for state departments of education, my orientation would be pro district. I told him that as a long time hearing officer and mediator, I view myself as impartial. (By the way, I hate the word "neutral." It has the same connotations as neutron, or worse, neutered. Many of my mediator friends never call themselves "neutral" because they find the people have a bad reaction.) I find that the state ed departments, at least those I work with, really try to be fair to parents as well as school districts. I wonder if others share this perception?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Will Winkleman bring more IDEA lawsuits?

Since the Supreme Court decision in Winkleman, many have predicted a big increase in special ed lawsuits. The holding of Winkleman was that parents may appear in federal court to represent their children and themselves without a lawyer.

I'm not sure that this ruling will be a catalyst for a large upswing in new filings. Parents already had the right to bring the administrative, or "due process," hearing without a lawyer. The Supreme Court decision applies only to appeals in federal court. Also, it is difficult enough to navigate the federal court procedures for lawyers. I don't think that many unrepresented parents will be able to be successful. On the other hand, many parent advocates seem to be psyched up by a "win" in the Supreme Court. The last two decisions by the Supremes were largely seen as anti-parent by these groups.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

This is my new blog, welcome.

In this space, we will be discussing special education law topics.

To break the ice, let's discuss the viability of the Rowley decision in the NCLB IDEA'04 era. Most lawyers I've talked to think that the Rowley standard is the closest thing to hornbook law that we have in special education.

Rowley basically establishes the standard for the free and appropriate education required by the IDEA. An IEP must have been developed with appropriate opportunity for participation by the parents and the IEP must be reasonably calculated to provide educational opportunity for the child with a disability.

One federal court in Washington state has rejected the Rowley standard. The Court held that Rowley was decided under the former EHA, the predecessor of the IDEA, and that the new standard should look to provide equal opportunity for kids with disabilities. The Court ruled that Rowley set the bar too low.

What are your thoughts?