Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Breaking: New Census Report on Educational Attainment #EducationalAttainment

The United States Census Bureau yesterday released Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015. The study provides a summary of the state of education in our nation. It provides a wealth of useful information. You can peruse the study here.

Concerning the educational attainment of people with disabilities, the study concluded " Adults who reported a disability had lower levels of educational attainment compared to those without a disability. Seventy-nine percent of adults who had a disability had at least a high school diploma while 90 percent of those without a disability had completed a high school education or more. In addition, the percentage of those who had completed a bachelor’s degree or more was about twice as large for those without a disability compared to those with a disability. Thirty-five percent of adults without a disability held at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 17 percent of adults with a disability."

In other words, we still have a long way to go!  

The report also contains data on educational attainment by race, gender, Hispanic origin, and Nativity status.  Your thoughts?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly Question!

Can a child be too bad for FAPE? See upcoming series of posts on this blog. #IncarceratedStudents

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How Would Supreme Court Nominee Garland Vote on Special Education Decisions? #SCOTUS #Garland

President Obama has appointed Merrick Garland to the U S Supreme Court. Here is the White House press release and some biographical information about the nominee. Here is a PBS story on the nomination. Here is the CNN story on the nomination.

Although I am aware that the Senate still has to confirm the nominee and - amazingly - there is politics involved in the process, I began to wonder how Chief Judge Garland would vote on special education cases as a justice on the Supreme Court. There are only ten supreme court decisions concerning IDEA (and its predecessor EHA), but they are among the most important decisions in special education law. So I did a little research concerning his previous decisions. I'm not sure that I have much to show for my work, but I will share it with you.

By my count, Chief Judge Garland participated on eight D. C. Circuit panels (of three judges) issuing published decisions in which other judges issued an opinion. Here is a list: DL v Dist of Columbia 61 IDELR 2, 713 F.3d 120 (DC Cir 4/12/13); Petities by Martin v District of Columbia 55 IDELR 271, 662 F.3d 564 (DC Cir 12/2/11);  Blackman v District of Columbia 46 IDELR 31, 456 F.3d 167 (DC Cir 7/12/06); Lesesne ex rel BF v District of Columbia 45 IDELR 208, 447 F.3d 828 (DC Cir 5/19/06); Whatley &; Williams ex rel Whatley v District of Columbia 45 IDELR 180, 447 F.3d 814 (DC Cir 5/5/06); Alegria ex rel Alegria v District of Columbia 42 IDELR 110, 391 F.3d 262 (DC Cir 12/3/04); Calloway v District of Columbia 32 IDELR 234, 216 F.3d 17 (DC Cir 6/30/00); Lemon by Trice v District of Columbia 22 IDELR 847, 124 F.3d 1309 (DC Cir 8/22/97). Chief Judge Garland did not write the opinion in any of these cases.

Unfortunately, I could find only one special education decision written  by C.J. Garland, and it was a dissent. In Akinseye v District of Columbia 339 F.3d 970, 39 IDELR 212 (D.C. Cir. 8/15/2003) he dissented from the majority position that there was no subject matter jurisdiction and instead would have reached the same result as the majority by dismissing because the matter was not raised by the parties' briefs. This is a pretty technical procedural issue rather than a merits type decision, and in any event it is only a dissent.
Here is the entire dissenting opinion in blue type:
GARLAND, Circuit Judge, dissenting: The district court denied the plaintiffs’ claim to interest for late payment of attorney’s fees on the ground that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., gave them no right to such fees in the first place. That issue — whether the plaintiffs had an underlying right to fees — was the only issue briefed to this court. My colleagues have instead presented a case for the proposition that, even if the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney’s fees, they do not have a claim for interest under the IDEA. But there is also a case to be made for the opposite proposition, that the IDEA itself provides a federal cause of action for such interest as ‘‘part of the costs’’ of the litigation, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). Cf. Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 284 (1989) (holding that ‘‘[a]n adjustment for delay in payment is TTT an appropriate factor in the determination of what constitutes a reasonable attorney’s fee under’’ 42 U.S.C. § 1988); Copeland v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 892–93 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc) (holding that ‘‘in Title VII and similar fee-setting cases,’’ a court may grant an ‘‘adjustment to reflect the delay in receipt of payment’’ because such delay ‘‘deprives the eventual recipient of the value of the use of the money in the meantime’’). Just how strong the plaintiffs’ claim for interest might be is hard to assess, since neither side has submitted briefs on the question. ‘‘Dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction,’’ however, ‘‘is proper only when the claim is so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions TTT, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy.’’ Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 89 (1998) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682–83 (1946). Whether or not the plaintiffs’ claim would ultimately prevail, it certainly does not fall into any of those categories. Because the question of the validity of the plaintiffs’ claim to interest therefore goes to the merits of the dispute and not to our subject-matter jurisdiction, I would follow our usual practice and decline to dispose of this appeal on a ground ‘‘not raised in the parties’ briefs.’’ Time Warner Entm’t Co. v. 2 FCC, 93 F.3d 957, 964 (D.C. Cir. 1996); see Carducci v. Regan, 714 F.2d 171, 177 (D.C. Cir. 1983). Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.
You can read the entire decision here.

I have not reached any conclusion from this research concerning how Chief Judge Garland might vote as a Supreme Court Justice. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Incarcerated Students and Special Ed Law- Part I #IncarceratedStudents

As the weekly question has hinted, this blog is interested in the current hot button topic of incarcerated students and special education. This is an area that has seen an explosion of cases in the last year or so. It is coming up a lot these days.

So what rights do students with disabilities have if they commit a crime or if they are accused of a crime? What is the relationship between an arrest or a trip to juvenile hall and a school district's child find obligation? Which public agency is responsible for providing FAPE? What about the school to prison pipeline?

Finally that pesky weekly question can a student who is convicted of a crime be too bad to be entitled to FAPE? Believe it or not I even have a case about that topic.

As always, we are interested in what you think. Have you heard of cases on this topic in your area? What are your thoughts? What comments would you share?

More on this series is coming soon.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Weekly Question!

Can a child be too bad for FAPE? See upcoming series of posts on this blog. #IncarceratedStudents

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Breaking: Our LinkedIn Group Now Has Over 25,000 members #SpecialEdLaw

One of our goals in creating this blog was to provide both discussion of special education law topics from an impartial perspective and to provide resources where interested persons can find more information.

The impartial perspective is very important.  I have never represented or advised parents or school personnel on a special ed matter.  I am a hearing officer, mediator and complaint investigator for a number of states.  I also advise states and train their personnel. I frequently present at conferences on special education law from an impartial perspective. That is why when parents or school personnel contact me, I cannot help them.  They generally understand.  The disclaimer on the blog explains this point in more detail.

Our breaking news involves another milestone for one of the resources that we created: the Special Education Law Group that we started through this blog over on LinkedIn. The Special Education Law Group now has over 25,000 members.  (The number is not a typo!) You should go to the group's site and take a look. There are always good discussions- sometimes even heated disagreements. If you lose this post, there is always a link to our LinkedIn group on the lefthand side of the blog. It is a part of our effort to use social media to spread good impartial information about special education law. We appreciate your support.

We also have a Facebook group.  At some point the Facebook overlords went all corporate in our face and "archived" our group because we were not constantly issuing nonsensical posts about what we had eaten for breakfast, etc. The group still exists, but it is cumbersome.  We also started a Ning group, but they have since disappeared from the internet. (Technology is great except when it isn't!)

We also offer a lot of resources for parents, teachers (both regular ed and special ed), principals, school psychologists, hearing officers, mediators, complaint investigators, monitors, special ed directors, academics, advocates, SEA personnel, LEA personnel, paraprofessionals, lawyers (both parent and school district) as well as other special ed law junkies of all types.

On the left-hand side of the blog, you can sign up for a free subscription to our blog.  You can choose between receiving posts by email or in a reader by RSS feed.  You can also get a widget to insert this blog directly into your own website or blog. Subscriptions are important because numbers have meaning in the blogosphere.  Please sign up for a free subscription.  

Also on the left hand side are a series of embedded YouTube videos of interviews of me on dispute resolution topics by CADRE. (Many other videos and resources pertaining to special ed dispute resolution are available on the CADRE website - there is a link under resources.)

Many readers follow our headlines on twitter.  Check out our twitter activity here. Other readers follow our headlines on our Tumblr mini-blog here.

There are many links to websites and other important blogs on the lefthand side of the blog.  Also the search bar is just for this blog. So if you are interested in one topic, say bullying, just type it into the search bar and you can find all of our posts on that topic.

There are many more valuable resources on the blog.  Please explore it and take advantage of these other sites. Also, we are always looking to improve. If you know of other impartial resources, please suggest them.  

In the meantime, we appreciate your support. Please keep reading.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Study: Charter Schools Suspend Children With Disabilities At An Alarming Rate #discipline

A study released yesterday by the Civil Rights Project reveals that charter schools are suspending blacks students and children with disabilities at a disproportionate rate. As many of our readers are aware, IDEA (including its discipline provisions) fully applies to all public charter schools.

The study finds that lower suspending charter schools are more numerous than high suspending charter schools. Some of the conclusions of the report, however, are quite alarming. For example of interest to our readers, the study finds that of more than 5,250 charter schools,

  • 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than for students without disabilities.
  • Perhaps the most alarming finding is that 235 charter schools suspended more than 50% of their enrolled students with disabilities.

If you have an interest in charter schools and children with disabilities, you should review this study. You can read the 34 page study here. A summary is available here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Weekly Question!

Can a child be too bad for FAPE? See upcoming series of posts on this blog. #IncarceratedStudents

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Feds Blog Promotes Restorative Justice and Stop Bullying Practices #RestorativeJustice

The blog of the U S Department of Education has reposted an article concerning the use of Restorative Justice Principles and Stop Bullying concepts in order to prevent bullying as well as to deal with incidents of bullying.

To quote the post:
States and districts are increasingly in support of policies and practices that shift school discipline away from zero tolerance, such as suspension and expulsion, to discipline that is focused on teaching and engagement. To this effort, districts and states are rethinking discipline and adopting both Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) and Bullying Prevention (BP) as school-wide efforts to provide school staff with a set of preventative and responsive strategies to supporting positive student behaviors.

What are Restorative Justice Practices?

Restorative Justice Practices are a set of informal and formal strategies intended to build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing, and respond to wrongdoings, with the intention to repair any harm that was a result of the wrongdoing. Preventative strategies include community or relationship building circles, and the use of restorative language. Some responsive strategies include the use of Restorative Questions within a circle or conferencing format, again with the intention of repairing the wrong that happened as a result of the behavior. The Restorative Questions, while varied in exact language, ask the student to consider: what happened? who did it impact? how do you make it right?

What is Bullying Prevention?

Bullying Prevention involves explicitly teaching students how to treat each other respectfully (i.e. what respect looks like in their school)and how students, includingbystanders and the student who is bullied, should respond when peers are not being respectful (i.e. Stop, Walk and Talk),. Also important, is how adults respond to bullying and they help reduce peer verbal and physical aggression (i.e. prompt the student to use the Stop, Walk and Talk response).
Both RJP and BP provide explicit guidelines for students and staff on their interactions with one another to prevent and respond to problem behavior in a dignified, problem-solving manner. They are also both in alignment with the preventative, research-validated framework of School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions (SWPBIS). Within SWPBIS, school teams define, instruct, and reinforce appropriate social behaviors in the same manner they teach academic content. SWPBIS is data-driven; through regular review of student behavioral progress educators are equipped with real time information necessary for organize school resources to meet the social needs of all students. SWPBIS provides a strong platform for the adoption of RJP and BP because it allows educators to see the impact of both the preventative and responsive strategies within the school. Here are some examples of how schools are merging RJP and BP with SWPBIS.

You can read the article here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Weekly Question!

What are the hot button issues in special education law? What should we be talking about?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

CADRE Hiring Dispute Resolution Specialist #CADRE

Our friends at CADRE are hiring a special education dispute resolution specialist. They asked if we could help spread the word, and because we love CADRE, we are happy to do so.

If you have the following skills and abilities, you should consider applying by the March 31st deadline:

Required Skills, Knowledge, Abilities: 
 Knowledge of dispute resolution (DR) practices, especially collaborative approaches 
 Knowledge of special education and the needs of students with disabilities and their families 
 Strong writing skills and experience authoring and editing publications and/or resource materials 
 Experience with training and/or presenting for small and large groups in communication, mediation, negotiation, facilitation, and/or collaborative problem-solving skills 
 A strong work ethic with excellent communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills 
 Some travel throughout the country 
 Strong computer skills and comfort operating in a Windows environment 

Desired Skills, Knowledge, Abilities: 
 Understanding of and experience with culturally appropriate dispute resolution practices 
 Understanding of evaluation activities including logic models, performance measures, data collection, data analysis and reporting, and use of evaluation for systems improvement 
 Experience with planning small and large meetings, including national or state-level conferences 
 Familiarity with using content management systems, the use of online platforms for knowledge transfer and/or other emerging technologies 
 Experience working with a wide variety of stakeholders including educators and parent leaders 
 Familiarity with virtual meeting/webinar platforms

You can read the whole job announcement including instructions on how to apply here.