Guidance Transfers

DOE Policy Change: “Guidance Transfers” are Now an Option

 

          Surely, anyone who has tried to seek options for transferring between New York City Schools knows that it is no easy feat. For more than a decade, the Department of Education has restricted transfers for students, granting them only in the case of serious safety risks, medical issues, or even extreme commutes. According to the DOE, limiting school transfers was meant to benefit students, since it would ensure a consistent academic environment for students from year to year.

           However, recent reports show that the barriers placed on school transfers have negative outcomes for students. Several students found themselves unable to switch out of violent schools if they could not prove themselves to be personal victims of violence, and others were forced to remain in specialized high schools whose limited course offerings no longer satisfied their changing interests.

          While there are certainly still restrictions in place, it will now be a little bit easier to switch your child’s school placements. Last Wednesday, the Panel for Educational Policy declared that parents can request a “guidance transfer” if their child “is not progressing or achieving academically or socially.” According to this policy, officials will be able to request and review evidence on a case-by-case basis, and district superintendents will approve transfers requested for academic accommodations.

 

Click Here to read the full article on Chalkbeat.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk

Join us in Supporting the American Cancer Society!

 

We at Skyer Law are devoted to making positive change, and we work hard every day to ensure that the students we work with receive the quality education they deserve. On October 16th, we will be taking this passion and directing it towards the Making Strides against Breast Cancer walk in Central Park.

Click Here to support our team, Sky’s the Limit!

 

Our participation in this event is important to us because it will not only help raise funds for cancer research but will also spark awareness within and beyond our office. By walking among others who support this cause, we will broaden the network of people who actively support breast cancer research and we will provide a support network for those families who have been affected by the disease. We know that the American Cancer Society is the leader in the fight to end breast cancer, and we know that our team will help ACS achieve its goals.


The donations our team raises will enable investment in groundbreaking breast cancer research and provide free information and services for those diagnosed with the disease. More than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors will celebrate another birthday this year!


Early Intervention

Although the majority of our work involves helping children who are 3 and older, we cannot tell you how often we hear heartbreaking stories of parents who did not know they were entitled to FREE EARLY INTERVENTION (“EI”) services.  Or we meet parents who were aware that EI existed, but they were told by EI officials that their clearly struggling child was “ineligible.”   In fact, it shocks us how many of these clients whose parents say they were turned down by EI, are later diagnosed with a myriad of disorders, including Autism.   

As a Parent, you have the right to a comprehensive evaluation of your child - this is called a MULTIDISCIPLINARY EVALUTION (MDE), and is defined below.  And if your child is not deemed eligible, you have the right to fight that determination.  As you would expect, time is of the essence because your child is only eligible for EI services for such a short period of time, so we want to reach as many of you as early on as possible, so that you can successfully navigate the EI process.   

To this end, we are currently working on a sequel to Regina’s popular “How to Survive Turning Five” entitled “How to Survive EI”…. Stay tuned! 

 

                REFERRING YOUR CHILD IS EASY and takes seconds

So don’t put it off!

Professionals such as doctors can refer your infant or toddler to the EIP, unless you object, when there is a concern about your child’s development. If you have a concern, you can also refer your child to the Early Intervention Program in the county where you live. County contacts can be found online at: www.health.ny.gov/community/ infants_children/early_intervention/county_eip.htm Or, you can call the “Growing Up Healthy” 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-522-5006; in New York City dial 311

Turning 5 Workshop

How to Survive Turning 5

 

Free Workshop on Thursday, October 27

For parents of preschool-aged children who receive special education services and therapies, transitioning to kindergarten can be overwhelming. 


The experienced team of attorneys at Skyer Law are leaders in the NYC special education field, and have guided thousands of clients through this stressful “turning 5” process.  In fact, our founding partner, Regina Skyer, literally wrote the book on How to Survive Turning 5

Join us for a
free workshop where the Skyer Law team will explain your legal rights, walk you through all of your placement options, and share strategies to position yourself for the best possible kindergarten placement.   

 

Thursday, October 27

7 – 9pm

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music
58 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217


Register today.

 How to Survive Turning 5 is available on Amazon.  

 

CAUGHT IN THE CROSS-FIRE

For the entire month of August and these early days of September the paralegals and lawyers at our offices have been hounding and chasing the New York City Department of Education to get our parents the tuition reimbursement payments they are entitled to.  Talk about a frustrating experience! 
There are never simple solutions or answers to complicated problems, and this certainly holds true when dealing with a limping bureaucracy that is responsible for over 1.1 million students and a budget of $26+ billion dollars. 

So here’s what is being told to us and what we believe is happening.

For those of you with signed stipulations you are on the queue for payment.  As frustrating as it is, our answer is that it’s just a matter of time until you receive the agreed to monies.  Think of yourselves as standing on a line with thousands before and thousands after you.  Once the DOE makes a partial payment they take the file and place it on the back of the line, rather than keep it open and having it ready for the final payment.   There is no doubt that you will get your payments - it’s just the wait.  We are repeatedly told by the DOE that this is civil litigation and getting the city to pay on a claim within 18 months is the fastest that they ever pay.  The crux of the problem is that the Mayor has promised otherwise, and we all believed that promise. 

Additionally, we are told by DOE administration that the department that actually cuts the checks was short staffed over the summer and could not keep up with the volume of work.  They have re-deployed people from other departments to assist but this has not helped. We are hoping that now that everyone is back from summer vacation the monies will flow faster.  Our bookkeeper Frank Rivera is now working overtime to process paymentsthe day they come in.  We call and write to the DOE every single day, we have not forgotten about you.

For those of you still awaiting Comptroller approval for the signature on a stipulation, we are reviewing each file and assessing the risk involved in putting the case back on the calendar for an actual hearing.  The battle between the Comptroller and the Mayor is no doubt a political battle, with the ultimate question of , “Who are you going to vote for next year?” A Mayor who makes hollow promises or a Comptroller that believes the Mayor has given away too much money? 

School Bus Transportation

If your child is eligible for bus transportation, you can now check their route on the Office of Pupil Transportation website by selecting the link to “Find Student Transportation Information.” 

You will then need to enter your child’s birth date, and their nine-digit NYC ID, also called the OSIS number.  You can find your child’s ID number on their IEP, public school report card, or the first page of your Stipulation agreement.   

From there, you will see a webpage which includes:



          The bus company name; which will be displayed on the side of the school
 bus picking up your child. 

The bus route number; take note of this number, as you will be asked to
 reference it when making inquiries. 

          Time of the start of the route; this is the time that the first rider on the bus
 will be picked up.

          The sequence of your child’s pick-up; this is the number of students,
 including your child, who will have been picked up once your child boards the bus.  For example, Sequence = 8, means that seven other students were picked up before your child, who is the eighth to be picked up.

          If your child’s information is not listed on the website, email or call OPT.

Additional Tips

          While the bus company staff will be in their offices very early in the morning, it is not uncommon to be placed on hold for a very long time – if your call is even answered.  Start calling early and be prepared to hit redial.

          Be ready for unpredictable route fluctuations for at least the first two weeks of school.  Make morning and afternoon arrangements as necessary, and be prepared to wait.

          If your child is attending their school for the first time, it is a good idea to take them yourself on the first few days.  Inquire with the school directly so you are aware of their morning drop-off procedures.

          It may also be helpful to be at the school at dismissal time, so you can speak directly with the driver and bus matron to confirm details for the next morning’s pick-up.

          Finally, many of our parents have purchased GPS tracking devices to monitor their child’s location in real time.  Being able to track your child’s progress to and from school allows you to manage logistics more efficiently, and can also provide you with a peace of mind.  

Runway of Dreams

Designer Clothes for Kids with Special Needs

As parents of children with special needs, managing the everyday tasks that may otherwise be taken for granted can be a challenge.  New Jersey mom, Mindy Scheier, met the daily challenge of dressing her son Oliver, who has rigid-spine muscular dystrophy, with style – literally. 

            A fashion designer by trade, Scheier created designs with features helpful to a range of disabilities, including magnetic closures and adjustable necklines.  She has since partnered with Tommy Hilfiger, whose 2016 spring collection features children’s pieces with her design modifications. 

            To learn more about Scheier’s nonprofit organization, visit the Runway of Dreams website

Settlements for the 2016-2017 School Year

          For kids, late August means morning playdates in the sprinklers, ice cream cones for afternoon snack, and later bedtimes.  For parents, this time of year signals back to school preparation.  And for those parents whose children have special education needs, that prep extends well beyond a trip to the office supply store.  Instead, many of you have been forced to find a private school placement and independent services for your children, and you spend the dog days of summer awaiting news on whether the DOE will settle your subsequent tuition reimbursement claim. 
          Here at Skyer Law, we are working diligently to help you obtain the highest tuition reimbursement amount possible for this upcoming school year.  On Monday, August 22nd, we will be filing close to 1,000 notices with the Department of Education, in accordance with the statutory deadline.  Each notice informs the DOE of a student’s placement in private school, and instructs that reimbursement for the program’s 2016-2017 tuition will be sought unless the department provides a remedy in the form of an appropriate public school placement, and Individualized Education Plan by the start of the school year.
         
Although our ultimate goal is to avoid costly and stressful litigation, we draft each notice as though the case will proceed to hearing.  By doing this, we are preparing the foundation for negotiating the maximum tuition reimbursement settlement amount possible for each client.  In the notice, we detail the substantive and procedural errors in the CSE process, and IEP document; identify specifically how the recommended program does not provide an educational benefit to your child; and outline why the offered school placement is inappropriate.  
          In theory, the DOE has ten business days to officially address the presented issues, though parents who have been through this process in previous school years, can attest to that not being the practice.  However; according to the mayor’s policy, the DOE has been directed to inform our firm of their decision to settle a case, or move forward with litigation, within 15 days of receipt of the notice.  The moment we receive the DOE’s written response, your case manager, or the paralegal assigned to your case, will reach out to you with next steps.  Please note: If your child has a 12-month IEP, your notice was filed in June.

Still A Tale of Two Cities

          Despite Mayor de Blasio’s 2014 policy to fast track tuition reimbursement cases, delays persist.  As Skyer Law senior partner, Jesse Cutler, pointed out in a recent interview with the online education news organization, Chalkbeat, “There are cases that have definitely not met the timeline the mayor set forth.” 

          In our representation of more than 1,000 clients a year, comprising students with a wide spread of special education needs, we see firsthand the financial, and emotional, strain that this drawn-out process places on families. 

          We advocate aggressively on each client’s behalf, and will continue to voice our concerns to both the mayor and the comptroller.  We encourage you to do the same, and invite you to
read the entire Chalkbeat article.  

Transgender Student Guidelines

         Applying Special Ed Law to Transgender Student Discrimination

 

          While it is incredibly important to stress that transgender status is in no way a disability, there is certainly an overlapping need to advocate on behalf of both transgender students and those with special education needs in order to ensure a safe academic environment.  

          In fact, according to a survey conducted by the national Human Rights Campaign organization, 78% of transgender students report harassment in school, 31% report physical assault, and 12% report sexual violence.  Moreover, 32% of transgender students report having experienced harassment from a teacher. 

 

          Here, within Skyer Law, we have also seen a steady uptick in complaints of bullying of transgender students.  In these instances, we employ the same zealous client advocacy – for those with special education needs, or those dealing with gender identity issues – whose academic development has been impacted by this type of negative and inappropriate school environment.  

 

          The NYC Department of Education does provide Transgender Student Guidelines which include directives that students participate in gender-segregated activities with their self-identified peers, and utilize the rest room and locker room facility that aligns with their gender identity.  In addition, the policy advises that students are called by the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity, and requires that schools take steps to ensure that a student’s transgender status remains confidential if so requested.  Of course, as with all DOE policies, these directives are only effective if properly implemented by the school administration and adhered to by each member of school staff. 

 

          The national Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has created a “Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” which outlines best practices for districts to employ when adopting school regulations.  We continue to advocate that the DOE utilize GLSEN’s policy, with is designed around the principle that all students have a right to be treated in a manner consistent with their gender identity, to make their own guidelines more robust and implemented universally.

          Again, it is important to remember that a student’s gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation does not equate to a special education need.  However, if your child is dealing with any of these circumstances, they too have a right to a safe school environment, and many of the special education legal principles that Skyer Law attorneys have successfully employed for over 20 years can be applied when advocating on their behalf.  

SCOTUS and Special Education

Court Asked to Define Educational Benefit Standard  

          As the Supreme Court wraps up its current term, it is determining whether to hear a special education case in its upcoming term, which will begin October.  The case in question, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, is of particular relevance to our families, as it deals with defining what constitutes a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA).

          In the 1982 seminal special education case, Board of Education v. Rowley, the Supreme Court held that in order for a school district to meet its obligation to provide FAPE under the IDEA, the student’s program must be reasonably calculated to confer an educational benefit.  The Court intentionally left the legal standard for “educational benefit” undefined, and since then, 11 of the
federal court of appeals circuits have issued divided rulings regarding that standard. 

          Four of the federal districts, including New York’s 2nd Circuit, and Colorado’s 10th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the Endrew F. case, apply an extremely low standard, ruling that the program need only confer a “just-above-trivial” benefit.  Another four circuits also apply the “just-above-trivial” benefit, but do not expressly reject a higher standard.  As opposed to this very low bar, two circuits require a school district to offer an educational program that can provide a “substantial educational benefit,” while one circuit applies different standards internally. 

         The attorneys representing the student in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, are asking the Supreme Court to define the legal standard to determine if a program has conferred an educational benefit.  The Court has invited the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief on behalf of the United States to help determine if it should hear the case. 

          The
attorneys at Skyer Law make it a practice of staying abreast of both New York state, as well as federal, trends pertaining to special education law.  We strongly want the Supreme Court to hear this case, as we are certain its doing so will benefit our clients.  We will continuously monitor the progress of this pending case, and keep you updated on the progress.  

Skyer Law Senior Partner and Mayor de Blasio Discuss Reimbursement Delays

            As part of our continued commitment to advocate aggressively on behalf of our clients, this week senior partner, Jesse Cutler, spoke with Mayor Bill de Blasio regarding the ongoing delay parents are facing in the DOE settlement process, as a number of agreements await Comptroller review and approval. 

            Jesse, who is respected within the administration as a leading expert in the special education legal field, informed the mayor of the back log that is occurring within the comptroller’s office.  He further stressed that these delays are contrary to the mayor’s own 2014 policy initiative to streamline the settlement process.     

            Upon learning about the issue, Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed his commitment to expedite tuition reimbursements for families of students whose special education needs have not been met by the City. 

            Our staff continues to regularly follow-up on behalf of each client whose settlement agreement is awaiting review and approval in the comptroller’s office.  We also urge that parents continue to reach out to the comptroller’s office directly at (212) 669-3916 to insist upon a status of your child’s case.
  

2015-2016 Settlement Agreements Stalled in the Comptroller’s Office

Parents Forced to Wait Months for Approval

            As we reported in our blog entry on May 3rd, the tuition reimbursement process is being stalled within the NYC Comptroller’s office.  The Comptroller, Scott Stringer, is responsible for reviewing and approving all City contracts, including the Stipulation of Settlement agreements between the DOE and parents of children with special education needs.  Agreements are not released to be counter-signed by the DOE until this review and approval process is complete.  Unfortunately, when undertaking this duty, the Comptroller has not been adhering to the Mayor’s 2014 Policy Initiative to expedite these agreements.
            In addition to our staff’s aggressive follow-up on behalf of clients left in limbo, we are working in concert with a number of other special education agencies and firms to continue to pressure the Comptroller to adhere to the policy.  In response, the Comptroller’s office met earlier this month to discuss the internal review and approval process, and we are beginning to see an uptick in the number of agreements that are moving forward.  We have also learned that as a result of the push-back the office has received directly from parents, the office is scheduling a second meeting at the end of this month to further discuss the delays. 
            We therefore urge parents to continue to contact the Comptroller’s office directly at (212) 669-3916.  In doing so,
you will likely be told that any response from a Comptroller’s office representative to a parent who has retained counsel is limited to a prepared statement.  We advise you to indicate that your legal representative has advised you to make direct contact and to insist upon a status of your child’s case.  You will need to provide your child’s date of birth, along with their nine-digit NYC ID number (also referred to as their OSIS number) which can be found on the first page of the Stipulation agreement.

Congratulations Graduates

Bay Ridge Preparatory Class of 2016

High school graduates from the Bay Ridge Preparatory School in Brooklyn, are excited to take the next step in their educational journey to universities and colleges including American University, Boston College, NYU, Pepperdine University, Sarah Lawrence College and University of California, Berkley.  Among these 66 proud graduates, are students who participated in the Achieve Program and the Bridge Program.

The Bay Ridge Prep Achieve Program is designed to provide a layer of support to students who require additional academic assistance.  This support is offered as a combination of classroom work and supplemental small group work.

The Bridge Program at Bay Ridge Prep is designed to address the needs of students with diagnosed learning differences.  The goal is to maximize the learning potential of each student through the development of a focused, individualized educational program. 

To learn more about Bay Ridge Preparatory School, visit the school’s website.  

Notice of Potential Disclosure

On June 1, 2016, the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) began to notify parents of the potential for disclosure of the educational records of their children in accordance with a Judge’s Order in M.G. v. N.Y. City Department of Education.

This class action lawsuit seeks to change blanket practices of the DOE and the New York State Education Department with regard to students in State Approved Non-Public Schools and students with an IEP classification of Autism.  The release of these records may result in the provision of better access to programs and services needed by students. The Court states that the educational records will only be disclosed to the attorneys participating in the case and their experts.

No public disclosure of these records will occur. A copy of this notice may be reviewed at http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/E50307E2-1F21-421A-B3A6 BE60CA8DEBD4/0/NoticeofPotentialDisclosureofInformation.pdf

You have the right to opt out of the disclosure of these records. If you wish to opt out, you must print and fill out a form located at http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/95443971-A144-4270-901A-2C6705B1900B/0/ObjectionForm.pdf and return it to the Court by August 7, 2016. 

Pursuing Health Insurance Reimbursements for Your Child’s Therapies

Advice from an Insurance Law Expert             

Recently, the Skyer Law team participated in an in-house professional development seminar that focused on how our clients may be able to pursue their health insurance plans to obtain insurance payments for their child’s therapies and related services. 

The training was provided by leading insurance attorney, Jodi Bouer, the founding partner of Bouer Law LLC, a national insurance advocacy and litigation firm headquartered in Princeton, NJ.    

The major takeaway:  Although parents should primarily pursue services under the IDEA, they should also concurrently explore accessing health insurance reimbursements for supplemental services outside of an educational setting, which are deemed medically necessary. 

For more information and to seek guidance on whether to pursue reimbursements for your child’s therapies under your health insurance plan or to determine whether you should fight your insurer’s denial of your child’s therapeutic services, please call Jodi Bouer at 609-924-3990.

 

2015-2016 Settlements Update

We are working diligently to effectuate tuition reimbursement payments for our clients for the 2015-2016 school year. Unfortunately, the New York City Comptroller, who is responsible for reviewing and approving all settlements, is not adhering to the Mayor’s policy to expedite settlements between parents and the NYC Department of Education (See our June 25, 2014 blog to learn more about the Mayor's Policy: de Blasio Policy Update).

This is resulting in a widespread delay in the settlement process. Despite the persistent follow-up undertaken by our staff, the Comptroller’s Office remains non-responsive to our requests to ascertain the status of settlements. 

In the hope of putting additional pressure on the city, we encourage you - the parent - to contact the Comptroller’s Office directly to request that the Comptroller expedite the review of your child’s settlement. Once you reach the Comptroller’s Office you will most likely be told that, since you have retained counsel, it is your counsel that must make contact with the Comptroller’s Office. We know this, but we also know that squeaky wheels get oiled. As a result, we believe that if enough parents make noise, the Comptroller’s Office will have no choice but to listen.

You can reach the Office of the Comptroller at (212) 669-3916. Please provide the Comptroller’s Office with your child’s nine-digit NYC ID Number and Date of Birth.

Augmentative Alternative Communication

Cocktails and Communication with AAC Connection  

Augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) devices are an invaluable tool for many children whose ASD or other neurological impairment impacts their ability to communicate.  If you are a family member or caregiver of a child who uses an AAC device, AAC Connection is hosting a “Talking AAC Happy Hour”:

Thursday, May 12
6:30 – 8 PM
460 West 34th Street
12th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Attendees will benefit from hands-on AAC instruction from experienced professionals and users in a fun, relaxed environment.   For more information on AAC Connection and to register, visit
http://www.aacconnection.com/events.html.

 

Parenting a Child with Asperger's

Love That Boy

In the book, Love That Boy, columnist Ron Fournier shares his personal story as a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.  His figurative journey coincides with a cross country road trip with his son, Tyler.  Their father-son bonding experience further informs Fournier’s understanding – and his appreciation – of Tyler’s uniqueness.   Read more about Ron’s story here.