Tuition Reimbursement Update 3: Keep Making Noise!

By Regina Skyer 

Last week we reported to you that almost 70 percent of parents who settled with the City on a tuition reimbursement case were still waiting for their money. As of today, that number is closer to 60%, but there is still a long way to go.

I wanted to share with you, with the kind permission of a client, an excellent example of the kind of personal letter we have been encouraging our affected clients to send to their Councilmembers. This mom’s letter is direct, honest, and to the point. I think it will be highly effective in communicating the severity of the situation to this elected official. 

Please read what she wrote, and if you haven’t sent in your own letter yet, there are instructions at the bottom of this page for how to find your Councilmember’s contact information. 

----

Councilman Reynoso,

My son and I live in Brooklyn and you are our City Councilman. I am writing to make sure that you are aware of a serious problem within the DeBlasio administration that is affecting my son and, no doubt, other school-aged children in your district. I hope you can help me and my son get the payment that the City promised to us. Please also ask your colleagues on the City Council to allow our attorney, Regina Skyer, to address the City Council about this issue. 

As you may know, students, like my son, who cannot get an appropriate education within the NYC public school system -– so called “special needs students” -- can pursue their legal right to have the City of New York pay for an appropriate education offered elsewhere. At times, it is necessary to go to court to enforce these rights. Other times, the City offers to settle the case.  The process is long, time consuming and extremely expensive for parents. Each year, we fight endlessly to get my son the appropriate education he is entitled to under the law.  For the 2015-2016 school year, my son’s father and I chose to accept the settlement offered by the City. The settlement amount did not nearly cover the total cost of his education and certainly did not cover the legal fees we spent pursuing our son’s legal rights. Nevertheless, we chose to settle the case in order to avoid the time consuming and even more expensive process of going to trial.  We are 100% confident that we would have prevailed at trial.

We signed a settlement order with the City on May 16, 2016. Despite our attorney’s constant phone calls and emails to City representatives, we have only received partial payment of that settlement. The City still owes us a substantial amount of money under our settlement agreement. This has created an extreme financial hardship for our family, not to mention that it is entirely outside the bounds of what is both legally and morally right. 

As I mentioned, we fight to enforce our son’s right to an appropriate public school education every year. That means that we are already pursuing his rights for the 2016-2017 school year. But this year we cannot consider settlement and feel that we must go immediately to trial. Why would we ever settle a case when we not only feel our case is strong and we would prevail at trial but it is also clear that settlement agreements are not being honored by the City? 

And, what is worse is we are not alone in this!  Our attorneys advise us that a large percentage of their cases are still awaiting payment and my friends who use other attorneys report that they are in the same situation.  I am sure that you have other constituents, in addition to my son and I, that are suffering due to the City’s failure to pay its debts to students.

Mayor DeBlasio adopted a policy to “fast-track” settlements for tuition reimbursements. This policy is not being enforced by the City. The Mayor has broken his promise to our kids.

Please help me and my son get the payment that was promised to us. Please also ask your colleagues on the City Council to allow our attorney, Regina Skyer, to address the City Council about this issue. 

With regards,

-------------------------

Send you own letter today! Find your Councilmember’s name and contact information using this online form: http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. You will see a district office address and legislative office address listed for your representative. If you decide to use snail mail, address your letter to the district office.

Please also cc the following legislators:

NYC Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm
250 Broadway, Suite 1826
New York, NY 10007
ddromm@council.nyc.gov

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
250 Broadway, Suite 1856
New York, NY 10007
mviverito@council.nyc.gov 

A Thanksgiving greeting

Dear friends,

As the newest member of the Skyer Law family, I was asked to write a Thanksgiving greeting to the families the firm serves, you know, as some kind of hazing ritual. But I’m honored to do so because I’m one of you, and I know how the holiday season can be so complicated for families like ours.

My children, twins, just turned 4-years-old, so I’m still new(ish) to all of this. As such, I am often afflicted with self-doubt, dizzied by how much change there is in my life, exhausted by the learning-curve, and daunted by the strength and endurance I am expected to summon out of the smoke and ashes of the very different dreams I had for my family a few short years ago.

But what’s miraculous to me is that far from being alone in this, I have recently woken up to the fact that I am surrounded by this incredible professional community that supports special needs families and their children. Therapists and teachers. Social workers and doctors. Psychologists and lawyers. They see me and my kids at our worst and don’t judge. They scoop us up and dust us off when we collapse. They offer unsolicited (and solicited) advice that is actually helpful. They have our interests at heart, not some agency’s bottom-line. And they jump up and down and cheer in shared joy, celebrating every victory that others who I love and call family may not even know to acknowledge.

And then there’s you: my community of parents. You are the unexpected extra pair of hands on the city bus on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. You are my heroine who has an extra fidget toy in her purse in yet another waiting room. You are the angel who brings wine every month to our parent support group meeting. (Seriously: Bless you, Tracy.) You are the friendly dad who sits in the back and swaps intel with me on the school open house circuit. You are the playdate mom who I’m actually excited to invite into the chaos of my home. Because you are me and I am you. And I’m grateful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Eliyanna Kaiser

 

The Squeaky Wheel Part 2: (Another) Update on 2016-17 Tuition Reimbursement Settlements

I hate to be a kicker,
I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking,
Is the one that gets the grease.
— Josh Billings (1870)

By Regina Skyer 

Since October 17th, when we first sent our open letter to the City Council making our ‘Demand for Payment,’ we haven’t stopped squeaking.  As of November 15th, thirty-one percent of the outstanding stipulations have been executed and returned to us.  That leaves us squeaking about the remaining sixty-nine percent.

Similarly, reimbursement payments are once again flowing into our escrow account and are being sent on to clients forty-eight hours later.  As of today, almost thirty-five percent of the cases that were awaiting payment as of two weeks ago are now paid.  Again, we are relieved to see this movement—but the battle is far from over.

We have continued to provide regular updated information on both non-executed stipulations and non-paid cases to the appropriate department heads at the DOE. We have repeatedly demanded that they execute and pay out these cases immediately. In response, the Department of Education’s Office of General Counsel and the Finance Department inform us that they continue to work diligently on our cases.

What I strongly suggest is that if you are one of our clients whose 2015-2016 case has not been executed or paid, that you write to your City Councilmember, inform them of your situation, and request that your attorney, Regina Skyer be given an opportunity to address the City Council about this issue affecting many hundreds of New York families of special education students.  Remember, there is a city election next year, and no one up for re-election including the Mayor, wants negative publicity.

Find your Councilmember’s name and contact information using this online form: http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. You will see a district office address and legislative office address listed for your representative. If you decide to use snail mail, address your letter to the district office.

Please also send a copy of your personal letter to your Councilmember to the following legislators:

NYC Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm
250 Broadway, Suite 1826

New York, NY 10007
ddromm@council.nyc.gov

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
250 Broadway, Suite 1856
New York, NY 10007

mviverito@council.nyc.gov

Tens of Thousands of Special Needs Kids Are (Still) Falling Through the Cracks

by Lara Damashek

While there has been important progress in NYC special education (such as the Mayor’s “fast-tracking” of settlements, which has been the topic of many blog posts here), it would be irresponsible not to remind ourselves that there are a great many children who still need the community of special education advocates to keep on fighting.    

Earlier this month, the NYC Department of Education released long-awaited numbers that show how badly the City continues to struggle to serve its roughly 212,000 students with IEPs. Alex Zimmerman reported on widespread lags in completing required assessments in a November 1st article published by the education watchdog blog Chalkbeat. In the article, he reports that “[a]bout 30 percent of students had to wait longer than the two months allowed under law to be assessed for education plans that outline the services the city is required to provide them[.]” 

According to the numbers the Department of Education released, 71 % of students got their IEPs within the legally required time frame, as compared to 69.5 % during the prior school year.  As many of you are well aware, the city is required by law to evaluate a child, hold an IEP meeting, make a recommendation, and implement that recommendation within 60 school days of a parent giving their consent. See the NYC special education timeline in more detail at http://www.nyc.gov/html/acs/education/pdf/timeline%20requirements.pdf

And this wasn’t even the worst news. Chalkbeat further reported that the same data showed that “[j]ust 59 percent of students received the full range of services required on their individualized education programs, or IEPs, compared with 60 percent the previous school year.”

Although the city has warned against the reliability of its statistics, the message we take away from articles like this remains the same – there are far too many kids in our city who suffer as a result of ongoing delays in the delivery of special education services.  

Attention Parents of Children Born in 2012! (Your To-Do List Just Got Longer.)

The NYC Department of Education’s Special Education Office has sent out an important letter to parents of children who will be “turning 5” during the 2017 calendar year, and who are expected to enter kindergarten in September 2017. 

This letter clarifies that the parents of all children turning five, including those with IEPs, must apply to kindergarten through the NYC application process.  This obligation applies regardless of whether you feel that your child’s needs could ever be met in your local public school.

Applications for kindergarten are open from November 30, 2016 to January 13, 2017.  Parents can apply in one of 3 ways:

1)      Apply online at schools.nyc.gov/ApplyOnline

2)      Apply over the phone by calling 718-935-2400 (M-F, 8 am – 6 pm)

3)      Apply in person at a Family Welcome Center (see schools.nyc.gov/WelcomeCenters for locations and hours)

All families with children receiving CPSE services who have a 2012 birth date are also expected to attend a kindergarten orientation meeting. These meetings are happening all over the five boroughs beginning mid-November and running through mid-December. A full list of dates, times, and locations is posted on the DOE website.

Despite the fact that the kindergarten placement process is different for children with IEPs, this DOE letter makes it very clear that parents of children who receive special education services through the CPSE are required to participate in the NYC kindergarten application process.

If you have not received a letter on this topic from the Department of Education, it is still important to be an active participant in the kindergarten application process.  For important updates and more information regarding the transition to kindergarten for special education students, please visit schools.nyc.gov/Academics/SpecialEducation/AcrossGrades/Kindergarten.

The Squeaky Wheel: An Update on 2016-17 Tuition Reimbursement Settlements

I hate to be a kicker,
I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking,
Is the one that gets the grease.
— Josh Billings (1870)

 

I couldn’t have said it better. Our squeaking and the emails our clients have sent, and continue to send, to their City Councilmembers are helping to expedite the execution of stipulations and outstanding reimbursement payments.  Following our October 17th open letter to City Council leadership, scores of stipulations that were sitting on desks at the Department of Education (DOE) for months, just waiting for a counter signature, are finally being signed and sent back to our offices as fully executed. 

Similarly, reimbursement payments are once again flowing into our escrow account and 48 hours later being mailed clients.  We are relieved to see this movement on both fronts, but the battle is far from over.

Last Friday our accounting staff and paralegals prepared a comprehensive financial update, which we are providing to the finance division of the Department of Education tomorrow morning.  Our memo breaks down in detail what monies are still due to which of our clients.  We will continue to write weekly reports to the DOE until all the stipulations are all executed, and if the flow of payments seems to slow down we will call on you again to call and email the City Council once more and make noise in the media too.

But for now, the squeak has traveled up to the Mayor (who is running for re-election next year and needs all the goodwill he can get) and we are hopeful that all our clients will get their due reimbursements without too much more of a delay.

How To Survive Turning 5: A free workshop November 28th

In New York City, the Turning Five/kindergarten transition process can be daunting for parents of special needs children. To help families better understand the many intricacies and advocate for their children more effectively, Skyer Law is offering a free workshop for parents and interested professionals on Monday November 28th, 6-8pm at The Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, 1 Park Avenue, 7th Floor in the Central Park Room.

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

This free workshop will cover everything from private evaluations to school applications, IEP meetings to appeal procedures, and more. We will also answer as many individual questions from the audience as possible.

Space will be limited to 100 attendees, so an RSVP to ekaiser@skyerlaw.com is needed.

Hope to see you there!

Understanding Initial Referrals for Special Education: 2 New Reports Provide Insight

The Department of Education recently published its Annual Report on Special Education, which includes data on initial referrals for special education evaluations between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. In one table, the report specifically focuses on race and ethnicity, revealing that students of color made up the majority of initial referrals for special education. Of the 24,252 students initially referred to special education, 86.4% were students of color: 47.63% were Hispanic, 29.38% were Black, 7.21% were Asian, 2.18% were classified as “other”.

While the Department of Education’s report shows that teachers refer more students of color to special education, it does not delve into how or why they do so. A new study by NYU Professor Rachel Fish, published in September in the journal Social Science Research, gives a more detailed explanation of how teachers’ racial biases impact their understandings of students’ special needs.

By surveying 70 elementary school teachers from a city in the northeast, Fish illuminates how race alone can change an educator’s view of a student’s special needs. Teachers who participated in the survey read through fictional profiles of male students whose names were meant to signal their race, and determined what types of special services, if any, these students required.

The study revealed that when teachers in the study classified students of color as having special needs, they did so based on behavioral or emotional – not academic – factors.

Rachel Fish, the author of the study, told Chalkbeat that when teachers classify students of color as having special needs based on emotional/behavior issues instead of academic deficits, these students suffer from the social stigma of carrying this label. While it is important that students who need special services receive help in their schools, we must consider the unintended consequences of labeling students’ needs as either academic or emotional behavioral, and we must consider what leads teachers to classify students one way or another. 

However, it is important to note that Fish is not aiming to single out teachers as being racist or biased. As she told The Huffington Post, “This is really just giving us a window into biases in our entire society,” she went on. “It’s not something that’s unique to teachers.”

Although this study is limited based on its small sample size and use of fictional student profiles, it is notable because it illuminates an essential issue in our schooling system. By taking note of both the Department of Education’s recent report and Fish’s study, we can gain insight into important factors at play in the world of special education. 

Works Cited

NYC Department of Education Local Law 27 0f 2015 Annual Report on Special Education. Rep. New York   City Department of Education, 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 3 Nov. 2016.

Klein, Rebecca. "Why Some Kids Are Put In Special Education And Others In Gifted Programs." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 3 Nov. 2016.

Zimmerman, Alex. "When Is a Student 'gifted' or 'disabled'? A New Study Shows Racial Bias Plays a Role in Deciding." Chalkbeat. N.p., 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.

US Supreme Court to hear a case that can change your life!

           As you can see from our recent posts, our firm has been working hard to make change in New York City and help our clients receive appropriate education which sometimes includes tuition reimbursement.  However, we are not the only ones making noise in the world of Special Education Law.

            At the end of September, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case which looks to expand the definition of what constitutes an appropriate education for a special education student.  The Colorado case of Endrew vs Douglas County School District deals with an autistic child whose parents believe he did not receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in his school district. This case looks to expand and increase the low standard of what constitutes an appropriate education which was originally articulated in the 1982  US Supreme Court decision of Board of Education vs Rowley (see our Case Law page for more info).  The Rowley decision skirted the question of the quality of the education that is required to be provided to special needs students.

            According to the Denver Post, the Colorado family wishes to address equal opportunity for special-needs kids by arguing that the IDEA was intended to provide an education that is not only appropriate, but meaningful. These parents hope to change lives on a national scale with this court case, and that very well may happen. The outcome of this case could have significant effects on the requirements that school districts must meet when providing instruction and services under the IDEA.

            We will continue to update you on the progress of this case as it proceeds. Stay in the loop by subscribing to this newsletter if you have not already! 

Life After the IEP: Transitioning to College

         After years of navigating the special education system, meeting with school district officials and teachers, identifying and arranging for outside therapies, communicating with related service providers and countless other acts of advocacy on behalf of your child, parents of students with special needs invariably face the unnerving crossroads of life… after the IEP.

          For students who are seeking to transition to college programs, there are a number of issues that need to be identified and examined.  There is no requirement for students who are entering college to identify themselves as having previously been classified with an educational disability. However, in order to receive any accommodations, the student will eventually be required to register with their college’s office of disability services and submit necessary documentation regarding their disability and special education needs. Colleges differ as to the type and specificity of the documentation that is required to access special education support and/or accommodations. However, what all colleges do require is that the documentation be recent (typically, within a three year margin) and that it be reflective of the student’s current educational needs (as measured by a psychoeducational evaluation, which includes assessments of aptitude and academic achievement, test scores, a clinical summary, a diagnosis and recommendations for accommodations). A student’s most recent IEP might also be requested by colleges that have separate applications procedures for admission to any comprehensive programs they might offer for students with learning disabilities.   

           Direct contact with the college’s office of disability services will provide you with specific information regarding the type of documentation that is needed to support a request for accommodations, classroom modifications, course substitutions /waivers and the availability of other supportive services. Speaking with representatives from the office of disability services might also provide some insight into the college’s philosophy, its student body, on campus resources as well as the college’s ability to meet your child’s specific needs in terms of accessibility issues or the availability and extent of academic, social or emotional support.  

            From a legal perspective, while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not apply to post-secondary educational institutions, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) do apply. These statutes preclude colleges and universities from engaging in discriminatory conduct or activity that is predicated solely on the basis of a student’s disability.  It is critical to emphasize, however, that the requirement that a school district provide a free and appropriate education is not applicable to post-secondary educational institutions and the cost of tuition is, therefore, an important factor to consider in future planning.

            There are a number of other critical issues that should be explored in evaluating your child’s transition to college or in assessing other post-secondary options. Part II of Life After the IEP will address consideration of these various issues.                

Speak Now! Let Mayor De Blasio know his Policy to “fast-track” Settlements for Tuition Reimbursement is not being Enforced

Dear Clients,

 

We are in the trenches fighting with you and for you on a daily basis.  Over the weekend I composed the below email message which was sent this morning to three members of the city council.

 

The email addresses of these three city council members are: 

DDromm@council.nyc.gov       Dgarodnick@council.nyc.gov    Mviverito@council.nyc.gov

Please write to them – and ask for their help and to allow me to address the education committee.  Even if you are part of the lucky group that has been paid in full for 2015-2016, many of your friends have not.  And, we want to prevent this same delay for all cases during the 2016-2017 year. The Mayor needs to hear from you.   We are all in this together.

 

I am hoping that if there is enough noise that the Mayor will get the message – his re-election is close and he needs to be seen as a man of the people and for the people.  Only the Mayor can put the kind of pressure on the DOE to do their jobs.

Very truly yours,

Regina

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Dear Mr. Dromm,

I am writing to you at the suggestion of Daniel Garodnick, who has always been a supporter of parents of children with special needs and whose friendship we value.  I am respectfully requesting an opportunity to address the Education Committee of the City Council as soon as possible.   

My firm represents parents of NYC special education students.   We advocate and litigate for an appropriate education for over 1500 students a year in the NYC area.  I refer you to our website www.skyerlaw.com.   

When a parent believes that the DOE has failed to offer their child a free appropriate public education, often referred to as FAPE, they have the statutory right to remove their child from the public school, unilaterally place the child in a special education private school and sue the City for tuition reimbursement for this placement.  The mechanism for seeking tuition reimbursement is an administrative proceeding which in NYC is known as a Due Process Impartial Hearing.  There are approximately 7000 tuition reimbursement cases against the City every year.  This is a cumbersome and costly process.   We are told, but I have never received formal verification that the average cost to the City for an Impartial Hearing is $50,000 per case.   

In June 2014 Mayor de Blasio in an attempt to reduce this burden of Due Process Impartial Hearings on both parents and the DOE, issued a policy initiative which sought to reduce the number of hearings and to assist parents in receiving their reimbursement in a timely manner.  (see http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/306-14/mayor-de-blasio-speaker-silver-new-steps-help-families-students-disabilities#/0 ) 

As a result of this initiative the DOE is now settling approximately 96% of tuition reimbursement cases on the basis of a ten day notice, rather than the filing of a formal complaint, which would trigger the Due Process Impartial Hearing to begin. Although grateful for the high number of settled cases,  the DOE has failed to adhere to any of the other tenets in Mayor De Blasio’s initiative.  The situation for special education parents has in fact worsened. For the 2015-2016 school year the DOE has stopped complying with the terms of settlements which they have entered into months earlier.  These agreements call for reimbursement payments to parents 30 days after execution.  Parents have relied on these terms of stipulation and are now faces untenable financial burdens.   In my firm alone there are over 800 cases that have not been fully paid where the DOE has agreed to pay these parents months earlier.  Some cases have received partial payments, while others have received no payment.    

Given the course of conduct of the DOE this immediate prior school year, if we were to advise clients not to accept settlements and to proceed to impartial hearings the cost to the City would sky-rocket.  Not only does the city bear all of the administrative costs of the hearing, but when a parent is a prevailing party at a hearing the method of payment is governed by federal law and is paid within 30 days and parents are entitled to an award of reimbursement for their legal fees.   

It is imperative that the City Council be aware of what is happening to their constituents and the potential dangers if the DOE does not adhere to already entered into stipulations.  We ask that your members exert any influence your members may have on rectifying this matter.  

Thank you in advance for your consideration. 

 

Regina Skyer

Update on Settlements

                                                  A DEMAND FOR PAYMENT NOW

The frustration and outrage we are all experiencing about the delays in the payment of executed stipulations has reached an absolute boiling point in our office and we agree with parents who can no longer tolerate this unjust and unacceptable situation.

Our office has been in contact with every administrator in the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Legal Services demanding immediate payment of these executed stipulations. We have spoken to the general counsel for Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller, on several occasions and have pleaded for an immediate resolution to this untenable situation. We have had a direct conversation with the Mayor, apprising him about the financial devastation this has been causing to parents of children with disabilities. Although sympathetic, he did nothing. We have been getting in touch with everyone we know—as far and wide as the New York Times as well as other press organizations—to expose this debacle and we implore all parents, educators, concerned citizens and anyone interested in, or affected by, this gross miscarriage of justice to reach out to their contacts and give voice to the plight and the struggles parents are enduring to receive legally binding payments that are unquestionably due and owing.

          At this very moment, we are writing a letter requesting that the Education Committee of the City Council convene to address and firmly resolve the issue of delayed payments. With the aid and support of New York City Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the rights of families and children, we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to remedy this fiasco.                        

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.