Many of you have been emailing and calling asking for an update on the Mayor’s June 24th Policy Memorandum on Special Education Settlements. Well, here’s the news hot off the press: on August 14th the DOE’s Office of General Counsel held a meeting with lawyers and advocates practicing in this area. The important “take aways” from this meeting are as follows:
1. The DOE will absolutely continue to litigate cases where they believe a student has been offered a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). This is the same as it has always been.
2. The biggest change will be that when we file our Notices of Unilateral Placement (this year they are being filed on August 20th) the DOE will consider settlement only under the following conditions:
a. The parent prevailed in a prior year at an impartial hearing, and the DOE did not appeal this decision and it concerned the same placement;
b. There was a settlement the prior year for the same placement and circumstances;
c. When a student is entering a “terminal grade in a school” that the DOE has previously funded (good for all you 8th graders at Gaynor, and seniors at MMFS, WP, RLS, EH, Windward, etc.)
3. The changes in the payment process when the DOE does recommend settlement should be the most dramatic change. When the DOE agrees to settle a case they will finalize the settlement/negotiation process within 90 days of making a determination to settle a case and begin to pay out on these cases 30 days after this. This will help most parents who find themselves in a difficult cash flow position.
4. For students first entering the DOE/CSE system, and for those turning five students leaving CPSE and entering CSE, nothing has changed. The new policy will not effect your case this year. Accordingly, we will file Notices for you on August 20th and between September and November we will file hearing requests. For this group of students settlement offers will only be made after the filing of an impartial hearing request.
5. Any notice that was filed earlier than August 20th, meaning for our 12 month students, this policy will not apply. Hearing requests must be filed and our offices will do these between September 4th through 11th. The good news is that once the hearing request is filed 12 month students will be considered under the expedited settlement process.
Your team at Skyer Law has been meeting continuously about this new policy. Our decision is to write extremely detailed notices, giving the DOE enough information to push them towards a settlement. This year’s notices are akin to any hearing request filed in years past. We are filing these notices on August 20th and we’ll update you again as soon as there’s more information.
Enjoy these last hazy, crazy days of summer – Regina and Company