A Thanksgiving Message from Regina Skyer

Sitting in my warm sunny kitchen this morning before the crowd arrives, alone and in utter silence, I began to think about what I am most thankful for this year.

I am thankful that I have always been surrounded by family and close friends that love me and who I love, in spite of our having differences of opinion or style or belief.

I am thankful for my good health, which enables me to continue to do the work that I love and feel passionate about. Fighting for the educational rights of children is the way I’ve chosen to make the world a better place.

I am thankful that I live in the United States where I can be outspoken about my disdain for many of our current political leaders; where I never have to be silent in the face of wrongdoing; and where I can still feel safe and protected by the fundamental rights and freedoms that I try not to take for granted.

I am thankful that the whole world was outraged by the murder of my fellow Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue. That outrage gives me hope for humanity’s future. 

Most of all, I am thankful for my inner strength, my moral compass, my sense of humor, and the very fact that I am hopeful and optimistic.

Sending all of you my sincere thanks from my warm sunny kitchen this Thanksgiving day. Hug your loved ones close—and eat too much turkey.

-Regina Skyer

Skyer Law Calls for Independent Investigation after Extreme School Bus Delays on November 15th


Statement by Regina Skyer

“Our office was horrified to learn that as a result of last night’s storm, a (yet-to-be-disclosed) number of disabled students who rely on the school bus for their transportation to and from school, were trapped for an excessive number of hours on school buses without food, water, access to a bathroom, or medical attention. A number of preschool students with disabilities were still on the bus after midnight, and the Office of Pupil Transportation has informed us that the last run was marked complete after 4:00 am. 

“We are extremely lucky that no child, as far as we know, came to serious harm.

“As part of our advocacy efforts last night, after being contacted by the parent of a child who attends Harlem Child Development Center (CDC), we asked the city to send emergency services to check on the students’ health and well-being and to help them get home. We are told that NYPD and FDNY eventually were dispatched to escort at least that one school bus through traffic, but it is our understanding that no one physically boarded the bus to conduct a health and welfare check.

“This morning, we learned that CDC, which is a therapeutic nursery school that services children with disabilities including those with health conditions, had not been contacted yesterday before their dismissal at 2:00 pm to flag that problems were anticipated.

“These are not simple problems. And while it is clear that no one could have predicted the extent of last night’s storm, it is also abundantly clear that OPT had no plan in place for this eventuality. That lack of preparation jeopardized the health and safety of the tens of thousands of disabled students who rely on the bus each day for transportation to specialized programs and schools. Unpredictable events do occur; that is predictable.

“Last month, the City Council held an oversight hearing examining OPT and the endemic problems with student busing. A major focus of that hearing was Intro. 1099, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos. Our office supported the introduction of this measure, which would require OPT to provide parents and schools with real-time GPS location of school buses.

“Intro. 1099 was on our minds last night as we spoke to a desperate mother, who for over five hours, was literally searching the Bronx for her three-year-old’s bus.

“We should not have faith in the Department of Education to solve these problems alone. An independent investigation into last night’s events must be conducted, and a comprehensive plan must be put in place to ensure the health and safety of children on OPT-contracted school buses.”

Regina Skyer is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Regina Skyer & Associates, LLP. Skyer Law represents thousands of families with special needs children in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester counties.

For more information, please contact Eliyanna Kaiser ekaiser@skyerlaw.com

Update on Busing Issues

Last month, we were heartened by an amazing turnout by parents to the City Council oversight hearing on school bus problems. One of the many reform measures being considered at that hearing is Intro. 1099, which was introduced at our office’s suggestion by Council Member Ben Kallos. Intro. 1099 would require the Office of Pupil Transportation to provide an app to parents and schools in order to track the location of school buses in real-time.

Since the hearing, there has been little public discussion of busing reforms. But that all changed this week when the NY Daily News published a horrifying account of a bus matron physically abusing a child who attends Manhattan Childrens Center ('A parent's worst nightmare' — video captures NYC school bus attendant throttling girl with disabilities). We hope that public attention on this horrible incident will shine a light on the dire need for better vetting, training, and monitoring of bus employees—particularly those who work with vulnerable children with disabilities.

But that wasn’t the end of this week’s bus-related news. Today, federal investigators raided OPT offices as part of an investigation of corruption in bus contracting (Feds open probe into city contracts awarded to NYC's private school bus companies: sources).

And today’s New York Times features a powerful op-ed penned by the Executive Director of Advocates for Children, which includes a specific call for the passage of Intro 1099. (Head on over to that link and add your voice in the comments section—we know City officials are reading those comments! )

It’s important that we don’t take our foot off the gas. These bills have not moved to a vote before the full Council yet because the Education Committee and City Hall are still hammering out the details—behind closed doors. If you haven’t written to your Council Member to demand the passage of Intro. 1099, and any of the other bills being considered by the Education Committee that you support, now is the time.


Register Now for Skyer Law's Autism & Education Conference, Dec. 14th

Whether you are parenting a toddler, preschooler, school age child, or teen with autism, there is something for everyone at our December 14th conference, Autism & Education in New York City

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Stephen Shorea professor of Special Education at Adelphi University and an author of many highly regarded books on autism and education. Dr. Shore is also an autistic self-advocate. Our lunchtime speaker is an exceptional youth self-advocate, Rachel Sanders, who is a graduate of The Summit School in Queens and now attends Oberlin College.

Our conference features four panels: "Options in the Early Years: EI & CPSE," "Behavior & Methodology," "Testing & Evaluations," and "The Big Transition To Adulthood." We are honored to announce the list of distinguished speakers who will speak on these panels, representing many of the finest clinicians, experts, programs, and schools in New York:

Chantal Aflalo (educational consultant), Michael Boardman (ABA supervisor, NYLEL Lifestart), Allison Graham Brown (Director of Professional Development, NYU ASD Nest Support Project), Dr. Jennifer Cross (developmental and behavioral pediatrician, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center), Dr. Rebecca Doggett (Clinical Director, ASD Service at NYU Child Study Center), Michelle Finkelman (Director, Harlem Center for Child Development), Iris Fishman (Director, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU), Lauren Gallo (Director of College Placement & Transition Planning, Winston Prep), Dr. Amy Davies Lackey (Education Director, Manhattan Childrens Center), Dr. Cecelia McCarton (developmental pediatrician; founder, The McCarton Center), Tina McCourt (Director, Rebecca School), Margaret Poggi (Head of School, LearningSpring), Julie Russell (Educational Director, Brooklyn Autism Center), Dr. Francis Tabone (Head of School, Cooke), Dr. Laura Tagliareni (neuropsychologist, Pediatric Assessment Learning & Support), Dr. Susan M. Vener (Director, New York Child Learning Institute)

The conference will held on December 14th, from 8:45am-2:15pm at the Forchelli Center at Brooklyn Law School, 205 State Street, 22nd Floor. Registration is $35 and includes lunch. (If you cannot afford this registration fee, please contact Eliyanna Kaiser.)


Skyer Law Testifies at City Council School Bus Hearing

Skyer Law partners Jesse Cole Cutler and Diana Gersten at the press conference prior to last week’s City Council hearing on school bus problems.

Skyer Law partners Jesse Cole Cutler and Diana Gersten at the press conference prior to last week’s City Council hearing on school bus problems.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at last week’s oversight hearing on student busing held by the New York City Council. Whether you came out to City Hall to stand at the press conference, helped to fill the Council’s Chambers to capacity, waited hours to testify in person, or submitted testimony by email, you helped make a difference for over 150,000 schoolchildren who rely on the school bus each day.

(A video recording of the hearing is available to view on the City Council’s website.)

Jesse Cole Cutler testifies at the NYC Council Education Committee’s Oversight Hearing on school bus problems, October 16, 2018.

Jesse Cole Cutler testifies at the NYC Council Education Committee’s Oversight Hearing on school bus problems, October 16, 2018.

On behalf of Skyer Law, partner Jesse Cole Cutler presented testimony and answered questions posed to him by members of the City Council Education Committee. We were heartened by the thoughtful questions of Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger, who committed to advancing Introduction 1099, the GPS school bus tracking bill, from his committee.

When the DOE testified, Chancellor Carranza acknowledged that 2018-19 got off to a terrible start, but didn’t present a detailed vision for how to fix OPT. This lack of vision is perhaps unsurprising to most of us. But while a few high-profile firings, a reshuffling of org charts, and a fancy new Twitter account fail to impress, the City Council’s awakening to the scope and depth of the problem is a very hopeful sign.

We all know that OPT needs a hard reboot. What has been most lacking to jumpstart this process is oversight, legal mandates, media scrutiny, an internal sense of urgency at the DOE, and, most importantly, a radical cultural disruption to the normalization of poor service.  Now, for the first time, it seems that these essential components are starting to come together.

But successful advocacy does not allow for complacency. We will keep you updated as this bill, and others, advance through the City Council legislative process.  

If you missed hearing about last week’s hearing on the news, here are some links: