Special Education

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,



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

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.  

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.