special education law

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

by Ashley Barad   

       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.