Informational Items

Institute on Disabilities Newsletter - Summer 2020

From Temple University Institute on Disabilities.

NEWSLETTER

The Institute on Disabilities
at Temple University

Issue 1
Summer 2020

Hello…and Welcome!

Welcome to the first quarterly newsletter for the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education. Our goal is to keep our friends and colleagues up to date with what is happening at the Institute and pass on any important information for and about people with disabilities, their families and those who support them.

We hope that you enjoy the newsletter.

Sign up to join our contact list and let us know what you’d like to read about in future. Click on this link to our form.

Institute Adapts During COVID-19

Continuing and Improving its Work for and with People with Disabilities

Beginning on March 17, 2020 the Institute began to conduct all work remotely, in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our existing programs adapted, and in response to needs, we introduced new programs and provided important resources.

Here are some highlights:

  • The Institute created and maintained a list of resources focusing on sites for guidance, information, assistance and personal well-being.
  • TechOWL - Technology for Our Whole Lives, the Assistive Technology program of the Institute, launched a new program called Connect With Tech which collects used devices such as iPads, tablets and smart phones, and ships to Pennsylvanians with disabilities who use them for communication, especially during quarantine. Read more about Connect With Tech.
  • 7th Annual Disability and Change Symposium – Combating Implicit Bias: Employment This annual event is a one-day, interdisciplinary conference focusing on cultural equity and disability. Originally scheduled as an in-person event for March, we had to re-envision and transform it into an online mini-course, available at any time. To date, more than 5000 people have accessed the course modules. Read more on the Disability and Change Symposium webpage.

A complete story about how the Institute responded to the COVID-19 crisis is available on the news section of our website: Institute Adapts during COVID-19

Institute Names Interim Executive Director

On March 7, 2020, Sally Gould-Taylor, PhD began her tenure as Interim Executive Director of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education. Having served as both the Associate Director of the Institute and as its Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Gould-Taylor is uniquely qualified to guide the Institute into a new era.
 
During the transition, Sally is working closely with the Dean and Deputy Dean of the College of Education on all decisions concerning the Institute's operations and is leading the Institute through this important change.
Sally holds a PhD in Urban Education with a focus on Anthropology of Education. Her work builds from community driven Participatory Action Research in diverse fields of human services, disability and education. Additionally, she has taught at Temple University for ten years.
"I am looking forward to working with the Institute's dedicated staff, and our University and community partners, to sustain the extraordinary work we have accomplished over the past four decades," Sally said. "We will continue to build on our shared vision where ALL people are respected and lead self-determined lives."

Sally’s predecessor, Celia S. Feinstein, announced in September 2019 that she would be stepping down as Executive Director, but remaining at the Institute to manage several key projects. (Read Celia’s announcement)

Policy Spotlight

Hospital “no visitor” policies cannot discriminate against people with disabilities

Pennsylvania policy  

On April 27, 2020, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, issued a revised, statewide hospital visitor policy. As a member of the PA Coalition for Inclusive Community, the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, joined other Pennsylvania disability organizations to raise concerns about this policy because:

  • A person with an intellectual disability or significant communication need has a right to participate in decision making and communication about their care. This right must not be restricted simply because a person needs assistance from a support professional or family member, and;
  • Individuals and families needing care should not have to “hospital shop” in order to find a Pennsylvania hospital that will grant access to a support person in these situations. 

The April 27 policy left the decision as to whether a support person will be allowed to the discretion of the medical staff. Pennsylvanians with disabilities and families argued this remained inadequate for several reasons:

  • The right to cognitive, communication or other support because of a disability is protected by various anti-discrimination laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act and, in many cases, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under these statutes, access to support is a reasonable accommodation;
  • In most instances, the medical staff charged with deciding if a support person is necessary in the hospital have no previous experience with the person and the impact of their disability.
  • Medical staff may lack any experience with disability at all.

On May 23, 2020, the PA statewide visitor policy was revised to include a statement to ensure compliance with state and federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, Pennsylvanians with disabilities may bring a support person into the hospital if needed. 

What is the current policy in Pennsylvania?

Read about the current policy on this PA Department of Health webpage: Guidance on Hospitals' Responses To COVID-19

Federal policy

On June 9, 2020, the Federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services announced a resolution on hospital visitor policies. This Resolution was a response to a federal complaint filed by the Center for Public Representation alleging that strict “no visitor” policies discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What are some key points of the Resolution?

  • People with disabilities must be allowed a support professional or family member to accompany them in the hospital as a reasonable accommodation.
  • Hospitals must take steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission to support professionals or family support who need to enter the hospital with a person with a disability to ensure equal access to healthcare and/or effective communication. 

Where can I learn more?

You can read the full text of the press release and Resolution here: Federal Civil Rights Resolution Makes Clear Hospital Visitor Policies Nationwide Must Accommodate Patients with Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic
 

New Initiatives:
Communicating and Collecting

COVID-19 Vocabulary Board 

Early on during the quarantine, the TechOWL team created a core vocabulary board with icons added in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Vocabulary boards are generally used by people who are unable to communicate in a traditional manner. The board can be used to communicate health issues, food needs, fears and wants. It is available for download online, and a limited number of printed and laminated ones are available. Learn more: COVID-19 vocabulary board.

Story Collecting and Disseminating

Collecting and disseminating stories of people with disabilities and their families is always important, but during the COVID-19 crisis, it is essential. We need to understand the impact that this crisis has on people with disabilities to how to best manage through future events.

  • The Institute's Media Arts & Culture (MAC) program was awarded a short-term grant by the Independence Public Media Foundation to collect stories about living with disability in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The Institute will assemble a cohort of community partners who can elicit stories from people who represent the intersectionality of the disability community. The stories will live on the Institute's website and excerpts will be shared on social media. Independence Public Media will also share the stories with media outlets across the region in an effort to increase awareness and support advocacy efforts.
  • The Institute is partnering with Short Edition to collect stories from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During this time of social distancing, the strategy of the story collection had to change. Writing professionals will work with people with disabilities to compose narratives, poems and even drawings. The stories will be added to, and dispensed by, a story kiosk in center city Philadelphia. The story kiosk has been adapted to accommodate touchless interaction and will be moved throughout the city in the coming months.
  • The Institute’s Person Directed Services (PDS) project has collected stories about using PDS—how users feel about it; success stories, challenges, etc. Stories, photos and videos are on the Institute website and are actively shared on social media.  Find the stories on our website: Person Directed Services: Stories
  • Finally, the Institute created a unique social media campaign – #SaluteYourSupports – that provides an opportunity for people with disabilities to recognize their support professionals who continue to be active partners even through a quarantine. These Support Service Professionals, Direct Support Professionals and Personal Care Attendants work to ensure that people with disabilities successfully accomplish the tasks of daily life.

Western Corner

The Institute’s mission extends across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and as such, we maintain a satellite office in Pittsburgh. As Western Coordinator, Guy Caruso, PhD, manages all activities in the region, in addition to his work with Pennsylvania's ODP Independent Monitoring for Quality Program.

In his role as an advocate and teacher, Guy has taken an active role in the ADA 30th Year Planning Group, hosted by the Pittsburgh-based FISA Foundation. This group has worked with the Pittsburgh Port Authority to facilitate the wrapping of two city buses with the ADA logo in recognition of the anniversary. In addition, Guy is a part of the Western PA Disability History and Action Consortium and will lead a panel discussion as part of the Disability Pride Virtual PA 2020, a 30-day recognition of the 30th anniversary of the ADA passing.

“Learning from Our History: Living Beyond the Wall of the Institution” will address three films, two of which Guy and the Institute played a major role in producing.

“From Wrongs to Rights,” which explores Western Pennsylvania advocacy that exposed issues in the Commonwealth’s institutions and “Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization” which profiles the academic who influenced disability policy and practice through his development of normalization and social role validation.

CONTACT US
Email: IOD@temple.edu                    Tel: 215-204-1356

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
College of Education
1755 N. 13th Street  Student Center 411S
Philadelphia, PA 19122   








Education Law Center July 2020

COVID-19 Exacerbates Racial Inequities

As districts move forward from a semester marked by unexpected school closures, insidious forms of racial inequality and class stratification are playing out in Pennsylvania. COVID-19 has left districts scrambling to adapt schooling to a remote or blended environment, systematically disadvantaging students of colorstudents with disabilitiesEnglish learnersrefugee studentsstudents experiencing homelessness, and other students who are now facing additional barriers in accessing the education to which they are entitled. Students of color at the intersection of these identities typically face harsher circumstances than their similarly situated white peers, further illustrating how racial inequity is baked into our employment, health, housing, and education systems.

While preparing to reopen in the fall, districts must now address revenue shortfalls and a host of additional obstacles brought on by the pandemic. Poorer districts already faced disadvantages due to chronic underfunding. Now, the atmosphere is even more bleak, and the need for meaningful advocacy even more dire. Helping our students through the crisis will require concretely addressing not only the apparent impacts of COVID-19, but also the underlying structural racism built into our education system that has allowed the pandemic to further disadvantage students of color. We at ELC stand committed to advocating for educational equity and justice for all students in Pennsylvania as we work to help students and families navigate the new COVID-19 reality.


Centering Equity in Back-to-School Planning

ELC helped host a listening session titled "Equity in Education During COVID-19 School Closures," as a member of the Philadelphia Coalition of Special Education Advocates. Parents, educators, and advocates shared moving testimony about their difficult experiences during the 2019-2020 school year and the shift to remote learning. Several common themes emerged, such as lack of technology resources, lack of English learner instructional services, and profound learning losses for students with disabilities.
These concerns, and others that were shared during the program, will be used to make planning recommendations as Philadelphia transitions into the next school year. This successful event was co-hosted by the Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities, the Mayor's Commission of Asian-American Affairs, and the Mayor's Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs.

Imagining and Striving Toward Police-Free Schools

ELC stands with students, parents, and advocates across the country who are calling for and winning commitments to police-free schools. This effort is not simply a request for the physical removal of police from school; it is a vision of schools where students and educators have the resources and supports they need to thrive, without relying on police and systems of oppression to discipline and push out students, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Across Pennsylvania, we are seeing increased attention to this idea — with some steps forward and many reminders of how much work remains.

In Pittsburgh, school board members Devon Taliaferro and Pam Harbin introduced a board resolution to reimagine school safety, so that the district’s deliberations about school police occur in the sunlight with public participation and input. The resolution calls on PPS to remove school police and instead invest funds in resources for students and schools. It was introduced soon after a coalition of over 15 organizations, including ELC, launched the COPS OUT of Pittsburgh Schools campaign with a June 22 rally before a virtual public hearing of the school board.

In Philadelphia, despite strong testimony and support from students, parents, and teachers, and a petition from Philadelphia Student Union signed by 13,000 people, the school board has not taken action to defund its school police force. Instead, law enforcement will be renamed as "school safety officers," changing both their job descriptions and their uniforms.

While receiving renewed attention now, this movement for police-free schools is a longstanding one that has been led by Black and Brown students. ELC supports them and this work as we reimagine a vision of schools in which all students feel supported and safe.

Oral Argument on Discovery Issues Held in School Funding Case

Oral argument was held virtually before Commonwealth Court on June 30 regarding motions to quash the depositions of several witnesses, including the governor, secretary of education, and recently elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Brian Cutler. Cutler replaced former Speaker Michael Turzai as a party respondent following Turzai’s June 15 resignation.
On behalf of our petitioner parents and school districts, our team (ELC, Public Interest Law Center, and O’Melveny & Myers LLP) is seeking to depose Speaker Cutler in his official capacity. The Speaker opposes this effort on grounds that any testimony would be protected by the Speech and Debate Clause privilege. Yet Speaker Turzai and now Speaker Cutler have named their legislative staff as witnesses.
Petitioners also seek to depose Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera in his individual capacity; he was superintendent of Lancaster School District in 2014 and can speak to his decision to have Lancaster join as a petitioner in the lawsuit.
Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer ordered additional briefing from Speaker Cutler and will issue a ruling on these matters in the coming weeks.

PA School Districts Need Additional Federal Stimulus Funding

The 2019-20 school year has officially ended, and school districts across Pennsylvania today mark the daunting start of the 2020-21 fiscal school year. State and local funding levels are set and, in many cases lower than last year, leaving school districts to confront the reality that available funding will not meet their growing needs. Lost instructional time has increased demand for learning opportunities this summer and next school year. The need for continued social distancing is likely to increase transportation, facilities, and other school operating costs. Federal stimulus dollars have largely made up for lost local revenue, rather than addressing these additional costs. More federal funding is needed to ensure that students can achieve a high level of learning amid the changes, trauma, and tremendous demands they and their families are experiencing.

ELC joins other education advocates, including our partners at PA Schools Work, in calling upon Congress to provide another round of stimulus funding to support K-12 schools. Stimulus funding to date remains far less than the federal government provided during the 2008 financial crisis, at a time when the direct impact on schools was far less. We urge you to contact Sen. Pat Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey to let them know that Pennsylvania needs additional federal support to weather the COVID pandemic.

ELC Celebrates Supreme Court Victory for LGBTQ Students

The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on June 15 declaring that Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). ELC joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in filing an amicus brief focused on the importance of this issue for people of color who identify as LGBTQ. The case has important implications for schools because courts apply the definition of “sex” as used in Title VII to interpret other statutes, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits educational entities from discriminating on the basis of sex.

Supreme Court Voucher Decision Allows Discrimination

We are disappointed that yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue obligates taxpayers to fund private religious schools that can and do discriminate against students based on disability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socioeconomic status, and other biases. Such programs also contribute to racial and socioeconomic segregation. Read our statement here.

Chester Upland School District Moves Forward to Explore Outsourcing Options

Chester Upland School District is moving forward to implement a court-approved Recovery Plan which permits a receiver to pursue a controversial, unprecedented charter conversion and outsourcing of operations of all Chester Upland K-12 schools. On June 22, ELC participated in a status conference where we raised concerns regarding the need for greater transparency, public input, and direct communications with parents, whom ELC and the Public Interest Law Center represent.

The receiver and former superintendent of Chester Upland, Dr. Juan Baughn, recently appointed Dr. Leroy D. Nunery II, of PlūsUltré LLC, as a strategic advisor to assess the district’s needs and prepare RFIs and RFPs. This summer the district is seeking proposals from intermediate units to outsource certain functional operations.

The receiver is releasing requests for information to potential school providers in the coming months with an RFP process beginning in the fall and continuing into 2021. This month, the district also hired a new Superintendent Carol Birks, a former superintendent of New Haven, Conn. who has been quoted as saying that she has “no preference” regarding whether Chester Upland is converted to a charter school.

Chester Upland School District has a long history of deeply entrenched underfunding that has harmed generations of students of color. We will continue to oppose efforts to charterize the district at the expense of providing a quality education to students. 

A Victory for Students with Disabilities and LEP Families

When a western Pennsylvania school district failed to follow a 15-year-old’s IEP and prevented his limited English proficient parents from participating in his education, the PEAL Center and ELC stepped in to support the family in raising these violations with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Department issued a favorable decision, confirming that the district violated multiple provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and that the student was entitled to compensatory education services. As a result of this collaborative advocacy, the district must also complete extensive staff training on IEPs, on parent participation, and on providing information in parents’ native language — reforms that will benefit all students in the district.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Makes Positive Changes in Code of Conduct

ELC’s continued advocacy has resulted in meaningful changes to Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Code of Student Conduct — including the elimination of a policy that allowed students to be suspended for multiple minor infractions, such as tardiness or having a cell phone. This change and others in the code mean that when schools reopen, whether in person or virtually, students will have the benefit of policies that require intervention, not punitive discipline.

ELC Wins Systemic Reform of District's Special Education Evaluation System

In response to a state administrative complaint, ELC received a decision that will lead to systemic changes affecting thousands of children suspected of having disabilities in Philadelphia. After hearing from many families, ELC filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education (BSE) on behalf of 12 individual students and hundreds of similarly situated students who were denied timely special education evaluations.

BSE found that the School District of Philadelphia was not properly identifying and referring many children in need of special education evaluations. Even when children were properly referred, BSE found that students were not evaluated within the required timeframe. As a result, hundreds of children were languishing without the special education services they needed.

BSE ordered the district to put in place new policies and procedures, monitor data to ensure timely evaluations, and provide necessary compensatory education services to individual students impacted. These reforms will ensure that children with disabilities receive the services they need in a timely manner.

ELC Welcomes Additional Summer Interns

We are thrilled to welcome two new interns to our offices this June, Megan Izzo and Brandon Miller.

Megan is a rising second-year student at Stanford Law School. Prior to law school, she worked at an employment law plaintiffs’ firm in New York and taught high school English in Madrid, Spain for two years. Megan has engaged in direct service work with asylum seekers, undocumented workers, workers with disabilities, and populations experiencing homelessness.

Brandon Miller is entering his second year at Temple University Beasley School of Law, where he is a Rubin Presser Public Interest Fellow. He has worked as a full-time teacher in the School District of Philadelphia since 2005. He has been involved with several education related public interest and social justice organizations throughout Philadelphia.

Save the Date!

ELC will commemorate 45 years of working to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania on September 24 at 6 p.m. Due to COVID-19, our celebration will be virtual. Please stay tuned for more details! 

Seeking Postgraduate Legal Fellows

Are you a rising 3L student or finishing a judicial clerkship in 2021 and in search of an impactful postgraduate fellowship? ELC is accepting applicants for legal fellows to begin in fall 2021. Ideal candidates will have a demonstrated commitment to public interest law. Preference will be given to fellowship applicants who submit their applications by July 17. Learn how to apply here.

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Education Law Center | 215-238-6970 (Philadelphia)| 412-258-2120 (Pittsburgh)|

A copy of the official registration and financial information of the Education Law Center may be obtained from the Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-880-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

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Resolving Special Education Disputes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Not so) New Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education

By Michael Connolly, Esq.

On Monday, June 22, 2020, the United States Department of Education issued new guidance on resolving special education disputes during the current pandemic – well, maybe not so much "new" guidance, but a reemphasis on what federal special education regulations already allow, which may be helpful during school closures. Specifically, the USDOE issued two guidance documents in a question and answer format (Q&A). One is for early intervention (Part C) and another is for preschool and school age (Part B). Overall, the guidance encourages school districts and parents to attempt to work collaboratively to resolve disputes, but acknowledges that when such attempts fail all three of the IDEA’s dispute resolution mechanisms – a state compliance complaint, mediation, and due process hearings – options remain available to families and school districts alike. In Pennsylvania, other alternative dispute resolution options, such as facilitated IEP meetings or Hearing Officer Settlement Conferences, also remain available.

The USDOE guidance goes on to highlight certain regulations that already provide some flexibility in implementation that may be helpful during this time. For example, current regulations require state compliance complaints to be investigated and completed within 60 days, but allow states to extend that timeframe on a case-by-case basis where exceptional circumstances exist. Similarly, the guidance points out that in the context of a due process hearing, the parties can agree to extend the resolution period, including the timeframe to conduct a resolution meeting and a hearing officer may grant an extension of the timeline to complete the hearing – all practices that have always in place in Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, the guidance also addresses the question of whether due process hearings can occur virtually. Although Pennsylvania has had a pilot program for virtual hearings and has been conducting virtual hearings in certain cases for some time, the appropriateness of virtual hearings has been an issue in some due process hearings since the pandemic and decision to move all hearings to a virtual platform. The guidance from the USDOE answers the question of virtual hearings in the affirmative so long as the hearing officer ensures that a hearing is conducted consistent with a parent’s right to an impartial due process hearing and all of the applicable regulations related to that right.

In the end, the "new" guidance reinforces previous guidance in which the available dispute resolution procedures remain in effect; however, the way that those procedures are accessed may look different, at least in the near future.


McAndrews Law Offices
We are a nationally recognized firm that provides families of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area, and New Jersey with exceptional legal representation in Special Education, Estate Planning, Abuse of Vulnerable Citizens, and the representation of individuals involved in higher education allegations of misconduct.

Main Office: 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

www.McAndrewsLaw.com
610-648-9300

McAndrews Law Offices | 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

Gov. Wolf Announces $260 Million in Funding to Help People with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism During Pandemic

Governor Tom Wolf announced that people with intellectual disabilities and autism and the providers of support services for these vulnerable Pennsylvanians will receive $260 million in CARES Act funding to help continue to provide services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This funding will help the more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians who receive assistance through one of the Department of Human Services’ programs or facilities," Gov. Tom Wolf said. "It will help to improve the quality of life for these vulnerable Pennsylvanians and those who have dedicated their lives to caring for them, and it will bring relief to families and loved ones knowing we are committed to providing the highest level of care possible, even during a pandemic."

Gov. Wolf was joined by Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, who outlined to details of funding allocations.

"These dollars are intended to supplement the budgets of an industry built on the values of service, caregiving, and inclusion – an industry hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic," Sec. Miller said. "To all of our intellectual disability and autism service providers and direct support professionals – thank you for your tireless and selfless work over the past three months, and for your dedication to helping Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism achieve the everyday life they deserve."

The $260 million will be allocated as follows:

  • $90 million to providers of residential, respite, and shift nursing services;
  • $80 million to providers of Community Participation Support services for 120 days of retainer payments, covering operations from March through June; and,
  • $90 million to providers of in-home and community, supported and small group employment, companion, and transportation trip services for 120 days of retainer payments, covering operations from March through June.

Click here to view original press release on pa.gov website:

How to Respond When a School District Claims It Cannot Test for Dyslexia

By Heather M. Hulse, J.D., M.S., M.A.

Many school districts and charter schools misunderstand Dyslexia or the possibility of Dyslexia, and how it relates to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Parents of students who are demonstrating signs of possible Dyslexia are frequently advised by their child’s school that it does not test for Dyslexia. While the IDEA does not specifically provide that school districts and charter schools are obligated to assess whether a student has Dyslexia, it does require school districts and charter schools to determine whether a child who is demonstrating academic struggles is a child with a Specific Learning Disability. A Specific Learning Disability, such as in reading, could include Dyslexia.

It is important to understand the characteristics of Dyslexia, as Dyslexia is often overlooked by educators. Many people believe that Dyslexia involves the reversal of letters and/or numbers. While that may be true, it is not always evident in students with Dyslexia or the sole indicator of a potential concern. Dyslexia impacts the ability to phonemically sound out letters and words. Students with Dyslexia will often use their memory of the sounds they have learned and make an educated “guess” about a word. For example, a student may guess “sick” for “sink” or “went” for “west.” 

Students will often use context cues in a sentence to demonstrate comprehension of the text. This will often cause educators to believe, and suggest, that there are no concerns with a student’s reading. This is particularly true for elementary students who have effectively memorized sight words that are used frequently. However, Dyslexia does not simply go away. As students progress into higher grades and reading becomes more challenging and the coursework and materials include less frequently-used words, it becomes readily apparent that there is problem with the student’s ability to sound out or decode words. Of course, if parents and educators are aware of the early signs of Dyslexia and the student’s pseudoword decoding or word attack skills are specifically assessed, the student can be identified with a Specific Learning Disability pursuant to the IDEA and early intervention can occur, which is imperative.

It is important for parents and educators to be aware of the specific areas of academic achievement that need to be assessed in order to determine whether the student is demonstrating characteristics of Dyslexia, which can then be identified as a Specific Learning Disability pursuant to the IDEA. These specific areas include: 1) pseudoword decoding or word attack, which involves decoding nonsense words to alleviate the possibility the student has memorized the word; 2) spelling, which innately involves the ability to sound out letters and words; and 3) letter and word recognition, which is particularly relevant for younger students and measures the ability to identify letters and words. It is not uncommon for school districts and charter schools to undertake evaluations for special education, but neglect to assess these specific areas. A student with Dyslexia may perform quite well on assessments of other areas of academics, including other areas of reading, such as reading comprehension.

If you feel that your child is demonstrating characteristics of Dyslexia and your child’s school district or charter school are advising they do not test for Dyslexia, are refusing to test, or you believe the assessments they have completed are not appropriate to assess for Dyslexia, we are here to help. Please feel free to contact us and please keep in mind that we are frequently able to provide our services at no cost to you.


McAndrews Law Offices
We are a nationally recognized firm that provides families of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area, and New Jersey with exceptional legal representation in Special Education, Estate Planning, Abuse of Vulnerable Citizens, and the representation of individuals involved in higher education allegations of misconduct.

Main Office: 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

www.McAndrewsLaw.com
610-648-9300

McAndrews Law Offices | 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

Policing in Schools

By Jennifer P. Grobe, Esq.

On June 2, 2020, Minneapolis Public Schools terminated its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department for the services of school resource officers. The board unanimously voted in support of the resolution, which stated “any continuing contract for services with the Minneapolis Police Department [does] not align with the priorities of the District's equity and social emotional learning goals.” By the end of summer, MPS Superintendent Ed Graff will need to prepare and submit recommendations to the school board on how the students of MPS will be served and safety maintained without the presence of Minneapolis PD in school buildings. 

Over the past few decades, partnerships between local educational agencies and police departments have become more prevalent. In 1975, only 1 % of U.S. schools reported having police stationed on campus. By 2014, 24% of elementary schools and 42% of secondary schools reported having sworn law enforcement on campus. Approximately 77% of public schools with enrollment of 1,000 or more students employ a school resource officer (“SRO”). 79% of these officers carry a firearm while on duty in school buildings.

A school resource officer or “SRO” is defined by federal law as a “career law enforcement officer” employed by a police department and assigned with “sworn authority” to a local educational agency. The school resource officer’s codified role is to: (a) educate students; (b) develop or expand community justice initiative for students; and (c) train students in conflict resolution, restorative justice, and crime and illegal drug use awareness.

SROs, however, often act outside the scope of this legally defined role by exercising their authority as a law enforcement officer to execute arrests. The growth of SROs in schools is correlated with an increased rate of school-based arrests. Instead of receiving school-based discipline for behavioral infractions, in greater numbers children are being arrested for minor offenses, such as disorderly conduct or simple assault, directly contributing to the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Pennsylvania has the third highest student arrest rate in the country, with a 24% increase in school-based arrests between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016.  

Click here to finish reading the full article.


McAndrews Law Offices
We are a nationally recognized firm that provides families of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area, and New Jersey with exceptional legal representation in Special Education, Estate Planning, Abuse of Vulnerable Citizens, and the representation of individuals involved in higher education allegations of misconduct.

Main Office: 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

www.McAndrewsLaw.com
610-648-9300

McAndrews Law Offices | 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

Reading Your Pandemic Prior Written Notice

By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq.

By this point, most school districts in Pennsylvania and Delaware have sent some form of written notice to parents of children with IEPs, advising what educational services to expect while schools are closed during the pandemic. Some districts have sent letters, some have sent Notices of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREPs) or Prior Written Notices (PWNs). (NOREPs and PWNs are different names for the same type of document.)

The content of these documents varies significantly. Some districts provided information about specific services that individual students could expect to receive remotely; others sent the same document to all families and advised only that schools were closed and services would change.

We have had many parents contact us to inquire about the meaning of these documents and how to respond. Consider the following questions in reviewing your child’s pandemic notice:

  • If your child normally receives specialized instruction with a special education teacher, do you know if your child will still have contact with that teacher? When and how often? Will the teacher deliver online classes and/or distribute work?
  • If your child normally receives specialized instruction within the general education environment, will he or she participate in the same online classes or receive the same work packets as general education students? Who should you and your child contact with questions about instruction and work?
  • If your child normally receives specialized academic instruction, do you know how your child will access instruction in those areas? Is your child expected to sign online for scheduled classes or complete assigned work?
  • If your child normally receives speech/language, occupational, or physical therapy, will he or she have teletherapy sessions with a pathologist over the computer? If so, when and how often? If not, can you speak to the therapist for tips to support your child at home and help prevent or reduce regression?
  • If your child uses a specialized curriculum, do you have access to materials?
  • If your child normally receives social skills instruction, do you know how that instruction will continue to be delivered, if at all?
  • If your child receives counseling or psychological services, will he or she continue to receive services through a teletherapy model? If so, when and how often?

If you do not know the answers to any of these questions, or if reading these questions sparks others, reach out to your case manager or special education coordinator. The U.S. Department of Education has encouraged parents and schools to be flexible and collaborative, so approach communication as productively as possible. Be polite but firm in your request for information about services for your child. If you do not get clear information, follow up. You should have sufficient information to understand the services that your child, as an individual, will receive.

This is a trying time for everyone, and it can be especially difficult for children with disabilities. Carefully reviewing your school district’s plan for providing services, and working together to obtain clarification and structure now can help minimize regression and educational struggles in the long run.


McAndrews Law Offices
We are a nationally recognized firm that provides families of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area, and New Jersey with exceptional legal representation in Special Education, Estate Planning, Abuse of Vulnerable Citizens, and the representation of individuals involved in higher education allegations of misconduct.

Main Office: 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

www.McAndrewsLaw.com
610-648-9300

McAndrews Law Offices | 30 Cassatt Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312

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