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.  

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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

June 2020 Meeting Agenda

DUE TO COVID-19 WE WILL BE HOLDING THE MEETING ENTIRELY ON THE ZOOM PLATFORM

Topic: Local Task Force Zoom Meeting Link
Time: This is a recurring meeting that occurs on the first Wednesday of each month
Join from PC, Mac, iOS or Android: https://paiu.zoom.us/j/199666919
Or join by phone:
+1 646 558 8656 or +1 669 900 6833 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 199 666 919
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/alogmfj2

Or join from a H.323/SIP room system:
Dial: 162.255.36.11
Meeting ID: 199 666 919

We appreciate all members attendance to be available to answer questions from attending families. This information is vitally important during this time of crisis.

Document: 

Disability Options Network-Independent Living Coordinator Position

UPDATE: As of September 9th, 2020 the opening at the Penn Hills Office is still available! The Greensburg and New Castle positions have been filled.

Document: 

U.S. Department of Education Releases New Title IX Regulations on Sexual Harassment for Schools

U.S. Department of Education Releases New Title IX Regulations on Sexual Harassment for Schools

May 2020

This past week, the U.S. Department of Education released the Department's much anticipated Title IX regulations.
The new Title IX regulation codifies prohibitions against sexual harassment in schools. The regulation carries the full force of law.

Key provisions of the Department of Education's new Title IX regulation:

  • Defines sexual harassment to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex
  • Protects K-12 students by requiring elementary and secondary schools to respond promptly when ANY school employee, including teachers, has notice of alleged sexual misconduct
  • Holds colleges responsible for off-campus sexual harassment at houses owned or under the control of school-sanctioned fraternities and sororities
  • Upholds all students' right to written notice of allegations, the right to an advisor, and the right to submit, cross-examine, and challenge evidence at a live hearing
  • Requires schools to select one of two standards of evidence, the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard – and to apply the selected standard evenly to proceedings for all students and employees, including faculty
  • Requires schools to offer an equal right of appeal for both parties to a Title IX proceeding
  • Gives schools flexibility to use technology to conduct Title IX investigations and hearings remotely.

The Office for Civil Rights released a video reviewing the key changes, available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdfT5R8ibm4&feature=youtu.be


The demands of Title IX require that K-12 schools, colleges, and universities aggressively investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct by students.
The investigations and disciplinary hearings that result from allegations of misconduct can be complex and intimidating for faculty and students alike, regardless of whether they are the accused or an accuser.
These Title IX regulations expressly require academic institutions to permit attorneys to participate on behalf of both victims and the accused in all investigations and adjudications of sexual misconduct.
 

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

OVR: Order of Selection Update

Dear Stakeholders,

As you know all too well, the COVID-19 mitigation efforts have resulted in disruption to our daily lives. However, OVR’s core mission remains the same, and OVR staff are dedicated to partnering with our vendor community and working through the challenges to serve as many individuals as possible. Despite all the uncertainty in the world, the staff at OVR are working tirelessly to provide services virtually to the people that depend on us the most and create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

OVR is pleased to inform you of positive news regarding customers who are on OVR’s Order of Selection (OOS) wait list. On May 1, 2020, we will begin processing an estimated 4,500 customers off the wait list with priority given to eligible customers who have been on the wait list the longest. We will continuously reevaluate opportunities to move additional cases off the wait list into the future. For additional information, please refer to OVR’s Order of Selection web page.

Sincerely,

Shannon Austin
Executive Director, OVR

Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates webpage

The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) has created a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates webpage for stakeholders to stay up to date with updates and resources from ODP. This includes the COVID-19 ODP Update for Self-Advocates and Families Recording and COVID-19 ODP Update for Self-Advocates and Families PowerPoint

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