Informational Items

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

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

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

How to Read an IEP: Goals

The Goals section of the IEP charts where the team anticipates the student should be on their educational journey in one year’s time.  Each IEP goal states a desired measurable achievement for the student to accomplish within the upcoming calendar year with the assistance of the educational team.

When you are reviewing your child’s individual goals, consider whether it meets the following “SMART” criteria:

Is the goal SpecificThe goal should be written in a way that clearly informs the reader what the student will do (desired outcome), where they will do it (setting/context), when they will do it (date), how they will do it (supports), and how we will know they are doing it (method of progress monitoring).  A common “formula” for writing a goal is:

By [DATE]. Student will [DESIRED OUTCOME] in [SETTING/CONTEXT] with [SUPPORTS] as measured by [METHOD OF PROGRESS MONITORING] increasing/decreasing from a baseline of [PRESENT LEVEL OF ACHIEVEMENT].

Is the goal MeasurableAn observer should be able to validly and reliably “measure” the student’s progress toward the desired outcome. To start, the goal needs to show the child’s starting point or “baseline” with respect to each desired outcome reflected by their present level of academic and functional achievement. Then, using objective criteria, an observer must record data that can be used to quantify the student’s rate of improvement. Examples of methodology for measuring progress include curriculum-based assessments, rating scales, rubrics, or structured observation.

Is the goal Appropriately AmbitiousThe Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Endrew F.: “goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” Accordingly, the desired outcome of IEP goals must be “appropriately ambitious” in light of the child’s circumstances. Goals should not aim so low that the student is essentially “sitting idly” waiting to either drop out or age out of the public education system. If a student does not achieve or make progress toward their annual goals, the appropriate response is to increase and/or modify the supports and instruction that the student receives; not to set a lower bar.

Is the goal RelevantThe desired outcome of the annual goal should advance the student on their journey to meet their long-term goal of post-secondary success.  The IDEA establishes two intended purposes for IEP goals: (1) to meet the child’s needs that result from their disability to enable them to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and (2) to meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. Generally, if there is an identified area of need, there should be a corresponding academic or functional goal.

Is the goal Time-Bound – Typically, IEP goals are written to be accomplished within one calendar year. Progress, however, should be monitored and reported much more frequently. For students with disabilities who take alternative assessments (e.g. PASA), goals also must include short-term objectives or benchmarks for the student to achieve leading up to the final IEP goal.

When reviewing your child’s “Goals” section of the IEP, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you understand what the desired outcome is?
  • Do you understand the specific supports in place that will help your child achieve the desired outcome?
  • How will your child’s progress toward the goal be measured?
  • Is the child’s baseline (i.e. present level of achievement) of the goal specified?
  • Is the goal ambitious yet attainable?
  • Do you think it’s important that your child develops this skill?
  • Have the goals changed from the prior IEP? If not, what has changed in this IEP to support your child to achieve the goal this year?
  • Is there a goal for each of the identified areas of development?
  • Is there a goal for each related service that is being provided?
  • If your child is over 14, are goals for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living included?

By Jennifer Grobe, Esq.

(For a full copy of this article, click here)

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