Thursday, January 8, 2015

Practical and Ethical Issues in Representing Clients with Disabilities

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch attorney Hope Kirsch will be part of a panel discussing Practical and Ethical Issues in Representing Clients with Disabilities at the 2015 Arizona Bar Association's Spring Training For Lawyers.  The panel is co-presented by the Committee on Persons with Disabilities in the Legal Profession.

2015 Spring Training for Lawyers
Practice Makes Perfect:
How to Succeed in a Diverse and Dynamic Profession

March 19-20, 2015
11:30 pm - 4:45 pm (Thursday) and 9:00 am - 4:45 pm (Friday)

May qualify for up to 9.0 hours MCLE, including up to 9.0 hours Ethics.
Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 East Cotton Center Boulevard, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85040

Friday, December 19, 2014

IEEs - School Districts May Not Set Limits on Classroom Observations for IEEs

The IDEA allows school districts to set their own criteria for independent educational evaluations ("IEEs"), such as the timing of the evaluation and rules governing classroom observations. However, school districts may not apply criteria that is stricter to third parties (evaluators) who are conducting publicly funded IEEs than the criteria that the school districts have for their own evaluators. For instance, school district may not allow the IEE evaluator less time to observe a student in class or a proposed educational placement than the school district allows its own evaluators to observe the student in class or a proposed educational placement. For school districts and charter schools that have policies limiting the duration of the time independent evaluators' can observe students, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs ("OSEP") advises those school districts and charter schools to restrict their own evaluators as well. OSEP told a parent's attorney that a school district that limits the independent evaluators time observing the student, but not limiting the school's own evaluator's observation time, is contrary to the IDEA because such a limitation may restrict the scope of the IEE and prevent an independent evaluator from fulfilling his or her purpose. OSEP pointed out that if an IEE is publicly funded, then the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained must be the same as the criteria the school district or charter school applies to its own evaluations. See, the OSEP letter, Letter to Savit. Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Are Public Schools Required to Do When Students with Disabilities Are Bullied?

What does a public school - including a charter school - have to do when a child with a disability is being bullied? The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rigths requires that schools if a student with a disability is being bullied, schools must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring. Regardless of whether the student is being bullied based on his or her disability, schools must remedy the effects of bullying on the services that the student with a disability receives (special education or other disability-related services) to ensure the student continues to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Any remedy should not burden the student who has been bullied. Does it matter if a child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan? • No. Some students with disabilities receive FAPE through an IEP developed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and others receive a plan developed under Section 504. If changes in a student’s behavior or academic performance indicate that a student may not be receiving FAPE, the IEP or Section 504 team should meet to determine whether the student’s educational needs have changed and the school must provide any needed additional services promptly to ensure the student’s ongoing receipt of FAPE. Where can I go for help? In order to make sure the school knows about bullying, parents should make their concerns know to the school, preferably in writing / email. Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bully Guidance

As part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated – including against America’s 6.5 million students with disabilities. The guidance is in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter to educators. The letter details the responsibilities of public schools - including charter schools - under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires that schools take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring. What does this mean for parents? If you know, or think or even suspect that your child is being bullied, then notify the school, providing the basis for your knowledge or suspicion. Make sure your notice is in writing, so even if you verbally tell the school in-person or by phone, follow up with an email, and make sure you are giving notice to more than just one person, and make sure that one of these people is an administrator for the school or district, such as the Special Education (SPED) Director, the school Principal, the District Superintendent, or if a charter school, the Headmaster, the Dean of Students, and/or the Head of School. And copy (cc) yourself on the email(s). Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fees Recoverable in Due Process

Parents who prevail in Due Process hearings may recover their reasonable attorneys' fees.
The “Attorney Fee Recovery” provision of the IDEA allows parents to recover their reasonable attorney fees from the school district or charter school if the parents prevail at due process. The purpose of this provision is to provide parents with access to skilled legal representation.  The provision only applies to attorneys. (If parents use an advocate (non-attorney), the advocate’s fees are not recoverable under the law, even if parents win.)

There is now a bill pending in Congress,the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Fairness Restoration Act, S. 613 and H.R. 1208, that aims to add recovery of fees for experts.  "Experts" are the witnesses that parents use at hearing to testify about the issues, whether identification, evaluation, placement, appropriateness of services and supports, appropriateness of placement, etc.  These include the psychologists, BCBAs, speech and language pathologists, OTs, PTs, transition experts, etc. 

You can read the proposed legislation on-line at:

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch supports the proposed legislation, and we ask all parents, clients and friends to support it too. 
Thank you.

Homework Help for Children with ADHD

Homework help for children with ADHD:  

Take Ten

When you first sit down to do homework, take two minutes to put loose papers into the proper folders. Use the next eight minutes to reread notes and/or handouts from school. These 10 minutes will save you hours of searching and studying. You will quickly get into the habit of putting assignments where they belong. Reviewing your notes transfers information to long-term memory, saving hours of study time when test time comes around.

Work in 30-Minute Blocks

Set a timer and limit each study or work session to 30 minutes. Challenge yourself to finish a certain amount of work within that time. The adrenaline rush of the challenge will improve your focus.

Take Five-Minute Breaks

Both your body and brain need frequent refreshers. Set another timer for five minutes, then do jumping jacks, run in place, or stretch. Start another 30-minute block of homework. This sounds too simple to work, but these breaks keep you sharp to get your work done faster. After two weeks, you will find that these five-minute blocks will significantly reduce procrastination.

Create a User-Friendly Planner

A lot of ADHD students who keep a planner forget to use it throughout the day. Always keep it in your main folder or binder, along with a pen in the binding. Use a binder clip to mark your current page. It should take only a few steps to access your planner and to write down assignments and reminders—and you won’t waste time later, calling friends to ask about homework.

Sip Something Sweet

When kids do homework, they should sip (not gulp) a drink with sugar in it, says Dr. Russell Barkley, Ph.D., author of Taking Charge of ADHD. Lemonade or sports drinks are good choices. These beverages deliver glucose to your brain, which is its only source of fuel. The more fuel you have, the more you will be able to work effectively and efficiently. 

Review Your Notes Out Loud

Your brain will process the information in three ways: through your eyes as you read it, your mouth as you say it, and your ears as you hear your own voice. This improves your focus and memory.

Create Test Questions from Your Notes

Writing down questions helps you learn better than reciting or memorizing information. The process forces you to think about the information at a higher level. Higher-level thinking helps you learn more things, thus shortening your study time.

Read Your Textbook: Just Not Every Word

Read through related sections of your textbook, but don’t read every word. Read headings, diagrams, and captions to photos and illustrations to get started. Set your timer and spend one 30-minute block reviewing a textbook chapter. Your enhanced comprehension will help you sail through your homework.

Do a Quick Review Before Class

Review textbook chapters before teachers lecture about them in class. This process gives your brain enough knowledge to help you pay better attention in class. You can reduce study and homework time if you have a deeper understanding of the material.

Get Ready for School at Night

Most ADDers are groggy in the morning, so it’s easy to forget things if you are trying to get organized. Instead, gather all of your folders, books, notebooks, and supplies, and put them in your bag before you go to sleep. When you don’t deal with chaos in the morning, you have more resources to stay focused through the day. The calmer your day, the more energy you’ll have to blast through homework in the evening.

These tips were courtesy of ADDitude magazine.

For More Homework Help:

For more must-have resources on helping your ADHD child address homework issues and develop better study skills, visit the Homework Help Resource Center.
Remember, if you child has ADHD, he or she may be entitled to a 504 or an IEP and the school must then provide, at the minimum, accommodations.  To find out if your child is receiving the accommodations to which he or she is entitled, you may want to visit with an special education attorney who works only with children and their families.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What to do if your child has been restrained at school?

Restraints are methods that restrict a person’s ability to move freely or use one’s body. Restraints are:
  • mechanical (for example, straps)
  • physical (for example, being held by others), 
  • chemical (for example, medications that are used to sedate an individual). 
Restraints (as well as seclusion) have been used by schools to stop behavior.  Restraints, if used at all, must only be used by trained personnel and then only to prevent a student from harming himself//herself or harming others. Unfortunately, schools improperly use restraints (and also seclusion) excessively as a management intervention and by untrained staff, and when behavior is not dangerous.

Arizona has no statute or rules regarding the use of restraints in schools.  However, restraining a child - and secluding a child - may lead to psychological trauma, physical injury, or even death.  Do not let that happen to your child.  If you believe your child is being restrained, notify the Principal of the school and the Superintendent, at least.  (If a charter school, notify the headmaster / head of school.)  If you communicate via phone or in person, follow-up with an email.  Make sure that you have a record of your notifications, complaints and concerns, and email helps you make that record.  Request a meeting.  If you child has a 504, request a meeting immediately with the 504 coordinator, and the school Principal, and anyone else you deem necessary.  If your child has an IEP, request an emergency IEP meeting to discuss.  It may be a denial of FAPE if your child has been restrained on several occasions; at the very least, the school has a legal obligation to find out why your child is engaging in behaviors that are interfering with his or her education.  There are many steps the school should have taken before restraining your child, and the school has an obligation to find out why your child has behaviors that the school is restraining.  Know your rights, what you can do, what the school is legally obligated to do, and what can be done. 

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC