Saturday, June 30, 2012

Upcoming presentation at SARRC to get you ready for the new school year

Lunch & Learn: Know Your Educational Rights Under the Law
Guest presenters Hope N. Kirsch, Esq., and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.  
Hope and Lori will begin with an overview of the federal special education law, “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), state law and notable case law decisions interpreting the legislation. Their presentation will also address:
  • The rights of students with special needs in public and charter schools
  • Whether a student is entitled to IDEA protections at private schools
  • Requirements of FAPE (free and appropriate public education)
  • LRE (least restrictive environment)
  • Identification
  • Evaluations and reevaluations
  • Placement
  • The IEP itself
  • Timelines
  • Discipline procedures
  • Other laws (No Child Left Behind, FERPA, ADAAA and 504)
Date: Monday, July 23, 2012
Time: Noon-1 p.m.
Place: SARRC Campus for Exceptional Children, 300 N. 18th St., Phoenix
Cost: $15 per person
To register:  call (480) 603-3283 or e-mail

Monday, June 25, 2012

Call to Action: Keep All Students Safe Act


To:             All Committee Members
                        Title:         Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: 
                                           Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students
Date:          Thursday, July 12, 2012                                     
Time:          10 a.m.
Place:         TBD
§  Dr. Daniel Crimmins , Director, Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
§  Ms. Cyndi Pitonyak , Coordinator of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Montgomery County Public Schools, Christiansburg, Virginia
§  Dr. Michael George , Director, Centennial School, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
§  Ms. Deborah (Debbie) Jackson , parent, Easton, Pennsylvania
Let Congress know that now is the time to pass federal legislation that provides protections for every child in school. Even if you have told them before, tell them again – and urge everyone you know to do the same!  Many school, parent and national advocacy organizations  have been actively working  towards the passage of federal legislation that raises the bar of protection and safety in schools for all students.   All students must be safe in the schoolhouse.  Insist that Congress pass federal legislation without delay. 

Senator Tom Harkin (Chair, Health Education Labor and Pension Committee) introduced S. 2020, the Keeping All Students Safe Act on December 16, 2011 to protect students from dangerous restraint and seclusion. A bipartisan hearing, “Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students,” cosponsored by Senators Harkin and Enzi is scheduled for June 28th

Representative George Miller (Ranking Member, House Education and Workforce Committee) introduced H.R. 1381, the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the House on April 6, 2011. The bill currently has bipartisan support, thanks to Rep. Gregg Harper with 42 cosponsors.

Representive Miller and Senator Harkin must be applauded for their staunch and continued leadership on this critical issue. 

The Keeping All Students Safe Act will promote a shift toward preventing problematic behavior through the use of de-escalation techniques, conflict management and evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports. This shift will help school personnel understand the needs of their students and safely address the source of challenging behaviors – a better result for everyone in the classroom. In many cases, the use of positive supports and interventions greatly diminishes and even eliminates the need to use restraint and seclusion. For example, the Centennial School in Pennsylvania, which serves children in 35 school districts, has cut the use of restraint and seclusion from well over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than ten through the use of positive supports. Reports and studies have also shown that students and staff are safer when positive interventions and supports, rather than restraint and seclusion, are used in schools. Worker's Compensation costs even decrease significantly.
Other critical provisions of the bill include:
§  Ensure the safety of all students and school personnel
§  Promote positive school culture and climate.
§  Protect students from being locked in rooms or spaces from which they cannot exit.
§  Promote of effective intervention and prevention practices, emphasize training, de-escalation, conflict management, and evidence-based practices shown to be effective in prevention.
§  Restrict physical restraint to emergencies posing a serious threat of physical harm to self or other.
§  Prohibit use of these dangerous practices to punish children, coerce compliance, for behavioral infractions, or as a substitute for positive behavioral support or proper educational programming.
§  Prohibit the use when less restrictive measures would be effective in stopping the threat of harm.
§  Require that the imposition end when the emergency ends.
§  Ban restraints that are life threatening (including those that interfere with breathing), mechanical and chemical restraints, aversives that threaten health or safety, and restraints that interfere with the ability to communicate or which would harm a child.
§  Require that parental notification occur within 24 hours and require staff and family to debrief so as to prevent use in the future.
§  Require that states collect data, make it available to members of the public, and use the data to minimize further use.
§  Protect teachers, staff, and parents from retaliation when they report violations of the law.
§  Prohibit including restraint as a planned intervention in Individual Educational Programs or other individualized planning documents. 
§  Preserve existing rights under state and federal law and regulation.
Existing laws alone have not protected students against such abuse and injury, though many do offer important protections.  Creating a national floor of protection will ensure that children are protected in every state.
Urge Arizona's elected officials to co-sponsor and pass H.R. 1381 and S. 2020.   Email Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and your Congressional Representative.  Ask them to co-sponsor and pass the Keeping All Students Safe Act.    Ask your friends, family members and colleagues to do the same.
·         Arizona's Senators are Jon Kyl and John McCain
·        Look up your Representative:
·         Give them your message, then pass this alert along to others!
Call, write a letter or email: “I am contacting Senator ___________/Representative _________ to move legislation to end the use of seclusion in schools.  Restraint should only be used in emergencies threatening the physical safety of the student or others.  The Keeping All Students Safe Act will create a baseline of protections to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel.   I urge Senator ___________/Representative __________ to address this national problem and move the Keeping All Students Safe Act now.”
Please, call, write or email this week. Children’s lives depend on it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lori's post - On being a mom

It seems like just yesterday, my husband and I were discussing with our son’s school whether to hold him back in Kindergarten because he was “not ready” for 1st grade.   That was just before he was “identified” for special education.  Fast forward 11 years and my son is starting his junior year of high school this August.  Time has certainly flown by, but not without daily challenges, trials and tribulations, both at home and at school.  At age five, he was diagnosed with ADHD and specific learning disabilities and found eligible for special education and related services.  But even with the tremendous help at school and through our outside interventions, he still was plagued by issues that were of concern to my husband, me, the school and our son’s medical care providers.  Ultimately, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s.  I thought my world would fall apart.  How will he ever fit in?  We went to doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist.  We joined support groups, read books, searched the internet, and worried.    We still worry.  Will he be an independent adult?  As the teenage years come to a close, we worry more, not less.  Have we done all we could do?  Have we helped him prepare for life, independent of us? 

He is doing very well….most of the time.  He is full-inclusion at school, has friends, is successful for the most part in school, and has ambitions.  In fact, he has the same ambitions as a typical teenager, including his twin.  And maybe that adds to our worry.  But don’t get me wrong, we worry as well about our “typical” son.  I understand from my mom, the worrying never ends. 

Time goes by very quickly and you want your children to be prepared for independence.  Do all you can to help them accomplish that.  We parents know that our children with special needs have to work that much harder than their typical peers.  Work with your school.  Hopefully you are “lucky” like we were and still are with incredibly supportive, child-centered teachers, staff and administrators.  Then maybe you can worry a little less later on.

Lori Kirsch-Goodwin

Friday, June 8, 2012

School’s Out For Summer…Or Is It?

Although many students have a couple of months off, others are attending Extended School Year (ESY) or Summer School.  Students who have an IEP or a 504 Plan are still entitled to receive an appropriate education at ESY or summer school.  Services, supports, modifications and accommodations do not go by the wayside; schools must still provide those. 

Parents and guardians, you too have homework over the summer.  Get out those IEPs and 504 Plans and review them.  Look at the standardized test scores your child received this past school year.  Make sure your child received that which he or she is entitled and that there was progression on goals.  If you note any areas of concern, request an IEP meeting when your child returns to school.  In response to a request for an IEP meeting, the school must convene the IEP Team (of which you are a member) within fifteen (15) school days.  If you have specific concerns, note them in your request for a meeting.  E-mail your request to the special education director of the school district or charter school as well as at least one other person (and that depends on who your primary or secondary contact with, but usually the special ed teacher, the principal (headmaster in the case of a charter school), or school psychologist, and always cc yourself.    

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Addition to KGK staff

The education law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, is pleased to announce the addition of Kimberly (“Kim”) Culver, a school psychologist, to its staff.  Kim earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology, May 1997, a Masters in Human Exceptionality (M.Ed.) in School Psychology, May 1999, and an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Psychology, December 2000.  She is currently a candidate for Juris Doctorate from Phoenix School of Law in December 2012.  Kim’s experience as a school psychologist conducting psychoeducational evaluations spans 12 years.  Prior to her employment with public school districts and private schools, she was a supervisor at a juvenile detention center.  More recently, in her capacity as a law student, Kim interned at the Office of the Legal Defender in its juvenile dependency section.  With her first-hand knowledge expertise in psychological assessments and serving as the school member of Multidisciplinary Education Teams and Individual Education Program (IEP) teams for schools and school districts, and the “individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results,” Kim brings a wealth of experience and insight to our work.

Kim is a welcome addition to the firm’s attorneys;  Lori Kirsch-Goodwin who is the mom of a teenager with special needs, Hope Kirsch is a former special education teacher, and Courtney Fligeltaub focuses her practice on students at the post-secondary school level.

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch advises and represents students and their families in disputes with public, charter and private schools, from pre-school through graduate school in matters arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the ADA, or concerning discipline, bullying, restraint and seclusion.    

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

School in Georgia reluctanly allows high school student with Asperger's to walk for graduation

School in Georgia reluctanly allows high school student with Asperger's to walk for graduation.  How incredibly insenstive can school officials be?  It took a Facebook campaign to compel the school to do the right thing?