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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What are the IDEA eligibility categories?

The first prong of IDEA eligibility requires the existence of a specific condition of disability. In Arizona, the MET (Multidisciplinary Education Team) must identify at least one of the following conditions before considering is a student qualifies for special education and related services:
Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) Section 15-761(2)(a):
(i)        Autism (A, which is now Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD)
(ii)       Developmental delay (DD)
(iii)      Emotional disability (ED)
(iv)      Hearing impairment (HI)
(v)       Other health impairments (OHI)
(vi)      Specific learning disability (SLD)
(vii)     Mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability (what used to be called mental retardation) (MID, MOID)
(viii)    Multiple disabilities (MD)
(ix)      Multiple disabilities w/ severe sensory impairments (MDSSI)
(x)       Orthopedic impairment (OI)
(xi)      Preschool severe delay (PSD)
(xii)     Speech/language impairment (SLI)
(xiii)    Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
(xiv)    Visual impairment (VI)

Diagnosing certain mental or neurological disabilities in very young children is often difficult, and thus Arizona may choose to designate children as experiencing "developmental delays." Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states may recognize children ages 3 years through 9 years who need special education and related services as a result of developmental delays in physical development; cognitive, communication, social, or emotional development; or adaptive development, as children with disabilities. 34 CFR 300.8 (b).

In order to be eligible for an IEP, a child must fit the definition of one of those disabilities expressly listed above.   However, the list of specific impairments included within the definition of each of the categories of disabilities is not meant to be exhaustive.  Thus, for example, children with dyslexia fit within the category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD) and children with anxiety disorder may fit within the category of Other Health Impaired (OHI) or sometimes Emotional Disability (ED).  

For more information, visit

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What are the EDUCATIONAL PLACEMENTS available for the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)?

The LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) means "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” 20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(5)(A).  Educational placements along the continuum, from least restrictive to most restrictive, include the following:
1.  General Education (Only accommodations no additional services)
Students with disabilities are educated with students without disabilities, to the maximum extent possible.  (In Arizona, this is Level of Service [LOS] A.)

2.  General Education (push in services)
Is a collaborative teaching model; the Resource Specialist or other therapists provides assistance to students who require help accessing the curriculum in the general education classroom. 
3.  Resource Specialist (pull out services)
Students are pulled out of the general education classroom by the Resource Specialist to receive academic instruction in a small group.
4.  Special Day Class
An intensive educational program designed for students who have special needswhen they cannot be appropriately educated in a general education environment.  The types of classes available usually include mild, moderate or severe. (In Arizona, this is Level of Service [LOS] C.)

5.  Non-Public School
An elementary or secondary school within the state, other than a public school, offering education for grades kindergarten through 12, or any combination of thereof, wherein any child may legally fulfill compulsory school attendance requirements.  Placement in Non-Public Schools occurs via an IEP when the public school is not able to fulfill its requirements to provide a free appropriate public education.  Many Nonpublic schools specialize in Autism, Learning Disabilities and other special needs. 
6.  Day Treatment Center
A program designed to address a student’s Mental Health and Educational needs during the school day only.  It usually refers to a licensed or certified facility which is licensed to provide a behavioral health treatment program, outpatient care, and treatment of mental or nervous disorders under the supervision of physicians. 
7.  Residential Treatment Center
A program designed for a student who suffers from Severe or Chronic Emotional Disabilities in a residential setting.  Residential treatment centers generally are clinically focused and primarily provide behavior management and treatment for adolescents with serious issues. 
8.  Home and Hospital Instruction Program

Home and Hospital Instruction Programs serve students who have a disability, which makes attendance in the regular day classes or alternative education program impossible or inadvisable. The district in which the home or residential health facility is located is responsible for instructing and educating pupils who must be hospitalized or remain at home due to disability issues.

Due Process in Arizona

For information on the due process procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") in Arizona, including decisions from Due Process Hearings in Arizona, visit  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Are you prepared for your child's IEP meeting? Here's your CHECKLIST.

Are you prepared for your child's IEP meeting?
Make a checklist of what you should do, minimally, to prepare:
  • Obtain your child's records in advance of the meeting.  The law allows you to do so without waiting 45 days (which is the time the school district or charter school can make you wait, unless you have a meeting where your child's identification, evaluation or placement are discussed.  
  • Review the records, especially your child's progress reports over the last two years.
  • Graph the progress - making a graph help you actually see the progress.
  • Invite all the people you want to participate, even if they can only participate via phone, such as the other parent, step-parents, outside evaluators, etc.  Remember that they all become members of the IEP team!
  • If you expect to have anyone of the people you invite attend via telephone, ask the school (the case manager or SPED director, or whoever is your contact at the school) to have a speaker phone available and a call in number, or make sure you can call out, including long distance if anyone is out of town or state, and at worst, make sure your cell phone is powered up and you know how to use the speaker on your cell phone.
  • Make sure the meeting is scheduled at a time and at a place that is mutually agreed upon, and that there will enough time to address all issues.
  • Make a list of the issues and concerns and questions you have.
  • Obtain a draft of the IEP in advance of the meeting.  
  • Decide if your child is old enough and/or mature enough to attend.  If you think the attendees don't know your child, then bring your child to introduce him or her to the attendees and then have arrangements for your child to leave the meeting when you deem it is no longer appropriate for him or her to remain in the meeting. 
  • Have your tape recorder ready, with enough battery power.
  • Make sure your "IEP" book is organized.  You can organize any way you like so long as you know where everything is.  You can group all IEPs together, all PWNs together, all tests together, for instance, or you can put each IEP in its own section along with the meeting notice(s), drafts, final and PWN(s) for that IEP.  You may want to put the PWNs on different color paper for ease of reference.
  • Read and re-read your parental rights in advance of the meeting.
  • Bring flash drive to meeting to obtain electronic copies - some schools will provide electronic copies at the meeting.
  • Make a note to remind yourself to request a draft of the IEP that was prepared at the meeting - BEFORE you leave the meeting.
  • At the meeting, remember to be cordial and respectful, just as you expect the school members of the IEP team to treat you.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What is the differnce between an education advocate and an attorney?

What is a non-lawyer education advocate (also sometimes called a "parent advocate" or "educational consultant")?  When do you need an attorney?  Generally speaking, a non-lawyer advocate can help you write an IEP, and can help you until a dispute arises.  While an education advocate can help with some disputes, they cannot give legal advice, and if a parent accepts legal advice from an advocate that is not correct, it will be difficult for any attorney to fix.  In practice, an advocate and attorney play different roles but both can work together as part of your team.  In fact, a good advocate knows when he or she has done all they can to help a parent, and then they will refer you to an attorney.  Likewise, if what you need is an initial IEP, or a better IEP, an education attorney will refer you to an advocate.  While an education attorney can help you with an IEP, an advocate is probably less costly. In the end, if you end up in Due Process, you cannot recover for fees you spent on an advocate, which is why an advocate ought to know when to refer a parent to an advocate.  Parents should also be cautious when advocates tell them they "have a case" or that they "don't have a case."  That crosses the line of giving legal advice.  An advocate should not be advising a parent about whether they have a case or not; instead, a competent advocate will refer the parent to a lawyer to evaluate the facts in light of the law, and that lawyer's own experience.

A non-laywer advocate’s focus is on education.  An advocate should, for example, help the parent identify the child’s unique needs, explain to a parent how progress is monitored, helps formulate "SMART" goals, help select services needs, supports needed, methodology, and identify areas of needs that have not been addressed in the IEP but that need to be addresed.  To best accomplish this, effective advocates understand schools; they may have been teachers themselves.  Some may have been parents of a child with special needs.  

An education attorney has a duty to keep current on the laws, which include federal and state statutes, rules and regulations, and ever-changing case law (court decisions, both for their own state, and their Circuit, and the Supreme Court).

When looking for advocates and attorneys, ask how long they have been working in the special education arena, how they got started, what their experience is in working with children with special needs, what their educational background is (do they have undergraduate or graduate degrees in teaching,or in working with children with special needs?), how long they have been doing what they do, have they ever worked in a school or classroom, have they been involved in mediation, resolution, due process hearings, and the outcomes.  For attorneys, ask if they have gone all the way to hearing and the outcomes, and ask about their trial experience in addition to their experience handling due process.  

Attorneys practice the law.  An attorney is a professional dispute resolver and understands how to utilize dispute procedures.  They can negotiate directly with the school's attorney, which is often more efficient than attending multiple IEP meetings.  

Once disputes arise, there are different ways to try to resolve, including informal meetings, administrative complaints, mediation, and due process.  An attorney is generally not required but a parent may want to consult with one, and the attorney can advise the parent.  Some states allow a parent to help them at due process, but only an attorney may engage in the practice of law.  Attorneys attend law school, must pass a bar exam, receive a law degree, and must be licensed in the state(s) in which they practice.  They are regulated by the State Bar and many are rated (AV, BV or CV).    

Working with an attorney to resolve a dispute can make a difference. An attorney’s knowledge of the legal system and ability to evaluate the strength of your side of a dispute is very important. Attorneys narrow down and clarify complex issues (focus), write and apply facts to the law (communicate), and utilize the legal system (strategy) to achieve the best possible outcome.  Attorneys can review records, identify issues, and advocate for a quick resolution of a dispute at meetings, through letter writing, or formal complaints. If a dispute goes to hearing, attorneys are trained on how to write complaints, motions, closing briefs, presenting issues, using and objecting to the introduction of inappropriate or non-relevant evidence, questioning witnesses, and making opening and closing statements.

Although there are differences, there is a lot of crossover between advocates and attorneys in special education.  An advocate must understand the structure of the law and how to work within it to obtain results. An education attorney can identify the issues and guide the parent and the non-lawyer advocate.  When disputes arise, an attorney can advise on how best to resolve.  A non-lawyer advocate cannot give legal advice, is not properly trained to represent a child at hearing, and cannot appear in, or appeal to, state or federal court on behalf of a child or the parent.

Advocates and attorneys work well together because of their differences.  Advocates should know when an attorney is needed, and should recognize when a disagreement is a legal dispute. Attorneys can help navigate disagreements and provide guidance to avoid problems because of their understanding of the law, the legal system and how it applies to special education.  Parents should understand the difference between “educational advocacy” and “legal advocacy and representation” because both advocates and education attorneys “advocate” for you and for your child. 

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How is a child IDENTIFIED as possibly needing special education and related services?

There are two primary ways in which children are identified as possibly needing special education and related. services.  
The first is through an obligation that each and every school district has called "Child Find."  The second is byway of referral of the child - either by a parent or school
personnel, such as a teacher or a principal.
What is Child Find?
Each state is required by IDEA (the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the statewho need special education and related services. To comply with this requirement, states conduct what are known as Child Find activities. When a child is identified by Child Find as possibly having a disability and as needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. 
What is the referral process?
Referral by the school:  A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated.  The school will notify the parent in writing to request that the parent attend a meeting to discuss the child. A team of professionals from the school district will attend and discuss what they know about the child, including the child's strengths and weaknesses and areas of concern.
Referral by a parent:  A parent who has any concern about his or child at school should contact the school (email is best, or if in-person or by phone, follow-up with an e-mail), and say you are concerned your child may need special education and you want an evaluation.  There are no specific words; rather, just let the school know you are concerned and want your child tested. 
Under the federal IDEA and Arizona state regulations, the evaluation needsto be completed within 60 days after the parent gives consent for evaluation, so make sure to give consent ASAP.

Support Group for Parents

Support Group Invitation for Parents
AZAP As a parent of a child with autism you may find yourself longing for a connection with other parents who can truly understand you. If so, Arizona Autism United Parents Association invites you to join its Support Group for Parents, a safe place where you can freely talk about your struggles and triumphs in an open-ended round table format with no agenda. The meetings are facilitated by a Licensed Professional Counselor who also has two children, one with autism. They meet the last Monday of every month from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the AZA United main office. The next Meeting is on June 30. If you have any questions please contact  This group is hosted through the AZA Parents Association (AZAP). We hope to see you there!

Hope Kirsch

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Online Handbook for Special Needs Parenting

This handbook, the Online Handbook for Special Needs Parenting, is for parents and special education teachers who dedicate themselves to helping kids with special needs have the best possible lives.  From exploring the special education system to planning the family's financial future, raising a child with special needs can be difficult, but also joyful and rewarding. These challenges may even continue into adulthood, but they don't have to be faced alone.
KGK Special Ed Law Blog is pleased to be among the resources listed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What is bullying? Is there a definition?

Bullying is behavior that is:
Imbalance of power – real or perceived
Repeated, or potential to be repeated, over time.

It is rare that a one-time event or episode will constitute bullying. 
Parents should report to the school authorities/administration every instance of their child being bullied, and the reporting should be via e-mail.  If parents merely tell someone at the school or phone it in, there is no record.

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

U.S. Supreme Court throws out "mental retardation"

The U.S. Supreme Court is often divided, but they unanimously agreed recently on one point: the term "mental retardation" is no longer appropriate to use.  This may seem trivial and way too late.  Mental health professionals and most of us stopped using that term long ago as it recalls insulting playground inssults. 
But the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have broad impact, and the Court's action is a significant sign of society's progress toward treating each other with dignity.
Arizona removed the "mental retardation" and "crippled" from state statutes in 2011 when Governor Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2213.
Intellectual disability is one of the categories under which a child between three years old and 22 years old may be found eligible for special education and related services:
(i) Autism.
(ii) Developmental delay.
(iii) Emotional disability.
(iv) Hearing impairment.
(v) Other health impairments.
(vi) Specific learning disability.
(vii) Mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability.
(viii) Multiple disabilities.
(ix) Multiple disabilities with severe sensory impairment.
(x) Orthopedic impairment.
(xi) Preschool severe delay.
(xii) Speech/language impairment.
(xiii) Traumatic brain injury.
(xiv) Visual impairment.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What to do if your child is being bullied?

If you are a parent (or legal guardian) and your child is being bullied at school, or you think your child is being bullied, here are some things you can and should do include:
  • Email the classroom teacher, the SPED Director and the school Principal (or the Headmaster, if at a charter school) about your concerns;
  • Meet with your child's teacher and follow that meeting up with an IEP about what you discussed;
  • Ask for an IEP meeting (and remember, is a child with a disability is being bullied, that could be a denial of FAPE and/or disability harrassment);
  • Read the school district and school's policies on bullying to assure the school is following its own policy which includes conducting an investigation. Arizona state law requires school districts to have anti-bullying laws. Make sure you know what your school district's  (or charter school's) policy is on anti-bullying.   
 Most important - make sure there is a record (emails are fine) of your reports of bullying, or even of suspected bullying.  Know what bullying is, and what it is not.

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch,

Friday, May 30, 2014

What to do when IDEA disputes arise

Special education attorney Hope Kirsch is presenting at this national training seminar on June 3, 2014:

When IDEA Disputes Arise, Create a Win-Win for Special Education Students

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides options a parent can take to resolve disputes.  She will provide practical, cost-effective solutions, including thinking outside-the-box.
Selecting the remedy that best fits your situation and ensuring that it is effective, however, isn’t easy.
Join us for this special one-hour webinar to learn powerful strategies for resolving IDEA disputes.  During this informative session, special education attorney Hope M. Kirsch will reveal the common issues that lead to disputes, the most effective options available for resolving them, and the pros and cons associated with each dispute resolution process.
Session Highlights:
  • The alternate dispute resolution options available
  • The differences among the dispute resolutions procedures
  • The pros & cons / advantages and disadvantages of each of the dispute resolution procedures
  • When a school district is obligated to file a Due Process Complaint against parents
  • Confidentiality rules in each of the processes
  • Resources available
  • Helpful hints to ensure that the child at the center of the dispute wins
  • How to draft a state complaint
  • How to draft a Due Process Complaint
  • Statute of limitations
  • The governing law

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Charter schools and students with disabilities

Comprehensive article covering the history of special education and the attitudes of (some) charter schools toward, and treatment of, students with special needs, from the perspective of a the author, Amy Silverman, a mother trying to find a charter school for her own daughter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AIMS information for parents of 3d graders

Third grade parents/guardians:  
Did your child not pass AIMS?  
Is your child not being promoted to fourth grade as a result of not passing AIMS?  
Do you think that is a mistake?  
You should know that there are other considerations that could allow your child to be promoted even if he or she did not pass AIMS. 
This is the first year that third graders may be held back because they did not pass AIMS.  But success on that test should not necessarily prevent them from promoting to fourth grade.  Know your child's rights.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another win for KGK

Following Lori's Due Process win against Pointe Educational Services, a charter school, Pointe's attorneys appealed to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.  The District Court Judge remanded for clarification the Administrative Law Judge's Order with respect to tuition and transportation costs to be paid by Pointe. Another hearing was held on the sole issues to clarify the amount of tuition to be paid by Pointe and the manner of calculating transportation reimbursement.  A hearing in this matter was held on January 9, 2014.  Lori won again.  The Judge found that Pointe must pay the full tuition rate, not a discounted rate, including past tuition, and transportation at the standard federal mileage rate of $.056, not a lower rate as Pointe's lawyers requested.  See the Decision here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Top 10 IEP Tips

 From Hope Kirsch's presentation on Top 10 IEP Tips at AZA United's 2014 Transciplinary Conference:

10. Organize, organize, organize
9. Read notice
8. Know who is on your child's IEP Team
7. Prepare
6. What to expect at the meeting
5. Placement vs. Location
4. Helpful hints
3. Participating, consensus, predetermination
2. Consensus & What if I don’t agree?
1. What now?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What are parents' rights?

The Jewish News asked Hope Kirsch questions for its series on special needs.

Hope Kirsch, a special education attorney with the law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, represents students with disabilities and their families throughout Arizona in school-related matters, including individualized education programs (IEP), due process, 504 plans, disciplinary matters and bullying. She was a special education teacher and school administrator for nearly 20 years and has a B.S. in special education from Boston University, an M.A./M.Ed. in special education from New York University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Jewish News asked Kirsch about what parents need to know when first learning that their child has special needs.
What are the first steps a parent should take when they find out that their child is having difficulty in school?

Parents should submit a request via e-mail to the school district or charter school that the child attends. I advise parents to email the child’s teacher, the special education director for the school district or charter school and the school principal  or headmaster, stating they are requesting a complete assessment to determine the full nature and extent of their child’s disabilities and the impact of the disabilities on their child’s education. They should state their concerns and note that the email should be deemed as giving their “consent” to evaluate. (Giving consent triggers deadlines.) Parents who home-school their children, or who place their children in a for-profit private school – or whose children are in preschool or are ages 3-5 – should submit the evaluation request to the school district in which they reside (email the special education director and at least one other person, such as the superintendent). The schools have their own obligation, called “Child Find,” to evaluate, with parental consent, any child they suspect of having a disability that may require special education. 
What are the parents’ rights when it comes to the evaluation?
The school (home-school district or charter school) has 60 calendar days to complete the evaluation from the date parents give consent, which is why I suggest parents state in the email requesting the evaluation that they are giving consent. Parents can submit their request any time during the year, not just during the school year.
The school is required under the law to assess/evaluate students “in all areas related to the suspected disability” including, if appropriate, social-emotional skills, behaviors, etc. If, after the evaluations, the parents do not agree with the findings, they have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) with an evaluator of their own choosing at the expense of the public education agency (PEA). If the school refuses, the school must file a due process complaint.     
What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP and how do they affect the student?
A 504 Plan provides accommodations, services and/or aids to students with a disability (as that term is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) to afford the student equal opportunities to participate in school activities and receive the same instruction as nondisabled peers, but they do not require special education. Accommodations may include extra time for the same assignments as their peers, a separate quiet room to take the same test as their peers, large type for reading the same instructional material, or ramps to physically access the same classroom. An IEP is for a child who requires special education – instruction that is specialized, or modified, for that child. A ninth-grader reading at third grade can be given "Romeo and Juliet" modified from Shakespearean language to their reading level. Also, an IEP has goals written into it; a 504 does not. A student does not have an IEP after graduating high school, whereas a 504 plan continues into post-secondary school, and a student who had an IEP in high school can have a 504 in college.
To what degree can a parent expect schools to provide services and supports for the special needs of their child?
In order to answer these questions, it is important to understand that the federal law governing IEPs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), does not require that schools maximize a child’s potential; the maxim is that students are only entitled to a Chevy, not a Cadillac. That said, the IEP must confer an “educational benefit” standard for a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) within the meaning of the IDEA by providing personalized instruction with sufficient support services to permit the child to benefit educationally from that instruction.
If parents believe their child is not receiving a sufficient amount or the right kind of services and supports (such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavior intervention, one-on-one), or they believe goals are too high, too low or there is insufficient progress, or if they have any other concerns, they should notify the school and request an emergency IEP meeting. The school has 15 school days after the date of the request to conduct the meeting. Parents should prepare a list of their concerns and explain why it is they believe the IEP is not appropriate, what they think their child needs, and go through each item with the IEP team. After exhausting their efforts, parents’ options include mediation, state administrative complaints and, in limited circumstances, due process.     
Visit, call 480-585-0600 or email A closer look: special needs is a series focusing on special needs in the Jewish community. Visit for additional content.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Updated info on restraint and seclusion

How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies, updated January 20, 2014, contains information updated through January 2014 about state restraint and seclusion statutes, regulations, and policies. 

The purpose of How Safe is the Schoolhouse is to analyze and compare state restraint and seclusion laws and guidance and provide information on trends (e.g. the number of states with a particular feature and exceptions to that feature).  Seclusion and restraint are highly dangerous interventions that have led to death, injury, and trauma in children.  They stand in sharp contrast to positive behavioral support programs and de-escalation techniques that resolve most challenging situations.  More states adopted statutes and regulations restricting use of restraint and seclusion in 2013.  The report examines how the majority of states still operate under weak laws and laws with loopholes that undermine seemingly-strong protections. It also analyzes features of strong laws and proposals that would protect children and create positive learning environments.

How Safe is the Schoolhouse uses 51 "states" to include the District of Columbia.  The report finds that as of January 2014:
  • Only 19 states have laws providing meaningful protections against both restraint and seclusion for all children; 32, for children with disabilities.  
  • Only 14 states by law require that an emergency threatening physical danger exist before restraint can be used for all children; 18, for children with disabilities.  Restraint must be limited to these emergencies because it is dangerous; the GAO documented the deaths of 20 children from restraint alone.  Many state laws have loopholes that circumvent protections.
  • There are 34 states that in their laws or guidance would define seclusion as a room a child cannot exit (door is locked, or blocked by furniture, equipment, child-proofing, staff, etc.).  There are 11 states that protect all children from non-emergency seclusion; 17 protect children with disabilities.  By law, only 1 state bans all seclusion for all children; 4, for children with disabilities.  Another 10 have statutes and regulations applicable to all children that limit seclusion to emergencies threatening physical harm.  13 apply this standard to children with disabilities.  Seclusion is highly dangerous.  Students have died, attempted suicide, and been injured and traumatized.  Students have been secluded for hours each school day and repeatedly.
  • Only 17 states by law require that less intrusive methods either fail or be deemed ineffective before seclusion/restraint are used on all children; 23, children with disabilities.  By contrast, in school districts and schools where positive behavioral support programs are used, restraint and seclusion use is minimal, if at all.  Behavior improves and more students spend time learning--rather than in confinement rooms and restraint.
  • Restraints that impede breathing and threaten life are forbidden by law in only 21 states for all children; 28 states, for children with disabilities.  Mechanical restraints include chairs and other devices that children are locked into; duct tape, bungee cords, ties, and rope used to restrain children; and other devices.  Only 15 states ban mechanical restraint for all children; 19 for students with disabilities.  Only 15 states ban dangerous chemical restraints for all children.  Children locked and tied into mechanical restraints and confined in seclusion rooms at particularly grave risk.
  • In 20 states, schools must by law notify all parents of both restraint and seclusion; in 32, parents of students with disabilities.  The vast majority of states favor notification in 1 day or less, either in their laws or recommended policies.  (See Parental Notification Laws at a Glance, p.38).  It is important to notify parents quickly, so they can seek medical care for injuries (hidden or obvious) and trauma.  Notification also enables parents to work with schools to implement positive supports and prevent further use of restraint or seclusion.
  • Data collection is very important.  In its 2009 report, the GAO found that state data collection varied significantly.  Only 12 states collect even minimal data for all students; 19 for students with disabilities.  More states require data keeping at the state, local, or school level, indicating that keeping such records is not burdensome.   Data gives schools benchmarks to measure themselves against and enables public oversight and sunshine.  
Arizona adopted a new statute providing some limited protections from seclusion, Arizona House Bill HB 2476, signed by Governor Janice K. Brewer amended A. R. 5. § 15-843.  Thank you to Rep. Kelly Townsend for introducing the legislation, and Hope Kirsch for speaking before the House and Senate in support of the legislation.

How Safe is the Schoolhouse is updated twice a year. The next update will be in Summer 2014, when several state legislative sessions end.  The report is available free of charge at 

For people who simply want to quickly see very brief highlights their own state law or policy, there is a sister report, My State’s Seclusion & Restraint Laws (