Saturday, December 31, 2016

About Special Education attorneys Lori Kirsch-Goodwin and Hope Kirsch

Before We Were in the Courtroom, We Were in the Classroom
School districts, charter schools and private schools have attorneys advising them and protecting their interests. You and your child should have an education attorney on your side to protect you both, to advise you of your legal rights, and to assure you that your child is receiving the education to which he or she is entitled to under the federal and state statutes and regulations. Remember, BOTH you and your child have legal rights. As lawyers, not only do we have the legal knowledge and skills to represent you, but we also have personal experience in special education.
  • As the mother of a young adult with special needs, attorney Lori Kirsch-Goodwin has navigated the school system as a parent and as an attorney. She knows that all parents want to ensure that their children have the best possible future, and that sometimes they need someone in their corner. She has walked in your shoes.
  • Attorney Hope Kirsch has both her Bachelor's degree and her Master's degree in Special Education. She was a special education teacher and school administrator for nearly 20 years in NYC. She taught in self-contained classes, special education schools, day treatment programs and hospital schools. She obtained licenses and certifications in special education, special education supervision and school administration in New York, and Certification from the Arizona Department of Education to teach students with Emotional Disabilities, grades K-12. When she represents you and your child at a school meeting or hearing, no one from the school can tell her she doesn't know what it's like in the classroom -- SHE DOES! She knows the language schools speak and she knows what goes on behind the scenes. In addition to her B.S. and M.Ed. in Special Education, Hope completed extensive post-graduate work in school administration. She trained and supervised teachers in curriculum development, teaching strategies, methodology, behavior management and writing IEPs. She is nationally recognized in special education law, and is regularly invited to speak to and train parent groups, mental health professionals, school administrators and teachers, other attorneys and education advocates.
Visit our website for more information, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

DECEMBER 28, 2016
The U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of guidance today to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. These guidance documents clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of educational institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn.
The guidance released today includes a parent and educator resource guide; a Dear Colleague letter (DCL) and question and answer document on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a DCL and question and answer documents on the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools.
“These guidance documents share information with our full school communities – educators, parents, and students – about important educational rights, including school obligations to identify, evaluate, and serve students with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, the Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights. “Vigilant attention to the rights of students with disabilities will help ensure fair treatment for every student and that every student has equal access to educational programs and has an opportunity to experience success.”
The Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides a broad overview of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). The guidance describes school districts’ nondiscrimination responsibilities, including obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, and outlines the steps parents can take to ensure that their children secure all of the services they are entitled to receive.
Among other things, the Section 504 Parent and Educator Resource Guide:
  • Defines and provides examples to illustrate the meaning of key terms used in Section 504.
  • Highlights requirements of Section 504 in the area of public elementary and secondary education, including provisions related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities, and procedures for handling disputes and disagreements between parents and school districts.
The second guidance package released by OCR addresses the circumstances under which use of restraint or seclusion can result in discrimination against students with disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department’s May 15, 2012, Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document suggested best practices to prevent the use of restraint or seclusion, recommending that school districts never use physical restraint or seclusion for disciplinary purposes and never use mechanical restraint, and that trained school officials use physical restraint or seclusion only if a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. The DCL and question and answer document released today offer additional information about the legal limitations on use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities.
The third guidance package released today was developed by OCR and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). The jointly-issued Dear Colleague Letter and question and answer documents will help update educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders to better understand the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under Section 504 and IDEA. These documents provide information about how to provide equal opportunity in compliance with Section 504 in key areas such as charter school recruitment, application, admission, enrollment and disenrollment, accessibility of facilities and programs, and nonacademic and extracurricular activities. The documents are responsive to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s 2012 report, Charter Schools: Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities, which included the recommendation that the Department issue updated guidance on the obligations of charter schools.
“It is critical to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education in charter schools,” said Sue Swenson, delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Department’s assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. “These guidance documents are designed to support states, local education agencies, and charter school personnel to understand their responsibilities under IDEA and Section 504.”
  • Explains that charter school students with disabilities (and those seeking to attend) have the same rights under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA as other public school students with disabilities.
  • Details the Section 504 right to nondiscrimination in recruitment, application, and admission to charter schools.
  • Clarifies that during the admission process a charter school generally may not ask a prospective student if he or she has a disability.
  • Reminds charter schools, other entities, and parents that charter school students with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under Section 504.
  • Emphasizes that children with disabilities who attend charter schools and their parents retain all rights and protections under Part B of IDEA (such as FAPE) just as they would at other public schools.
  • Provides that under IDEA a charter school may not unilaterally limit the services that must be provided a particular student with a disability.
  • Reminds schools that the least restrictive environment provisions require that, to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities attending public schools, including public charter schools, be educated with students who are nondisabled.
  • Clarifies that students with disabilities attending charter schools retain all IDEA rights and protections included in the IDEA discipline procedures.
In addition to these documents, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document designed for parents to provide a brief overview of the rights of public charter school students with disabilities and the legal obligations of charter schools under Section 504 and the IDEA.
The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the ADA. The mission of OSERS is to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes and raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation. OSERS is responsible for administering the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA).
For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces, please visit its website and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights. For more information about OSERS and IDEA, please visit its website and follow OSERS on twitter @ed_sped_rehab.
The Special Education Attorneys at Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch can provide further assistance to help your child.  Visit our website for more information, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What is special education?

What is special education and specialized instruction?

What Is Special Education?

Special education is the educational instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities. At no cost to parents, this specialized education can be administered in classrooms, homes, hospitals, and other institutions. 

Hope Kirsch and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin are special education attorneys with Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, representing students with disabilities and their families throughout Arizona. For over 15 years, they have devoted their practice to obtaining appropriate educational service, supports and placements for students in schools, hospitals and residential treatment programs.
In this CLE class clip, Hope and Lori discusses What is Special Education?
Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.
Hope N. Kirsch, M.A. (Ed.), Esq.
Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC
8900 East Pinnacle Peak Rd., Suite 250
Scottsdale, Arizona 85255
You can watch the complete Special Education Law CLE class here:
Special Education Law CLE
Specialized education consists of physical education, speech-language, travel training, vocational education, and any other related services. Specially designed instruction, means education that adapts appropriately to the needs of an eligible child. Holistically, the content, methodology, and delivery of the instructions must be appropriate to the unique needs of each individual child, all while meeting the educational standards of the child’s given jurisdiction.
Students with severe cognitive disabilities, may not require instruction in the general curriculum, yet they are indisputably eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For those students, education may consist of daily living and self-care skills, in addition to other related services that meet their unique needs. 
Related services are considered to be transpiration to and from school, as well as other developmental, corrective, and supportive services intended to assist the child with disability, so they fully benefit from special education. 
Examples of related services:
  • Speech and Language: pathology and audiology services
  • Interpreting services
  • Psychological services
  • Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy
  • Recreation, including therapeutic recreation
  • Early identification and assessment of disabilities
  • Counseling service, including rehabilitation counseling
  • Orientation and mobility services
  • Medical services for diagnostic, or evaluation purposes
  • School health services and school nurse services
  • Social work services
  • Parent counseling and training

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

WRIGHTSLAW Coming to Phoenix, February 2017

Wrightslaw Special Education Law & Advocacy Conference 2017


Presented by Kirsch Goodwin & Kirsch Pllc & Parent Support Arizona

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is special education?

Attorneys Lori Kirsch-Goodwin and Hope Kirsch from Arizona's Special Education Law Firm, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, discuss special education and specialized instruction.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Revisions to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Revised ADA regulations should ensure that more students with disabilities qualify for a 504 even if they did not before.  Effective October 11, 2016, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA Amendments Act or the Act), which took effect on January 1, 2009 was amended broadening coverage to more individuals with disabilities.  New sections were added to Title II and Title III of the ADA regulations to set forth the proper meaning and interpretation of the definition of “disability” and to make other related changes required by the ADA Amendments Act in other sections of the regulations.
The revised regulations expand the definition of “major life activities” by providing a non-exhaustive list of major life activities that specifically includes the operation of major bodily functions. The revisions also add rules of construction to be applied when determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. These rules of construction state the following:
—That the term “substantially limits” shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA;
—that an impairment is a disability if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population;
—that the primary issue in a case brought under the ADA should be whether an entity covered under the ADA has complied with its obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not the extent to which the individual's impairment substantially limits a major life activity;
—that in making the individualized assessment required by the ADA, the term “substantially limits” shall be interpreted and applied to require a degree of functional limitation that is lower than the standard for “substantially limits” applied prior to the ADA Amendments Act;
—that the comparison of an individual's performance of a major life activity to the performance of the same major life activity by most people in the general population usually will not require scientific, medical, or statistical evidence;
—that the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a “disability”;
—that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active; 
—that an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not substantially limit other major life activities in order to be considered a substantially limiting impairment. The final rule also states that an individual meets the requirement of “being regarded as having such an impairment” if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to a prohibited action because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. It also provides that individuals covered only under the “regarded as” prong are not entitled to reasonable modifications.
The ADA Amendments Act's revisions to the ADA apply to title I (employment), title II (State and local governments), and title III (public accommodations) of the ADA. 
The changes include:
The addition of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an example of a physical or mental impairment;
The addition of “writing” as an example of a major life activity;
The “regarded as" prong is clarified; the burden is on a covered entity to establish that, objectively, an impairment is “transitory and minor” and therefore not covered by the ADA.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Upcoming presentation for families, advocates and providers: 17th Annual Autism Society of Greater Phoenix Conference

Legal Track Track

9:00-10:00    Resolving Special Education Disputes:  Behind the Scenes with a School Attorney, Parent Attorneys and a Former State Complaint Investigator – Heather R. Pierson, Esq., Maureen Ringenoldus, M.Ed., Hope N. Kirsch, M.A.(Ed.), Esq., and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.- Have you ever had a problem, disagreement or dispute with your child’s school?  Ever wonder whether you have a “case”?  Ever wonder how best to resolve the issue?  This is a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a parent attorney evaluates your case, how a state investigator investigates, and how a parent attorney negotiates with the school attorney to resolve the issues to avoid Due Process.

10:30-12:00  3 Hot Topics in Special Education-Bullying, Discipline and Placement vs Location- Hope N. Kirsch, M.A.(Ed.), Esq. and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq. – Special education attorneys will walk parents and professionals through the legal ins and outs of three of the most pressing issues that students with disabilities encounter. Parents and professionals will understand the legal rights and protections that both the parents and student have in the areas of bullying, discipline and placement/location decisions, and parents and professionals will improve their advocacy skills and learn how to handle these special education issues and disputes with confidence.

Upcoming presentation: Special Education Legal Disputes Involving Students with Autism

Special Education Legal Disputes Involving Students with Autism
This course, presented by two nationally recognized special education attorneys, will provide a comprehensive overview of the different laws applicable to the education of students on the autism spectrum, including the IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act, focusing on issues and cases involving students with autism, and providing an overview of DSM-V and its impact on special education eligibility. The course is for school attorneys, parent attorneys, disability attorneys, educators, school board members, and attorneys in other practice areas who have an interest in special education law. In this guide to special education laws impacting students with autism, our experienced faculty will walk you through the differences between DSM-4 and DSM-5 as it applies to students with autism, legal ins and outs of proving need for eligibility for students on the spectrum, services, supports and placement of students on the autism spectrum, as well as discipline and bullying and harassment of students with autism. Learn how to handle special education legal issues for this unique population with confidence.
Key topics to be discussed:
  • Laws impacting students on the autism spectrum, including the IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • IEP versus Section 504, IDEA and Due Process versus the ADA and OCR
  • Evaluations and Proving Need for Eligibility of, and Autism Label for, Students on the Spectrum
  • IEP’s for Students with Autism
  • Disciplinary Issues Involving Students with Autism
  • Bullying and Harassment of Students with Autism
  • Avenues of Dispute Resolution for Students on the Autism Spectrum

Friday, September 2, 2016

FAPE, Bullying, Discipline

Parents, advocates, attorneys and providers:  We will be presenting on November 5, 2016 at the Annual Arizona Autism Coalition Conference

What's This Thing Called FAPE: A Parent's Guide to Special Education,
Hope Kirsch, Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC          

Discipline & Bullying Involving Students with ASD,
Hope Kirsch & Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC      

2016 Annual Arizona Autism Conference

Friday, August 26, 2016

Advocating for your child with special needs

KGK education attorney Hope Kirsch, education advocate David Jefferson from Parent Support Arizona, and Chris Tiffany from Raising Special Kids discuss advocating for your child with special needs at a Raising Arizona Kids magazine event. 

Navigating the special education system can be confusing, overwhelming and emotional. You’re worried about your child. You’re dealing with people you don’t know, information that is new and an alphabet soup’s worth of acronyms.
No parent should go into it unprepared. At  magazine’s first annual Special Needs Resource Fair, panelists explained the pros and cons of self-advocacy, paid professional advocacy and paid legal representation — and when each option should be considered.

Our guests:

David Jefferson
Parent Support Arizona (non-legal advocacy)
Hope Kirsch, M.A.(Ed), Esq.
Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC (special education attorneys)
Christopher Tiffany, M.Ed.
Director of Family Support at Raising Special Kids (self-advocacy)

KGK in the News

KGK's Lori Kirsch-Goodwin wins another victory in court for clients. The issue here involved a public records request.

Ex-FFA member, CGUHSD in dispute

Judge orders district to pay some attorney feesPosted: Thursday, August 25, 2016 8:18 am

CASA GRANDE — A former student of the Casa Grande Union High School District is in a legal dispute with the district regarding records related to his membership in a school organization.
Attorneys representing John Baker, a former Casa Grande Union High School student, filed a complaint in May after the district reportedly failed to supply records tied to the district’s FFA program.

Baker had been involved in the program, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, and wished to submit an application to receive the FFA state degree, an honor in the organization. He reportedly was suspended from FFA in March 2015, according to court documents but still requested that the school submit his application.
An email sent to Baker’s family in April 2015 suggested that the student’s application was submitted but later recalled. However, Baker’s attorneys questioned whether the school had ever submitted the application.
In February, Baker submitted a formal request to the district seeking to review all documents related to his FFA application. He also asked for copies of all FFA state degree applications submitted by other students in 2015.  
The district reportedly refused to release the documents due to standards set in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which bars the public release of student records without parental consent.
Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Baker’s Scottsdale attorney, stipulated that the FFA applications of other students could still be released with names and personal information blotted out. The district reportedly still did not grant this request.
Kirsch-Goodwin told the Casa Grande Dispatch she had wanted the applications of other students to compare signatures listed at the bottom of each. State degree applications must be signed by the school’s FFA adviser and the FFA state representative.
The plaintiff attorneys believed one of the signatures on Baker’s application had been forged to make it appear the school had submitted it. Therefore, the applications of other students could be used to compare and confirm the forgery suspicions.
To the surprise of the plaintiff attorneys, the district eventually admitted that Baker’s application was never submitted. According to court documents, CGUHS teacher Brittnie England declared the application was not sent and that signed copies of other student applications were not in her possession.
Kirsch-Goodwin said it was upsetting to discover that documents her client had been chasing after for months were never available. The question as to why the district did not submit Baker’s application remains unanswered, she added.
On Aug. 11, a Pinal County judge ordered the district to pay more than $8,000 in attorney fees to the plaintiff. The district’s attorney attempted to make the argument that the district shouldn’t pay attorney fees since it couldn’t deny access to records that it didn’t possess.
Judge Stephen McCarville concluded that since there was no mention of records being unavailable in court documents submitted by the defendant in June, the district was liable for paying some attorney fees.  
The Dispatch reached out to the district’s attorney to ask whether it would appeal paying these fees but did not receive a response.
Kirsch-Goodwin said her clients have not decided yet whether to proceed with filing a lawsuit against the district and suing for damages incurred through the dispute.
Baker’s family declined to comment on the litigation to the Dispatch since the matter is still pending.
The district’s Governing Board may hold an executive session at 10 a.m. today to discuss the pending litigation. Executive sessions are not open to the public, and discussion of pending litigation is one of the reasons they are allowed under Arizona law.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and School Law

Lori Kirsch-Goodwin and Hope Kirsch will be presenting a national webinar September 15, 2016, AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD) AND SCHOOL LAW
For more info or to register, go to:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Do on-line schools have to provide a FAPE? YES!!!!!!!

The United States Department of Education recently provided guidance (advice) to states and school districts, including charter schools, regarding their responsibilities to students with disabilities attending on-line (virtual) schools: those responsibilities are not diminished and remain the same! "The educational rights and protections afforded to children with disabilities and their parents
under IDEA must not be diminished or compromised when children with disabilities attend virtual schools that are constituted as LEAs or are public schools of an LEA."
See the OSEP letter here:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Does your child have behavior problems in school? There's help.

On August 1, 2016, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the United States Department of Education published a Letter to public schools and charter schools clarifying that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools must provide appropriate behavioral interventions and supports to students whose behaviors interfere with learning so that they can have a meaningful access to their education, that is, a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Behavioral interventions and supports must be provided in order to help avoid disciplinary removals (suspension and expulsions). 
You can read the entire Letter (called a "Dear Colleague Letter"), at

For more information about discipline of students with special needs in Arizona, visit KGK.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

KGK celebrates 10 years helping students!!!

The Arizona special education law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, celebrates ten (10) years this summer helping students with special education needs and their families navigate special education in school and obtain the services and supports to which they are entitled.  The firm's attorneys, Lori Kirsch-Goodwin & Hope Kirsch, are seasoned litigators and have been helping families long before they opened up Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch ("KGK").  Hope has been involved in special education for 40 years, beginning as a special education teacher and school administrator.  She has attended hundreds of IEPs, as a teacher, as a special education superviser, as an attorney.  Lori is the mother of a young adult on the spectrum, and through Lori's advocacy on behalf of her son, he is living independently and attending college.  Lori has walked in your shoes.  Hope knows how schools operate.  Together, they have forged a special education practice throughout Arizona, and every day they are thankful for the opportunity to work together and to help children of all ages and their parents.  They do what they love and love what they do.
azcentral.comSee the news article about the beginning of KGK here:  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What is your child entitled to who has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

The United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") issued guidance to public schools, including charter schools, clarifying their obligations to provide students who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD") with equal education opportunities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  This new guidance explains Section 504 and schools' obligations to provide education services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.  See Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on Students with ADHD.
To be clear:  
  • Schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is suspected to need special education or related services.
  • Services that schools provide must be based on a student's unique / specific / individualized needs and not on generalizations about disabilities.  As discussed, a school must not deny services to a student who is doing well academically and ignore that the child is substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking since that child is likely a person with a disability.
  • Students who have behavior issues, or do not focus or are distractible, could have ADHD and should be evaluated to determine their educational needs.
  •  to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD.

The US Department of Education also release a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS document that provides a brief overview of schools' obligations to students with ADHD.  

For more information, or to help access services for your child, visit the website of Arizona special education attorneys Lori Kirsch-Goodwin and Hope Kirsch, Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch.