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How Does this Recent Court Case Shed Light on My Child’s Ability to obtain a Free Education at a Specialized Institution

April 2nd, 2012

An important New York Court of Appeals case recently determined that a school district cannot be forced to pay for an education if the child is a non-resident of the school district. In Board of Ed. of the Garrison Union Free School District v. Greek Archdiocese Institute of St. Basil, the St. Basil Academy had tried to enroll 26 students tuition free. The academy is a residential institution where children reside because of various issues involving the inability of children to remain in their homes.  Although the children reside at the residential facility, the school does not have legal guardianship of its residents.

Thus, the appeals court ruled that simply because the children lived there did not qualify them as being residents of the district. State education laws, including Education Law §3202, show that residency is established by where the parents or legal guardians live.  The court case established that local school districts are not responsible for absorbing the cost of the tuition for the children living in these types of institutions.

Furthermore, “…a license to operate a child care institution does not change the residence of the children living there.” That said, the court did explain that school districts are required to pay for education for students who are placed in orphanages by a state or family court judge. St. Basil’s residents are mainly referred to the educational institution by Greek Orthodox priests, the court noted.

A child’s last permanent residence, not a temporary foster placement residence, is what sets their school district eligibility. This recent case follows previous case law in New York whereby public schools are free to resident students and non-residents must pay tuition.

For assistance with questions regarding your child’s special education needs visit our website at


How Will the New Education Accountability Standards Affect My Child in New Jersey

March 14th, 2012

Ten states have been granted waivers to implement their own accountability systems rather than follow all of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act’s requirements. The NCLB mandates that schools educate children to be proficient in reading and math by 2014 or face tough sanctions. The states that recently had their waivers approved include New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, Minnesota, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Other states are also working on their waivers.

The Obama Administration and the Department of Education will review a state’s application and grant a waiver if the state’s standards are higher than the NCLB mandates and can be realistically implemented. A state’s plan must still prepare students for higher education, careers, and increase achievement for low performing schools. Teacher and school administration evaluations are still critical to these plans being approved.

In New Jersey, the state’s Department of Education will launch the new accountability plan this coming September. Schools will be measured on absolute achievement of the new plan’s goals and growth. State funds will be focused on improving failing schools and those that have big achievement gaps. Students will also have greater school choice in under-performing districts. High achieving teachers will be rewarded and teachers who need help to increase their student’s results will get support.

The state’s DOE will revise its school Report Cards and publish them for public review. This will help parents and state officials identify the performance levels at a child’s school. All these efforts will emphasize effective lesson planning and teaching strategies for the student body, including students with special needs and English as a second language students.

Overview of new education accountability standards in New Jersey:

  • New accountability plan coming in September 2012
  • New Jersey schools to be graded on absolute achievement of the new plan’s goals and growth
  • State funds will improve failing schools and those with big achievement gaps
  • Students have more school choice in under-performing districts
  • High achieving teachers rewarded and those that need help to increase their student’s results will get support
  • Plans cover general student body, students with special needs, and ESL students
  • Concerned parents should contact a New Jersey special education advocate to discuss how the new plan can affect their child with special needs to ensure child’s IEP plan and supports are in place for the next school year

Parents who want to learn more about these changes and how it will affect their child should contact a special education advocate. To learn more about New York special education advocacy, visit or

Click here to read how you can get involved in Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month this March.


What Can I Do to Prepare My Child with Special Needs for the Upcoming Yearly State Exams?

February 23rd, 2012

In the spring, students across New York state will start to take yearly exams in language arts, mathematics, and science. These tests help the state’s department of education measure student progress in the elementary and middle school system. The tests assess mastery of the state’s learning standards, and parents should know that their child with special needs is allowed accommodations to successfully take the test.

Students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can have appropriate accommodations or take New York State Alternate Assessments (NYSAA) from third to eighth grade. As these tests are used to gauge if a student can go onto the next grade, it is important that parents get involved early on to prepare their child for advancement. Parents should speak with their child’s teachers, school, and the school district so that a child has the tools to demonstrate his or her learning. Be sure that a child’s IEP has these accommodations in writing before the big tests begin in April.

Accommodations help a child with special needs have a level playing field, not an unfair advantage, when taking the tests. For example, this can include more time to complete a high-stakes test, using computers for spell check, having a teacher read the test instructions or questions, and being in a separate room or small group.

Checklist to be sure your child receives adequate accommodations to take high-stakes tests:

  • Talk to your child’s teachers and school early on about accommodations or alternate testing
  • Put accommodations in writing in your child’s IEP plan
  • Consult with a New York special education attorney about your child’s needs to ensure they receive a fair and appropriate test setting
  • Work with your child to ensure mastery of the concepts in the upcoming language arts, mathematics, and science exams

To learn more about New York special education advocacy or New York special needs planning, visit


How will the proposed amendments to the New York impartial hearing process affect my child with special needs when a concern arises?

February 14th, 2012

The New York Board of Regents has proposed amendments to improve special education hearings, and currently the changes are open for public comment. These changes will be finalized at their April meeting and go into effect May 16, 2012. The amendments to the 200.1 and 200.5 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education look to improve the due process system and cost effectiveness of the hearings, and align the regulations with federal laws concerning the hearing timeline requirements and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Office of Special Education, which is part of the Department of Education, found that New York State “needs assistance” and failed to adjudicate hearings in a timely fashion. Only 84.25 percent were adjudicated per the requirements in a timely manner. The proposed amendments would address six procedural concerns to improve the impartial hearings:

1. Appointment and certification of impartial hearing officers (IHO)

IHOs would have their certification rescinded if they do not accept an appointment within a two-year time period unless good cause can be shown. IHOs would be prohibited to take an appointment if they were in a pending, due process complaint with the same school district, are an attorney or an attorney for the same school district, or provide special education advocacy.

2. Consolidate multiple due process requests for the same student

The amendment would create procedures to consolidate multiple hearing requests.

3. Prehearing conferences would be conducted on all due process requests starting July 1, 2012

This prehearing order would help to address procedural matters and define the factual issues that will be adjudicated at the hearing. This will help to expedite the hearing and render more efficient decisions.

4. Requests for withdrawals of due process hearings

This amendment would create procedures to withdraw a due process complaint and require notice to the IHO if done after the hearing begins.

5. Timeline extensions for an impartial hearing decision

IHOs could not extend decisions due to their own schedule conflicts, nor could they grant an extension after the date the record is closed. The amendment does allow one 30-day extension and requires the IHO to provide the facts for granting the extension.

6. Decision timelines

Decisions are to be made within 45 days. Efficient hearing decisions will help to uphold a child’s educational needs and well-being. This will also help cut down on costs to districts.

People who want to learn more about the amendments and how it could affect their child’s education should contact a New York special education advocate. The P-12 Education Committee is accepting public comments on these amendments through early spring. Littman Krooks’ special education attorneys help individuals obtain the education and special services they need and deserve. To learn more about our special education advocacy services  visit


How Do I Ensure My Child with Special Needs Gets appropriate services, especially in light of the recent audit that shows the School System Failed Many Special Education Students

February 8th, 2012

New York City Controller John C. Liu recently released an audit about the city’s special education services. It glaringly shows that NYC’s school system did not adequately provide services for children with special needs during the 2009-2010 school season. Direct Student Services, which is an $839 million program, failed to provide physical and occupational therapy as well as speech, vision, and hearing services to more than 72,000 children.

Liu said special education vendors were not recruited fast enough and utilized more. Expensive independent consultants instead were paid for in some circumstances, the audit noted. Discrepancies also existed in different burroughs of New York. Only 20 percent of special ed preschoolers in the Bronx’s Soundview section and 26 percent in East New York, Brooklyn received required services. This is in stark contrast to 91 percent of Brooklyn Crown Heights preschoolers and 86 percent of Ridgewood and Middle Village, Queens preschoolers receiving services.

What can be done to ensure your child gets the appropriate special education services:

  • Meet with a special education lawyer to create an Individualized Education Plan
  • Locate and secure enrollment in the right educational environment
  • Obtain and maintain other educational and therapeutic services
  • Stay updated on local, state, and federal laws for special education rights

Parents are concerned about their children with special needs that have been referred for support services but have not received the educational and other services they deserve. Families with a child with special needs deserve an advocate on their side to protect the rights of their child. To learn more about New York special education advocacy or New York special needs planning, visit or


Changes to High School Diplomas for Students with Disabilities Coming in 2013

February 1st, 2012

The Individualized Education Program diploma will be eliminated next school year, and many families are concerned about how this change could affect their teen’s future. The latest data shows that 5,566 students received IEP diplomas, and make up 2.9 percent of all high school graduates. In the past, the IEP diploma was given to students with disabilities who finished their individualized education program, but did not meet all the requirements to receive a high school diploma. The New York Board of Regents plans to give a new “Skills and Achievement Commencement Credentials” to students who graduate from their IEP programs.

The Regents committee asserts that the previous diploma was misleading as the students with disabilities did not complete the same state exams as other highschoolers. One of four different documents could be given to graduates who complete some high school courses but do not achieve all the academic requirements. State officials say that these changes will recognize individual capacities better.

Student advocates are not in favor of the new “Skills and Achievement Commencement Credentials”. They are worried that this change will lower the progress being made to raise student achievement. This could also potentially affect how students with disabilities are being assessed during job applications and interviews, college placement, and other opportunities.

Concerned individuals should meet with a special education advocate to understand how these changes could affect your child. They can review that your child’s special education needs are being met and that services are enabling them to be as independent as possible.

To learn more about New York special needs planning or New York special education advocacy, visit or

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This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. If you need legal advice concerning this or any other topic please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at 914-684-2100 or 212-490-2020.