Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
Highlights: One million dollar verdict for special ed teacher in retaliation case upheld; inside story of one million dollar verdict; lessons from the Settlegoode case - paper trails and letter writing; save $10. on Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy; Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Wrightslaw programs in AK, MD, AL; help from Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities.
Special Ed Advocate newsletter is free - please forward this
issue or the
subscription link to your friends and colleagues so they can
learn about special education law and advocacy too. We appreciate
your help! Download
1. Message from the Editor
issue of The
Special Ed Advocate focuses on the case of Pamella
Settlegoode, the special education teacher who was retaliated
against and fired for advocating for her students.
A few months later, a magistrate judge overturned the jury award. Dr. Settlegoode appealed.
March 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
reinstated the jury award in Pamella Settlegoode's case. Their
decision includes strong language about freedom of speech for
teachers. With support from advocacy litigation agencies, other
teachers who are trapped in oppressive work environments will
use this case as a roadmap.
2. Retaliation! One Million Dollar Verdict for Special Ed Teacher Upheld!
On Monday, April 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the jury verdict and reinstated the 1 million dollar award to Pamella Settlegoode. The decision clarifies the importance of freedom of speech for teachers:
"Teachers are uniquely situated to know whether students are receiving the type of attention and education that they deserve and, in this case, are federally entitled to . . . This particularly so with respect to disabled children, who may not be able to communicate effectively that they lack appropriate facilities. Teachers may therefore be the only guardians of these children’s rights and interests during the school day (emphasis added).
The decision in Pamella Settlegoode v. Portland Public Schools is available in two formats:
3. Vindication! The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict
In an interview two days after the jury verdict, Pamella Settlegoode told Pete, "This has been the 'most heart-wrenching and hellish experience of my life."
"My children want to learn PE, they love it, they want to be athletes, they want to learn, they are teachable, and that was not the problem. The problem is a system that views children with disabilities as second-class citizens."
Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict takes you
through the Settlegoode case from the beginning. The article
includes links to the Complaint, pretrial order, jury
instructions, and the decision from the U. S. Court of Appeals
for the Ninth Circuit.
4. Lesson from the Settlegoode Case: Paper Trails
"If it wasn't written down, it wasn't said. If it wasn't written down, it didn't happen." Pete Wright (From Emotions to Advocacy, page 201)
records are important to effective advocacy. When you advocate
for a child, you use logs, calendars, journals, and letters to
create paper trails. Documents that support your position help
you resolve disputes early. These two articles about documents
and paper trails will help you get started:
5. Lesson from the Settlegoode Case: Letter Writing
When you read The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict about the Settlegoode case, you learned that Dr. S. wrote letters that documented her concerns about her students. Although her supervisors ordered her to stop writing letters, she did not stop.
Change the facts. Assume Dr. S. was fired and filed a lawsuit. Assume she testified about these incidents but did not have letters that substantiated her claims. Do you think the outcome of her case would have been different? Absolutely!
You need to write letters to clarify events and what you were told. If you have a dispute with the school, your letters are independent evidence that support your memory.
articles about letter-writing will help you fine-tune your
Rules for Writing Great Letters - If you have a problem with
the school or concerns about your child's program, you must
document your concerns in writing. This article includes twelve
rules for writing letters, along with editing tips.
6. Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - $10 Off!
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy includes a chapter about documents, a chapter about using logs, journals and calendars to create paper trails, two chapters about letter writing, and more than a dozen sample letters.
learn about purposes of letters and strategies to ensure that
your letters accomplish their purposes. We provide advice about
how to write business-like letters, letter-writing tips, and
sample letters that you can adapt to your circumstances.
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy includes sample letters that you can tailor to your own circumstances, including letters to:
Wrightslaw books are reasonably priced ($29.95) - easy on tight budgets.
& Exam Copies
7. Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates (COPAA)
Are you an attorney who represents children with disabilities? Are you an advocate who helps parents negotiate for special ed services? Do you need current, reliable information about special ed law? Do you work for a public interest law firm or legal advocacy center?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," you need to join the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)!
is an independent, nonprofit, §501(c)(3) tax-exempt
organization of attorneys, advocates and parents, whose primary
mission is to secure educational services for children with
8. Coming Soon! Wrightslaw Programs in Alaska, Maryland, Alabama
Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training Programs focus on four areas: special education laws, rights & responsibilities; how to use the bell curve to measure progress & regression; SMART IEPs; and tactics & strategies for effective advocacy.
Juneau, Alaska (Boot Camp) - April 8-9, 2004
Anchorage, Alaska (Boot Camp)- April 13-14, 2004
Annapolis, Maryland (Boot Camp) - April 30-May 1, 2004
Birmingham, Alabama (1 day advocacy training) - May 25, 2005
Wrightslaw programs are usually "sold out" so if you plan to attend, don't procrastinate - register today!
9. Need Help? Visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities
are looking for help - or a helper - visit
Pages for Kids with Disabilities. Your
Pages has many resources - evaluators,
speech language therapists, tutors,
special ed schools, advocates, attorneys,
organizations, and support groups.
10. Subscription & Contact Info
Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about
special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, and tactics
and strategies. Subscribers receive "alerts" about new
cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books.