Subj: The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter, May 21, 1998, Vol 1, No. 2
Date: 98-05-22 07:30:33 EDT
From: (Pete+Pam Wright)

The Special Ed Advocate:

The Online Newsletter about Special Education and the Law

May 21, 1998 Vol. 1, No. 2


The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter of information about
special education legal issues, cases, educational techniques that work,
and Internet links. We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time
permits. We will archive back issues of The Special Ed Advocate at our
web site -

As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive occasional
announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact,
copyright, and subscription information can be found at the end of this




         Growing Pains: & Revising Our Web Site

NEWS FLASH! Political Pressure Delays IEP Regulations

         Delayed IEP Regs: Implications for Parents and Advocates


     Meet Sonja Kerr, Esq., special ed attorney from Minnesota. Sonja
     provided us with an advice filled article to attorneys who are
     taking their first case, along with some favorite cases.


      Letter to Damon - An advice-packed letter to the lawyer who is
     handling his or her first special education case, written by Sonja
     Kerr, Esq. Sonja is the respected special education attorney from


          In RE ISD 318 - Learn how you can "build the perfect case,
          even if your clients don’t have one when they walk in your
          door." In this case, the presenting problem was how to obtain
          Lovaas therapy for an autistic child. (Sonja Kerr's case))

          Reusch v. Fountain - (Extended School Year Case) Although
          disabled children often need more special education services
          than they receive in the typical 180 day academic year, many
          school districts walk miles to avoid providing extended school
          year services (ESY). If you think your child needs ESY
          services, this case outlines six key factors that the child’s
          IEP team needs to consider. (Sonja recommends this case.)

OSEP Memorandum:

                Implementing IEPs (April 28, 1998)


                Effective Educational Practices (The International Orton
Dyslexia Society)





Growing Pains and Revising Our Site

In mid-April, we realized that our web site was having growing pains.
Several visitors advised that they had difficulty finding information on
the site. In response to these problems, we decided to revise the web
site. To help visitors navigate, we devised a "site map" with links to
the main sections of the web site.

Before we uploaded the "new and improved" site, we checked and
double-checked all links. Everything looked fine. At 2:00 am on April
24, we uploaded the revised web site. A few hours later, we flew to
Thailand, in Southeast Asia, for a 3 week trip.

A few days later, our Office Manager advised that some broken links
showed up. Several people phoned and e-mailed that they were unable to
access specific articles and cases. Although we made several attempts to
fix the problem from Thailand, we were not successful. After we returned
to the States, Pete fixed the links. (Later we will post some photos of
Pete and Pam riding elephants in the rain forest.)

We apologize for these problems.


The next time you visit The Special Ed Advocate web site, you’ll find
these sections:

What’s New! Announcements about new cases, articles and uploads;
information about current and upcoming guests; conferences and
schedules; information about how to subscribe to The Special Ed

The Special Ed Advocacy Library - Articles about special education
advocacy topics.

The Law Library - Cases, statute and regulations.

Resources on the 'Net - links and other useful information on the

Publications and Projects - information about pending books,
conferences, projects, consultations, and the advocacy package.




In June, 1997, the new IDEA was signed into law. Most provisions of
IDEA-97 took effect immediately. On July 1, 1998, those portions of
IDEA-97 about IEPs will go into effect. The new regulations that govern
IEPs were supposed to be published in their final form in late April,
1998. However, after several heated arguments broke out between a few
members of Congress and staff of the U. S. Dept. of Education, the regs
have been postponed twice.

One hot button issue is "discipline." Some Congressmen have been advised
by school administrators that IDEA-97 will require them to admit violent
children who will then wreak havoc in schools. Several other hot button
issues have emerged, including block grants, tuition savings programs,
vouchers, and "unfunded mandates." As usual, the situation in Washington
is polarized and politicized.

In April, the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National
Education Association (NEA) encouraged their members to embark on a
letter writing campaign to members of Congress. These groups argued that
it was unreasonable to expect schools to develop IEPs that complied with
IDEA-97 before July, 1998. They said that if school staff had to
re-write more than 5,000,000 IEPs during May and June, the quality would
suffer. They said that this would be unfair to children and their
parents - even though the new statute law was signed into law in June,
1997 and has been widely disseminated.

The IEP statute is quite clear and easy to read. It is located at our
website in the Law Library. Read it yourself. You may decide that it is
difficult to understand why, after a year’s advance notice, schools were
unable to develop appropriate IEPs.

On a more positive note, the Division for Learning Disabilities of the
CEC, has expressed concerns that IDEA 97 does not focus on providing
individually designed, very intensive instruction in very small groups,
or one-on-one with a highly trained teacher. They are correct in their
assertions that learning disabilities are often poorly understood by
educators and that children are often improperly identified.



Question: Does your child’s IEP comply with IDEA-97?

If you are like most special ed parents, you'll attend an IEP meeting in
May or June. If you subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate, and have read
the new statute on our website, beginning with "IDEA 97 Overview and
Table of Contents" (click here), you know that IDEA-97 includes several
changes that should have a positive impact on your child’s special
education program.

Scenario: Your child’s IEP team has developed an IEP for the 1998-1999
academic year. This IEP was written before July 1, 1998. It may not
comply with IDEA-97. This means that your child’s special education
program for the coming school year may be governed by a law that was
superceded a year ago.

Problem: If the IEP team does not meet to develop a new IEP earlier than
legally necessary, your child’s IEP may not comply with IDEA-97
standards until the next IEP meeting, which need not be scheduled until
May or June, 1999. This means that the IEP team will develop an IEP that
complies with IDEA-97 for the 1999-2000 academic year!

What should you do?

If your child’s current IEP is based on the old law, you should request
that the IEP team meet again after July 1, 1998 to develop a new IEP. As
we discuss in our articles, "Understanding Tests and Measurements" and
"Your Child’s IEP," (in the Special Ed Advocacy Library), you want to
ensure that independent, objective measures and benchmarks are used to
measure gain and progress over time, rather than the usual subjective,
anecdotal means.



Sonja Kerr is our first guest contributor. Sonja is a special education
attorney from balmy Minneapolis-St. Paul. She wants to encourage more
attorneys to take special education cases.

Sonja has written an article for the attorney who is preparing his or
her first special ed case. Her "Letter to Damon" (click here) is full of
excellent advice about the perils and pitfalls of "going it alone," the
need to remember whose job it is to educate. and how to build a perfect
case. We have added a link to one of Sonja’s "favorite cases" about
autism and Lovaas therapy. (Click here for Independent School District
318 case.)



Several hot battles have been fought over extended school year services.
We’ve added an ESY case to the site.

In Reusch v. Fountain, 872 F.Supp. 1421, 21 IDELR 1107 (D. MD 1994),
(click here) a federal court addressed the school district’s "hostility
to providing ESY." In this case, the court found that parents were
prevented from advocating for their children by the district’s refusal
to provide parents with notice about their right to request these
services. The district also engaged in delaying tactics by requiring
parents to attend futile meetings.

The court found that, in this district, administrative convenience took
precedence over providing FAPE to children with disabilities.
Educational decisions were not individualized according to the needs of
the child.

In Reusch v. Fountain, the court listed six factors that the IEP team
should consider in deciding if the child is eligible for ESY as a
related service. These six factors include:

1. Regression and recoupment - is the child likely to lose critical
skills or fail to recover these skills within in a reasonable time;

2. Degree of progress toward IEP goals and objectives;

3. Emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities - Will a lengthy summer
break cause significant problems for a child who is learning a key
skill, like reading;

4. Interfering Behavior - does the child’s behavior interfere with his
or her ability to benefit from special education;

5. Nature and/or severity of disability;

6. Special circumstances that interfere with child’s ability to benefit
from special education;

Citing Pete’s case, Florence County School District Four v. Shannon
Carter, the District Court wrote that

     "In any contest between systematic efficiency and the provision of
     FAPE to a disabled child, Congress and the Supreme Court have made
     it clear that the child must prevail."




For years, parents and child advocates complained that special education
programs have failed to teach basic academic skills, such as reading,
writing, spelling and arithmetic. Too many special education students
have left school without the skills they need to succeed in "life after
school." Many parents say that when they asked for academic instruction
or remediation, the special ed staff balked.

IDEA-97 attempts to change this situation. The purpose of IDEA 97 is to
"promote improved educational results for children with disabilities."
Parents send their children to school to learn the skills they will need
in the workplace and other educational settings. Education - including
special education - is supposed to prepare children for "life after

In IDEA-97, Congress wrote that effective educational systems must -

          (A) maintain high academic standards and clear performance
          goals for children with disabilities, consistent with the
          standards and expectations for all students in the educational
          system . . . and provide for appropriate and effective
          strategies and methods to ensure that students who are
          children with disabilities have maximum opportunities to
          achieve those standards and goals. [Sec. 651(a)(6)(A) of the
          Act.] (See also the proposed Appendix C, click here.)



To improve special education outcomes, IDEA-97 focuses on using
effective practices and research-based educational methods. As a
layperson, where can you go to find accurate information about
"effective practices and research-based educational methods?"

International Dyslexia Society

The International Dyslexia Society  has developed an outstanding web
site that will get you off to a good start. This site includes
information about research and "what works" in educating children with
dyslexia. It is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, attorneys,
and advocates.

The International Dyslexia Society (IDS) is a non-profit scientific and
educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of
dyslexia. People with dyslexia have language learning disabilities.
About 15 percent of the population have dyslexia. People with dyslexia
have "unexpected problems" learning to read, write, spell, speak, and/or

At the IDS site, you will find a list of effective educational methods
that have been used successfully to remediate children (and adults) with



A training package for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) Amendments of 1997 is now online. It focuses on legal
requirements & provisions of IDEA 1997 & includes 500 pages of
background information, resources, handouts & a series of 145 overhead

The package, developed by the Department's Office of Special Education
Programs (OSEP) & the National Information Center for Children & Youth
with Disabilities (NICHCY), can be tailored to the needs of a variety of
audiences -- special educators, general educators, state special
education directors & administrators, parents & others. The training
package can be ordered from NICHCY (for $175) by calling 1-800-695-0285
to request an order form, & is available online at:



On a daily basis, we are flooded with emails from people seeking help
with educational crises. Ninety percent of these crises relate to
factual situations and issues that are referenced in articles at the web
site. Requests for specific legal information can often be answered by
utilizing the search engines of the Internet and various listserves.

Pete maintains a full time practice as a trial attorney representing
children with disabilities and also provides consultations to parents.
Too often, as we mention at our website, the "presenting problem" and
question that is asked is really the wrong question to ask.

In some instances, because of the unique nature of the question, Pete
will answer questions on the website by posting the question (after
changing the identity of the individuals) and the answer.

Sometimes, we receive letters from individuals who have expanded on one
of our topics, or who take issue with our positions and opinions.
Differing views, tactics, strategies, beliefs, opinions, prejudices, all
make for interesting reading and change.

Law is always changing. Attorneys always seek new fresh ideas and
perspectives on the same facts, the same law. We encourage emails that
may take different positions and stir debate.

We are establishing a new section on the web site called "Letter to the
Webmaster." We welcome your input. Do you have a favorite tip, tactic,
or ploy that you would like us to share with readers? Do you take issue
with points in our articles? Can you present a fresh new perspective on
an old tired worn out concept? Write to us at



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Copyright 1998 Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights
reserved. The resources at this site are copyrighted by the authors
and/or publisher. They may be used for non-commercial purposes only.
They may not be redistributed for commercial purposes without the
express written consent of Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright.
Appropriate credit should be given to these resources if they are
reproduced in any form. Pete and Pam Wright, P. O. Box 1008, Deltaville,
Virginia 23043

The Special Ed Advocate
Pete and Pam Wright