We understand this is a very challenging time. We will do everything possible to alleviate the additional stress that you may be having regarding your child’s case. Please be safe! Below you will find some of our latest guidance on a variety of Covid-19 related issues. ___________________________________________________________
Engagement Letter Questions Due to the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and the corresponding school closures, some of you may not be sure where you will be sending your child to school next year. You may, therefore, been considering signing an engagement letter with us but are now reconsidering pursuing a due process claim against the DOE. If you sign with our office and later decide not to pursue a claim, we will only bill you based on our hourly rates for the work that we performed and either give you a refund for the balance or not charge you any further. This also goes for clients who have already signed with us for the 2020-21 school year. The language regarding terminating our attorney-client relationship is at end of the engagement letter (Section X). While we will need compensation for the work that we completed, you have absolutely no obligation to continue with our engagement or pay the full flat fee Scanned Documents, Please We require numerous documents from you including IEP’s, evaluations, reports, letters, contracts, affidavits, etc. We are asking for the sake of ease and efficiency, that you scan and email these documents to Fanny (email@example.com). If you do not have a scanner during this time, there are several user-friendly scanning applications that you can download on your phone. Our favorite app is Adobe Scan (for Android and iOS). Other options are CamScanner or Scanbot. Communicating with the DOE We typically recommend communicating with the district via fax; however, because of the Covid-19 outbreak no one is currently working in-person at any of the CSE offices. Therefore, your faxes will not be received by the DOE. We now recommend that you send them correspondence via email. Emails for each CSC are listed on the DOE website (https://www.schools.nyc.gov/learning/special-education/help/committees-on-special-education). If you're uncertain about where you should send your communication, please reach out to our office. Typically, email is not the best mode of communication when dealing with the DOE, so once everybody is back to work, we will instruct parents to switch back to their former practices. Zoom / Google Hangouts vs. Microsoft Teams To confuse matters more, in a very confusing time, the DOE recently announced that schools may only use Microsoft Teams rather than Zoom or Google Hangouts for videoconferencing with students. Zoom and Google Hangouts have been deemed a privacy and security risk. While this change applies to NYC public school, it does not apply to your child’s private school. Unlike public schools, private schools have the freedom to design their own curriculum. Thus, your child’s private school can still opt to use Zoom or Google Hangouts. Contact your child’s school if you have any privacy concerns. For more information on this change click here. "My Child Needs a Neuropsychological Evaluation. What do I do?" Neuropsychological examinations are generally very important to the success of your case and to obtain a comprehensive understanding of your child’s challenges and needs. We understand it will be difficult if your child requires a neuropsychological now. We advise you to speak with the neuropsychologist you are using or were referred to. There are likely some portions of the neuropsychological exam that can be completed remotely in order to begin the process. Depending on the situation, the Neuropsychologist may be able to write a preliminary summary of your child’s needs that can be included in your private school application. The portions that require an in-person examination can likely be tentatively scheduled for the late spring or early summer. Please let us know if this is an issue for you. Is Your Child Receiving Related Services? Please let us know immediately if your child is not receiving her/his mandated related services from an independent provider or if you feel the services being provided are insufficient. We have generally heard from clients that related services have continued remotely and are satisfactory. It is a violation of law if your child is not receiving the services she/he is entitled to. Providers have been directed by the DOE to contact families to discuss the service plan for each student. Providers are also directed by the DOE to provide families information about activities that can be done at home to reinforce the related services. Again, please let us know if this is an issue. Changes to Legal Timelines School closures due to Covid-19 may extend some of the DOE’s legal timelines in the special education process as set-forth in New York State regulations. Specifically, there may be an extension of time for the DOE to conduct an initial IEP review and re-evaluation, conduct hearings, and provide non-public school recommendations (as part of the CBST deferral process). Please contact us if you have a question about this or if you think these potential changes may impact your case. We will likewise reach out to any current clients who may be impacted. "Will my child’s rights under the IDEA be waived?" A provision under the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires the U.S. Department of Education to report recommendations to Congress by April 26th for potential waivers under the IDEA. These changes are designed provide states flexibly in meeting the needs of students with disabilities during Covid-19 closures. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, would need Congress' approval for potential waivers. We understand the concern this causes you, and all those in the special education advocacy community. We believe that now more than ever, students with disabilities must receive all the protections set-forth in the IDEA to receive a free appropriate education. There are many disability rights organizations that are advocating against any changes to the IDEA. See the links below for more information. https://www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Coronavirus-Waivers-Joint-Statement.pdf https://www.copaa.org/news/494930/Updated-COVID-19-ALERT---KEEP-UP-THE-PRESSURE.htm You can make your voice heard as well by contacting your elected officials to tell them they should not vote for a bill that includes IDEA waivers. Find Your Representatives You can copy and paste the following from Learning Disabilities Association of America (https://ldaamerica.org/cares-act-threatens-ed-rights/) into an email to your representative: CARES Act Threatens Educational Rights As a constituent and concerned member of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, I urge you to reject the provision included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that directs Secretary DeVos to provide a report on waivers needed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Over 7 million children, including more than 2 million with specific learning disabilities, rely on IDEA and Section 504 to receive necessary special education support and services.
Such a report would provide the basis for the Secretary to recommend any number of waivers that could upend key civil rights protections for vulnerable children.
I also oppose granting Secretary DeVos broad waiver authority under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act because sufficient flexibility is built into the law to allow for state waivers. Finally, I support providing states with additional funding that can be used under the IDEA to:
ensure teachers, school leaders, students and their families have needed tools for teaching and learning online and through other virtual methods, and
provide extended school year to students and other compensatory services for students with disabilities.
This is not the time to abandon children through waivers, which allow schools and districts to abdicate their responsibilities to students. We must help schools and families to work together to find solutions that allow children to receive equitable access to an education and the services they need without weakening or undoing their civil and educational rights. The children most impacted by school closures and such proposed waivers are those who are most in need of federal protections, including children with disabilities who are at great risk of regression during this time. I urge you to provide states with additional funding that can be used to support students with disabilities to learn online or through other modalities, and fund other services.
Thank you for opposing this provision and supporting students with disabilities and others who rely on federal civil rights laws for equitable access to education. ___________________________________________________________ We are closely monitoring changes and updates and will keep you posted. We look forward to continuing to work with you during this difficult time to resolve your case. Again, we hope that you and your family are safe. For additional questions about the impact of the Coronavirus on your specific case, or other inquiries, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-741-3030.