Vermont Legal Aid Town Hall on Special Education

hello everyone welcome to Vermont

legalized Town Hall my name is Amelia schloss burg and I work at the office of the healthcare advocate at Vermont legal aid these town halls are happening on Thursday mornings at 10:00 a.m. and we are recording the Town Hall so you’ll be able to watch it later or share it with a friend you can watch the recording on our Facebook page or on our website the Town Hall format is at the first thirty minutes we answer general questions and give general information that everyone should know and then after 30 minutes are up we go into more detailed questions so folks that are watching us on Facebook live you can type your questions into the Facebook comment section for folks that are joining us through zoom you can type your questions into the Q&A box and the folks that are calling in you will have to listen for your questions and then if you still have questions afterwards you can call us and ask your questions over the phone after the Town Hall is over this is the public Town Hall so if you’re calling if you’re joining us by zoom you can use the anonymous feature to ask an anonymous question think about sort of what you’re sharing when you ask questions because it is public and if you have questions that you want to ask in a confidential space our help is always confidential and free so you can reach us at the phone number that’s operated by Vermont legal aid and legal services Vermont and the phone number is with Vermont legal aid and legal services Vermont civil legal issues include things like housing health care disability law tax law unemployment things that are not criminal law and our guest today we have two guests today from the disability Law Project our guests are Rachel Selig and Marilyn Maha ski Rachel and Marilyn thank you so much for joining us thanks for having us and today we’re talking about special education in the time of Kovac 19 pandemic I’m so first just tell us a bit more about yourselves and what the disability Law Project is you’re breaking up but I think you said tell us about the disability about please I’m commanding Marilyn morning so the disability Law Project is one of several projects with in Vermont legal aid we represent exclusively people with disabilities who have legal problems

arising out of their disabilities out of our caseload of about 300 plus calls intakes per year I’d say 30 percent or well over a hundred cases per year are in the area of special education so Rachel and I and others and the Law Project do a fair amount of special education work so that we take cases based on priorities that are set by our funding sources so in terms of special education and the Annie who calls us happy to you by Randi to talk through problems with you but our ability to actually represent in cases is limited and it’s based on our priorities thank you Marilyn so it sounds like you talk to a lot of people every year and you give advice to everyone that calls about special education and students with disabilities in Vermont and there’s some limited abilities some representation as well that’s right and you know in terms of our limitations wheat priorities are focused currently in representing students who are kicked out for disciplinary reasons primarily for suspension or expulsion also if they’re just told not to come back and we also represent students who have been subject to restraint or seclusion so those would be our first priorities which but we do talk to anybody who calls we also work with our community partners the Vermont family although the Federation ways for children with mental with children’s children’s mental health needs and Rachael will talk a little bit more about that later as well those two partner organizations are the Vermont family network and the Federation of families for children’s mental health needs is that right that’s correct great and I know that there’s no income limits for folks to contact us around this issue so there’s you can’t have too much money or too little money to reach out the only requirement is that the student with the disability lives in Vermont that’s correct we have no income limits in this particular project that’s right we talked to anybody who has a disability thanks Marilyn so Rachel tell us more about what is your right as a student with disabilities to special education and what is special education sure so there is a special education law called the individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the I DEA which was created because for many many years students with disabilities were kept out of our public schools and we’re not able to access education so it promised that our students would be allowed not only to attend school but that they would receive services so that they could make progress in school so students have the right once they’re eligible for special education to a free and appropriate public education based on an IEP there’s another civil rights law called the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 often referred to as 504 and that also protects students with disabilities whether or not they’re eligible for services under the IDE a and neither of these laws have changed as a result Cobin I think that’s a really important thing for people to understand so all of the rights to access education to receive services those rights are still in place even though we’re going through a pandemic the individualized education program or IEP is still in effect or the 504 plan is still in effect for each individual that’s right got it okay so you’ve described a free and appropriate public education what does that look like so free appropriate public education there are a couple different parts to that first it’s free which means that it should not cost the parents any money second it’s a public education so it’s provided to but provided for by your local school district and usually it’s provided at a public school but that’s not always the case it depends on the needs of the child and then what we mean by appropriate is that it’s what’s going to be provided to the student is going to be based on that students unique needs and circumstances and so a student will have an IEP an individualized education program that identifies their needs and their strengths and sets of goals for the student based on those needs and based on the school’s curriculum and it will also identify the services that the student is going to receive so that they can make progress that’s reasonable in light of their circumstances Thank You Mitchell and so is that that’s unique for each individual student with a disability it’s an individualized education got it thank you Rachel so how do schools know what to do and how to do this how to provide this

education sure so I think there’s two parts to answering that question the first part is every student who either the school or the parent suspects has a disability needs to go through an assessment process and so though they’ll sit down with someone who’s qualified to do different kinds of assessments to understand what are their strengths and their needs and where do they need some specialized instruction or some additional supports in school and so those reports that come out of that process will be used to create the individualized education program for the student but the second piece is there’s been a lot of litigation about what do we mean by free appropriate public education and the United States Supreme Court has weighed in and so they are the ones who said it means providing the services and supports the student needs to create a plan where they’re reasonably calculated to make progress that’s reasonable in lay of the child’s circumstances there’s some guidance out there including from unfortunately from our own agency of Education but says those circumstances can include the pandemic and if you look at the language and Supreme Court used in their decision we think that’s a bad interpretation incorrect interpretation of what the court said that the plain language is that when you’re looking at circumstances you’re looking at student specific circumstances not things that have happened to be happening around us the pandemic is certainly making it harder to provide special education to some students but those students still have the right to receive their special education services got it so it sounds like there’s some disagreement over whether schools are doing enough or their what they’re providing is appropriate during the pandemic there may be for some students I think a lot of our school districts are working very hard and working in but we also have some families where that’s not meeting their students okay so Rachel what if someone has heard that the IEP doesn’t need to be followed during the pandemic or there can be sort of like a lesser les services that’s not true again nothing about the special education law has changed so the students IEP is still enforced and the student still has the right to receive those services thanks Rachel okay so the school year is almost over so Marilyn what should parents expect this summer and when school resumes in the fall so this summer still is somewhat for many school districts than for many families and students but we do know that schools will be reopening in the fall the governor announced that yesterday we’re not sure exactly what that’s gonna look like some schools will be opening and offering services during the summer and some schools won’t and so that’s going to be an individual School District decision but if your child has a disability and they’re unlucky then they may be entitled to extended school year services and that’s commonly referred to as es Y so for many families have been reached their children have been receiving extended school year services for many years it’s built into the IEP the students should anticipate being able to receive those services whether they’re in person or not will again be a decision made by each school district some you know childcare centers are opening so does school buildings are opening in some places so some students may be services to determine whether or not child needs extended years suspended school year services the IEP team needs to meet and we would suggest that parents ask for an IEP team meeting between now and the end of June before schools actually close in termination there needs to be a determination that the services are necessary for the provision of a free and appropriate public education so there are a number of factors that need to be lowered and making that determination typically the schools will say oh we only do it if your child has regressed in it and we have some sort of data to indicate that they don’t recoup within a reasonable period of time Marilyn when you say regress you mean that the child’s gotten worse at school over the summer and when they go back to school in the fall they’re not as they’re they sort of lost some progress they’ve lost skills that’s right if their phone maybe I people and they’re they have some goals and objectives that then they’re backsliding oftentimes we see that a lot with children with behavioral disabilities but also in other academic areas where children start to make gains there’s a break and then they’ve kind of lost some of what they have gained and so that would be what needs to be analyzed but there other factors another factor could be that they the severity of the child’s disability we can anticipate pretty significant regression and that’s sort of an

automatic if the child is on a transition plan a transition plan is for students for 16 years of age or older and the I the transition goals haven’t been met and can be met beyond the end of the school year but I think the all-important which is often not discussed at all is web is that a determination needs to be made that esy is essential to permit a student an opportunity to reach reasonably set educational goals and again that has to be an individualized determination and make that determination if you had an IEP meeting and you look at the child’s IEP the IP that was in place prior to the pandemic look at what supports and services they’ve received during the pandemic if any and then make a determination of whether or not they have had an opportunity to reach those and reasonably set goals that were written into the IEP so we wouldn’t push back a little bit on schools if they’re saying well your child doesn’t typically regress after a school vacation but there are other there are other factors that need to be considered got it so it sounds like there may be a lot of students perhaps that qualify this year or they could qualify this year for extended school year services because of because of their whether or not they’ve been able to meet their reasonably set education goals and those goals wouldn’t necessarily have changed because of the pandemic they should still get a shot to reach those goals that were set before the pandemic started absolutely the condemned ik didn’t change the child’s validity those goals and objectives were very likely established before the pandemic and if anything you know some of there may be even a greater need for supports and services now as a result of the pandemic thanks Marilyn so um tell me there’s a question here that’s that’s a really good question that came in from Facebook and I think it kind of goes along that we’re talking about so Marilyn um let’s talk about advice for families of children with intense needs who just happened been able to benefit from remote services this questioner says it’s very challenging it may be true that they still have the right to their IEP services but if services cannot be delivered in person many of the students cannot make progress how should a parent advocate well that it’s gonna be very challenging and I imagine there are many children who have fallen into that category that as a result of their needs they really do need person-to-person contact some schools as I said may well be opening for person-to-person contact so obviously that parent should be contacting the school and having an IEP meeting and making that request but I think the other factor this leads me into that what I was going to discuss next which is compensatory services is that come fall that parents should be asking for an IEP team meeting to look at whether or not the child has lost so much that there’s there are services that need to be made up and that may mean that school districts and parents need to be flexible with me mean they need to be creative but you do need to go back and look at what are the child’s needs what are their goals and objectives have they been met and if there are barriers to meeting them because of the pandemic then we need to come up with alternatives and so parents may need to be asking for more time in the fall early at school services earlier in the day school service later in the after-school maybe during school breaks maybe during next vacation so it really means taking a look at your child’s needs and having a conversation with the school so in if you disagree with the school then the parent could also be asking for an independent evaluation and trying to obtain data to show where the child was before the pandemic where the child is now and and you know very often that will determine you will be able to identify what was lost what wasn’t gained what should have been and that will help narrow the perhaps the plan for how you’re going to address those those gaps mm-hmm so Marilyn it sounds like students are missing out on something previously or right now there’s an ability to make it up later though of course there’s none should be an attempt to make it up now – but there’s these compensatory services that someone can continue to ask for and we’ll talk later about what to do if you disagree with this school about what absolutely quiet and so I sorry you were breaking up but I wanted to say that parents should ask for IEP meetings and schools are good some schools are getting the message and some of this is coming from the guidance from the agency that and it goes to

Rachel’s point that she said earlier about what is the standard for determining what’s appropriate and how do you determine what’s appropriate for the child in light of the current circumstances and that doesn’t affect the pen that’s not related to the pandemic it’s related to the child’s needs so I think schools are going to say oh well we don’t have to make up for it because of the pandemic but the reality is no you need to look at the child’s circumstances did the child get the services they needed during the pandemic and if they didn’t then the school does need to come up with a plan to compensate for that and if people aren’t getting a response from the school just mean they should be calling us so if they’re not getting any partners if they’re not getting a response and I think their child needs that’s correct okay the school saying no we don’t have to do that that’s not what the guidance says or you know everybody said miss Marilyn can you give me an example of what compensatory services might look like so the easy one to think about is if your child has oh d services occupational therapy services or physical therapy services or speech language therapy written into their IEP that’s usually written as on the service page as your child means you know four hours of speech language services a week only good – well they missed two hours a week so then there needs to be a determination of how you make up for the services they didn’t get if not necessarily but you do need to come up with a plan you might have a child who’s on a in a certain reading program and they didn’t get the specialized instruction that they needed in the reading program we need to go back and figure out how you’re going to make up for that last time whether it means that you have more sessions with the reading interventionist whether you get those services in the morning and again in the afternoon or over a longer period of time that’s how you need to think about compensating for the services you didn’t get the stuff that was lost thanks Marilyn I think you cut out for a second there I think you are saying that it may not be one-to-one so you may not have got one extra hour for each hour missed it may be more individualized than that right that’s correct got it okay so Marilyn what if the IEP was changed earlier on in the pandemic some families may have agreed to accept fewer services or less help because of the guidance that was going out from the agency of education so people those were temporary that the fact of the pandemic didn’t change the child’s need for the services so we would encourage parents to go back to their IEP teams and say no we did not agree and if necessary then the child should the parent could ask for another evaluation or a revaluation or an independent evaluation to support the fact that the child lost some skills or didn’t reach their goals that they would have reached or very likely would have reached during during school if there had not been a pandemic thanks Marilyn so Rachel what else do families and to know about their rights to education during the pandemic as I said before the special education law the idea has not changed and so that also means that the parents rights under the special education lines don’t change so parents have certain rights under the law those think those rights include the ability to request an IEP meeting IEP meetings have to happen at least once a year but they can and more often and parents can request them and those requests need to be responded to in a reasonable period of time parents have the right to fully participate in IEP meetings so if the IEP meeting is only being offered on zoom’ and the parent doesn’t have a way to participate on zoom’ that doesn’t work and parents also have the right to access their students records and that is one that I think is especially important right now because schools should be keeping really careful data on what progress they are seeing and so to be able to make some of the requests Marilyn’s been talking about for extended school year or for compensatory services you may need to get that information from your child’s educational records parents also have the right to what’s called prior written notice which means that if the team can’t agree to a change on the IEP but they get to have in writing ahead of time before changes made and that lets the parent know exactly what’s being planned and gives them the time to review it and decide if they’re gonna pursue dispute resolution options thanks Rachel so these three rights that haven’t changed our access to records ability to participate in IEP meetings and prior written notice before changes

those are the big ones yeah great okay so let’s talk about this thing we’ve been sort of dancing around a little bit um what’s the first step when you disagree with the school I’m getting some questions about this so ask you some more details after it’s over where do you start when you disagree they always start with an IEP team meeting you always try to resolve things at that local level with the folks who know the students the best and that’s generally the IEP team which again includes the parent as a full member and can include other folks the parent invite who have knowledge about the child parents can also get support from the Vermont family network or the Federation of families for children’s mental health if they feel like they need some support ahead of a meeting or if they need legal advice they can call us we don’t generally go to IEP meetings but we can give parents legal advice ahead of us then call the case manager asked to sketch I need it and we or do make that request by email or in a letter we often recommend doing things write it and at the meeting explain why you’re you disagree and what it is you think the student needs instead it’s important to advocate for what your child needs and the IEP meeting is the first place to try and do that great thank you Rachel can you um so what where does obtaining an independent evaluation through the school fit and we have a question here can you please explain the process for obtaining an independent evaluation through the school since it has been mentioned several times sure so parents have the right to request an independent educational evaluation if they disagree with an evaluation the school district has performed so all students are required at least every three years to go through what’s called a comprehensive evaluation so most often where we see a request for an independent educational evaluation is going to be after that comprehensive evaluation if the parent disagrees with what’s in that evaluation but sometimes meperidine esses airily disagree at that moment with that evaluation there’s not a deadline for the point at time point in time in which a parent can say you know I’m looking of the services my students getting and I think they’re coming from this evaluation which I didn’t understand I should but now I do so an independent educational evaluation that if you’ve made the request to the district again we recommend doing that in writing the district has two options one is to help arrange for that evaluation to happen at their expense and the second is to take you to due process and explain why their evaluation was acceptable the independent evaluation will not be provided for my school staff they’ll find an outside agency who can perform the kinds of assessments that the student needs to have in order to do that okay so you mentioned due process let’s talk about some of the other sort of formal ways to go ahead if the IEP team if working with the IEP team isn’t getting you what your student means sure the IPA the special education law provides three dispute resolution options those are mediation an administrative complaint or due process so with mediation the agency of education maintains a list of mediators these are neutral third parties they don’t work for the parents they don’t work for the school district but they can come in and try to help the school district and the parents come to some kind of agreement to resolve the dispute that they’re having and that’s an informal process it can be very flexible and it’s voluntary which means both the parents and the school district need to agree that they want to do a mediation to do it and if the parent is feeling like they’re not getting anywhere or the school district is feeling like they’re not getting anywhere you don’t have to come to agreement and mediation you can decide to stop the mediation and the second option is an administrative complaint this is essentially writing to the agency of Education and they have a form that you can use to do that so you make sure that you meet all of the elements and asking the agency of Education to investigate whether there has been a violation of some of the special education rules the third option the the due process we’ve talked about a couple times that is an administrative hearing so it’s kind of like a court case but with a hearing officer instead of a judge where you bring your evidence and the school district brings our evidence and you are essentially trying to show that the school district has not been providing your student with a free appropriate public education but they’ve been violating the rules and you’re asking for that hearing officer to agree with you and if they do agree with you

to remedy that situation thanks Rachel okay so it sounds like there’s some formal dispute options including that due process complaint and usually at that point you’ve already talked to either Vermont legal aid or the family network or the Federation and so that’s when you those three options would help you with those four formal dis two options at that point – right okay so we’re nearing the end of our first 30 minutes and I want to cover a couple more things so Marilyn what else should families do if their children need services now that they haven’t gotten in the past let me just say I keep getting this message I my music my name says my internet connection is unstable so okay you can’t hear me maybe we should switch to Rachel but I’m just gonna say that now the outset you can let me know if I’m unstable so under the special education laws schools have an obligation it’s an affirmative obligation to find children identify children who may be suspected of having a disability we refer to that as the child’s find provision and every year school districts are required to go out and look for kids who might have a suspected disability and that includes kids who are homeless kids who live in you know we’re in hospitals children who are migrant children kids in foster care private schools so so there is that obligation to look for kids who have a disability but if you suspect your child has a disability and you have the right to request that the school district evaluate your child so I would first say talk to your child you see whether or not they agree the and then make a referral and often the teacher may not agree because they’ve been told you know well first we have to try multi-tiered systems of support or try these other things and the answer is no you don’t have to wait if you think your child has a disability and could benefit from special education you have the right to request a comprehensive evaluation Thank You Marilyn okay so Marilyn any final takeaway so if we go into the specific questions folks are typing into the zoom chat and in into the zoom Q&A and onto the Facebook live stream yeah I think the most important thing is to remember that you are your child’s best advocate you know your child best you have been come with your child and presumably for the last several months as you know how your child experience this this pandemic and you know whether or not they have ever proved their behaviors have worsened you know you you were best to know your child so you know when you hit a brick wall you know as we talked about you go to the school ask for an IEP meeting asked to talk to the teachers ask to talk to the schools school officials but you know as to what you believe that you that your child needs and if you need if you don’t get what you’re looking for then you just give us a call or our community partners at all great Thank You Marilyn um so thank you so much for this first 30 minutes we’re now gonna start answering more questions so you can go ahead and type those questions into these young Q&A box at the bottom of your screen if you’re joining us by zoom or you can keep entering those into Facebook live okay so Rachel can you tell us are you aware of the Vermont law or so tell us about the Vermont law that may allow students who have IEP s when they’re turning 22 years old to make a request to their IEP team just stay for an additional four months in school tell us about that I’m so special education is available to students and from the time that they are born through age 22 depending on the students and typically in Vermont the way that that’s been interpreted is that the student can stay in school through this semester in which they turn 22 so that may be four months for some students but it may be less than that for other students I’m not aware of a four month period Marilyn you may know something I don’t but I’m not aware of a whole extra four month period no I’m not not that I’m aware of I mean school districts have the right to extend that mr. h ‘l said through the school year but no there’s you know typically the entitlement to special education ends i’m your 22nd birthday okay i’m so it sounds like if someone has a specific issue around this if there is a student with a disability that’s turning 22 years old and that may mean need in a dish for months that be a time to reach out to devour my legal aid to the disability Law Project to get some support for that individual absolutely we can research

that – okay more questions here maybe you want to start with this one if a parent gets a letter from their doctor saying that their child can’t return to in-person school for health reasons is the school obligated to continue the child’s IEP using distance learning the school is obligated to continue to provide your child with services you are entitled to home based services so obviously that letter needs to be shared with the school district and then you need to have an IEP team meeting to talk about what’s the best way for your child to receive the services and supports that he or she needs so if school goes back to in-person but your child can’t go back in person because of a medical reason that the doctor is backing up that’d be the time to have an IEP meeting and get that this perfect and they’re you know they’re up so sorry that was your breaking up a little bit there are also other laws so you know you’d be asking essentially essentially for reasonable accommodation that your child would be entitled to have an educational services at home there are some you know again it’s case-by-case so you might that parent might want to give us a call and and there are some provisions relative to students who are homebound there are some provisions relative to students or in hospitals so it would be worth probably the parent giving us a call and having a conversation with us about what’s the best way and what what they can anticipate but certainly there needs to be an IEP team meeting to talk about how to deliver services to the child I don’t Thank You Marilyn okay so Rachel do you want to talk about let’s see this looks like a question about the special education rules that are open and whether it’s important for parents to give their input to changes that they would like to see I’m a special education rules the special education rules the Vermont special education not the federal ones are currently open for public comments that is because Vermont is changing its funding formula to a census based funding model for special education we’re not really going to get into that today but yes the rules are open and the legislature has passed a lot of it’s now in the governor’s hand that would extend the period for public comment on those rules to the end of December of this year so if there are problems that you see with the special education rules then you can absolutely provide public comment either in person and a Board of Education meeting or writing to the Board of Education to explain changes that you would want to see those rules Rachel it sounds like one of the disability law projects partner organizations the Vermont family network is saying here that they have a parent survey posted on their Facebook page for folks that also want great home the Vermont family networks okay Jamie will reshare that on from a legal aids page to okay well I don’t know I’d also say that we have the disability Law Project in conjunction with some other advocates education advocates have prepared a proposed draft of the rolls provisions and those are available for parents to review on the State Board of Education website so review those and if you support those changes and there’s some changes on there that we feel pretty strongly about in terms of the liddie standards or special education that we don’t know are consistent with federal law there’s some notice requirements that would give parents more notice that we’re proposing so I’d encourage parents to take a look at the proposed rules that we have made it kind of hard to read because of the way they’re presented but certainly it would be helpful if parents took a look at those and if they agree to say that to the State Board those proposed changes by Vermont legal aid are on the agency of Education is a website it sounds like in that comment section in the State Board of Education website State Board of Education website got it thank you okay so we’ve got some more questions here about when the extension process for students that are turning 22 within four months of graduation there is someone from the Vermont Agency of Education saying that there is an ascension process and they’re citing 16 vs a statute 2944 section e in it so

thank you John for chiming in there so we’re just citing this thing that says within the limits of the funds made available for special education the Secretary may provide for the extension of special education to a disabled students so that sounds like an option and again if someone’s in that specific situation we’re reaching out to Vermont legal it’s disability Law Project or to or to the partner organizations like the Vermont family network or the Federation is helpful okay so um another great question here if a parent decides to home-school 100% what is the school’s obligation to provide IEP services so that on whether the parent is deciding that and the IEP team is agreeing that that’s the appropriate placement which is pretty unusual most IEP teams don’t agree that homeschooling is the appropriate placement so usually a decision to home-school is what’s called a unilateral placement and the homeschool student will be treated the same as any student that’s unilaterally placed into a an independent school in the state so what our special education rules provide for at that point is essentially what’s called an equitable services plan so you can still meet with your school district and see what they can provide to you but many of the rights that parents have whose students are attending public school or placed through public education are much more limited if you make a unilateral placement and I think it will be interesting going forward thinking about it just goes back to the prior question unable to return to school because of health concerns and what obligations this blizzard may have in that situation versus the situation that Rachel is describing where the parent is choosing to homeschool the child there may be different obligations so we may see some some interesting situations going forward about children who are not able to be in the school building because of their medical concerns and having to rethink how they get their education make sense okay so and you’ve said that there’s this unilateral decision meaning that the family is deciding this and the school district does not agree okay okay um so here’s some other question from Facebook any thoughts for parents of students who are aging out during this school year if their student hasn’t been able to fully benefit from their transition goals due to Kovac 19 can I add up in here I think that a parent needs to ask for an IEP team meeting and and have a conversation have a conversation about what the goals are and make a have a conversation about how the student can complete those goals so it would it’s probably not an unusual situation and this in this time for many students not to have met their transition goals and be prepared to graduate with their class so I mean there’s some requirements regarding going through graduation exercises if you haven’t completed your education but but if you’re focusing specifically on the transition goals the parent you know that the family and the students should be meeting with the school on talking about how the student can continue to meet those those goals get their needs met I would add I think we would see the best practice schools to be to offer to essentially provide compensatory services for some period of time to make up for the inability to do that transition plan program because of komen but if a parent if a student can’t get the team to just agree I think that’s again it’s a time to look at whether trying to mediate with the school over that issue or filing and due process for that compensatory education might might or might not make sense for a particular situation I think it depends on how much was missed and how close to meeting those goals the student mmm-hmm that makes sense that may be a time to take advantage of that or to request that four-month extension potentially when we’re talking about compensatory services or extended school year services as well and that makes a lot of sense for students that are aging out during this school year okay um so any other questions folks have make sure you’re typing those into zoom I appreciate all the questions we’ve gotten so far those have been fantastic um let’s see so how can we talk a little bit he’s not a little more about we talked about IEP team meetings what about someone with a 504 what would be their first step for some of these

disagreements or getting additional supports Rachel do you want to start sure so just as we say usually start with the IEP team if your student has a 504 plan start with the final 14 and get that group together again make that request in writing if you need it by a legal advice ahead of time you can call us if you need parents support ahead of time again be a fan or the Federation of families for children’s mental health and try talk to the team about what the issue is if that doesn’t resolve the problem it’s slightly different what the options are for a 504 student you can still request mediation you can still file for due process but the administrative complaint process the the asking that agency of Education to investigate that’s specific to the special education law called the I DEA instead of that what 504 students can do is find a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for the US Department of Education and asked them to investigate so that’s kind of the alternative to the administrative complaint process and in some circumstances the Human Rights Commission may be able to investigate as well because they are charged with investigating discrimination not just for disabilities but for all the protected classes and that would include discrimination in the schools thank you Rachel okay so we have another question here um do students who have disabilities are compromised immune systems who go back to in-person school have a legal right to protect themselves by way of having all other students wear masks my understanding is that it will be mandatory for school staff to wear masks but for students it’s optional class this is a question about accommodations and I guess could there be a reasonable accommodation for having other students for masks does that specific to this individual student or is it sort of general to have a general answer what becomes a reasonable accommodation is a very individualized determination I would suggest that if that’s something that a particular family is concerned about that they give us a call so that we can understand more of the details of why they might be asking for that in that in a specific circumstance it sounds like a lot of students with disabilities that have compromised immune systems may be looking for some reasonable accommodations to manage risk in the FAL absolutely and it’s important that they confer with their physicians it’s gonna be very important to have the medical and it may be that as part of a conversation with the school district the the family brings in the pediatrician or the doctor and and talk about how can we reduce exposure how can we reduce risk certainly seen that happen in other situations where medical providers are willing to participate in that conversation about how can we keep this child safe and at the same time understand the nature of the school environment in the classroom I think it also raises an issue that is part of the special education law called least restrictive environment right so a student should be educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate to the student and so for some students it may be that their physicians position is going to be that the only way to keep that student safe because of the extent of their medical condition is to serve them at home and it may be that for other students there are ways to adapt the environment at school so that they can continue to participate with their non-disabled peers Thank You Rachel I’m Marilyn okay so I have another question here the Vermont Agency of Education is saying that students do not need to meet transition goals but only need to have access to those services and supports this is making it hard for families to advocate any advice I’m guessing are advices people should call us is that true people can definitely call us I mean one of the realities of special education law is it is not a right to the best education that a student can possibly have and although an appropriate public education includes you know providing services that are reasonably calculated to make this to allow the student to make progress reasonably and visitors from her circumstances it’s not actually a promise that a student will achieve all of their goals and so that’s I think part of where that’s coming from and so yeah I would say that if there are some transition from programming challenges that that’s that’s an appropriate time to to give us a call II get some legal

advice thank you can we talk a little bit about the key discipline I know that for my legal aide has done some research about students with disabilities and discipline as well as students with disabilities that are students of color or black students and discipline can you talk a little bit about your work around that Rachel or I’ll work around that sure so several years ago one of our colleagues put together a report called kickdown that you can still find out on our website and unfortunately what we found is that there is a difference between the frequency at which students with disabilities and students of color are suspended or expelled and also the frequency at which they are subjected to what costs restraint or seclusion in schools and nobody wants for that to be the case students with disabilities students with this without disabilities do have some due process rights when it comes to suspension or expulsion and there are rules around the allowable and non allowable use of restraint and seclusion so if a student has been suspended or expelled or is facing a suspension or expulsion you can definitely be giving us a call for advice about what is that what is required in terms of due process and you know there are circumstances or we may be able to help in those cases and similar with restraint seclusion Thanks so it sounds like we know that there’s a disproportionate impact on students of color with disabilities we would encourage those families to call us if or when those things are happening the human right mr. Gay Marilyn race-based discrimination you cut out an in-school okay again yes sir the Vermont human right the Vermont Human Rights Commission will also investigate complaints of discrimination based on other protected classes in addition to disability that race gender sexual identity religion so if there are students who are discriminated against whether its discipline or other things going on in the school they can file a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission and other projects in Vermont maybe there may be some room for us to represent or at least talk to parents and students if there had been you know harassment or violent threats made against kids so people should call Vermont legal aid in kindergarten just finish this we know this is a national systemic wrap yep definitely national definitely systemic okay so back to a different note we just heard that about the extension where students are maybe turning 22 and aging out during the school year during the pandemic it sounds like from John that technically the special education director would be applying for that extension so the family would reach out to the director or ask their case manager to do that application and the application there needs to be some support around that it would go to to John so the email address to get that support would be John Finnie at Vermont gov so Jo HN dot spin-2 I add Vermont gov thank you so much John fit on okay so let’s see um do so I know that we’re focused on students of color with disabilities can you speak about any anti-racist school practices that you know of that are maybe being discussed in Vermont to support those students of color with disabilities hmm so I’m not sure that I can say safely that things are being discussed in Vermont right now although I hope that it does become a discussion that we can start having it’s definitely a piece that I’m very interested in and it has to do with the use of what are called school resource officers or SROs in our schools this is when school districts contract with a local police depart to have a police presence in school and what we’re seeing around the country are some school districts making the decision that that is not something that they want to have happening any longer

and there are other ways to support our students to keep them safe in school so that’s one thing another thing is the we talked a bit about the suspensions and expulsions and there can be a disproportionate impact on students of color and students with disability and again I think we’ve been making strides in promoting positive behavioral interventions and supports in Vermont but students are still suspended and expelled and so if there are ways to reduce or eliminate suspensions and expulsions and move to more restorative justice practices in schools I think that would be a positive step forward in our schools becoming more anti-racist thank you and I guess I can also add here Marilyn you were just talking about the Human Rights Commission so know this is a priority for the Human Rights Commission as well among human rights commission and I just want to echo what Rachel said is that we’re very concerned about the over reliance on school resource officers not only relative to students of color students who are migrant so that you know other sort of disadvantaged students were also concerned about school resource officers and how they interact with kids with disabilities and we’re very concerned about what that’s going to look like in the fall when kids come back and we know that many kids have been in very vulnerable situations and we so we’re concerned about that and we’re also concerned about as Rachel said the the overall restraint I’m sorry suspensions and expulsions and we are actually reaching out with our community partners this is a becoming a nationwide movement where schools our communities are demanding that schools cancel contracts with school resource officers and so we’re legal aid has started reaching out to our community partners and having conversations about how we can address that concern here in Vermont Thank You Marilyn and thank you so much for your time today any last thoughts you want to leave our audience with this has been a fantastic conversation with a lot of really great questions coming in I guess I can say that to reach the disability Law Project you start by calling from out legal aid and legal services Vermont’s phone number which is eight hundred eight eight nine two zero four seven and we also have a lot of information about special education on the website the Vermont legal aid and legal services Vermont have put together together the webpages WWV cheela health org so that’s always a resource for families and I know that you all take on over a hundred cases every year helping families and giving advice to families with issues with around students with disabilities that are not getting as much appropriate free and public education and that’s needed so any other last comments here well can I just say I would also make a plug for Vermont family network and folks turning to their website I often turn to their website for resources when I’m being asked a question because it’s quick it’s easy to find it’s well it’s well researched and it’s well done so definitely contact Vermont family Network you can google them and find them that way and can get a lot of questions answered which and you know you’re unable to resolve things please call us we’re happy to talk to you to think through things and look at records on occasion and as we said in some instances represent you to help ensure your children get the education they’re entitled to I think the only other thing I would add that Maryland talked about at the beginning is the disability Law Project special education is a lot of what we do it’s not the only thing we do so if your special education is knowing great we’re so happy for you if your student or you as a person with a disability are having some other legal issue that’s arising out of your disability you can call us for advice thank you so the Vermont family Network website is is for children’s mental health is WWWF FC MH gorg there’s also a Vermont Federation of families for children great great okay perfect okay well with that um you can always find this recording later on please do reach out with additional questions and thank you so much for joining us Rachel and Marilyn thanks Miglia thank you