Wednesday, 16 September 2015 13:57

Charter Schools

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Charter Schools Owe a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to Special Needs Students

What is a charter school? Most people know that charter schools are alternatives to local public schools. Charter schools are public schools, but are operated independently of local boards of education. They usually receive federal money as well as additional private donations or grants.  Unlike their local public school counterparts, charter schools are privately managed by their own charter school Board of Trustees.

Charter schools have leeway in determining their policies and programming. For this reason, they can be attractive to parents seeking an alternative learning environment. However, charter school boards are not free of government regulation. In fact, for the most part, they are bound by the same rules as all other public schools when it comes to identifying and serving students with special needs.


Food bullying is not to be taken lightly. For a child with a life threatening allergy it can mean serious illness or death--not to mention the anxiety and other psychological consequences from experiencing both bullying and a physical response to a life-threatening allergen. We now know that fifty percent of children with food allergies who are in grades six through ten report being the victim of food allergy bullying. Fortunately, food allergy bullying law has evolved. Education will take more time, as schools, children with allergies, their peers, teachers, administrators and health care professionals work together to implement the law and keep children with food allergies safe in school.


United States District Court Upholds SGW Victory Against Summit Schools

SGW lawyers

Sussan Greenwald and Wesler together with co-counsel Connell Foley prevailed over Summit Schools in a case that proves that "meaningful education benefit" is a concept that has teeth in  New Jersey. On July 27, 2015, in T.O. et al v. Summit City Board of Education, the United States District Court affirmed the July 2, 2012 decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The A LJ had held that Summit failed to provide a free, appropriate public education to a child, J.O., who suffered from apraxia of speech and dyspraxia. Jayne M. Wesler, a partner at SGW, tried the case before the ALJ for  J.O.'s parents.

Grandparents of children with special needs are often unsung heroes in their family’s lives. They are often tremendous advocates for these children. They provide incredible support to both their grandchildren and their parents who often face many challenges outside the home. When a special needs child comes into a family, grandparents, like parents, need time to go through the stages of blame, sadness, anger and acceptance as they adjust to how their expected roles may have changed. Once grandparents are ready to embrace the gift of special needs grandchildren and roll up their sleeves, there are many ways for them to help. The following suggestions come from the parents of special needs children.

  1. Learn about your grandchild’s special needs. The best way to help special needs children is to learn about their disabilities. Parents are often extremely grateful when grandparents take the time to research the childs conditionwhether it is emotional or behavioral (like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD or Tourettes Syndrome), physical (like epilepsy) or developmental (like autism and Down Syndrome). Sources of information for grandparents include books, trusted online sources, educational presentations and support groups. Grandparents who are armed with information are also likely to have a more positive relationship with their grandchildren because they have a better understanding of the childs needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Communicate with the child’s parents and offer support. For parents of special needs children, knowing that grandparents understand the childs disability can provide parents a sense of relief. There are other ways that grandparents can be a great source of strength and support to parents of special needs children. Grandparents who are willing and able to be present in their childrens and grandchildrens livessuch as by attending doctorsappointments and school eventswill be better able to speak openly with the parents about the grandchilds needs. If parents are willing to be open about the childs disability, grandparents may be open about it, too. Grandparents can further support parents by helping out with the familys hectic schedule or offering babysitting so parents can have respite.
  1. Help advocate for the special needs grandchild. Advocating for a child with special needs is difficult. The journey is emotional, time consuming, and there is a lot to know. Grandparents often take an active role in helping parents advocate for their special needs children. Grandparents can become educated about their grandchilds rights to special education and related services. Federal and State laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act, provides many rights for children with special needs enabling them to receive special education and services, often before the age of three. Grandparents can help parents focus on important issues during the ongoing process of advocating for a special needs child. A grandparents involvement can be tremendously helpful, especially since they know first-hand the emotional challenges that the parents face as the family navigates the special education system.
  1. Offer unconditional love. Special needs children receive a great deal of feedback from teachers and professionals who correct them. Parents report being inundated with information about what they shouldand their grandparents, alikeneed unconditional love and acceptance most of all. There is much grandparents can do to show this love. They can learn about their grandchildrens special interests, spend one-on-one time together, and develop their own special rituals with the child, such as simply taking a regular walk around the block. All of these shared experiences can help to create that prized grandparent-grandchild bond. Special needs children need that bond, perhaps even more than typical children.

Grandparents of special needs children have a lot to give, and they contribute meaningfully to the lives of special needs children every day. Special needs children benefit from having involved, nurturing grandparents. In return, grandparents get to experience the amazing discoveries and fulfillment that go along with loving a child with special needs and gifts.

“Today We Had a Substitute….”

Having a substitute teacher can be welcome news for some students. For those students, it can be a chance to try to break the rules and hopefully do less work. For other students—especially children with special needs—having a substitute teacher can be a source of uncertainly, anxiety, frustration and fear. In addition, when having a substitute means that special needs kids miss out on receiving needed supports or accommodations, a substitute can mean a difficult day, missed opportunities for learning, and even getting in trouble.

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