The Law Firm of Charlotte G. Carne

The Law Firm of Charlotte G. Carne I am an attorney and advocate for children with special needs. I work collaboratively with schools and parents to advocate for these special children.


A little good news for special education parents living in Michigan. On Monday, the 6th Circuit upheld a child's right to be educated in the least restrictive environment. In L.H. v. Hamilton Cty. Dept. of Educ., the Court affirmed the district court decision finding that the school district violated IDEA when it demanded that a second-grade student with Downs Syndrome be removed from his general education classroom in his neighborhood school to a segregated special education classroom at another school. After affirming the district court's decision, the Sixth Circuit then allowed the parents to seek reimbursement for his private education at the Montessori school where L.H. was educated alongside his typically developing same-age peers in the general education classroom for the past FIVE years while the litigation was pending. For those who think it is easy to get reimbursement for a private education when the public schools fail -- it is not. Five years of litigation. However, a win for the least restrictive environment nonetheless.  T...
U.S. Court: Detroit students have no right to access to literacy This is so incredibly sad. One would think that Brown v. Board of Education would be persuasive enough authority to state that Michigan must do more than simply run schools.

On Friday, dumped out with the least desirable news of the week came word that a lawsuit arguing that Detroit students were being denied an...


Sixty-four years ago today the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that "in the field of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place." I'm proud to be doing the work I do today to make sure that students with disabilities realize this promise.


Thank you Siobhan Norman for my great new website. See


Another great result on behalf of a deaf and hard of hearing kiddo. It just goes to show what can be accomplished when all parties put their egos aside, and really, truly focus on the best interest of the child. Really, really proud of what the team accomplished.


On Tuesday, the President released a proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The proposed budget includes a 13.5% cut ($9.2 billion) to the U.S. Department of Education which includes a $154 million cut to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B state formula grants. Title I, funding to states for disadvantaged students, is reduced by $1 billion, but added back to the budget overall as a means to encourage states to adopt school choice. IDEA Part B, which provides states funding for special education, is currently proposed to be funded at $12 billion which represents a $154 million reduction from FY 2017.

For those of us on the ground working hard for disadvantaged kids, and kids requiring special education services, this is disheartening. As a group, we are going to need to come together to advocate for these deserving children. Now the difficult part: How?


It is sobering when you get five new clients in one day. I love helping these kiddos, but there needs to be a better way to improve school systems for ALL kids with special needs.


Another great decision for children with special needs. The United States Supreme Court reversed the 10th Circuit decision in Endrew F today. Today the USSC affirmed what we as parents of special needs children know to be the promise of IDEA -- "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives."

Today's decision says: "To meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances. Some children with disabilities will advance from grade to grade progressing smoothly through the general education curriculum. For those who cannot, their education programs must be appropriately ambitious. Their goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives."

For children being education in the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, IDEA typically aims for grade-level advancement. For those educated in a modified general education curriculum, a school cannot satisfy its IDEA obligations by planning for "barely more than de minimis progress." In short, a student offered an educational program providing "merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all."

This is a huge win for all those students in resource rooms, categorical rooms or with modified curriculums in Ann Arbor. Teachers cannot just babysit these precious kids, they must teach them. Amen.


With a sick child at home, I finally read the entire Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools et al. opinion by Justice Kagan. First off, I really like her direct writing style. See Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch. et al., 540 U.S. __ (2017).

But to the main point. The issue presented in Fry was whether "a plaintiff bringing suit under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or similar laws must in certain circumstances -- that is, when 'seeking relief that is also available under' the IDEA--first exhaust the IDEA's administrative procedures." Id.

The Court held that a plaintiff must exhaust those administrative procedures "when (but only when) her suit 'seek[s] relief that is also available' under the IDEA." Id.

Therefore, a suit must seek relief for the denial of a FAPE for a Court to insist that the plaintiff exhaust administrative remedies. In determining whether a suit seeks relief for the denial of a FAPE, "a court should look to the substance, or gravamen, of the plaintiff's complaint." Id.

Justice Kagan gave what I thought was helpful guidance in determining whether the denial of a FAPE was the gravamen of a case (although Alito and Thomas thought the guidance was ill-advised). First, Justice Kagan stated a plaintiff can ask whether she could have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school? If the answer is yes, the complaint likely seeks, at the very least, relief that is provided by both IDEA and ADA and/or section 504 and should be analyzed regarding whether administrative remedies are necessary.

Second, Justice Kagan stated the plaintiff could ask whether an adult at the school could have pressed essentially the same claim.

In addition, Justice Kagan instructed the Sixth Circuit to look to see if the parents, before filing the federal suit, began to pursue, but then abandoned the IDEA's administrative procedures. This change of course could be due to many things, as Alito suggests, but one of those reasons could be that the parents are seeking remedies that do not need to be exhausted.

What does that mean to us? It just helps attorneys and parents determine what claims need to go to the Administrative Courts first. It seems most relevant to those students with physical disabilities that may bring lack of access claims as well as FAPE claims. It is also relevant when there is disability discrimination as well as denial of FAPE. Overall, it is good news for advocates.

Fry prevailed! More detailed analysis after I read the opinion.

Center for Parent Information and Resources | This website was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs No. H328R130014

So, I have been receiving a lot of calls, e-mails and messages from clients and non-clients about: 1. Betsy DeVos; and 2) the shut down of the US Department of Education's IDEA website. Here is a public response:
1. As most know, the Senate voted yesterday at about 12:30 p.m. ET to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I, along with many of you, worked hard to inform senators about the new Secretary. As a result of our effort, the new Secretary is aware of our deep commitment to children with special needs. Your stories about your kids are precisely what bring policies and positions to life in the eyes of our elected and nominated officials. I will continue to bring these stories in front of officials at all levels of government.
2. I have no idea why the US Department of Education's IDEA's website has been down for so long. However, I have just been informed that you can find all the information that was on that site, including the NICHCY resources on the National Center for Parent Information and Resources website, Good luck to all advocating for these special kids!

On December 28, 2016, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education released a suite of resources explaining the limits that federal civil rights laws impose on the use of restraint and seclusion by public elementary and secondary school districts. The suite includes a Dear Colleag...


As I'm sure most of the people following this page would guess, I oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General of the United States. However, my opposition is not a knee-jerk reaction to another one of Trump's nominations. The overriding mission of my new solo law firm is to protect the rights of students with disabilities. Senator Sessions proposed amendments and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of proposals to strip students with disabilities of their procedural rights. He has also indicated that he opposes students with disabilities being in the general education classroom. His record could not be clearer. I feel that, on behalf on my clients, I must publicly communicate my disapproval. The two-day confirmation hearing for Senator Sessions as the nominee for Attorney General of the United States will begin January 10, 2017. I am planning on working collaboratively with a group of disability attorneys to oppose his nomination.


I'm representing a young teen with Traumatic Brain Injury. She suffered a severe concussion when hit by the boom of a sailboat her freshman year of high school. It has been a struggle to get her school district to recognize her special needs because she is a "bright girl." She is bright. Very bright; and very mature. She also suffers from almost daily migraines, and vomits almost anytime she is in the high-sensory-environment of a general education classroom. She has pain everyday. Despite all of this, she is determined to earn not a GED, but an actual diploma. I'm inspired by these kids. I do not like fighting school districts. I would much rather work WITH them to help these kiddos. However, her fight and determination inspires me to keep pushing. . . . . Such truth in that strength. I am humbled by her and her mom's determination.


Just finished amending an IEP for a special little girl with dyspraxia and apraxia. The final product is excellent. My heart is full to have changed her educational experience for the better at the preschool level! Cannot wait to see what she can achieve. Kudos to her mama-warrior and my alma mater, Livonia Public Schools, for getting it done! Thanks also to Dr. Sue for the referral.


The U.S. Supreme Court just agreed to hear an appeal from an 11-year-old Michigan girl with cerebral palsy who switched schools after her service dog was not welcomed in a district in Jackson County. (The dog is absolutely adorable by the way!) The case is Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch. Dist. et. al. The actual issue in controversy involves exhaustion under the IDEA when the complaint filed in federal court does not seek IDEA relief, but solely seeks compensatory damages under Title II of the ADA and Section 504. This will be pertinent to many special education students who end up needing services that the public school cannot or will not provide.


I had the privilege of advocating for my first middle school student last week. I was honored to participate and so grateful that he is finally getting the services he needs to be successful. I'm very fortunate to have found my calling.


1706 Hermitage Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI


(734) 545-4858


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