Woodsmall Law Group

Woodsmall Law Group Woodsmall Law Group - Exceptional Lawyers for Exceptional Children TM Woodsmall Law Group is a small boutique firm located in the San Gabriel Valley.

Our firm provides experienced, practical and sophisticated representation with a focus in the area of special education law. The firm is led by Mark Woodsmall, a civil litigator by training and a parent of a disabled child. We offer the services of attorneys to better assist families in navigating the special education system. One major component of our firm focuses on community outreach and empowerment. We have developed complimentary workshops for parents, therapists, and other professionals, a “community empowerment” project, special education planning kits, parent resources, and an article library designed to assist caregivers in expanding their knowledge base in special education.

Mission: We believe that every individual contributes to the collective progress of our community and society. Through education we seek to empower children to reach their fullest potential and live rewarding and successful lives. Our firm is dedicated to ensuring that each child is afforded the educational support needed to reach that opportunity. We exist to empower parents with knowledge about the educational choices available to the special needs community. We strongly believe that empowerment through education and knowledge of one’s rights is vital to the meaningful advancement of each client’s future.

Operating as usual

Good news out of OAH.  A recent stay put order seems to open the door to one to one learning supports for kids with spec...
08/26/2020

Good news out of OAH. A recent stay put order seems to open the door to one to one learning supports for kids with special needs, learning from home. This is a very encouraging sign for our kids who can't access their education without this essential support! Please see comment below for page 7. All pages did not upload with the first effort.

This year's back-to-school season is unlike any other and fast approaching. Take a look at this guide from NPR designed ...
08/18/2020
20 Questions To Help Decide What's Best For Your Kids (And You) This School Year : Life Kit

This year's back-to-school season is unlike any other and fast approaching. Take a look at this guide from NPR designed to help you think through the tough choices you may be facing regarding your child's education.

Families with children are in a serious bind. Whether you're looking for options for child care or need resources to keep your kid entertained, this episode will walk through some ideas to think about for this school year.

Join us on August 12th at 2:00 p.m to hear the latest in what state and federal guidance means and how it affects your r...
08/07/2020
What Are My Special Ed Rights During COVID-19? | Woodsmall Law Group

Join us on August 12th at 2:00 p.m to hear the latest in what state and federal guidance means and how it affects your rights from Attorney Mark Woodsmall, founder of Woodsmall Law Group. This is a free online event with Spanish interpretation provided. Please RSVP at the link below.

http://www.woodsmalllawgroup.com/calendar/what-are-my-special-ed-rights-during-covid-19/

Back to school is approaching, and many are still confused about how their student can receive an educational benefit through online learning, how IEP goals

07/31/2020
www.woodsmalllawgroup.com

Special Education Programming During COVID-19: how to plan your student’s services - Contribution by Rachel Lieburt, Esq.

The exceptional circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic do not excuse local educational agencies (LEAs) from ensuring students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with their individualized educational program (IEP). IEPs include not only academic support, but services for foundational life skills. Many of these services require the support of professionals such as occupational therapists and speech language pathologists, whose traditional work with students has been severely disrupted. Here, we will review recent guidance and newly enacted legislation that directs the implementation of IEPs during the pandemic, and provide suggestions for how you can protect your student’s rights.

Classrooms Are Closed But Learning Must Continue
Although Governor Newsom has directed schools to close their classrooms, he has clearly directed that “school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic,” and that “learning should never stop.” Furthermore, newly enacted legislation added Section 43503(b) to the California Education Code to require targeted supports and interventions for special education students, including accommodations necessary to implement IEPs through a distance model.

IEPs and Distance Learning
California Education Code Section 56345 was recently amended to require IEPs to include an individualized description of how a student’s educational program will be implemented under certain emergency conditions, including an epidemic, during which instruction and/or services cannot be provided to a student “either at the school or in person for more than 10 school days.”
Your student’s IEP should include a protocol for implementation in emergency situations such as that created by COVID-19. You and your IEP team should create this emergency protocol together. Remember, the mandate requires an “individualized description,” meaning services should be tailored to consider your student’s unique needs. As a caregiver, and now as a de facto homeschool teacher, you are in the best position to guide this conversation.

Come to your IEP meeting with specific examples of what has and has not worked for your student so far. You may want to create a list of observations in advance of the meeting to help the team craft a plan for continued distance learning.

In-person vs. Distance Services
The emergency protocol in your student’s IEP will need to account for new distance learning and remote service programs. However, some students with disabilities cannot effectively access their curriculum and related services remotely.

The California Department of Education (CDE) released guidance on April 9, 2020, which suggests that schools may provide in-person special education services during the pandemic if: (1) the service provider is considered an essential worker, and; (2) providing remote programming is not practical.

Executive Order N-33-20 defines “essential workers” as those who “provide support to vulnerable populations to ensure their health and well-being including…[w]orkers supporting public and private...K-12 schools...for purposes of distance learning…” CDE’s April 9, 2020 statement provides further guidance and states, “if an individualized determination is made that a student needs services or supports in-person to maintain their mental/physical health and safety for the purpose of supporting the student in accessing the alternative options for learning being offered (e.g. distance learning), an LEA is not necessarily precluded from providing that service by Governor Newsom’s stay at home order.” To take this point home: service providers can provide in-person supports for your student if you meet the criteria above.

A student’s need for in-person services depends on numerous factors, and each case requires an individualized analysis. As we prepare for the coming school year this is an excellent time to request an IEP team meeting to review your student’s unique needs and how they can be addressed in these unusual circumstances. Remember, the availability of in-person services hinges upon the practicality of remote sessions, and the health, safety, and comfort of all parties are paramount. We do not recommend requesting or accepting services that you feel put your family or anyone else at undue risk. Furthermore, it is essential that all persons adhere to government guidelines and best practices including maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.

If your student is not eligible for in-person services, or if you do not feel safe receiving them, you can still engage in remote programming. Virtual and remote services may not be as effective as in-person sessions, but the goal is to prevent regression to the greatest extent possible while maintaining health and safety. If your student regresses during the course of the pandemic you may seek compensatory services to recuperate.

Compensatory Education
All of our students are struggling to learn and maintain a sense of normalcy right now. Despite school districts’ best efforts, the special education programming and services that they are able to offer at this time are not the same as what your student normally receives. If your student loses functional or academic skills during the pandemic you may seek additional services to remediate the loss in the future.

The decision about student’s eligibility compensatory services will be based on an individual analysis of the student’s needs. In accordance with CDE guidance, LEAs and IEP teams should collaborate to make this determination based on factors such as: “whether or not the student continued making progress in the general education curriculum, or alternative course of study specified in their IEP, or toward meeting their individualized IEP goals and/or if any regression occurred during the period of school site closure.” You can find more detailed information about compensatory education in the guidance document here..
This is an extremely stressful and difficult time for everyone, and you and your IEP team are in this together. Remember that the team ultimately has your student’s health, safety, and educational progress at heart and that everyone is doing their best to navigate unfamiliar circumstances. As always, we recommend maintaining a collaborative spirit and prioritizing your and your student’s health and safety above all else.

Woodsmall Law Group is here to support you and your family. If you have questions regarding this guidance or any other issue related to your child's special education needs, please feel free to call upon us. www.woodsmalllawgroup.com

07/30/2020

Hope for Families... the Courts begin to interpret protections for IDEA rights for children who cannot access distance learning. Contribution by Rebecca O’Malley, Esq.

This has been a challenging year for the parents of children who require intensive, hands-on services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy or ABA therapy in order to access their education. Even if the parents have worked collaboratively with their school district to create an IEP that will provide these services, the Covid-related school closures have led some districts to only offer those services remotely. Unfortunately, for many children, remote services may be inadequate to provide them with sufficient support to permit learning. As this situation has never arisen in the past, it has been difficult to predict whether the courts will find that the provision of remote services may be deemed to adequately fulfill the school district’s obligations under the IDEA in all circumstances.

Recently, however, at least one federal court has found that there may be circumstances that warrant requiring the district to provide in-person services. Last week, on July 17, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that in circumstances where the IEP clearly contemplated that services would be provided in person, and the District cannot establish that its remote learning option is sufficient to meet the unique needs of the child in question, then the court may order that the school district provide in-person services through collaboration with independent providers who are currently available and willing to provide these therapies.

In this case, LV on behalf of J.V.2 v. NYC Dept. of Education, SDNY, July 17, 2020 – No. 19-CV-05451 (AT) (KHP)[1], parent was seeking implementation of her child’s “stay put” placement which included 10 hours each week of ABA therapy; 180 minutes per week of speech therapy; 180 minutes per week of occupational therapy; and 135 weekly minutes of physical therapy. When the pandemic led to school closures, the New York Department of Education offered to provide these services remotely through an iPad program. The parent, however, was not able to “effectively use the device . . . for his remote learning sessions, as [the student] would not sit still and the device’s internet connection was not reliable”. As a result, the parent was forced to locate private therapists who were able to provide these required services to her child in person. Having thereby discovered that in-person services were available elsewhere, parent brought a claim requesting that the court order the department of education to utilize these independent therapists to provide in-person services to her child, where possible, for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year.

The court found that “[t]here can be no dispute that occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy for a child who is not yet in kindergarten cannot be provided through a computer as well as they can be in person . . .” Even though the department of education argued that thousands of other special education students were receiving their services remotely via iPad, the court still found that they “did not make an argument regarding the sufficiency of remote learning for [this student] specifically.” (Emphasis added). The court continues, “Nowhere in the DOE’s opposition papers does it explain how certain services that appear inherently subject to in-person delivery, such as physical therapy, could be appropriately and remotely delivered . . .” In summary, “DOE has not adequately explained how its computer-based services are a satisfactory substitute for [this student] during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor conducted an evaluation of how remote services can be delivery to [student] to meet his individual needs.”

The court therefore ordered the department of education to:

1) provide in-person services to this student, to the degree it is possible to do so safely and in compliance with current health and safety regulations;

2) work with independent service providers identified by parent who are willing to provide these in-person services, to the extent they are qualified and charge appropriate rates;

3) “ . . . immediately conduct an independent assistive technology evaluation to assess [student’s] individual needs and the software required to deliver his required services, remotely, to the extent certain services cannot be provided in-person due to the current pandemic.”

This decision may provide us with some useful guidance on how to collaborate with districts on the provision of certain services during the school closure period. First, it may be useful to provide your school district with the names of any local independent service providers who are currently able and willing to provide in-person services. Second, ask your IEP team to consider conducting an assistive technology assessment to determine what type of remote learning tools can provide the best substitute for any in-person services that are currently unavailable. Combined, these two tools can provide the entire IEP team with more tools to assure successful educational access in the fall.

[1] Portions of this article also refer to the supporting Report and Recommendation of July 8, 2020 published by the same court under the same case number.

Is Your Child With Special Needs Struggling with Online Learning?  This First Article in a series takes on the issue of ...
07/27/2020
Program Information: FAQs and Responses | U.S. Department of Education

Is Your Child With Special Needs Struggling with Online Learning?

This First Article in a series takes on the issue of regression in learning during the prolonged Stay at Home orders. You Have Options.

Federal Guidance and Advocacy During COVID-19
Mark Woodsmall, Esq.
Justin Youngs, Esq.

With the 2020-2021 school year upon us, and most local school districts beginning the year in a distance-learning format, many families may be wondering about their options in advocating for their child with special needs. Federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Education in recent months provides a roadmap to work collaboratively with school districts to ensure your child’s needs are met during this difficult time.

Federal Special Education Guidance

On March 12, 2020 the U.S. Department of Education (“USDOE”) issued guidance regarding provision of special education services during the COVID-19 outbreak that is still in effect. Under this guidance, the USDOE advised that if your local district continues to provide educational opportunities to the student population, the school must ensure that students with disabilities have “equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE.”

Districts in this scenario must, “make every effort to provide special education and related services in accordance with the child’s IEP,” and “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA.” IEP teams should also examine whether compensatory services are needed make up for skills lost.

To review this guidance and more, please visit: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus/program-information

Using Federal Guidance to Advocate for Your Child

If you find that your child is having difficulty accessing his or her education and related services through a distance learning model, consider the following:

- Work with your local district to address these concerns by calling an IEP team meeting. At the meeting, the above federal guidance can provide a road map for addressing your concerns. For instance, knowing that the USDOE requires districts to “make every effort to provide special education and related services” during distance learning, you can discuss with the IEP team what efforts have been made to provide the services in your child’s IEP.

- Request documentation or data logs that show how IEP goals are being addressed, and how services have been delivered. Additionally, understanding that districts “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible” services and supports in the IEP are being provided, the team should discuss how your child can access the education and services in their IEP during remote learning.

- Ask about the supports, equipment, and services needed to ensure that the IEP can be implemented. The goal of this discussion should be to understand what the IEP team has done previously to implement the IEP, and how to ensure access to education and related services moving forward. If appropriate, compensatory services should be discussed to address regression in skills during distance learning.

Final Thoughts

We understand distance learning remains an obstacle for many children with special needs, and there is fear of further regression with continued remote learning in the fall. We encourage families to work collaboratively with their school teams to find the appropriate solutions for their child’s unique needs using federal and state guidance.

Woodsmall Law Group remains open during this difficult time to support our families and answer any questions that you may have. Together, with our school partners and local community at-large, we strive to do our part in successfully navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

To access this and other special education articles on line, please visit our website www.woodsmalllawgroup.com

Our mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

Address

2076 Lincoln Avenue
Pasadena, CA
91105

Opening Hours

Monday 08:30 - 17:30
Tuesday 08:30 - 17:30
Wednesday 08:30 - 17:30
Thursday 08:30 - 17:30
Friday 08:30 - 17:30

Telephone

+16264400028

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