Hopeful for the future
Refused to be left behind
A long road to success
From frustration and failure to a promising future
When two of her sons experienced serious problems in school, Agnes called Partnership for Children’s Rights for help. One of the boys had developed an eating disorder and had become so withdrawn and anxious that he rarely left the house, while the other was acting out so much in school that his ability to learn was significantly impaired.
The attorney interviewing Agnes uncovered a host of problems that contributed to the family’s lack of ability to function. Once employed as a registered nurse, Agnes had lost her job due to a major injury and had fallen into a severe depression. Left homeless and without an income, she continued to worry about her children’s education that seemed totally off track due to the emotional and behavioral problems they displayed.
Helping Agnes feel less overwhelmed, PFCR staff addressed each distinct problem, one step at a time. A referral to an organization handling housing issues assisted Agnes in securing permanent housing, while a PFCR attorney specializing in social security disability benefits helped her to obtain financial assistance to manage her sons’ special needs. The special education lawyer worked with the Department of Education in placing the children in appropriate school programs. The family was also referred for counseling to work through the many emotional issues facing them.
Today, Agnes feels hopeful about her family’s future. With a stable housing situation and well enough to hold a part time job, she is happy to see her two young boys enrolled in school, involved in extracurricular activities and preparing for a college education. Agnes feels that the people at PFCR really care and says: “I contacted Partnership for Children’s Rights for help for my sons’ school problems, but I received so much more than that.”
Carla, a 15-year-old student with limited cognitive functioning, improved her reading skills when she received one-on-one tutoring during her last year in middle school. When she graduated to high school, the tutoring stopped, and the child’s grandmother contacted PFCR for help after the Department of Education had rejected her request for continued support.
The attorney learned that because Carla had been enrolled in a “failing” school, she had received tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act. When Carla was assigned to a high school not designated as failing, she was no longer automatically entitled to tutoring. As the child’s guardian, Carla’s grandmother objected to the placement on the grounds that the school’s focus is on vocational training and offers little, if any, remedial services to the student. The DOE claimed that Carla could not benefit from additional tutoring because of her low cognitive abilities.
At an administrative hearing, Carla’s former tutor provided testimony indicating that the child did well the previous year and her reading had improved. She also predicted that Carla’s reading would continue to improve with additional one-on-one remedial services. The PFCR attorney prevailed and the Impartial Hearing Officer granted the requested relief and ordered three hours of weekly individual tutoring for the entire school year.
Within a six-month period, Daniel had been given three successive and different disability classifications. He had been assigned to a school that had no place for him, and home instruction provided for a time by the Department of Education had been terminated. Moreover, upon examining Daniel’s various Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), it was discovered that each IEP contained two inconsistent versions of a significant page (Social/Emotional Performance), one of which obviously described someone other than Daniel, and yet, time and again, appeared in the IEP as applicable to Daniel.
PFCR organized a team to deal with Daniel’s problems, consisting of an attorney, a former public school guidance counselor, and a social work school graduate student serving an internship with us under supervision. The guidance counselor and intern proceeded to attend a scheduled Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting with Daniel’s parents, at which agreement was apparently reached for a rewriting of Daniel’s IEP and for an appropriate special education school assignment. To our dismay, the next day, without our participation, the CSE reversed itself.
Our attorney promptly drafted and filed with the Department of Education a formal request for an expedited administrative hearing, setting forth in the request the facts of the case and demanding appropriate relief. At this point the tide turned. Without the need for a hearing, our team negotiated an appropriate public school setting and program for Daniel. One year later, his father reports that, “Daniel continues to show improvement in the placement and program that PFCR secured.”
When Carmen was eleven, her behavior was deteriorating at home and in the classroom. She was becoming increasingly aggressive and had more and more trouble learning—even in her special education class with teachers trained to respond to students with special needs. Because of altercations with staff and peers, Carmen was re-evaluated and examined by a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with a disorder that needed to be managed with medication. The psychiatrist recommended that Carmen be placed in a very structured and restrictive educational setting which would allow her to make academic progress while providing additional emotional support.
Subjected to a long daily commute, Carmen cheerfully boarded the school bus that would take her from her Bronx home to the downtown Brooklyn day treatment program. However, the long daily trips turned out to be worth it. Carmen responded extremely well to the program and learned to manage her behavior, maintain good grades and improve tremendously in her mood, attitude, and motivation.
After about a year in the program, everyone involved in Carmen’s academic and mental health care agreed that Carmen was ready to return to a less restrictive setting in a school near her home in the Bronx. Eager to learn, Carmen was looking forward to a shorter commute, as well as the promise of a possible social life at a school within her own community.
Encouraged by her progress, Carmen’s father started the process of initiating a transfer, but did not anticipate that it would take more than two years and an intervention by a lawyer before his daughter would finally be placed in an appropriate school.
The staff of the Brooklyn program kept reminding the family that Carmen no longer needed the intensive programming and restrictive setting they provided. In fact, the longer she lingered in this environment, the more discouraged and less motivated Carmen became. Unfortunately, as her father’s efforts and his pleas for a transfer with the Department of Education went nowhere, Carmen was in danger of dropping out of school completely because she felt increasingly bored and out of place. Numerous letters later and at the end of their rope after more than two years, the family called Partnership for Children in desperation.
In a meeting with a PFCR attorney, it became obvious that Carmen’s right to the “least restrictive environment” as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) was clearly violated. The attorney set the process in motion by requesting a review of Carmen’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and demanding an Impartial Hearing to force a resolution of the very frustrating and debilitating situation. Carmen’s evaluations and records were reviewed by PFCR social service consultants and her progress confirmed with school and mental health providers.
Proceeding with a request for a review of Carmen’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and gathering all the requisite documentation, PFCR forced the DOE to pay attention to a child lingering in an inappropriate environment. With the intervention of PFCR staff, Carmen was finally transferred to a neighborhood school where she is reportedly happy and progressing nicely toward a high school diploma—and a brighter future.