The students, faculty and staff of the Mills Legal Clinic’s Youth and Education Law Project completed the spring quarter with a series of wonderful accomplishments. In each of these projects, the students had opportunities to develop their expertise in factual investigations, legal writing, client counseling, negotiations, legal research and advocacy.
YELP Students Negotiate a High Schooler’s Return to School
Ashley Rogers (’12) and Peter Squeri (’12) represented fifteen-year-old J.T., a tenth-grader, in a school disciplinary matter. J.T. was suspended and faced possible expulsion from high school following an alleged off-campus incident during school hours. In lieu of initiating formal expulsion proceedings, the school district threatened to involuntarily transfer J.T. to a non-comprehensive continuation high school—an increasingly common practice that allows school administrators to effectively remove students from comprehensive high schools without due process. Ashley and Peter met with a school district representative and J.T. to negotiate an agreement in which J.T. would be allowed to return to his comprehensive high school. The school district dropped its recommendation to involuntarily transfer J.T. to the continuation high school and agreed to let J.T. return to his high school immediately. J.T. is now back in school, completing the remainder of his tenth-grade year.
YELP Students Secure Education Services for a Student with Mental Health Needs
When third grader “CC”‘s case first came to YELP, CC was in the hospital on a psychiatric hold. It was his second extended stay in the hospital due to his psychosis. CC also has autism and a speech and language impairment. When CC was released, the school district offered him a 2-hour per day placement, with the possibility that he could earn one additional hour pending five consecutive days of non-aggressive behavior. In short, CC had to earn back his time in school because of his disability. Furthermore, the school was not equipped to handle his needs, but refused to refer him to a school that could. YELP advocated for, and received, a referral to the local county mental health department, as well as multiple assessments from the school. YELP also wrote a letter to the school’s counsel requesting that the school fund placement in a nonpublic therapeutic school. As a result of YELP’s persistent advocacy, CC has been referred to a nonpublic school and his school team is exploring residential treatment options that would enable him to succeed in school and develop much-needed life skills. Stephanie Klitsch (’12), Sam Roberge (’12), Charlie Wysong (’12), and Kyle Wislocky (’12) have worked on this matter.
YELP Students Advocate for Clean, Safe, and Accessible School Facilities for Child with Disabilities
Beth Kolbe (’12) and Alex Tischenko (’12) worked with a 2nd grade girl with severe medical fragility that results in her use of a power wheelchair, a ventilator, and a feeding tube. Beth and Alex filed a “Williams” complaint on the family’s behalf, asking the school to address the sewage in the bathroom, mold in the classroom, and feces that another student had been spreading in an adjacent classroom, each of which posed a serious danger to their client’s health. In addition, at a meeting with school district representatives, Beth and Alex advocated to get an assessment for occupational and physical therapy as well as an assistive technology assessment. Additionally, they increased her speech and language and adaptive physical education services.
Advocating for Appropriate Educational Services for Struggling Tenth Grader
W.C. is a 17-year old tenth grader receiving special education services at a local high school. When he came to YELP, W.C. had recently been pulled from his Algebra course rather than being given additional academic support to help him succeed in the class. YELP students Chris Wilson (’12) and Paisley Kadison (’12) performed an investigation to determine whether W.C. was being denied appropriate special education services at his school. They also attended a meeting at W.C.’s school to review and modify his Individualized Education Program (“IEP”). Chris and Paisley convinced the school district to provide additional academic support accommodations, expedite an assessment to shed light on how W.C.’s particular disabilities are affecting his academic progress, and to determine if he requires assistive technology to be successful in his classes.
Getting Support for and Avoiding Punishment of a Student with Emotional Disabilities
I.S. is a seventh-grader who has autism. When he came to YELP, I.S. was facing expulsion from his middle school for making comments about bringing guns to school during a conversation with other students in his class. I.S. made no actual threats toward anyone in his comments, and denied that he wanted to hurt anyone when asked directly. School administration summarily decided that his statements were not a manifestation of I.S.’s autism—had they determined otherwise, the school would have been legally precluded from expelling him—and barred him from returning to the school. For three months, I.S. received only one hour of school instruction per day in his home. With the advocacy and support of YELP students Stephanie Klitsch (’12) and Chris Wilson (’12), a district psychologist reevaluated I.S. and determined that his comments were, in fact, a manifestation of his autism. He was placed in a different middle school in the district that offered increased support services, and a plan was developed that would allow teachers and school staff to respond appropriately to I.S.’s autism-related behavior. Stephanie and Chris also worked with I.S.’s parents to write a letter to the district superintendent, requesting that all records related to the aborted expulsion be expunged from I.S.’s school files.
Fighting for the Integration of a Student with Disabilities
Beth Kolbe (’12) and Paisley Kadison (’12) have been working with a young boy who is nonverbal and has autism. When Beth and Paisley got the case, the student had been pulled out of his classroom due to autism-related behaviors and was being taught by himself in a “closet” off of the school library. Since Beth and Paisley got involved, the student has been integrated into his classroom again and the school district has started the process of ordering an iPad that has software to help him communicate. Beth is continuing to work on the case and will represent the family at an upcoming meeting with the school.
Professor Bill Koski (the Eric and Nancy Wright Professor of Clinical Education) directs the Youth and Education Law Project, and Carly Munson is the Bingham McCutcheon Youth and Education Clinical Fellow. Joanne Newman provides excellent legal assistance.