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Updates from the Youth and Education Law Project

The Youth & Education Law Project enjoyed a very successful Winter Quarter with SLS students providing advocacy to numerous economically disadvantaged children, ensuring appropriate educational placements for children with disabilities, and returning students to school who had been excluded from school completely.  Here are highlights from nine of our cases in which Lorenzo Arroyo (’13), Julia Reese (’13), Tom Pack (’12), and Asa Wynn-Grant (’13) worked under the supervision of Clinical Teaching Fellow, Carly Munson, and YELP Director, Bill Koski, to achieve successful outcomes for their clients.

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Lorenzo Arroyo (’12) and Julia Reese (’12) represented high school senior I.C. in a charter school disciplinary matter.  When I.C. came to YELP, he had been out of school for more than a month awaiting an expulsion hearing.  Furthermore, the school failed to recognized I.C.’s special education needs, despite his longstanding diagnosis.  YELP avoided an expulsion hearing by negotiating a settlement with I.C.’s school.  In the settlement agreement, I.C. and his school agreed to an interim placement for the rest of the semester, followed by a guarantee of enrollment next year.  I.C. is currently enrolled in college extensions courses, has an internship, and is going to receive school assessments for his disability.

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Tom Pack (’12) represented fifteen-year old L.C., a ninth-grader, in a special education matter. L.C. has a congenital disorder that results in dwarfism, mild-to-moderate intellectual disability, and a speech and language impairment. Because of his health issues, L.C. is teased by his peers, and struggles with communicating his needs to other people. Consequently, he has had behavioral issues throughout his time in the education system, which have largely gone unaddressed. Tom requested that L.C.’s triennial Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting be moved up to this academic year, and requested a complete battery of academic, psychosocial, speech and language, and behavioral assessments. Tom also requested and represented L.C. and his mother at a special behavior-focused IEP meeting, and secured interim behavioral supports and an intensive functional analysis assessment of L.C.’s behavior. A second IEP meeting will be held in May to determine L.C.’s academic placement for the rest of high school.

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Asa Wynn-Grant (’13) and Tom Pack (’12) represented fourteen-year-old E.G., an eighth-grader, in a school disciplinary matter. Following an alleged incident off-campus during school hours, E.G. had been temporarily transferred to Virginia for immigration proceedings. After returning to California, E.G. was placed in a non-comprehensive school setting without going through a formal expulsion process. Tom and Asa negotiated an agreement in which E.G. would be allowed to transfer to a comprehensive middle school. The school district dropped its threat of expulsion and agreed to let E.G. return to middle school immediately. E.G. is now back in school, completing the remainder of his eighth-grade year.

 

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When second grade special education student A.O. first came to YELP, she had been excluded from her home school district for over one month. The school district refused to believe that A.O. and her father, a low-income single parent, lived in a home in Menlo Park. When Julia Reese (’13) investigated the case, she learned that A.O. and her father lived with family in Menlo Park because their previous residence had been foreclosed upon as a result of the economic downturn. The school district’s refusal to accept A.O.’s evidence of residency within the school district and its decision to exclude A.O. from attending her home elementary school violated both state and federal law. Julia negotiated with the school district to immediately re-enroll A.O. in her home elementary school and prevent the school district from continuing its unlawful and intrusive investigation into A.O.’s residency within the district.

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Lorenzo Arroyo (’13) and Tom Pack (’12) represented seven-year old R.V., a second-grader, in a special education matter. R.V. is hard-of-hearing, and her school district failed to identify and provide appropriate supports for R.V.’s disability. Because she had trouble hearing her teachers and other students, R.V. is far behind the other children in her classroom. Lorenzo and Tom prepared a due process complaint against the district for their failure to provide R.V. with an appropriate education, and hope to secure compensatory education services for R.V. Lorenzo and Tom also represented R.V. and her family in two Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings with the school district, securing more speech and language therapy and individualized services for her.

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Asa Wynn-Grant (’13) represented seventeen-year-old R.D., a high school senior, in a special education matter. R.D. had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, and had recently undergone surgery to remove a brain lesion. His symptoms were manifesting themselves as uncontrollable outbursts that the teachers and staff could not control or understand, and as a result, R.D. was suspended from school several times during the course of this semester. Asa represented R.D.’s family at an IEP meeting with school district staff, and began the development of a new Behavioral Support Plan that would help Rafael to manage his outbursts in class.

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Julia Reese (’13) and Asa Wynn-Grant (’13) represented sixteen-year-old L.C., a child with Down Syndrome, in an educational matter. L.C. has been unable to attend classes due to a number of health concerns that caused him to be hospitalized for a significant portion of the past few school years. Julia and Asa have counseled L.C.’s mother through her difficult struggle to find L.C. an appropriate placement for her son, and started negotiating on her behalf with the school district. The school district agreed to involve a medical team in the planning for a comprehensive set of services for L.C.

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Julia Reese (’13) worked with J.A, a ninth grade student with mental and emotional disorders that significantly impact his behavior in educational environments. When J.A. came to YELP, he had been expelled from his school despite a doctor’s letter suggesting that his behavior was a manifestation of his under-treated disorders. J.A. was entitled to continued access to education even after his expulsion because he qualified for special education services. Unfortunately, because of a dispute regarding who was legally and financially responsible for providing J.A.’s education, J.A. had been denied any educational instruction or services to address his disorders for almost four months. Julia was able to negotiate with the disputing parties to secure an immediate placement for J.A. in an educational setting J.A. preferred to those settings suggested by the school and school district. J.A. is excited to finally be back in school, and has already requested additional homework assignments from his teacher.

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Lorenzo Arroyo (’13) represented high school student A.D. in an IEP meeting to determine his special education services.  A.D. missed much of his primary education due to medical issues  that kept him in the hospital and out of school throughout much of his childhood.  In addition to his lack of regular school, A.D. has cognitive impairments that make education a challenge.  Lorenzo worked with A.D., his father, and a supportive team of hospital staff to begin planning for A.D.’s educational and vocational needs.  The IEP meeting was an important step in planning for A.D.’s future and building a better relationship between the school and A.D.  A.D. is now taking a more active role in his life and education, and recently made a major life decision asserting his own autonomy.  Lorenzo is glad he has had a role in A.D.’s life for the past three months.

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