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COPAA In The News


Feb. 28, 2018

Report: Students With Disabilities Disciplined Twice As Often As Peers

By: Courtney Perkes | Disability Scoop

"For students with disabilities who were enrolled in charter schools, the most recent suspension rate was 12.28 percent, down from 13.45 percent in the 2015 report. For expulsions, the rate was .20 percent, down from .55 percent.

Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said she was encouraged by the reductions, but that the report highlights the need for teachers to receive training in what causes challenging behavior and how to prevent it.

“That needs to be addressed by building the capacity of general education teachers to understand positive behavior supports and functional behavioral analysis,” Almazan said. “The analysis of behavior really can’t be overstated. It really is a science to determine what motivates the behavior.”



OCR Investigating 3,616 disability discrimination cases

Kara Arundel | LRP Publications

"FAPE is the largest disability discrimination category, accounting for 35 percent or 1,277 of the current ongoing K-12 investigations. Retaliation is the next largest category at 17 percent or 600 ongoing investigations. A complaint can include claims of discrimination in multiple categories.

"We know the majority of cases continue to come from children whose families believe FAPE is being denied and encourage OCR to increase staffing levels to address the problem," Denise Marshall, the executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said. "COPAA supports any effort by the Office for Civil Rights to make transparent the cases being filed so that children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education as required under federal law as long as privacy laws are followed."


May 30, 2017

Why “Pay for Success” Financing Could Cost Taxpayers More Than They Bargained For

Cash-strapped governments are increasingly turning to Wall Street to fund social services. Will the model be a Trojan horse for privatization?

By: Rachel M. Cohen  | In These Times

"Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which fights to protect students with disabilities, says their members first started raising alarm when they heard Pay for Success was to be included in ESSA. They worry such projects can run afoul, or compete with federal special education law and civil rights law—specifically the “Child Find” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which obligates schools to identify and evaluate students who lag behind, and provide them with needed services.

“Incentivizing reduced referrals flies in the face of that [federal] obligation,” says Marshall. “Being placed in, or becoming eligible for special education services is not something that should be frowned upon, or looked at as a social problem.”



April 7, 2017

Supreme Court FAPE Ruling May Be A Watershed Moment

by Michelle Diament | Disability Scoop

"It was an 8-0 decision, which was really gratifying,” said Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and a practicing special education attorney in Maryland. “This is a huge decision for students with disabilities and their families because it sets the bar high enough to challenge students so they can succeed in a meaningful way.”

The timing of the decision could not have been better, Almazan said, coming right when school districts and families are sitting down to reevaluate IEPs for next year.

Almazan indicated that she has already brought up language from the Endrew F. decision at IEP meetings she’s attended in recent weeks and COPAA is actively citing the new ruling in court filings."




High court rules public schools must do more to educate special-needs kids


by Michelle Diament | Disability Scoop

“We expect this unanimous decision to be transformative in the lives of student with disabilities,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. “Today the (Supreme Court) affirmed what we know to be the promise of the IDEA.”





Advocates Hail Supreme Court Ruling on Special Education Rights


by Christina Samuels | EdWeek


"The Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates said "we expect this unanimous decision ... to be transformative in the lives of the students and families for whom the law is intended to benefit." 





Will DeVos be a weakened education secretary?

Her bruising confirmation battle could hamper the effort to build support for the president's $20 billion school choice plan.

There is a lack of confidence,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which assists parents of students with disabilities. “The onus is on her to reach out and create that trust and build those relationships because we don’t have a foundation in that regard right now.” 



Trump education nominee opposed by special ed advocates

by Gregg Toppo | USA Today

"But disability-rights advocates had already raised an alarm. In a letter sent to lawmakers the same day, Denise Marshall, executive director of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc., a special education advocacy group, said DeVos “manifested an appalling lack of knowledge of educational concepts, the difference between the federal and state statutes that govern education, and basic facts about public education. Specifically, her lack of knowledge of the IDEA is disturbing and offensive to us.”

Marshall said DeVos’ stance, whether due to confusion or ideological belief, “is unacceptable and clearly indicates that Ms. DeVos is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education.”

Marshall also challenged DeVos’ proposal to give vouchers to disabled students, saying DeVos has “advocated for vouchers writ large as if they solve every family’s dilemma,” without committing to protect students against discrimination in private schools or privately managed public charter schools."



 Split Responses to Betsy DeVos' Testimony After Testy Confirmation Hearing

 By Andrew Ujifusa | EdWeek

"COPAA, which advocates for the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities, hasn't taken an official position on DeVos. But Denise Marshall, the group's executive director, expressed grave concerns with the confusion DeVos seemed to have about the federal statute governing special education, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Marshall said she was also concerned that DeVos seemed to view vouchers as a cure-all for various issues, including for special education. 

"It's pretty clear from last night that she is not and never has been an advocate for students with disabilities," Marshall said in an interview. "The fact that she didn't understand the difference between state and federal statute is pretty appalling. She didn't even seem to know what the IDEA is or what her role would be in its enforcement." 


COPAA expresses concern about Pay-for -Success in EDWeek

1/7/2016 - by Sean Cavanaugh

COPAA expresses concern about Pay-for -Success in EDWeek "Judging success of students who may have been considered for special education should focus on “is the gap being lessened for them and is there a successful academic outcome,” Marshall said. “Governments should not be incentivized for failing to serve students.”

Read full article on Pay for Success in EdWeek


Montgomery schools follow special-education law but can do more

October 10, 2015 Washington Post Article 

Montgomery County largely follows legal requirements in providing special-education services but needs to go beyond that to more fully serve students and their parents in the high-performing school system, according to a report released Friday.

Selene Almazan, a Montgomery County lawyer and legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said she was troubled to see the report’s data on state math and reading scores in 2013-2014.

About half of eighth-grade students in special education scored proficient in reading, while 88 percent of students in regular education did, she noted.

“While Montgomery County has made progress on educating more students with disabilities in general-education classrooms, they still have some work to do to close the achievement gap,” she said.

Read the full article 


Effects of Trauma could constitute disability, judge rules in Compton Unified Case

Students who have experienced trauma could be eligible for some of the same protections as students with disabilities based on the effects of that trauma, according to a ruling by a federal judge Tuesday.

Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a national disability group, thinks the procedural ruling represents a step forward for her constituency. “We are thrilled that the court has recognized the need for schools to mitigate barriers to learning caused by trauma,” Marshall said. “Trauma inflicted on a child is debilitating. School professionals must be sensitive to the needs of students both to avoid re-traumatization and create supportive school climates.”

Read the full article


Are There Racial Imbalances in Special Ed?

Huffington Post Live with Marc Lamont HIll

Originally aired on July 24, 2015 - 

View the Segment

More than six million children receive special education in American schools. Despite the long-held belief that minorities were overrepresented in this group, a new report found the opposite. Are there racial imbalances in special education?


  • guest photo
    Donna Ford Ph.D.  (Nashville, TN)Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University
  • guest photo
    Daniel Losen  (Lexington, MA)Director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at CRP at UCLA
  • guest photo
    Denise Marshall  (Towson, MD)Executive Director, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.


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