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COPAA In The News

April 23, 2019

Student Excluded from School Field Trip Despite IEP Specifying Full Inclusion

by Rilyn Reischer | Staunton News Leader

Staunton, VA: Aaron Campbell had been looking forward to Stuarts Draft Middle School's annual eighth grade field trip to Kings Dominion all year. Aaron's mom, Elizabeth, didn't know anything about the spring trip — until she received an automated call from the school reminding parents to turn in Kings Dominion forms and payment. When she realized Aaron and his peers in the Exceptional Learners class hadn't been invited on the spring trip, Campbell was furious.

After Campbell had several conversations with school officials, the Exceptional Learners were invited on the field trip, a decision the division says is reflective of their inclusive education practices. Still, Campbell says the division hasn't addressed her concerns about discrimination against special education students, and one lawyer says the case could be a violation of federal law.

In response, Selene Almazan, COPAA legal director said the following:

This case could be a violation of Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under 504, you can’t make different decisions or exclude people with disabilities from the same benefits or services or programs that other people without disabilities are accessing, whether that’s a daycare program or a camp program or field trips in schools. And there are several areas of the IDEA in the statute and the regulations that talk about kids with disabilities accessing extracurricular activities. The parent could file a complaint with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights for a potential Section 504 violation, in addition to filing a complaint with the Virginia Department of Education.”

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March 8, 2019 

DeVos Illegally Delayed Special Education Rule, Judge Says

By Erica L. Green | New York Times

 

Denise Marshall, executive director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an advocacy organization that sued the department over the delay last year, said the decision, “assures states will be required to help their districts who have historically discriminated against children,” by offering them services rather than suspensions.

“The court has sided with the children whom the department had deemed unimportant through its actions,” Ms. Marshall said.

Trump Administration Ordered To Reinstate Special Ed Rule
by Michelle Diament | Disability Scoop

“Today is a victory for children, especially children of color and others who are at risk for being inappropriately identified for special education,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, which brought the lawsuit.

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January 25, 2019

DeVos Must Come Clean on School Choice for Students with Disabilities

By: Denise Marshall, Opinion Contributor | The Hill

"For students with disabilities, the idea that they and their parents can choose the school that fits any individualized need sounds phenomenal and for some families, that ideal can be a reality. The juggernaut, however, is that for students whose learning, behavioral, health or emotional needs are challenging to support, very little “choice” actually exists. During National School Choice Week, it is critical to know that choice for some does not mean equity for all." 

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January 22, 2019

These Oregon Students With Disabilities Say They Often Spent Just 20 Minutes at School a Day. Now They’re Suing the State

By: Mark Keierleber | The74 Million

Selene Almazan, legal director at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said the issue of shortened school days isn’t unique to Oregon, but it tends to be more prevalent in states with large rural populations. Almazan noted that the lawsuit doesn’t focus on children who need shorter school days for acute health conditions, such as those who require chemotherapy for cancer treatment. “We’re talking about kids who challenge a typical school building” because of their behaviors, she said.

 

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January 7, 2019

Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance Amid Objections From Disability Advocates

By: Michelle Diament | Disability Scoop

“With the rescission of the discipline guidance, Secretary DeVos has communicated to our nation’s children with disabilities and children of color that they are not valuable and that the negative, disparate experiences they face at school do not matter,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. “Unfortunately, the rescission is likely to foster the growth of racially discriminatory practices where implicit bias and other negative factors disproportionately impact students with disabilities and students of color, including the use of abusive practices such as seclusion and restraint.”

 

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November 21, 2018

Education Secretary DeVos reverses stance on civil rights probes that led to suit

By: Anne Flaherty |ABC News Chicago

The Education Department's reversal "shows that recent legal action taken against them is working," said Denise Marshall, executive director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.

 

July 13, 2018

DeVos Sued Over Decision to Delay Rule for Disabled Kids

By: Brad Kutner |Courthouse News

…the Council Of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Inc. says DeVos and the Education Department’s delay of regulations intended to aid in identifying racial disparities in special needs programs in the nation’s public schools was “an abuse of discretion” done without scientific merit, and without knowledge of the impact the delay will have on families, children and even the states who have already devoted 18 months to coming into compliance with the law.

 

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June 20, 2018

School groups condemn Trump family separation policy

By: Michael Stratford |Politico

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which advocates for children with disabilities, said children with disabilities who’ve been separated from their parents are now part of a system that doesn’t allow for full disclosure or understanding of their needs, or the identification of suspected disabilities as required by federal special education law.

Trauma is also an enormous factor, COPAA said. “Equally as disturbing is the fact that separation is occurring when the research is clear that such forced separation causes complex stress in these young victims,” the group said. “Such toxic stress results in physiological changes in the brain which can disable a child’s ability to learn, alter the physiology of a child’s developing brain, and inhibit the performance of daily activities such as thinking, reading, and learning.”

 

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June 1, 2018:

NAACP, special-education advocates sue Betsy DeVos over her department’s handling of civil rights cases

By: Moriah Balingit |Washington Post

“Our students already face huge hurdles to receive . . . the supports and accommodations they’re entitled to under the law,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Marshall called the OCR “a lifeline” for students with disabilities. “This put an insurmountable hurdle in front of them by unlawfully taking away their right to issue a complaint or to appeal a decision regarding discrimination.”

 

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April 19, 2018

Supreme Court Ruling Alters IEP Landscape

By: Courtney Perkes | Disability Scoop

“When you get to the goals, what I always tell families is you need to see where the baseline is,” Almazan said. “You can’t measure where the kid is going to be at the end of a year if you don’t know where they start from.”

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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.”

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2/21/18

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."

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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.”

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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."

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3/22/2017

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.”

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3/22/17

 

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." 

 

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2/22/17

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.” 

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1/30/17

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."

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 1/18/17

 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." 

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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

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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 

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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

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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?

Guests:

  • 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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