July News:
ELC addresses bullying, transportation, charters, LGBTQIA rights, and more
ELC files OCR complaint to remedy bullying of students with disabilities in the School District of Philadelphia

On July 26, ELC filed a Complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on behalf of students with disabilities in the School District of Philadelphia, alleging discrimination based on a systemic failure by the District to promptly and appropriately address severe and pervasive bullying of these students.  The Complaint, filed by Alex Dutton and Maura McInerney, chronicles the bullying of four students and explains how the District's failure to respond to parent complaints, denying students the right to transfer, and referring students and parents to Truancy Court led to prolonged periods of pervasive bullying and the deprivation of free, appropriate public education to vulnerable students with disabilities.  ELC is seeking systemic reforms to remedy the District's policies and practices.
Hearing Officer Rules that PA Department of Education must provide safe, appropriate, on-time transportation to our young children with disabilities

ELC recently won a case that clarifies for the first time the responsibility of the PA Department of Education to provide transportation to children who are eligible for early intervention services in Philadelphia. ELC attorneys Sean McGrath and Maura McInerney brought the case on behalf of a three-year-old boy with autism who endured a series of inappropriate and unsafe transportation arrangements that regularly made him late to his special education program.  Prior to this decision, it was unclear whether the State, the School District of Philadelphia, or Elwyn, its contracted service provider, was responsible for ensuring safe, timely, and appropriate transportation for our youngest learners under state law.  The decision makes clear that this duty falls squarely and directly on the Department.  The ruling will not only improve this child's transportation arrangements, but requires the Department to address its responsibility to ensure timely and safe transportation for other similarly situated young children with disabilities.  There are over 1,000 young children in Philadelphia who require transportation to receive early intervention services.        

"A drop in the bucket" -- PA budget includes education increases but falls short

Last week the Pennsylvania Senate passed a revenue package that currently awaits review in the House. Preceding the current revenue debate, the General Assembly passed a spending bill that Governor Wolf allowed to go into law without his signature. The budget spending provides some needed new funding for education, including basic education, special education, and early education. Specifically, the bill includes $100 million increase for basic education funding, $25 million increase in special education, $30 million in additional funding for early education, and a $19 million increase in funding for early intervention services for children ages birth-five. Our schools and students sorely need these resources. But while any additional funding helps, we must be clear that this budget is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed for an adequately and equitably funded statewide public education system. Students need a much larger increase to meet the basic standards the Legislature itself established.
ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman honored at The Incline's "Who's Next in Education" celebration

Cheryl (third from right) with ELC Pittsburgh staff, interns, and board member Abigail Horn (second from right)


On July 26, ELC Pittsburgh Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman was honored at The Incline's "Who's Next in Education" Celebration for her work in advocating for students who are educationally at-risk, including students of color, LBGTQ students, students with disabilities, students who are homeless, and students in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Kleiman "is a visionary with integrity who has the best interest of students at the heart of her work," wrote her nominator. 
Save the date! 
ELC event September 27


Please plan now to join our co-chairs, David Richman & Janet Perry and David & Beth Buckman, along with nearly 300 supporters from the region's legal, business, education, and community sectors at our 2017 Celebration on September 27 at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. This year, ELC will honor PNC Bank; Joan Mazzotti; ELC Pro Bono Awardee Richard Shephard of Morgan Lewis; and Dr. BruceCampbell Jr., PhD. We hope to see you there!
Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr in charter school interview with Craig Melvin of NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly"

"Charter schools are public schools and they are required to serve all children."  On July 9, Craig Melvin  interviewed ELC ED Deborah Gordon Klehr for NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly." Deborah's interview begins at 4:45 in the show's 10-minute feature "Schools of Thought:  The War Over Public Education and Charter Schools." 

OCDEL Releases Two New Policy Announcements to Address Exclusionary Discipline and Promote Inclusion in Early Childhood Learning Programs

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) released two new policy announcements that now make clear its commitment to decrease exclusionary discipline and increase inclusion in all its early childhood learning programs across Pennsylvania. In response to extensive public comments and p arent, provider, and community engagement, OCDEL identified shared values and vision across its programs, and released these two companion policies, effective July 1, 2017. Please read OCDEL's policy on "Reduction of Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Programs"  here , and its policy on "Inclusion of All Children in Early Childhood Programs"  here . These policies will prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate suspensions and expulsions in early childhood programs, and promote inclusion. You can find more information on these developments at  PA Keys Updates including OCDEL's  implementation timeline We will c ontinue to work with our Coalitions and community partners to analyze and monitor the implementation of these new polices.

ELC conducts "Know Your Rights" and listening session in Pottstown

On July 25, ELC attorneys Yvelisse Pelotte and Deborah Gordon Klehr and legal intern Rafaela Uribe conducted a "know your rights" and listening session at the Tri-County Area YWCA in Pottstown, PA. They shared with the group important legal rights students possess, dialogued with the girls to identify issues they face in schools, and brainstormed ways to create a more positive school climate.
 
ELC presents at Pittsburgh LGBTQIA event

On July 20, ELC staff attorney Cheryl Kleiman was a panelist at an LGBTQIA Community Outreach event sponsored by the Allegheny County Bar Association.  The event included a panel discussion on LGBTQIA aspects of family law, education law, immigration law, and employment law.
 
Lancaster Moves Forward To Support Immigrant Students 

A Newsworks article on the settlement of Issa v. School District of Lancaster, a federal lawsuit filed by attorneys from ELC, the ACLU, and Pepper Hamilton LLC on behalf of older immigrant students, highlights changes being made by the School District of Lancaster under the Consent Decree, including additional staff positions.  The article notes the high cost of illegal discrimination. 
School Reform Commission adopts downsized special education plan

On July 6, after hearing objections from ELC and other special education advocates, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission adopted a scaled-down plan to place up to 100 students with disabilities - rather than 600 - in a new segregated special education program in the District.  ELC has continued to advocate vigilantly for families of students exiting Wordsworth, many of whom only recently learned of the proposed change to their child's school placement, to ensure that they are accorded all of their procedural and substantive rights under federal and state law.  
What we're reading...
  • An article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette looking at the intersection of special education funding, charter growth/legislation, and fair funding formulas.
  • "Schooled: An inside look at public schools," a series of podcasts from the PA public broadcasting consortium Keystone Crossroads.
  • An article in The Public School Notebook warning of impending changes in federal education policy and quoting ELC ED Deborah Gordon Klehr.
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