Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
Spring 2017

Charter Schools, Parents and Special Education: A Conversation

If you have a child with a disability or questions about special education at your DC Public Charter School-this event is for you!

On Thursday, April 27 from 6:30-8:30pm at Capital City PCS Theater, join us for a conversation with several public charter school parents of students receiving special education services and their teachers and administrators. The panelists will share about their relationships and how they work together to create successful environments and outcomes for students with special needs.   Following our panel conversation, representatives from DC organizations and agencies focused on special education and disability supports in DC will be available for networking.  Organizations scheduled to be present include: Advocates for Justice and Education, PCSB-Parent & Alumni Leadership Council, DC Special Education Cooperative, Disability Rights DC, Department of Disability Services (DDS) and DC Rehabilitative Services Administration (RSA), Quality Trust, SchoolTalk, PAVE, Merrill Lynch Special Needs Planning Group, and KEEN DC.
Community resources and materials will be available for all attendees!   Learn more and download the flyer--( English ) ( Spanish ).

AJE New Initiatives: Lunch & Learn and Special Education Thursdays

AJE's Lunch and Learn series continue to bring together diverse stakeholder and professionals for informal conversations around current policy questions that are impacting students with disabilities in the District of Columbia. Our next Lunch & Learn is Monday, May 3rd, 12-1:30pm: "All About Food and Schools" with guest speaker: DC Greens, most of us have been advocating for better school lunches since we were in kindergarten, but it seems to be a complicated issue, why is that?  What can be done about it?
June 5, 12-1:30pm: "Supporting our LGBT students!" - will feature guests from DCPS and DC Office of Human Rights. This conversation will help schools and direct service providers of all types, understand what laws apply to LGBTQ youth, and best practices for meeting their needs.
Check out our upcoming Lunch & Learn schedule on our

AJE's Special Education Thursdays: Offering a better understanding of DC special education in a "bite-size" format
Held every other Thursday, these 30-minute sessions, available online, give parents and professionals: information, education and a better understanding of DC special education issues in a "bite-size" format. Special Education Thursdays are FREE for parents and professionals to answer your questions about special education in DC, where to go for help, and to learn how to advocate for a child with a disability or learning need.
Special Education Thursdays are live every other Thursday from 12:30-1:00pm, our next two sessions are Apr 20: "The Difference Between an IEP and a 504 Plan" with Maria Blaeuer, Special Education Attorney, and May 4th: "What is a Social Worker-and how to they work in special education" with Lindsay Damon, LSW, Capital City PCS. Join by phone: (202) 602-1295, access code: 399-428-506# or online at: at 12:30pm! Future sessions, archived recordings and directions for calling in or logging in online are on AJE's website, or share our flyer!

Mission Moment from AJE   
Ms. Eleash Banks, parent, testifying at DC Council

AJE's mission is to equip and empower parents with the tools to become effective advocates. In addition to attending AJE trainings, workshops and webinars, parents regularly call and drop in for free advice and counsel on a variety of education related matters.   Ms. Eleasah Banks, a DCPS parent of a rising senior, embodies AJE's mission.  After meeting with AJE staff during our office drop-in hours, Ms. Banks immediately took AJE's advice and drafted an email to the instructional superintendent outlining her concerns with the suspension, including how it was inconsistent with the DCPS' commitment to reduce its reliance on suspensions.   She sent the email to AJE staff to review and revised based on our feedback. Within 24 hours, the instructional superintendent responded to Ms. Banks and her daughter's suspension was overturned.  Ms. Banks remained in touch with AJE and a few months later, accepted our invitation to share her story with members of the D.C. Committee on Education at a hearing on school discipline. The Committee members were eager to hear from Ms. Banks and commended her advocacy efforts.

Parents are uniquely positioned to advocate on behalf of their children. AJE is eager to partner with parents and professionals to ensure parents are equipped with the tools and resources to make their voices heard across the city.

Mental Health in Color Event Series

The Youth Transitions Collaborative is hosting a series of events focused on Mental Health and the affect on communities of color. This event series will include a Community Arts Even on Wednesday, May 3, 6:30-8:30pm at Busboys & Poets, 14th Street location; Wednesday, May 24, 6:30-8:30pm Speaker Presentations at WeWork building (641 S Street, NW) and an Academic Panel on Wednesday, July 19, 6:30-8:30pm at the National Youth Transitions Center in Foggy Bottom. These events are free and open to the public, for more information, contact:

To learn more about this issue, you can listen to this insightful NPR report  about the mental health crisis in our schools.
Are Students with Disabilities Prepared for Life After School?

A New Report Issues Concerns

The goal of special education is to prepare students with disabilities, who today account for 12% of all youth in the United States, for life after high school, including independent living, further education and/or job training and employment.   A new, two-volume report exploring the experiences of students with disabilities was released in March, compiling information from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012, which is a very large study looking at the post-high-school experiences of students with disabilities.  Volume 1 of the report compares how students with disabilities are performing compared to their non-disabled peers.  Volume 2 compares students across disability classifications.  Both of these reports indicate that students with disabilities continue to struggle after high school and indicate that parents and schools need to pay more attention to how we are preparing young people to live independently after high school. 

Nearly 20% fewer youth with an IEP in high school expect to enroll in some type of postsecondary education or training, compared with youth without an IEP (76% versus 94%).  Reflecting these gaps, youth in special education are almost half as likely as their peers to report taking college entrance and placement tests (42 versus 70%). Forty percent report having recent paid work experience, compared to 50% youth without an IEP.  These numbers suggest that the transition plans that are being created are simply not adequate, or are not being implemented.  

Read the full report: Volume One and Volume Two.

Extended School Year (ESY) What Parents Need to Know About Preparing for Summer for Students in Special Education

The federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education  ( FAPE )  through specialized instruction and related services. Typically, that access is limited to the traditional school calendar.  However, ESY or extended school year, makes access to FAPE  available to students who are determined by an IEP team to need specialized instruction and related services to avoid serious losses of critical skills over extended school breaks.
Who is eligible for ESY ? In the District, any student with a disability may be eligible for ESY services. This includes students with 504 plans.
How do schools make these determinations? In 2011, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) issued policy guidance and criteria consistent with IDEA to help schools determine when students are eligible for ESY services. Specifically, school teams must consider 1) the impact of the break on the student's critical skills (i.e.-reading or writing) [see note below] , 2) the degree of regression of critical skill(s) and finally, 3) the time required for the recoupment, or recovering, of critical skill(s).  In order to make their determination, the team must use student progress monitoring data including progress notes, student work samples and classroom observations to assess the aforementioned criteria.  Click here for a more detailed look at the OSSE ESY policy guidance including whether or not your child is able to receive transportation for ESY.
At least once a year, school must determine eligibility for ESY.  Please review your student's IEP to see if your child was determined eligible for ESY services or contact your child's teacher.  For additional information on ESY click here or contact AJE at 202-678-8060 with questions or concerns.
Note: In the context of ESY services, the phrase critical skill refers to a skill that is essential to a student's overall educational progress. A critical skill may be an academic skill, such as reading, or a non-academic skill that has a direct educational impact, such as a fine motor skill.

"I'm a Parent of a Child with Special Needs and I Need Help..." How We Help Parents at AJE

Meet Leslie Hatton - your first stop in working with AJE! Have an educational issue at your student's school and don't know what to do? Call our office and complete an intake.  This is a very short and easy process and is the first step to receiving services.   This process usually takes about 20 minutes.  You can call Leslie Hatton directly on (202) 678-8060, extension 210. Spanish-speaking families can call Berta Mata on (202) 678-8060, extension 208 for, or select option 1 from our main number.   Not able to contact us by phone?  Feel free to access our walk-in services.  Our office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm; 25 E Street, NW, 3rd floor. We are here to help!
Supreme Court Makes a Decision (somewhat!) on Special Education

In March 2017 the Supreme Court decided an important special education case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County.  The case was about what kind of progress is required by IDEA's mandate that schools' provide students with disabilities a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).  Many parents will not be surprised that the case turned on the "A" in FAPE, "Appropriate" and that the school district and the family had different understandings of what kind of progress was enough for Endrew to receive a FAPE. 

One reason that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case was because over the years, different circuit courts had come to different interpretations about what kind of progress was required for a student to receive FAPE.  Basically, the A in FAPE, meant different things in different parts of the country, and that isn't a good thing for a federal law like IDEA!

The Supreme Court told the lower court that their interpretation of the A in FAPE was not correct, and said the minimal progress standard they used, was not consistent with the law and sent the case back to the circuit court to decide with this guidance from the Supreme Court:
[A] child's educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.
This standard is more demanding than the "merely more than de minimis" test applied by the Tenth Circuit. It cannot be right that the IDEA generally contemplates grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who are fully integrated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not.

The Supreme Court's guidance on what is appropriate is binding on all lower courts, and will require school districts provide students with an education that is appropriately ambitious in light of his or her circumstances.   The Court also specific rejects the idea that  minimal progress is acceptable:
When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing "merely more than de minimis" progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.

While it will be a while until we know how courts will interpret the case and the Supreme Court's language, this was an important victory for Endrew, his parents, and the community as a whole.

PAVE's Parent Policy Summit (P3  - May 20: Parents Are Invited to Identify the Policy agenda!

PAVE (Parent Amplifying Voices in Education)  is hosting the P AVE Parent Policy Summit (P3 Summit on Saturday, May 20th  at DC Prep's Edgewood Elementary School Campus, 707 Edgewood Street, NE. In the vision of PAVE, parents are partners and leaders in creating a diversity of safe, nurturing, and great schools for every child in every ward and community.
The  P3 Summit will bring together DC parents with elected officials, partners, and community leaders in order to create a parent-driven policy agenda for PAVE in Year 2. PAVE parent leaders have identified a set of values and education policy issue areas that they will present to the parents in attendance and then all parents will discuss and vote upon the two issues that are the most popular will become our main focus for our next year.  From  9:00-10:00am there will be a breakfast and resource fair with local organizations and resources. The Summit and lunch will follow, 10am-1:00pm.

We encourage all interested parents of DC charter school students to attend! Please reach out to with questions or to sign up. More information and registration access will be available on our website,, and on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts: @dcpave .

Early Stages - DC Public Schools FREE Diagnostic Center for Young Children

Early Stages is a free DC Public Schools diagnostic center for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months. The staff at Early Stages help identify any delays that a child may have and arrange services to address them. Research shows that the first 5 years of life are the most important to a child's development, and that acting early can greatly improve education outcomes. Children referred to Early Stages receive a developmental screening, and if necessary, a more in-depth evaluation. If eligible, services that Early Stages can recommend include specialized instruction, speech/language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological services, and behavioral support services. These services are coordinated and delivered through DC Public Schools.  

Read Early Stages Spring Newsletter and get connected!

Understanding Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. About one in 100 children has celiac disease, making it one of the most common conditions in children.  People who have celiac disease are permanently intolerant to gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley. When ingested by affected individuals, an autoimmune reaction causes inflammation and damage to the nutrient-absorbing villi in th e small intestine.  Children who have celiac often have growth problems, weight loss, fatigue, chronic diarrhea on constipation. If left unchecked, damage can occur in nearly every system in the body: skeletal, reproductive, neurological, and dermatologic to name a few.

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. If you are concerned that your child may have celiac disease, a diagnosis should always be confirmed with the help of an experienced physician.  To diagnose celiac, physicians usually test blood to measure for higher than normal levels of certain auto-antibodies in their blood. Fortunately, the disease is well managed with a change in diet. 

Students with celiac disease are eligible for a 504 Plan - which is the federally recognized method to provide supports and accommodations at school to assure that schools remove barriers to learning, and include accommodating a child's  disability or certain diseases - and this would include supporting a child's gluten-free diet needs in school.

Locally, the Children's National Medical Center has a Celiac Disease Program Website helpful to parents.  


Understanding and Navigating Bus Transportation for Students in Special Education 

The Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) Division of Student Transportation (DOT) provides regional transportation services to students with disabilities in the District of Columbia.   OSSE DOT operates more than 520 buses that travel approximately 34,000 miles each day, transporting more than 3,100 students to public, private and non-public schools in the region, originating from four bus terminals located around the District of Columbia. 
Since the District of Columbia regained control of special education transportation in December 2012, OSSE DOT has established guiding principles for its operations looking to the future.  The OSSE DOT mission statement, " To provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation services that support and enhance learning opportunities for eligible students in the District of Columbia " declares its purpose. Its vision statement, "A future in which all transported students begin and end their school day with best in class service" serves as guidance in the daily execution of its goals.
Aspects of the Division of Student Transportation
The Division of Student Transportation has two distinct facets to its operation: the Parent Resource Center serves as the public-facing and interacting arm and its departments serve as the support system for the division's operations.
Parent Resource Center (PRC)
The Parent Resource Center is the communications hub between the Division of Student Transportation, parents/guardians, school personnel, and social workers.  The PRC is responsible for the following responsibilities:
  • Provides high-quality customer service to parents/guardians, schools and all stakeholders by promptly addressing student transportation matters;
  • Notifies of bus status and bus delays;
  • Makes outbound calls to parents to communicate route schedule changes due to inclement weather or other emergencies; and
  • Distributes literature to stakeholders, including the Transportation Handbook for Parents.
OSSE DOT has additional departments that support the mission and vision of the division. These departments include - Terminal Operations, Routing and Scheduling, Fleet Management, Data and Technology, Audit and Compliance, and Fiscal Management.
Contact InformationReal-time information on bus delays, route changes, bus accidents and incidents and processing of temporary address changes.
Parent Resource Center- Division of Student Transportation  (OSSE)
810 First St. NE Fifth Floor,  Washington, DC 20002,  (202) 576-5000  

Upcoming Trainings & Programs at AJE

AJE provides FREE monthly trainings and workshops for parents and professionals in navigating special education systems and supports.  Check out  AJE's monthly training calendar at: and to request a training - emai: or call (202) 678-8060.
About AJE:
Advocates for Justice and Education is the federally designated  Parent Training and Information Center and the Health Information Center for DC. AJE seeks to empower families, youth, and the community to be effective advocates to ensure that children and youth, particularly those who have special needs, receive access to appropriate education and health services.
Our passion is empowering families by equipping parents and students with disabilities with the tools they need to be their own advocates.

Have questions?  We are here to educate, advocate and empower. Contact us today!
Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc.| (P) 202.678.8060  | (F) 202.678.8062 |

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