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Special Education Newsletter
December 2015

Providing families of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the Washington, D.C. area, and New Jersey with exceptional legal representation in Special Education, Estate Planning, and Disability Law.

In This Issue
McAndrews Law Offices provides FREE CONSULTATIONS for all special education matters! Call today to set up yours! 

"I couldn't have asked for more friendly, courteous and professional help than what McAndrews Law Offices provided to me. Heather and Roseann made me feel at ease throughout the entire process. They were the best!"
"From their receptionists to their paralegals to Michael Gehring and all of the attorneys at McAndrews Law, everyone was extremely friendly and so professional in dealing with our situation. They have gone over and above in helping me. Thank you!"
"Lauren O'Connell Mahler was awesome! She kept me updated with everything that was going on with my daughter. She answered all of my questions and was very upfront and honest on the do's and dont's. Her assistant, Bridget Shane, was just as wonderful! She would promptly return my calls, answer my questions, and is extremely intelligent! I am so pleased with Lauren, Bridget, and the team at McAndrews Law Offices!"
"Tanya Alvarado provided our family with exceptional, outstanding, and professional services! She uncovered facts about our case that were unbeknownst to me and kept appointments in severe snow storms. She was very comfortable to work with and one of the most intelligent women that I have ever met. Tanya is kind and compassionate and her legal skills are above and beyond what anyone could expect. A true asset to McAndrews Law Offices! She is beautiful inside and out! Thank you to the entire firm!"

2016 IEP Clinics
(Stay tuned for more details!)
February 16th, 2016
At The Lebanon Community Library

March 8th, 2016 
At The Exeter Township Library

April 2016 
At The Mifflin County Library

Night to Shine!
Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation

Friday, February 12th
At The Hope Community Church 
(King of Prussia)

Hope Community Church will be an official host church for Night to Shine - a prom night experience for persons with disabilities ages 16 and up! Over 100 churches will host this event simultaneously around the world! 

For all MLO news & events, visit

McAndrews Law Offices Wins Significant Federal Court Victories on Issue of "Exhaustion" of Administrative Remedies
By Michael Gehring, Esq. of McAndrews Law Offices P.C.

In cases where a child with a disability has been injured due to the actions of a school district, McAndrews Law Offices has been successful in bringing suit under federal statutes, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  These statutes protect disabled students from either being discriminated against, or deprived of the benefits of their educational program, due to their disabilities.  Where a connection can be established between a student's disability, a school district's actions, and an injury to the student, a viable lawsuit can be brought in federal court.
In such cases, school districts often seek to have the lawsuit dismissed for an alleged failure by the injured child to "exhaust" his or her "administrative remedies."  Under this theory, a disabled child who has been injured by a school district's actions may not proceed straight to federal court - instead, the child and his family must first go through an administrative special education due process proceeding before bringing a lawsuit in federal court.  However, for many years, federal courts in the Third Circuit (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) have permitted lawsuits to proceed without going through a due process hearing in cases where the student is seeking only money damages for injuries, which is not an available remedy in a special education due process proceeding.
A recent case in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals,  Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media School Dist., considerably broadened the exhaustion requirement.  The court in Batchelor ruled that, where a disabled child seeks money damages for an injury caused by a school district, the child must first go through a due process hearing if he or she could theoretically obtain some relief through such a hearing (such as compensatory education), even if the student does not seek such relief in the federal lawsuit.  The court ruled that a student may not avoid exhaustion, as before, by asking only for money damages, and no other relief.  However, in two recent cases since Batchelor was decided, McAndrews Law Offices has successfully defeated arguments by school districts that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the disabled child did not go through a due process hearing before filing suit in federal court.
In Akil Abasi F. v. Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf, McAndrews Law Offices represented a disabled child who was sexually assaulted on a van by an older student on the way to school.  McAndrews Law Offices filed a federal lawsuit seeking money damages for the emotional trauma and other injuries the child suffered due to the assault.  One of the defendants, the student's school district (which arranged the students' transportation on the van), argued that the case should be dismissed because the child did not first file a due process proceeding against the school district before suing in federal court.  The federal district court, despite the recent Batchelor decision, agreed with McAndrews' Law Offices' argument that there the child was not required to exhaust his administrative remedies where the child's injuries were non-educational in nature, i.e., emotional harm caused by a sexual molestation on a school bus.
Following the Akil Abasi F. decision, McAndrews Law Offices also defeated a motion to dismiss in M.C. v. Perkiomen Valley School District.  That case also involved a student with a disability who was sexually assaulted on a school bus, this time by a similar-age peer.  The court, like the court in Akil Abasi F., rejected the school district's argument that the federal lawsuit should be dismissed because the student did not first go through a due process proceeding.  The court noted that, unlike Batchelor, the student's injuries (including trauma and emotional distress) were non-educational in nature and she could not have obtained any meaningful relief for those injuries through a due process proceeding.  The court also noted that it would be unfair to require a disabled student to go through a due process hearing before filing in federal court, where a non-disabled student in a similar situation would not be required to do so.  The court specifically relied on the earlier decision in Akil Abasi F. in finding that  even the broadly-worded Batchelor decision did not require exhaustion of administrative remedies under the facts of the case.
Both these cases are significant in that they provide a basis for disabled students, in instances where the students' injuries are non-educational in nature, and no meaningful educational remedies would be available through a due process proceeding, to file lawsuits for damages in federal court without the need to first go through a due process hearing.

Why Specific IEP Progress Monitoring is So Important
by Heather Hulse, JD, MS, MA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") requires school districts to monitor progress on the goals in the Individual Education Programs ("IEPs") for students with special education needs.  Progress monitoring is the scientifically-based practice of specifically measuring progress regarding a specific area of need.  Unfortunately, many school districts are not appropriately monitoring progress on students' IEP goals. Without appropriate progress monitoring, there is no way of knowing whether a student is making progress, and whether revisions to the student's special education programming are necessary.

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Students with Behavioral Challenges: Discipline Basics for the Special Needs Student
By Michael J. Connolly, Esq.

The start of the start of the new school year often brings excitement for many students and their parents.  However, it can also cause anxiety for a lot of parents and students, particularly parents of students with special needs, who may have a variety of academic and functional needs.  For some students, their needs may be more emotional and behavioral in nature, which can often result in disciplinary action, increasing anxiety over the start of the school year and making this time of year perfect for a review of the often confusing discipline rules applicable to students with special needs.

(NAMI) National Alliance on Mental Illness features holiday article 
by Allyson McAndrews, M.Ed.!

Merry Christmas and (un?) Happy Holidays!
Mental illness: 
Things we all should keep in mind during the holiday season

By Allyson M. McAndrews, M.Ed.
 Director of Marketing & Community Outreach

Don't get wrapped up in social media:   This is very easy to say, and quite frankly, I enjoy it, so I'm not encouraging people to give up their Facebook or Twitter accounts completely. But take what you see on the internet with a grain of salt. Particularly, this time of year, people are frequently posting about the joyous things they are doing - whether it be holiday parties, visits with family, friends and significant others, recipes, or simply statuses about their fortunate lives. Seeing all these cheerful posts and all these smiles flooding a person's mini-feed can be a reminder to someone who is struggling that they are NOT feeling the same way that the rest of the world appears to be feeling. This is not jealousy, but social media can present a distorted image of how life really is for everyone else. 

More MLO Articles
2015 Year in Review!
From new members to newborns and everything in between, MLO is thankful for another wonderful year! 
Here is to 2016!

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