Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
Fall 2019
Fall Newsletter!

There is so much good stuff in this fall newsletter!
In partnership with the HSC Foundation we also have a great scholarship opportunity for transition age youth with disabilities; be sure to apply very soon! 

Remember that if you miss AJE in between our newsletters, you can follow us on social media and read our blog too!  

Our blog is a great source of information for families and professionals!  We have lots of health care news (for example - sickle cell, a survey about mental health needs of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities) and community events and resources  (exceptional school fair on November 17th, and finding legal help with your student loans).  Follow us on Twitter View on Instagram Like us on Facebook
Funding available for Transition Age youth - apply NOW!
AJE is once again partnering with the HSC Foundation to provide LEAP Awards to AJE's eligible youth with disabilities who are  transition-age (14 to 26 years old).   

The Life Enrichment Awards Program (LEAP) provides goods and services that are directly linked to youth transition planning and implementation that are usually not available from public service and government agencies  not covered by Medicaid or private insurance and are goods and services not considered "medically necessary."
Previously we have awarded youth in transition with laptops, scrubs for a mortician internship, graphic designing software, business clothing for interviewing, soft skills training and more.
Please see attached the detailed eligibility criteria and apply for an award right away!  There are three documents an applicant must complete to be considered for an award: ( 1) an application form;  (2) the certificate of acknowledgment form;  and  (3) HSCN's media release form

If you need help completing the forms, we are happy to support you, just call or email us!  Please apply immediately! 
Student Fair Access to School Act and School Discipline Update

As many AJE families know, the Student Fair Access to School Act changed school discipline law in DC. 
DCPS is in the process of rewriting Chapter 25, the portion of the DC Municipal Regulations that addresses school discipline.  While they are rewriting it, families can look here to see how DCPS is applying the Student Fair Access to School Act .  

Watch this space for updates about DCPS' process and opportunities to comment.  

If your child attends a charter school, Chapter 25 does not apply to you, your school's discipline policy is found in the charter school's handbook.  Students and families should be able to find their handbook on the school's website, but in case you can not, the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) has finally put all of the handbooks online as part of the school's profile!   Families can find the handbooks here .  Some schools are still missing. We encourage families to let the PCSB know if schools are missing from the site!  

AJE has three Lunch & Learn sessions coming up! 

We have three great Lunch & Learn sessions coming up in November, December and January.  All three cover issues that DC families are talking about right now and give attendees a chance to really explore the topic with an expert.  

Please bring your questions, and remember, these informal policy conversations are bring your own lunch affairs.   RSVP requested, but not required to

Tuesday, November 19th at noon we have 
Medicare for all:  What is it really, and what does it mean for people with disabilities and their families?    Featuring Julian Blair & 
      Terrence James from Spaces in Action.

Tuesday, December 3rd at noon we have Restraint and Seclusion in DC: What is the state of the law, and what does it mean for students and their families?  Featuring Jessica V. Den Houter from Disability Rights DC, the Protection & Advocacy Program for the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, January 14th at noon we have  Restorative Practices at School:What are they, what can they do, and when should schools use them?   Featuring  Leia Peterson & Yazid Jackson from SchoolTalk.
Great New Webinars!  

We know not everyone can make it to one of our trainings, so we have webinars you can watch anywhere, at any time!

We recently added new webinars to the Special Education Thursday library, including three webinars that address important health care issues for families. As always, Special Education Thursday host, Molly Whalen, keeps it practical, parent-friendly and positive.


UNDERSTANDING HSCSN AND YOUR RIGHTS AS A FAMILY   Guests: Zenia Sanchez-Fuentes, Attorney, Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP 

MEDICAL AND LEGAL FACTS ABOUT VACCINES  Guests: Maria Blaeuer, AJE and Leah Shoval, Mary's Center.  Don't forget that school vaccination requirements in DC recently changed

We also have a webinar with a guest from the  Public Charter School Board, Patrick Pope.  Host and AJE board chair Molly, talked with Patrick about what happens when a parent calls the PCSB with a complaint or concern.

We also have a new webinar K NOW YOUR RIGHTS IN THE WORKPLACE AS A PARENT OF A CHILD WITH A DISABILITY.  This webinar features   Laura Brown, Executive Director, First Shift Justice Project and it is available here.  Additional information and resources from First Shift are here!

We are talking about parents' rights at work because of feedback we received from DC parents!   So, if there is something you think we should cover, please let us know at 202-678-8060 or!
DC Council Update

AJE was at the Wilson Building in October, voicing our support for meaningful and informed parent engagement, and o n Monday October 21st at the DC CouncilAJE participated in a hearing before the Committee of the Whole and the Committee on Education about Dyslexia and Home and Hospital Instruction.  You can find our comments on both bills here.  

Attorney Margaret Kohn also provided testimony about Home and Hospital Instruction and drafted a memorandum about when students can be found eligible under IDEA that might be helpful to DC families.

Remember, if you are ever want testify at a hearing and are unable to, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. The record typically closes 10 business days after each hearing. Written statements can be emailed to Ashley Strange, Committee Assistant, at or mailed to the following address:

Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Education
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 116
Washington, D.C. 20004

In late February and early March,  there are agency oversight hearings where the Council asks agencies like  DCPS, OSSE and PCSB question of their performance.  After oversight, there are budget hearings for those same agencies.  There are lots of ways for families to engage with education policy and AJE can support you throughout the process.

Click on the links above for more information about how to sign up and to read the bills.  AJE is always willing to support parents who want to testify!  Please contact us at or 202 678-8060 for help.  
OSSE is seeking your input! 

OSSE is looking for parents to complete the federally required survey of DC families about their satisfaction with all things related to Special Education in DC.  Read OSSE's letter to parents below.   

Dear Parents or Guardians,

This is a survey for families of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) who received special education services during school year 2018-19 (August 2018 - June 2019). Your responses will help to improve services and results for children and families.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) collects this information and reports a summary of the results to the US Department of Education as a part of DC's Annual Performance Report, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

By completing this survey you will help inform the training and resources OSSE provides for families regarding special education. OSSE will share a summary of the results from the survey with your child's school, but no individual information (names, addresses or contact information etc.) will be shared about you and your child. Your responses are confidential.

You can complete the survey online by using the following link:

Please note you may skip any item that you feel does not apply to you or your child. This survey should take approximately 10 minutes of your time and will remain open until Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. If you have more than one child who received special education services, please feel free to complete a survey for each child.

If you have questions or need assistance in completing the survey, please contact Ms. Adrienne Rodriguez. Education Program Specialist within Community Learning and School Support, at (202) 478-5947 or by email at

UPDATED Immunization requirements for School 2019-2020!

The new updated  required  immunizations for 2019-2020 are below! 

If you need help finding a location to get an immunization, see this map .  If you have questions about vaccines, this AJE Webinar with Mary's Center can help .  


Accessing health care & healthy food in DC

Don't have health insurance? Check out  DC Health Link, or the  DC Office of Healthcare Finance to apply for Medicaid programs.  Did you know that in DC Medicaid expansion covers: Adults without Dependent Children (ages 21-64), Children (0-18), Children aged 19-20, Parent/Caretaker Relatives and Pregnant Women?  You might be eligible for coverage and not realize it.  

All of DC's programs to connect uncovered families with health care can be found  here.

Do you need help finding & affording healthy food?   

Healthy eating is a big part of health!  DC Greens offers these maps to help you find affordable, healthy food in DC.  If you are interested in making sure DC schools have access to healthy food for kids, DC Greens have also recently started a listserv around that issue - you can sign up here!  They also have resources for gardening at home and school, and a list of farms so teachers can plan great farm field trips

If need help buying food, considering applying to DC's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) , formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program. Many families who do not think that they are eligible for help, are incorrect and receive some support from the SNAP program. 
Facebook Join My List Logo
AJE wins Compensatory Education for Families and Staffing Changes at 

On October 1st, AJE received this Letter of Determination  stating that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) agreed with AJE and found that DCPS denied students with disabilities in several self-contained classrooms the Free Appropriate Public Education that are entitled to by failing to staff their classrooms with qualified special educators.  

The five schools OSSE found to be out of compliance during part of 2018/19 school year were
  • Takoma Education Campus
  • Malcolm X Elementary School
  • Langley Elementary School
  • Hearst Elementary School
  • River Terrace Education Campus
OSSE ordered DCPS to address this problem both on a systemic level and for the individual students in those five classrooms who did not have special education teachers.

On a system level DCPS must -
  • Develop a corrective action plan to ensure that system-wide it is employing licensed teachers in its schools and that it is tracking the current licensure status of its employees.
  • The corrective action plan must also address how DCPS plans to ensure that licensed teachers are available to provide specialized instruction to students with disabilities. DCPS must submit this plan to OSSE for approval by January 1, 2020.
On a student level DCPS must -
  • Convene an IEP Team meeting for each of the students in the self-contained classrooms at Hearst ES, Langley ES, Malcom X ES, River Terrace EC, and Takoma EC who did not have a qualified special education teacher  in their classroom during all of school year 2018/19 and to create a compensatory education plan to address that failure to provide all of the specialized instruction hours required by each of the students' IEP.
  • DCPS must submit copies of the compensatory education plans to OSSE, including the justification relied on by the IEP Teams in determining the compensatory education hours.  DCPS must submit documentation to OSSE that they did this by January 1, 2020.
We encourage families with children in those five schools whose children might be in one of the self-contained classrooms impacted to reach out to their child's school and determine if they are entitled to compensatory education.   Compensatory education is an individualized determination intended to put the student in the place they would have been in but for the denial of FAPE by the school, and it is a decision of the IEP team.  Parents are a required member of the IEP team.  Families are permitted to ask for services that they think will be useful and usable to the student that will address the harm caused by DCPS' failure to adequately staff the classroom.  

A cookie-cutter or formulaic approach to compensatory education is not allowed, compensatory education plans must be based on the student's  unique needs ( see Zirkel article).

AJE is hopeful that this Letter of Determination from OSSE,  by mandating that DCPS develop a better system of staffing classrooms will help students with disabilities across DCPS, and not just at the schools we mentioned in our complaint.

However, it is important to note that OSSE did not investigate all self-contained DCPS classrooms; unfortunately, since sharing the Letter of Determination and  our initial complaint with parents and other members of the community we have heard about two additional classrooms that were not appropriately staffed during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years.  

OSSE shared with AJE that they cannot investigate those classrooms under the complaint we filed back in August and that we will need to file a new complaint in order for OSSE to investigate and make sure those children get the services they are entitled to if there was a violation of IDEA.  Therefore, AJE had to file another complaint regarding the allegations we have heard about other self-contained classrooms without special education teachers so that OSSE can investigate.  

We strongly encourage families and other members of the community who have knowledge of self-contained classrooms without teachers, or other violations of IDEA,  to let OSSE know via the State Complaint process.

You  can find out more about State Complaints here at OSSE's page, and the  Advocacy Institute has helpful resources about how they can be a tool for systems change as well.  AJE's complaint is featured there, you can listen to podcast about it there too.

DC families are always welcome to call AJE for advice and information about the special education process.
OSSE proposes new Special Education Regulations: Parents and students have three opportunities to provide public comments and written comments are due to OSSE by January 7th at 5pm

On Friday, November 8, 2019, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) posted in the DC Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing amendments to Chapter 30 of Title 5-A in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (currently found at 5 DCMR ┬žE-3000-3036) governing the education of students with disabilities.  

The proposed regulations revise and update current regulations and policy. Please access the proposed regulations in the  DC Register .
The proposed regulations will be posted for a 60-day public comment period commencing Friday, November 8, 2019 and closing Tuesday, January 7, 2020, including an opportunity to submit written comments and attend public hearings on the proposed regulations. Persons may also file comments in writing by email to or by postal mail or hand delivery to OSSE at the following address: 

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 
Attn.: Christie Weaver-Harris re: Special Education NPR, 
1050 First Street, NE, 5th Floor, 
Washington, DC 20002. 

All comments received by 5:00pm on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 will be considered.
OSSE will hold public hearings to discuss the proposed regulations on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 5:00pm -7:00pm; Monday, December 2, 2019 at 5:00pm - 7:00pm; and Thursday, December 12, 2019 at 6:00pm - 8:00pm. All public hearings will be held at OSSE, First Floor, 1050 1st St NE, Washington, DC 20002. 

The public hearing scheduled for Thursday, December 12, 2019 is being held in conjunction with the State Advisory Panel for Special Education and is intended for parents and students to provide input on the proposed regulations, but is open to all interested. 

Individuals wishing to testify at any of the hearings should contact Christie Weaver-Harris, Policy Manager, at 202-741-0470 or by e-mail at
OSSE will post additional resources to assist stakeholders in accessing and understanding the regulations, including a summary memorandum and regulatory crosswalk here
Do you wish you received our newsletter more often?  

Well, while you wait for the next edition, did you know that AJE has a blog? We are on Twitter and Facebook too!   Following us on social media is a great way to get our latest news and make sure you don't miss a thing.  

Follow us on Twitter       Like us on Facebook    View on Instagram

Stay informed about upcoming events in the community, Council hearings, important news and parent trainings.  Follow us today! 

Follow us on Twitter  Like us on Facebook  View on Instagram        
D.L. v. District of Columbia: How Does this Ruling Impact Me and My Child? DL

D.L. v. District of Columbia is a class action lawsuit filed in 2005 by the parents of children, ages three through five, alleging that DC was violating the "Child Find" requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and other laws by failing to provide special education to their children and hundreds of other preschoolers with disabilities in a timely fashion. 

"Child Find" is the legal requirement that schools identify, locate and evaluate all children between birth and age 21 who have disabilities (or are suspected of having a disability) and who may be entitled to special education services.  D.L. is basically about the District's failure to meet that requirement.  

You can read more about the case, and how it might impact your family, here.
NLSP -  free legal representation available 
student   loan  cases

Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) provides free legal representation in  student   loan  cases.  Now thanks to the pro bono help from Crowell & Moring, they are expanding their  student   loan  work to reach more low-income DC residents and will host two  student   loan  clinics.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their  student  loans, please contact NLSP's  Student  Loan Hotline at (202) 269-5106.

Don't forget to update our contact information!

Our email addresses, fax number & phone numbers remain the same at our  new address, 1200 G Street NW, Suite #725 Washington DC, 20005 .  We are near Metro Center.    
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 |

Help AJE Help Parents - Make a Donation TODAY