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November 15, 2023 | Issue 105 (View newsletter as webpage) Para leer este boletín en Español, haga clic aquí

Important News

Photo of Diana Autin with GC Barnett and Leslie Faith Jones from SPLC

(Pictured L/R: Diana Autin with GC Barnett and Leslie Faith Jones with the SPLC)

National PLACE Members Host Attorneys from Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi Office

Members of the National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE) hosted three attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Mississippi office during the week of October 30 to discuss how to strengthen the family advocacy and legal representation available to children with disabilities and their parents in the Mississippi special education system. Conversation also focused on the particular issues confronting youth with disabilities and their families in the juvenile justice system. Julian Miller, Senior Supervising Attorney for Children’s Rights, and G.C. Barnett and Leslie Faith Jones, Senior Staff Attorneys, SPLC, met with PLACE members Advocates for Children of NYC and SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, as well as other New Jersey attorneys and advocacy organizations including Disability Rights NJ, the Education Law Center, Rutgers Special Education Law Clinic, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, and non-profit and private practitioner members of NJ Special Education Practitioners. The visit was a follow-up from a full-day legal conference organized by the presented by Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities, the state’s Parent Training and Information Center, and featuring National PLACE Co-Director/Director of Public Policy, Diana Autin.


G.C. Barnett, Senior Staff Attorney for SPLC’s Education and Youth Litigation Team, noted, “We are so very grateful to all of you for taking the time to meet with us. Our time in New Jersey was nothing short of transformative, and we have returned to Mississippi with a renewed sense of vigor. Know that your collective investment will continue to pay dividends as we work toward the goal of ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for children with disabilities across our state.”



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November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Preterm birth is the leading cause of U.S. Infant mortality.

Ten percent of babies born in the United States are born prematurely, placing them at higher risk for health problems and complications. What can be done? Consider the following from the National Institute for Children's Health Quality's evidence-based projects:


  • Support screenings that identify risk factors for preterm birth
  • Provide training to enhance patient, family, and community engagement
  • Improve access to progesterone, which can help alleviate premature births
  • Advance education about the risks of nonmedical early elective delivery

Read more on Efforts to Address Preterm Birth Rates.

Watch more on how States Share Interventions, Policy Efforts, & Emerging Issues.

In Memoriam

Debbie Esposito

Photo of Debbie Esposito

It is with profound sadness that the entire SPAN family announces the loss of one of our own, Debbie Esposito.

A beloved member of our team, Debbie served as Director, START Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities (EPSD). She served in that capacity since 2022, and as Co-Director since 2018. In this role she led programs and services that support the engagement of families to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, including developing and supporting Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (SEPAGs) in NJ communities and school districts. Debbie was not just a colleague, she was a friend, an advocate, and a beautiful soul. She has been a valued member of the SPAN Team since 2015 and a shining example of how to work with families and professionals alike, bringing her knowledge, skills and compassion to the work at the local, state, and national level. She brought her unique skills, perspective, and dedication to SPAN, making a lasting impression on each of us who had the privilege to work with her.

To read the entire statement from SPAN Executive Director, Carolyn Hayer and learn more about Debbie's incredible dedication to families and her community, click here.



U.S. Department of Education Reminds Schools of Their Legal Obligation to Address Discrimination, Including Harassment

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a press release on November 7 in order to address an alarming rise in reports of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate-based or bias-based incidents at schools and on college campuses since the October 7th Israel-Hamas conflict. In the release they provided a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to provide all students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

OCR also recently released an updated complaint form specifying that Title VI’s protection from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. This update will help individuals understand how to file a Title VI complaint.

To read the entire press release, click here

Upcoming Events

SPAN offers a variety of learning opportunities for families and the professionals who work with them.

Highlighted Event This Week

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Look to the Future: Transition from School to Adult Life

Tuesday, Nov. 21, 12:00-1:00 PM

Online via Zoom

Transition Planning is crucial to provide successful outcomes for life after high school. This workshop will discuss the following issues related to transitioning from school to adult life:

  • How to Identify Interests and skills of the student and how to use them in your planning.
  • Create strategies for developing appropriate goals for your student to achieve success in the Transition IEP.
  • Provide resources for the parents and students to empower their successes within their community. 

For questions or more information, email Tammi Kaminski at [email protected].

To register, click here.

See all of SPAN's upcoming events with details and registration links here 

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Effective Communication

Read our latest youth blog post, "Effective Communication," on connecting with others effectively through different communication styles.

To access the post, click here.

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