New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

CONTACT:Ellen Dweck

Special Ed Issues in Focus

The needs of students who have disabilities and their parents took center stage recently at a seminar at the Law Center in New Brunswick.

About 70 people attended a free public seminar, “Everything You Always Wanted to Ask About Special Education: Parents’ & Schools’ Rights and Responsibilities” took a personalized view of special education with dialogue among an expert panel and the audience. The New Jersey State Bar Foundation sponsored the event.

“With increasing pressure being placed on school districts and child study teams to reduce costs, it is important for parents to understand the education rights of their children and how to advocate effectively on their behalf to ensure they receive appropriate services,” said David Giles, a South Orange attorney who was a member of the panel.

Giles, who works part-time for the Education Law Center, was be joined by two other veteran special education law attorneys. They discussed: the criteria needed so that students can be eligible for special education services; how parents request an evaluation; parents’ rights to an independent evaluation when they disagree with the school district’s evaluation; how to determine if a child is receiving a free appropriate education; what it means to be educated in the least restrictive environment, and the interface of special education with intervention and referral services.

In addition, the discussion covered procedural protections available to parents, including complaint investigations, due process hearings and mediation.

Other speakers included Rebecca Spar, an attorney with the Hackensack firm of Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, and Michaelene Loughlin, a founding partner in the Hackensack law firm of Loughlin & Latimer.

The seminar was one of many special education-focused events the foundation hosts each year. The foundation maintains a longstanding commitment to provide New Jersey families with free educational programming about special education law and their disabled children's rights to comprehensive services, funds efforts to assist all families in obtaining those services, and supports training of relevant professional service providers.

It also provides training and workshops to help school personnel stay abreast and knowledgeable about their changing roles and responsibilities, since schools are the essential provider of special education services.