​Special Education Dragon Slayer

 I assertively and persistently advocate for my  child with autism, but I have a problem. My  school district is constantly harassing me with  questions, changes, etc. How do I stop this  harassment?

Wrightslaw article on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District


This article specifically states that school districts must "look at a child's unique needs to develop an IEP pursuing academic and functional advancement."

JoAnn Collins is the mother of three adults with disabilities-two who have developmental disabilities. She  has been an effective educational advocate helping children and parents for over 25 years. In 2007 her first advocacy book for parents was self published and named "Disability Deception; Lies Disability Educators Tell and How Parents Can Beat them at Their Own Game. " This book was well received by parents who were surprised by a book about the many lies they hear related to special education. Slaying Special Education Dragons came out in 2014 and is a roadmap to help parents as they navigate the special education maze!

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                                                   Two U.S. Supreme Court Rulings for parents

1. In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (Case No. 15-497), the high court held that a student or family suing a school district over a disability-related issue does not always have to go through, or "exhaust," all the procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before going to court.

The court held that IDEA procedures need not be exhausted when the essence, or "gravamen," of a lawsuit centers on a violation of other federal disabilities law rather than the special education law's core guarantee of a "free, appropriate special education.""If, in a suit brought under a different statute, the remedy sought is not for the denial of FAPE, then exhaustion of the IDEA's procedures is not required," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in an opinion for the court.

"The Frys' complaint alleges only disability-based discrimination, without making any reference to the adequacy of the special education services E.F.'s school provided," Kagan wrote. "And nothing in the nature of the Frys' suit suggests any implicit focus on the adequacy of E.F.'s education."
Stacy Fry, Ehlena's mother, said in an interview that she was elated by the decision, especially the 8-0 judgment of the court."For us, it's just that no child should have their life put on hold because they choose to be as independent as possible by using a medically prescribed service dog," she said. "This is huge for families going through discrimination. If they're not arguing their education, they can avoid the legal dragout of that."

2. In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District the U.S. Supreme Court  issued a critical decision that raised the bar for the educational benefits owed to millions of children with disabilities. This ruling rejected a lower court standard from the 10th Circuit court of Appeals . The court ruled unanimously that schools must do more than provide a "merely more than de minimis" education program to a student with a disability.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion for the eight-member court, and he delivered much of it from the bench . . .
"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," Roberts said."For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to 'sitting idly ... awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out,'"he added,
quoting from key 1982 Supreme Court precedent on special education, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, . .

"The IDEA demands more," the chief justice said. "It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances."
Higher Standard-----That standard was the one suggested by President Barack Obama's administration, in one of its final arguments before the justices in January. For a child for whom a regular classroom is not "a reasonable prospect," the chief justice said, the educational program must be "appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances." "Of course this describes a general standard, not a formula," Roberts said. "But whatever else can be said about it, this standard is markedly more demanding than the 'merely more than de minimis' test applied by the 10th Circuit."

Education week article on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District

Testimonials for  Slaying Special Education Dragons

I am an advocate and I will be using this book often. Everyone can benefit now from what she has learned in the many years the author has successfully advocated and helped families.
JoAnn Collins has done the hard research for you. This book is filled with straightforward information addressing a broad range of special education issues.

It contains concise descriptions of common problems parents face, along with the solid tools to overcome them. It is jam-packed with great resources that parents can use to advocate for an appropriate education for their child.

There is also information on using a special education advocate, such as how to find one and what to look for.
I am grateful the author has shared her knowledge and resources with advocates and parents.
We are all in this together!!

Welcome to the website of JoAnn Collins

JoAnn's Comments:  I am absolutely thrilled with both of these decisions. Many children with disabilities will be helped by them, but especially the Endrew F. v. Douglas County. Many school districts have extremely low expecations for children with disabilities, and I love the fact that now the U.S. Supreme Court has set a higher standard--it is about time!

I also love the section of the ruling that discusses academic and functional advancement. Early in my daughter Angelina's life I learned from wonderful people that functional skills were important, whether she could learn academics or not.  Many times over the years in my advocacy I have fought for functional skill training for children especially those in their teen years, as they transition to adulthood.

What do you think about these two rulings? You can send me your thoughts or questions at: JoAnn@disabilitydeception.com. Look forward to hearing from you!

Be Sure and check out the reduced price of Slaying               Spec ial Education Dragons on Amazon (www.amazon.com)!!

Parent Question

Folks: I would love to hear from parents about their current struggles with special education. Feel free to E-mail me at: JoAnn@disabilitydeception.com. I can answer questions, help with resources etc.  I am especially interested in talking to parents that are currently using Endrew vs. Douglas County in their advocacy! I would love to write an article about this ruling and its positive affects on children with disabilities, but could use some real life stories! Thanks in advance==JoAnn

Testimonials for Disability Deception:

I was surprised to learn of this book whose title openly acknowledges something that I deal with on a continual basis. I have long bemoaned the fact that there is so little information and a lack of published guidelines on how to deal with the lies and fraudulent schemes that I regularly encounter from our school district (which seems to take a zero-tolerance approach towards educating "over-budget" children with disabilities. My son with autism & speech apraxia falls into that category.) I was able to identify with JoAnn Collins' description of initially being shocked when she found out for the first time that she had trustingly believed what turned out to be a blatant lie from a "caring" professional -- depriving her child of needed services. She very openly addresses this pervasive problem, which I (like many parents) have had to discover on my own the hard way. I believe her book should be read by every parent with a child that has a disability affecting his or her education.

Mrs. Collins acknowledges that there are wonderful (& deeply-appreciated) public educators who have the personal and professional integrity to resist taking part in these illegal tactics.  However, she upholds the fact that districts are legally obligated, nonetheless, to provide an appropriate education to all children when they accept special education funding. y times over when children grow up to be dependent on services employment and independence. I am grateful to JoAnn Collins for addressing this topic!

  My Answer

Parents are not legally obligated to answer the school district every time they call or email. Many years ago, a good friend of mine told me the best tip I ever gave her was that she did not have to answer the phone when the school district called. My friend was a great advocate but the school district called her to try and trick her. Once she took my advice and stopped answering the phone and made clear to them that they needed to send a letter for any communication, she felt much more in control. 

Also, constant harassment could fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for retaliation. Section 504 states that it "prohibits recipients or other persons from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Section 504..."

You also may consider filing an OCR complaint for retaliation.

The information on Section 504 is included in my 2nd book Slaying Special Education Dragons.