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2010 Special Needs Law Update

Date: January 1, 2011

By: Dave Frankel, Esq. and Joshua M. Kershenbaum, Esq. of Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC
This article originally appeared in MetroKids® Magazine, January 2011

The past year was a relatively quiet one for special education law, but we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the two most important federal laws protecting the rights of students with special needs.
 
National News
 
Bullying. It was impossible in 2010 to turn on the television or radio, pick up a newspaper or magazine or to go online without seeing tragic stories about bullying and the terrible consequences when bullying goes unchecked. Children with special needs are especially vulnerable. Parents are fighting back and getting help from the United States Department of Education (DOE).
 
In October 2010, the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) sent a letter to educators reminding them that having an anti-bullying policy is not always enough to prevent discriminatory harassment. Federal law protects kids against harassment based on disability in addition to race, color, national origin or gender. Schools cannot provide less protection than is required by these federal laws.
 
Schools must protect children from harassment by peers, school employees and third parties, such as visitors to the school. Parents who want more information can call OCR at 800-421-3481 or visit: http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm
 
KASSA. In March 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Keeping All Children Safe in School Act (KASSA). If this bill becomes law, it will become the first federal law to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. KASSA passed in response to a recent government investigation that found students being subjected to inappropriate and abusive uses of restraint and seclusion.
 
Under the Act, physical restraint and seclusion could be used in school only when a student’s behavior poses an imminent danger of physical injury to the student, school personnel, or others and cannot be included in an IEP.
 
You can track this bill at www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-4247

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