Catherine, Judith and Sarah Presented
at 20th Anniversary COPAA Conference


The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) is the only national, independent, nonprofit organization working to protect the legal and civil educational rights of the 6.4 million American children and young adults who have disabilities. Recognized by COPAA as attorneys knowledgeable about many aspects of special education law in the United States, Catherine Reisman and Sarah Zuba were invited to present twice over the course of the organization’s four-day annual conference in early March 2018.

Judith Gran presented her annual year in review of all the important cases in the courts of appeal - a conference favorite.

Catherine and Sarah’s first presentation was a half-day session regarding federal law on how parents of children pursuing civil rights claims against their schools must “exhaust administrative remedies” before they file lawsuits. In other words, parents must be sure to follow all possible procedures in a school, a school district, and within the state where they send a child to school to try to obtain the outcome or services they are seeking. Only after they have followed all of the procedures and still have been unable to obtain the outcome or services they are seeking, can they file a lawsuit. Otherwise, their lawsuit might be dismissed because they did not follow these procedures.

Sarah and Catherine’s second presentation concerned how the families of students with disabilities can bring lawsuits against private schools when those students have their civil rights violated by those private schools. The laws applying to private schools are different than those applying to public school. Therefore, parents of students with disabilities must be aware of the different legal claims they must make concerning discrimination when they sue a private school instead of a public school. 

RCG Secures Reimbursement of Clients’
$400,000+ Private Education Expenses For Autistic Children

Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba recently secured a victory in a federal appeals court on behalf of its clients.
The clients—parents of autistic twins—argued that the School District of Philadelphia violated federal law by not providing a free appropriate public education to the twins. As a result of the victory, RCG’s clients are entitled to a reimbursement of more than $400,000 for the amount they paid out-of-pocket for private special education services for their children because of the School District of Philadelphia’s failure to provide their children the public education they were legally entitled to.

On February 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (the federal appeals court overseeing Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) in School District of Philadelphia v. Kirsch, et al. affirmed a lower court’s ruling in favor of RCG’s clients. The lower federal court had ruled that the School District of Philadelphia violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and that the clients were liable for tuition reimbursement under that law because the School District denied a free appropriate public education to the clients’ children by failing to have finalized Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”) in place for the children prior to them starting school in the School District in the 2013–14 school year. The lower court awarded the family approximately $318,000 in reimbursements for the basic tuition, Extended School Year, and transportation costs for the children to receive a private special education in the 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, and 2016–17 school years.

The Third Circuit not only affirmed the lower federal court’s ruling concerning the approximately $318,000 award, it held that the lower court erred by not granting tuition reimbursement for the twins’ 1:1 aides who worked with the twins in school during the 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, and 2016–17 school years. As a result, the appellate court added $88,000 to the amount the School District of Philadelphia must reimburse the family (for the first three school years above), with an additional amount to be determined by the lower court for the 2016–17 school year.

The decision, Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia v. Kirsch, is available here.


On January 22, 2018, Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba filed a “friend of the court” brief in a Pennsylvania appellate court case concerning a fourth grader at the William C. Bryant School in the School District of Philadelphia who was sexually harassed, bullied,and eventually raped by his fellow students because he did not conform to gender stereotypes. The case concerns whether the student and his family can sue the School District of Philadelphia, the student’s principal, and the student’s teacher under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act for allegedly failing to do nothing to prevent this harrassment.

Our brief focuses on the problems that school bullying causes students and their parents. Bullying can negatively impact all students by interfering with their ability to enjoy the benefits of a public education and by detrimentally affecting their physical and mental well-being. Students with disabilities are particularly susceptible to such harm. We filed the brief on behalf of two of our non-profit clients: the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (“COPAA”) and Disability Rights Pennsylvania (“DRP”).

Unfortunately, we at Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba are all too familiar with the evidence from social scientists (which we refer to in our brief) that students who are bullied at school—particularly students with disabilities—are effectively robbed of the benefits of a public education. We filed this brief on behalf of COPAA and DRP to ensure that the Pennsylvania Superior Court is aware of these devastating consequences when it considers the case.



In Culley v. Cumberland Valley School District, decided November 6, 2017, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania  held that an administrative hearing officer wrongly dismissed the IDEA and Section 504 claims of J.C., a student with Crohn's disease. RCG partner Judith Gran represented the J.C. and his family. The due process complaint asserted that the school district violated its duty under federal law to locate and identify all students with disabilities – known as the “child find” duty. The hearing officer found no "child find" violation under either IDEA or Section 504. He held that J.C. was not eligible under IDEA because, even though J.C. did have a disability, he did not need special education because of that disability. He also held that the school district identified J.C. as 504-eligible in a timely manner. The district court reversed both holdings.

The court held that J.C. was, in fact, eligible for special education. In reaching the opposite conclusion, the hearing officer demanded too much of the parents when he required that they prove that J.C.’s disability alone contributed to his academic struggles. The school district acknowledged that J.C. had a qualifying disability. He had declining academic performance and increasing absences over several years. This supported the independent evaluator’s conclusion that J.C. was IDEA-eligible. Further, because the school’s evaluation denying eligibility was inconsistent and incomplete, the hearing officer erred when he relied upon that document.
The court also found that the hearing officer erred when he based part of his denial of eligibility on the alleged “failures of the parents to provide sufficient information to” the school district about J.C.’s disabilities. The court stated, “this is not a duty or burden that is placed on the parents, but should have been on the school district.” The school district’s “child find” duty exists even if a student is passing grade to grade. This is especially true when the student – like J.C. – was barely passing, with a D average. In light of all the information the school district had about J.C.’s disability, it should have evaluated him. The hearing officer improperly shifted the obligation to identify J.C. as an eligible student from the school district to J.C.'s parents.

Therefore, the school district violated its “child find” under both IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Pursuant to the court's decision, J.C. will submit, within 30 days, the family's calculation of compensatory education due to J.C.




LARRY BERGER JOINS Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba

Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba LLP is very pleased to announce that, effective July 1, 2017, Lawrence D. Berger will join the firm in the position "Of Counsel." Larry will continue to focus on the legal rights of people with disabilities, including special education, the Americans with Disabilities Act, higher education, professional licensing as it relates to people with disabilities, testing accommodations for “high stakes” exams including licensing exams, and the right of people with disabilities to live and work in the community.  Previously, and following graduation from law school, Mr. Berger practiced for more than 35 years as a partner in two Philadelphia law firms, specializing in commercial litigation including among other things class actions (both plaintiffs and defendants), antitrust and securities law, contract law, mortgage lending and other secured transactions
You can reach Larry at 856.354.0021, or



In the June 12, 2017 decision L.M. & M.M. o/b/o G.M. v. Willingboro Township School District attorney Amy Carolla vindicated in federal court a family’s right to a compensatory education fund of $265,160 because Willingboro School District deprived a young girl with multiple disabilities of three years of appropriate programming.  In a May 2016 opinion, Administrative Law Judge Joseph Martone found that G.M., who was five years old when Willingboro offered its first IEP, had multiple physical disabilities, a genetic deletion, feeding issues, severe speech and developmental delays, sensory integration dysfunction, and other challenges and the school district failed to gather and report information about the student’s performance or progress in any IEPs proposed for kindergarten through second grade. Consequently, Willingboro could not provide for appropriate accommodations, modifications to the curriculum, goals, or progress monitoring, all of which are the heart of an appropriate individual education plan. To rectify the district’s failure to provide an appropriate program, the Administrative Law Judge ordered compensatory education equal to the time period from January 7, 2013, through June 30, 2015. 

District of New Jersey Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez denied the school district's appeal, ruling that the weight of the evidence supported the administrative decision.  Judge Rodriguez also rejected the school district’s attempt to interject new evidence regarding subsequent events that had no bearing on the determination below. Most importantly, Judge Rodriguez quantified the order for compensatory education, directing the school district to place $265,160 in trust for G.M.’s reasonable educational, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or recreational services delivered by a provider of her family’s choice. That remedy represents an hour-for-hour replacement for every hour of education she received under an inappropriate IEP that was not calculated to provide her with educational benefit, following the guidance of M.C. v. Cent. Reg’l Sch. Dist., 81 F.3d 389, 391-92, 396-97 (3rd Cir. 1996), at the rate of $80 per hour.


In S.D. v. Haddon Heights Board of Education, RCG attorneys Judith Gran, Catherine Reisman, and Sarah Zuba convinced the Supreme Court to order the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its previous ruling requiring a young man with chronic illnesses to pursue special education remedies in a state administrative hearing before seeking relief in federal court. S.D. and his parents brought claims for ongoing discrimination against him due to his chronic health conditions. The Court of Appeals demanded that he and his family pursue special education remedies under IDEA even though no one in the family or the school district had ever suggested that he needed special education, and the only potential remedies for the violations were under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As a result of RCG's advocacy, the Court of Appeals decision is no longer good law. As a result of the May 15, 2017 Supreme Court Order, RCG attorneys will continue to fight for S.D. in the Third Circuit, which now must allow the attorneys to argue regarding reconsideration of its prior decision.


Continuing to advocate for families of people with disabilities, RCG attorney Amy Carolla is representing Superior Court Judge John F. Russo, Jr. in a discrimination and retaliation case filed against several supervising judges and the State of New Jersey in federal court. The complaint, filed April 23, 2017, alleges that Judge Russo was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his status as a parent of a child with significant disabilities. An amended complaint, filed May 10, 2017, alleges that Judge Russo's supervisors retaliated against him after he initiated the lawsuit, by keeping him from attending events open to all other judges in Ocean County, New Jersey.



     On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1, its first case in 35 years to discuss the free appropriate public education standard set forth in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson School District v. Rowley. Endrew F. soundly rejected a school district’s argument that “merely more than de minimis” benefit was enough. To satisfy the FAPE requirement, a school district must offer an IEP reasonably calculated for the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. IDEA contemplates that the IEP process will be informed not only by the expertise of school officials, but also by the input of the child’s parents or guardians.

     And the IEP must aim for progress. An appropriate IEP requires “careful consideration of the child’s present levels of achievement, disability and potential for growth.” To meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, school districts must faithfully follow the IEP process. School districts cannot treat IEP requirements as a mere procedural checklist. For a child being educated in the same curriculum as peers without disabilities, he or she must receive “instruction reasonably calculated to permit advancement through the general curriculum.” However, mere advancement from grade to grade will not always mean the child is receiving a FAPE.

     For children who are educated in a modified curriculum, but unable to achieve at grade level, the IEPs must be “appropriately ambitious” and include “challenging objectives.” “Barely more than de minimis” progress, the standard formerly applied by some courts in reviewing school district programs, is not enough; in fact, a child receiving a program offering that level of progress “can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” IDEA requires an education “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances.”
In analyzing whether an IEP meets this standard, courts should show some deference to school personnel. However, deference in this area is based on “the application of expertise and the exercise of judgment.” The nature of the IEP process ensures that parents, as well as school representatives “will fully air their respective opinions on the degree of progress a child’s IEP should pursue.” By the time any dispute reaches a court, school officials should have cogent and responsive explanations, based upon sound educational judgment, for their disagreement with the parents’ proposal for an appropriate amount of progress.

    This case is a victory for students, not only in areas of the country that previously applied the “more than de minimis” standard. The decision reaffirms, in several places, that meaningful parental participation is key to the IEP process. It also indicates that all children, those who can access the same curriculum as their peers without disabilities as well as those who cannot, deserve challenging and ambitious goals.

     RCG partners Judith Gran and Catherine Merino Reisman, along with Caroline Heller, Selene Almazan, Alice K. Nelson, Alexis Casillas, and Ellen Saideman, authored a “friend of the court” brief, available here, for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the California Association of Parent Child Advocacy (CAPCA).



Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba LLP is pleased to announce that Sarah E. Zuba became a partner in the Firm effective January 1, 2017. Before joining the Firm, Ms. Zuba worked in the Special Education practice group at Montgomery McCracken and at a business litigation firm in Philadelphia where she developed sophisticated negotiation, counseling, and dispute resolution skills. While studying at The College of New Jersey and after graduating from Yale Law School, Ms. Zuba taught students of all ages in a wide range of classrooms, from students entitled to special education in an urban public school to general education students at an independent day school. For over a decade, Ms. Zuba has served on the board of Community Treatment Solutions, a nonprofit mental and behavioral health provider for at-risk youth and their families. Currently, she is Chair of the CTS Board of Directors. For the past several years, she has presented full-day seminars on right under Section 504 and the ADA at the annual conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Judith, Catherine and Amy are thrilled to welcome Sarah to the partnership.


On December 28, 2016, the USDOE Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published documents explaining

civil rights protections afforded to children with disabilities attending public schools:
Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools ,

as well as a Dear Colleague Letter and accompanying Fact Sheet explaining how the use of restraint and

seclusion in schools may discriminate against students with disabilities in violation of Section 504

and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The resource guide attempts to increase understanding of Section 504 for parents and educators. OCR issued the restraint and seclusion guidance because its data indicate that schools subject children with disabilitites to mechanical and physical restraint far more ofen than children without disabilities. 

RCG attorneys Catherine Reisman and Sarah Zuba will be presenting a full-day workshop on Section 504 and the ADA on March 2, 2017 in Dallas, Texas at the annual Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates conference . Hope you can join us there!


Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba Attorneys Available to Speak to Your Group

The attorneys of Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba are always available to speak to your group, free of charge, regarding your legal rights in many areas, including special education, civil rights, discrimination claims, the IEP process, Section 504/ADA and the IDEA, and pursuing claims in due process, federal court, and in the Office of Civil Rights.

For more information, contact, 856.354.0021



In November 2016, Catherine Reisman assisted in writing a "friend of the court" brief in Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1, a case pending in the Supreme Court. The brief, filed on behalf of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the California Association of Parent-Child Advocacy, argues that IDEA requires that school districts target all areas of educational need in order to ensure achievement consistent with non-disabled peers, and departures from either the rate of learning on a particular campus, from the overall content expected to be mastered or the focus in general education must be justified by the assessments, data, and planning established by IDEA. A ruling is expected by June 2017.



In November 2015, clients of RCG attorneys Judith Gran and Catherine Reisman received a decision granting "stay put" funding of a private school placement for twins while the school district and parents had appeals pending in federal court. In June 2016, the federal court entered a judgmentfor the full amount of tuition reimbursement for both children for September 2013 through August 2016. By filing a "motion to stay," the school district requested that the court defer payment of the judgment. The federal district court denied the motion. The school district then requested a stay from the court of appeals. The appellate court denied the request for a stay on December 2, 2016. On December 6, 2016, the district court granted the parents' request for a "stay put" preliminary injunction and ordered the school district to pay to parents, within 30 days, all tuition previously paid to date (including payments made for the 2016-2017 school year). The school district must also continue to pay tuition to the private school when those payments are due, as long as appeals are pending in federal court. The decision is available here.


On August 29, 2016, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates ("COPAA") and Advocates for Children of New York filed a "friend of the court" brief in  Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools in the United States Supreme Court. Catherine co-authored the brief with fellow COPAA members Alexis Casillas, Ellen Saideman, and Alice Nelson, and COPAA's Legal Director Selene Almazan. The brief  argues that students with Section 504/ADA discrimination claims that exist independent of their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should be able to go directly to federal court without pursuing administrative remedies under the IDEA. Fry and similar cases require exhaustion even when IDEA procedures cannot resolve the harms at issue or provide meaningful relief. These decisions harm students with disabilities seeking to vindicate their Section 504/ADA rights and are inconsistent with the exhaustion language in the IDEA.


On July 14, 2016, in P.B. & M.B. o/b/o H.B., available here, a deserving family represented by Amy Carolla won a significant victory in New Jersey's Office of Administrative Law. Administrative Law Judge Edward J. Delanoy found that the Washington Township Board of Education failed to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to H.B., a child with autism and ADHD, for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years and ordered placement at the Y.A.L.E. School, a private school for students with special education needs. The case took 24 hearing days between November 2013 and June 2016.
Some important issues addressed in this case:

•    The student’s case manager directed teachers to fill out ratings scales without parental permission and without sharing the results with parents until due process. The case manager also was not appropriately qualified to administer the ratings scales under the protocols of the scales’ designers. The ALJ found that this procedural violation hindered the parents’ opportunity to participate in the education of their son. Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that the district’s conduct in performing evaluations without parental consent was a significant basis for declaring the IEP invalid.

•    The school district used a computer program with a drop-down menu to select the student’s IEP goals --- which were on grade level even though the student was several years behind.  The ALJ found that the computer-chosen goals for H.B. were not satisfactorily specific, measurable, or individualized to meet his learning requirements.  The district also never provided progress monitoring on academic goals.  This also led to a substantively inappropriate IEP.

•    H.B.’s grades alone, which were modified as permitted by the student’s IEP, were subjective and not sufficient objective proof of progress to sustain the district’s burden of showing the school had provided H.B. with a FAPE. 

•    Commenting on the school district's evidence, the ALJ noted: “While H.B.’s teachers, therapists and social workers were of the opinion that H.B. did receive a FAPE, they are not experts and were not qualified as such. Their opinions can also fairly be assessed through the prism of their circumstances. Obviously, because they are H.B.’s teachers and employees of the district, they have a direct interest in proving that their work was effective in teaching H.B.  They rightly saw H.B. in a most positive light.  It would be unusual for a teacher to agree that he or she did a poor job of educating a student, or that the school’s program was not working.”





On May 26, 2016, ALJ Martone awarded G.M., represented by RCG Partner Amy Carolla,  prospective placement at a private school as well as compensatory education for 2 and 1/2 years of inappropriate services.  In L.M. and M.M. o/b/o G.M. v. Willingboro Twp. Bd. of Educ.Judge Martone found that Willingboro had not offered a free and appropriate public education to G.M. from January to June 2013, as well as the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. (The record in the case closed in June, 2015, so the decision does not address the 2015-2016 school year.) Judge Martone ordered the school district to provide (1) an IEP compliant with state and federal special education regulations; (2) 2 and 1/2 years of compensatory education; (3) placement at a private school with Willingboro responsible for all costs, including transportation and other related services. 


RCG attorneys are always looking for ways to provide the most efficient and effective legal representation. To that end, the firm uses Clio, an international cloud-based computerized practice management system. This profile, Catherine Merino Reisman, Customer Success Story describes how one of RCG's founding partners was at the cutting edge of using technology to provide high quality legal services.


Clients represented by RCG attorneys Judith Gran and Sarah Zuba received good news from a Pennsylvania federal district court. In Derrick Fahs v. Red Lion Area Sch. Dist., the court refused the school district's request to dismiss the parents' retaliation claims. Derrick's parents followed the advice of their son's physician, who recommended removal from the public school due to self-injurious behaviors in that setting. In response, school district personnel commenced truancy proceedings and reported the parents to Children and Youth Services for child abuse and neglect. A Pennsylvania state magisterial district judge found Derrick's father guilty of truancy. However, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas reversed that decision on appeal, stating that "the District knew very well the health and safety reasons" for Derrick's absences. The federal court held that these allegations were sufficient to allow parents to proceed with their case. The court also rejected the school district's argument that the parents had to file a special education due process hearing on the retaliation claims. Parents had no educational injuries that an administrative hearing could remedy and appropriately went directly to federal court. Now, the parents can move on to the next stage of the litigation. 


In S.B. v. Murfreesboro City Sch.Judith and her co-counsel, Jack & Marcella Derryberry, secured a reversal of an administrative decision denying tuition reimbursement. The court held that the placement and the IEP, as implemented, denied N.J.B. an appropriate education.  The court noted that N.J.B. "was placed into special education in the first place, at [Elementary School], because of his emotional and behavioral problems. All the goals and objectives of his IEPs with Defendant were behavioral. Plaintiff has presented evidence that his emotional and behavioral problems are not separate from the learning process." Accordingly, the court awarded reimbursement for N.J.B.'s placement at a residential facility. 


In A.G. v. Paradise Valley Unified Sch. Dist., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a student was entitled to pursue her discrimination claims after the school district failed to address her behaviors and she was consequently excluded from her educational program. The case will now go back to the trial court, so that court can address the question presented by the ADA & Section 504: "Did Paradise Valley USD meet A.G.'s needs as adeqately as it met the needs of her peers?" The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates submitted an amicus brief in support of A.G. Catherine Reisman, Chair of COPAA's Amicus Committee, participated in review of the brief.



In C.R. & P.R. o/b/o W.R. v. Lenape Reg'l Bd. of Educ., the school district unsuccessfully attempted to deny W.R. his day in court. W.R.'s IEP, for many years, had contained a transition goal of attending college independentlyW.R. had achieved academic success, earning straight A's in his classes, but had not mastered the skills needed to transition to a college setting independently, including the social, emotional, and behavioral skills to do so. The Board of Education sought to deny W.R. a hearing on his claims, arguing that it was allowed to a "summary decision" in its favor because W.R. had done so well academically. The Administrative Law Judge denied the school district's motion, because the question of appropriateness of programming requires a hearing, and consideration of social/emotional/behavioral needs. In the meantime, because of an earlier victory (available hereon W.R.'s right to "stay put" services pending the school district's attempt to graduate him, he continue to receive services at school district expense at his private school placement.



In a November 16, 2015 "Dear Colleague" letter (available here), the United States Department of Education issued guidance on the alignment of Individualized Educational Programs with the states' general education curriculum. The guidance clarifies that any student's IEP must align with the state academic content for the grade in which that child is enrolled. This applies to all students. When a child is performing significantly below grade level, the IEP Team should develop goals that are ambitiousachievable, and designed to close the gap in performance. For a very small percentage of students, those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the states may continue to use alternate academic achievement standards. However, a child within this group must have IEP goals that reflect high expectations and are based on the state's content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. This is a forceful reminder that low expecations remain the biggest obstacle to educational achievement for students with disabilities. 

Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba Attorneys Available to Speak to Your Group

The attorneys of Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba are always available to speak to your group, free of charge, regarding your legal rights in many areas, including special education, civil rights, discrimination claims, the IEP process, Section 504/ADA and the IDEA, and pursuing claims in due process. For more information, contact


November 5, 2015 marks the successful culmination of two decades of effort by People First of Tennessee and its legal team, Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba partner Judith Gran, Jack Derryberry of Nashville and Earle Schwarz of Memphis. In 1995, People First, a self-advocacy organization governed and led by persons with disabilities and a 

number of individual institutional residents, sought to close the Clover Bottom Developmental Center in Nashville. Because of litigation by People First, this morning, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) will hold a ceremony to mark the closure of Clover Bottom. Opened in 1923 as the “Clover Bottom Home and School for the Feeble Minded,” Clover Bottom was the product of the thinking of the Eugenics Era that persons with developmental disabilities should be kept separate from the rest of society to prevent procreation of the “unfit.” Nearly all residents of the institution have moved to small community homes in typical neighborhoods, where they receive around the clock staff support and a rich array of specialized services.

Judith, Jack, and Earle filed People First of Tennessee v. Clover Bottom Developmental Center in December, 1995. The parties negotiated a consent decree in 1996 that covered three of the four state institutions in Tennessee. People First and its legal team had previously filed a successful case against the Arlington Developmental Center near Memphis. Arlington closed in 2010 after nearly two decades of intense implementation activity.

At the time People First’s legal team filed the Arlington and Clover Bottom cases, Tennessee had few, if any, community services for persons with significant disabilities. Under the terms of the two consent decrees, the Tennessee DIDD developed a program of community services for every institutional resident with a professional recommendation for community placement.  In the implementation phase of the lawsuit, most of the plaintiffs' enforcement activity focused on the quality of community services. Now, Tennessee has one of the best community service systems in the nation and serves people with all manner of significant, complex disabilities in the community. With the projected closure of the state's remaining institution, Greene Valley Developmental Center, in June 2016, Tennessee will become the 15th state in the nation to have closed all its large congregate state institutions.

Congratulations to People First, Judith, Jack and Earle!!!




In a “Dear Colleague” letter dated October 23, 2015, the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Related Services  ("OSERS") clarified the role that dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia can play in special education determinations and programming. Important "take away" points:


  • There is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents. 

  • Regardless of whether a child has dyslexia or any other condition explicitly included in this definition of “specific learning disability,” or has a condition such as dyscalculia or dysgraphia not listed expressly in the definition, the school district must conduct an evaluation to determine whether that child meets the criteria for specific learning disability or any of the other disabilities listed in 34 CFR §300.8, which implements IDEA’s definition of “child with a disability.” 

  • School districts may use scientific, research-based general education interventions to identify children having a specific learning disabilities, but NOT simply to delay evaluation and identification. School districts must refer children not responding to general education interventions for a timely evaluation. 

  • If a child’s dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia is the condition that forms the basis for the determination that a child has a specific learning disability, the IEP Team could determine that personnel responsible for IEP implementation would need to know about the condition underlying the child’s disability (e.g., that a child has a weakness in decoding skills as a result of the child’s dyslexia). OSERS reiterates that there is nothing in the IDEA or our implementing regulations that would prohibit IEP Teams from referencing or using dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia in a child’s IEP. 

  • OSERS encourages SEAs to remind their LEAs of the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia during IEP Team meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA. 


For more information, contact



West Virginia Hearing Officer Holds that School District Denied Student the Rights to Education in the Least Restrictive Environment and to Free and Appropriate PUblic Education, Violating the IDEA and Section 504

In Student v. Putnam County Schools , Judith Gran once again prevailed on behalf of a student seeking a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The hearing officer found that the school district did not include the student in general education classes to the maximum extent appropriate. In reaching this decision, he noted that "the parent has demonstrated that students who participate in general education classes have much better outcomes than other students." Additionally, the school district's substantive and procedural violations led to the denial of a free and appropriate public education. Finally, in "failing to provide an IEP that was reasonably calculated to confer more than trivial educational benefit and by failing to provide the LRE placement for the student," the school district violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Family May Proceed on Retaliation Claims in Federal Court in New Jersey - G.M. & M.C.M. v. Brigantine Public Schools

In July, 2014, Sarah Zuba and Catherine Reisman filed a complaint for G.M. & M.C.M., on their own behalf and on behalf of their sons,  alleging that the school district engaged in retaliation and discrimination. Specifically, the Complaint asserts that school personnel made unfounded reports to DYFS after the parents advocated for their son C.M.'s civil rights to an appropriate education. In a decision issued on June 8, 2015the federal district court in New Jersey rejected a school district's request that the case be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. 

Judith Gran Secures a Victory for LRE

n D.B. & L.B. o/b/o H.B. v. Gloucester Township Bd. of Educ., available HERE (pdf), a case Judith co-counseled with Christopher Soriano of Duane Morris LLP, the Administrative Law Judge rejected the school district's efforts to force H.B. into a more restrictive setting. Finding that she had made meaningful progress in her current stay-put program, the Judge ordered the parties to craft an IEP that included, at a minimum, the amount of time she currently spends in an inclusive setting.

New Jersey Office of Special Education Programs Issues Guidance on Independent Educatonal Evaluations




On September 9, 2014, New Jersey OSEP issued guidance (pdf) reminding school districts that the may not may not limit parents' right to an IEE request for an independent evaluation is received, a district must provide the evaluation at no cost to the parent unless the school district initiates a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate and a final determination to that effect is made following the hearing. On December 16, 2014, OSEP directed school districts to attach this guidance to all IEPs: Independent Educational Evaluations (pdf)


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Bullying and Students with Disabilities


In October, 2014, the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued additional guidance on bullying of students with disabilities (pdf). This guidance explains that the bullying of a student with a disability on any basis can result in a denial of FAPE under Section 504 that a school district must remedy. It describes schools' obligations to address conduct that may constitute disability-based harassment violation and also remedy the denial of FAPE resulting from disability-based harassment. The guidance provides a summary of the federal protections for students with disabilities in schools, explains the elements of a disability-based harassment violation and a FAPE violation, and discusses how OCR generally analyzes complaints involving bullying of students with disabilities on each of these bases.

Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba Attorneys Available to Speak to Your Group

The attorneys of Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba are always available to speak to your group, free of charge, regarding your legal rights in many areas, including special education, civil rights, discrimination claims, the IEP process, Section 504/ADA and the IDEA, and pursuing claims in due process. For more information, contact

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