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May 13, 2020

What is compensatory education (comp ed) and who needs to know about it? It’s what children with disabilities are entitled to when they don’t get the services in their IEP (sound like anyone you know?) and the person who needs to know about it is YOU! Comp ed is educational services awarded to students with disabilities to make up for services they missed because of the school’s failure to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students are entitled to these services not only to make up for missed hours but to bring a student back up to where they would have been had they received the services in the first place. Hearing offices and courts may grant comp ed service to students with disabilities when the school failed to provide FAPE. Typically, compensatory service are provided outside of regular ongoing services. Today we speak with Piper Paul, another veteran special education attorney, about what compensatory services are, why you may need them, and how they will apply in our “new normal.” You can find more about Piper on her website:

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parents, child, attorney, hearing, district, work, connecticut, school districts, services, iep, education, advocates, compensatory, law, recording, agree, distance learning, waivers, question, student

Dana Jonson, Piper Paul


Dana Jonson  00:02

Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson and I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IEPs. And I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear, comment on, join our Facebook group, it's aptly named need to know Dana Jonson, or you can email me at Dana at special ED dot life. Okay, let's get started. Today we're meeting with Piper Paul, who is a parent side special education attorney in private practice in Connecticut. Hello, Piper. Hello, thank you so much for joining me. I asked you to come on here today because I wanted to talk about compensatory education. And I think compensatory education is not something that people usually understand fully in normal times. But now we're hearing this term all the time. You know, parents are hearing it from school districts from other parents. We're hearing it. So I want to talk to you because I saw you on a webinar. Well, I also know you very well, you on a on a webinar talking about this. And I really think it's important for parents to understand the concept of compensatory education, what it means, how we use it, and how it will apply moving forward under these unique bizarre circumstances of the COVID closures. So why don't you first tell us a little bit about yourself. You're a special ed attorney and how you got there. So people know your background. You've been doing this for a long time,


Piper Paul  02:01

or Thank you. So I'm from a small town in the Midwest, I end up being a dancer and went to NYU School, the Arts where I also double majored in psychology. I went on to law school and I ultimately became a prosecutor in New York City where I was in homicide. Wow, moved to the burbs and did some divorce law and ended up starting a special education law practice that I've been doing for over 15 years. Yeah, that's how I ended up here.


Dana Jonson  02:28

Now let's talk about compensatory education. What is compensatory education?


Piper Paul  02:33

That's a great question. And there's a lot of misinformation and conflicting information out there. What it is, is that when services are not delivered, you have to look at what was missed. And it's an equitable remedy to put the student in the same position they would have been had the services been delivered, it can take many forms. Let's say your child has speech and language three times a week for 30 minutes, but during the pandemic, they've not received any services. So quarter of equity would determine whether or not you should receive our per hour of what was missed. And then another way to look at is what what were you working on? And has there been regression. So it's a creative remedy, that's often decided by hearing officer you're in hearing or if you're in hearing, or now there will be an onus for the parents to work with the district to come up with what the compensatory education services should look like.


Dana Jonson  03:30

So if a parent like if you're supposed to get speech and language, as you said, like twice a week, and you don't get it, that's a very obvious example. Right? So you didn't get two hours of speech, you need two hours of speech. I remember several years ago, one of the town's could not find an OT at all. They just they couldn't find one to interview. And this went on for an extended period of time. And so what some of my clients did was they went and they said, we'll get it privately, and you pay for it. And they agreed to that, because they really didn't have a choice. But that was a very simple, okay, you're missing these exact hours, we need those hours back. But when services are missed for a long period of time, for any reason, because it doesn't just have to be that services were offered and not provided, right?


Piper Paul  04:15

That's correct. It could be a child fund violation, work with children that weren't diagnosed with autism until they were 15 years old. Right, from the services.


Dana Jonson  04:24

And I think we're going to see a lot of that now. Because particularly well, I want to talk about how combat applies now, because I'm hearing a lot of people say, and I want to make sure parents understand what it is and how they use it. So yes, the one to one the hour by hour is one way to do it. Like you said, if there's regression, the law is meant to bring the child back up, right? Where would they be had they got those services? So if they've gotten hours of speech a week, where would they be? And maybe now that means three hours of speech a week, right? Maybe not two, maybe three, and how we adjust that. So how would parents know if they have In case for combat?


Piper Paul  05:01

That's a great question. I think what's really pivotal right now is for parents, who are extremely overworked and overwhelmed, to try to keep a log of data. And note the services that are actually delivered on what days by whom. And to try to keep track what related services were actually provided speech ot note that that's one way. Another is is to observe yourself what's going on with your child, it's possible that some kids are going to actually make progress in areas like independent living skills, perhaps some language skills, self help skills, adaptive skills. So that's important to note. Also, going back, I have a concern, because some districts are saying, we're just going to evaluate everyone and do assessments and then we'll make determinations on earth is that going to happen? That's number one. And number two, the concern is the delay that this is going to cause. So there's a strong argument to be made, the data comes in many forms, and the data provided from the parents by what they're observing, as well as what the teachers were observing online. For instance, today, I was in a virtual PPT, when found out the students not been logging on at all. Well, those are all missed services. And why


Dana Jonson  06:20

then is the argument well, they chose not to take the services is that what the school district is saying? So


Piper Paul  06:26

they may try to do that. But that is not a liberal argument. So the argument would be that it is showing exactly where the student's present level of performance is. They're unable to actually access that. It could be executive functioning, it could be mental health, it could be cognitive, in some cases. That's the question. So if the student is not accessing or signing on, you may want to ask why. And today, the court it came out that it was mental health, which was very fair, the district to speak up and address that. Yeah. And then that's going to that's going to end up needing having a child need to be in a different program. Right.


Dana Jonson  07:03

And I think that the other component to that, as you were saying child find is I think we're discovering deficits children had that we didn't know they had. Absolutely right. So I think there's going to be a lot of Child Find coming out of this. What would you recommend to parents who feel like they have now suddenly discovered their child has issues?


Piper Paul  07:24

That's a great question, you need to document it. So you need to write a constructive email to the district noting my child, for instance, is shut down. My child cannot focus more than five minutes. My child is having difficulty doing say math work without prompting, my child just jumped on the table and off the deck. I mean, all those kinds of things. I'm concerned,


Dana Jonson  07:47

data isn't just numbers. Oh,


Piper Paul  07:50

that's fantastic.



I've heard that term a lot. And I think it overwhelms parents sometimes, because they think in their head, they're like, should I be, you know, checking boxes and stuff like that. And one of the things I've been saying is no, if you have your little notebook that you're keeping all your information in, you know, even if the only thing you write down is today, socked, nothing done, got nothing done. Just do that, because you'll get in the habit of doing it. And you'll be able to document more and more as you go, but you can


Piper Paul  08:16

make a data sheet date time services delivered.


Dana Jonson  08:20

tons of them out there. I know seek of Connecticut has one on their website. Lots of attorney sites have them too. But yeah, collecting the data is very critical. Why are children now going to be eligible for compensatory education? Because we're hearing from school districts that we're not talking about this education? Because this isn't I don't know what it is. Is it magic education? It's it's secret education? I don't know because we're not talking about it and IEP meetings, right. There's a strong reluctance to talk about distance learning. So how can a parent argue that they need compensatory education when their kid has already been provided something completely separate from their IEP?


Piper Paul  09:02

So Betsy DeVos, put out a great report. And basically, there's no waivers, or there's a waiver for Birth to Three, there's some vocational issues, but there are no waivers regarding comp, EAD or FAPE. So the district can say what they may want to say. But right now, that's not the law. The law has not changed. These are civil rights laws, and their rights for people with disabilities that are in existence. So I've actually had that experience a couple times in PPTs, by the way, in Connecticut, for me, just started for the first time two days ago, the district just shut down all meetings.



Yeah. First virtual PPTs. Listening was not in Connecticut. PBTS are what we call IEP meetings here, or art or CSCs. Or, yeah, that I mean, we're just starting back and what are we seven weeks in?


Piper Paul  09:54

Yeah, so that's an issue in and of itself that that's what Connecticut chose to do in New York City. either having hearings. So it's the fact that the parent has a right to participate in it's a procedural violation because they're not allowing participation from the parents. And they're not addressing children's needs. So those are going to be significant concerns in the virtual PPTs that you have, you need to address what's going on. And I'm gonna tell you as an attorney, I'm, I'm getting told no, but you asked it the records that you agree to disagree. For instance, a student was now hospitalized because they had such a difficult problem behaviorally. And I asked for the debt be acknowledged, and how is this going to work in the program and the district, so we're not talking about it. And another meeting, I said, no services are being delivered at all. So you have this proposed document, we're not going to talk about it, or an ESI program? Well, it looks like we could still be virtual, what is the contingency plan? You need to ask for contingency plans in your IEPs? Or your 504? Plans? should we still be remote or if we're remote, we changed I think the whole structure of the of these documents has to change, you have to have two plans, right?


Dana Jonson  11:10

We need a second, like a backup, like a plan based on your IP, just like a behavior plan, right? We just attach to the IEP, when we go into distance learning, this is what we have agreed this child gets. And that can change. Right? That's part of their faith. So one of the things I'm hearing from parents is, they're being told you don't get the same services that are in your IEP. And on some level, that's true, because we're not in the building, right. So for example, my child has a number of special ed hours in her IEP, she's not getting those, right, don't get me wrong, she's getting services and all of that, I just mean that she's not in that building in that schedule. So she can't meet those special ed hours. Right. And so we're being told, and we just mean, parents in general, is that's how we do it for distance learning, but we're not documenting it, and we're not talking about it. So I have


Piper Paul  12:07

a major concern with this, when you look at some of the private schools, special ed schools, here, they go from 9am till 3pm Plus related services, it's a choice that districts are making. And I don't think it's okay. So


Dana Jonson  12:22

three children are in an alternative program, and then in classes all day to adjust the workloads that is more appropriate for having to be on a computer all day. You know, one of my daughter's actually just before we started talking, took her laptop outside, because she's supposed to be in an outdoor club. And so on Thursdays, they have them take their laptops outside, and they do outdoor clubs.


Piper Paul  12:44

You know, I'm going to say something goes a little sideways on the topic regarding remote learning. It's the idea that some of these companies, the programs, they're they're not really secure, and that data is scraped, it's taken. And then it's sold to other companies. So for instance, Connecticut stopped the use of zoom, or Westport stop the use of zoom, because there was not an agreement for that information not to be scraped and shared. And I think the state's now using new platform, I forgot which one it is for mediations, and


Dana Jonson  13:18

I know they're using Microsoft meetings at this point in


Piper Paul  13:21

Connecticut, you have to ask those questions, what have they done so that the data is not shared?


Dana Jonson  13:25

Or taken? Interesting? I didn't realize that. So doesn't zoom have a HIPAA compliant subscription, though, before you have to pay for it. So that's why the schools aren't doing it. They don't want to pay for it.


Piper Paul  13:37

I don't know. I mean, did they and that's just sit so and in HIPAA, HIPAA merges into FERPA when your child has other issues. So is it HIPAA compliant in the way that things are being recorded? That's interesting.


Dana Jonson  13:49

I hadn't really thought of that. There is a lot of questions about we can't provide services because some staff won't go on camera. They won't go on Zoom. How do you address those things?


Piper Paul  14:01

That's not then they have to find someone else. Yeah. Wages, wages.


Dana Jonson  14:06

Yeah. I'm not really clear. I understand why there's, there's so much reluctance to it because I think it could be so successful,


Piper Paul  14:13

well, actually sort of circling back in a way maybe it's not outrageous. But if if they know that the site is HIPAA compliant, and the data is not being scraped or sold, maybe that's their concern. So find out what their concern is, it may be very legitimate, and then ensure that it's protected site. And maybe that's where that's coming from. I don't know.


Dana Jonson  14:37

So when we're going back to talking about comp, Ed, I know, there was a case many years ago where the comp Ed took the form of training for the staff, that's where it's requested because their child had aged out and by the time they got to their comp, Ed, and that was the request. So I'm wondering as well, if parents can be creative with what they're asked. screen for in combat. This part of the problem is just that understanding, you know, staff aren't willing to get on camera because they don't understand what the safety measures are that have been taken or I know some districts have said it's in the collective bargaining agreement. But our problem is problems. It's in the collective bargaining agreement, go read the collective bargaining agreement, because it's not always.


Piper Paul  15:23

Well, that doesn't trump the federal law. So we have federal, we're talking federal law here. That's true,


Dana Jonson  15:28

too. Yes. So the IDA covers everybody, it has not been waived. Right. We all have our full the full extent. So do you have any cases right now that you're setting up for combat that you're helping set up that that you could explain?


Piper Paul  15:44

Pretty much all of them?


Dana Jonson  15:47

Narrow it down?


Piper Paul  15:49

So you asked an interesting question, what could comp Ed look like? And what's important to know about compensatory education is the rights never go away, even after the child ages out? So I've had a case before where the child was 24 years old, and I took the case. So training, it could be vocational services, it could be academics, it could be adaptive learning, I mean, you in the thing, because it's a remedy. It's an equitable remedy. There can be a lot of creativity. So what happens if you were in a hearing as you were presented to the hearing officer, the hearing officer determined compensatory education should be awarded, it's at their discretion to determine what that would look like. It can also be private placement, outplacement, what I'm finding is the virtual PPTs are extraordinarily helpful to put your detective hat on and advocate for what you need now. Because the end date of this time, location is unknown. And when you ask for Behavior Intervention Plan, because the student is shutting down, and there's known FBA with known behaviors, which are going on at home, and the teachers can see it and says, Nope, we're not going to do that. Or you ask for changes to an IEP, Nope, we're not gonna need to do that until we get back in school, though, you're now raising major red flags that can lead to compensatory education, you have to take the child where they are


Dana Jonson  17:14

not supported by the law. I think that's what really needs to get across to parents is that those decisions to not hold PPTs or IEP meetings at all, to not provide special ed to reduce services that none of that is supported by the law? Well, right. Not at all. And I think what happened were school districts were hoping for waivers. So they decided to act as if they were going to get them. And then they didn't, right. So now we have this backlog. You know,


Piper Paul  17:42

we really are all in a in a horrendous situation right now. And we need to get it come together as a community. But understanding is there still getting paid after administration? So creative ways that school districts have to come up with on how teachers can actually deliver services? Is it recording? Is it set blocks to the alternate days? What are they actually doing to come up with a solution?


Dana Jonson  18:06

So another thing that I've recommended to clients too, because I've seen this work in the past, but it's different now. Because everybody is going to their districts now and saying, Look, you have not been able to provide, let's say it's OT or the distance OT is not working for my child. What if we go to our OT over here? And you just reimburse us for it? Absolutely. We won't have any compensatory education claims. You know, we'll just agree now that that's what will happen. How are you advising parents to handle that kind of agreement? Because I get really worried when I hear parents say they're making that bargain, because I'm afraid they're giving up their rights?


Piper Paul  18:44

Yeah, I would say absolutely no waivers. Unless you talk to an attorney, or you know, very experienced advocate, but it's really you're in the legal arena, you need to talk to an attorney. So no, don't agree to the waivers unless you really understand all your rights that you are giving up. I think it you could ask in writing that you receive the services outside if they're not going to provide them. And I think I want to say something about recording and netiquette. You cannot tape record a phone conversation without the other person knowing. In New York, you can but not in Connecticut. So I think it's important to tape record, but you have to let the district know, if you're on the phone. If you're in person, you do not have to tell them. But you have to be in person, an active participant in CONNECTICUT,


Dana Jonson  19:32

Connecticut. So because I'm just confused by this. So you're saying that if you're in an in person meet No, we have to tell school districts that we record


Piper Paul  19:40

Well, you do not not legally under the law. Really, really?


Dana Jonson  19:44

I'm learning something new here. Yes, you do. Not interesting. If you're in person, you do not have to let them know that you're recording


Piper Paul  19:51

and you're part of the conversation. Interesting, but on the phone you do, literally it's actually a misdemeanor, but not if you're in New York. So if you're in New York And you call Connecticut. You don't have to let the person know you're recording.


Dana Jonson  20:03

They just crossed the border now. Just kidding.


Piper Paul  20:06

Yeah, you know, I mean, I think it's right to let them know, recording and to volunteer to give a copy of the recording, should they also like one? A lot of times, there's so much information presented, it's really hard to keep track of.


Dana Jonson  20:21

Yeah. And that actually in PPTs, where I've shown up, and maybe I didn't either have the opportunity or didn't realize that we were going to record so I hadn't told the district yet. And they're like, I don't know why that's the hardest thing. It's like one of the hardest things in PBTS is to get them to find a tape recorder. It's ridiculous.


Piper Paul  20:38

But the voice memo on iPhone works beautifully.


Dana Jonson  20:42

What I've done is I use my phone, and then I email it to them before we leave. Yeah, exactly. Perfect. And then I'll be the recording person, and then I'll email it to you. If you want to use your phone. You can it doesn't matter. So unreleased


Piper Paul  20:56

anything, it just helps to if people want to go back and listen, if there was a discrepancy, or they thought they didn't understand something, some people find it very helpful.


Dana Jonson  21:06

I do too. I think it's I do think it's good for parents, because I think sometimes you get so much information. And I also think that miscommunications can happen, absolutely, and mis understandings. So you might walk away thinking one thing, and the district thought something else. And sometimes just coming down to well, this is what was actually said helps helps eradicate the issue. But I also agree with you with the amount of information they get, there's just no way to maintain it. And then you're also emotional because it's your child. So we're in an emotional field. And I think parents forget sometimes to ask for the things they want to ask for to. That's true, because they may get derailed on a conversation. And they may feel that they made it clear to the team. But maybe they didn't write because it was in their head.


Piper Paul  21:50

And on the district side. I mean, there's a person recording the minutes, and they're kind of in the same boat, trying to keep track of everything I noticed. Oftentimes parents are extraordinarily frustrated with minutes because they think things were missed. You always asked to do an addendum, it'd be attached to the PPT IEP. And make a note of any thing that you disagree with.


Dana Jonson  22:09

Yeah, I always recommend that follow up any meeting with a note, an email, a paper trail, summarizing what you believe came out of the meeting, and saying, you know, thank you, and this is what I see happening moving forward. Because that gives you an opportunity to share your interpretation of what happened. And for them to I mean, I do also recommend that parents when they are talking with districts take that extra seconds to repeat what they heard. That's wonderful. Yeah, take that extra time and say, let me make sure I understand you and repeat what you heard. And if what you heard was different, they'll correct you.


Piper Paul  22:42

I think there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding of the law out there. People are often well meaning but wrong information is being conveyed. Again, our laws are still here, they've not changed.


Dana Jonson  22:55

Right? And I think it's it's it's frustrating for parents, because as we were talking about before, you know, parents of children with disabilities have been flexible and cooperative from day one, right from the day of the diagnosis. You're usually if you're in special ed, it's because regular education doesn't work for you. And now that everyone in regular education, it's not working for them either. Now everyone's all up in arms. Right? So now it's an emergency because regular ed kids can't access their education. So now we're all in panic mode. So I think it's frustrating for parents to hear. And I know they're hearing it a lot, because I've said it too. We're not going to get a lot of sympathy for that case, right? Or, you know, your case isn't very strong, it would have been strong six months ago. But now that we have this and all these other cases coming down, it's not that strong, or you know, it's not worth the time. What do you say to that?


Piper Paul  23:42

Oh, I think that's absolutely wrong. So you have to if anything, you would note regression in certain. And again, you always have to look at the positive and the positive areas, but there's likely going to be tremendous regression for some, some students in certain areas. And no, it's not gone, it just increased most likely in certain areas.


Dana Jonson  24:01

And I do agree that we are we as attorneys, not the parents, but we as attorneys, when we get to that next stage, and you and I are talking a lot about hearing officers and hearings. And it's important for parents to understand, we have to consider that right. Every case that comes to my door. I'm thinking at every step, when I'm in front of a hearing officer, how does this look? And that's why the vast majority of our cases do not go to full blown due process hearings, because we're thinking of that ahead. And we're advising our parents ahead of time.


Piper Paul  24:31

Well, I've to say something kind of funny. I have a different theory on that. Okay. And I think that they don't go to hearing because the districts do a cost benefit analysis and don't want to take the risk of losing and having to pay all the attorneys fees, plus what they'd have to pay to their staff and administration and all the time loss. So I think it's I often think of this in terms of money, unfortunately. And I think this applies


Dana Jonson  24:57

well, and that that is a fair point because it really does come to don't have money it's not supposed to do but it always does. And we know it. And yes, there are lots of stimulus packages coming out. But Special Ed isn't funded properly


Piper Paul  25:08

to start with. That's true. That's very hard for districts. So districts


Dana Jonson  25:11

don't get the money from the federal government that they need to implement. They're being held responsible, but they're not being given the resources to do it. So we all have to remember that when we're talking and thinking about going to a hearing down the road, it's it's in a preventative way. I don't want people to think that if they want combat, they have to go to a hearing. Well, oh, well, somewhat subtle.


Piper Paul  25:35

So the vast majority


Dana Jonson  25:37

has majority saddle. And I think districts motivated right now, to do that, if you come to the district with a solution, you've just done time. So you know, that that I have been recommending that parents come up with more than one, right, come up with a couple of options and say, These are my options for filling in these missing services. And if you've come to them with solutions, and they've rejected all of them, and they're not providing something different, that creates that paper trail that we need, as attorneys that says these services weren't provided any of your formula might not be clear ours, we can document that there was an issue, it was discussed, solutions were offered, and nothing happened. Right?


Piper Paul  26:28

Absolutely. One thing, and what's important to know is under 504, you have a right to FAPE, as well. So there's requirements for free appropriate public education. And I think we're also going to have compensatory education claims in this area, for instance, say that a child needed to have assistive technology or certain modifications or accommodations, and then work provided. So as a result of that they couldn't access their education. So that could be a compensatory action. I think it doesn't just apply to students with IEPs. Oh,


Dana Jonson  26:59

yes. And that's a very good point, because 504 also has an obligation to evaluate. Absolutely. That gets skipped over a lot to Yes. I tell parents, if you're asking when school districts are saying no. So Well, then let's evaluate them for special education. Right. But that assumption is you're still entitled to that under 504. Now, 504 doesn't have the same rules that the IDE does. There's a lot more meat to the Ida and a lot more protections to the IDA. But under 504 parents still have rights. Absolutely. And they could still get compensatory education. Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. So that's actually what I was going to ask. Because for students where they are receiving everything, let's say they appear to be engaging, and they are whatever the services are, are able to be provided this way. But they're not making any progress. Is that combat?


Piper Paul  27:51

That can be yes. So the question is, how were the services delivered, and that they needed to be altered and modified in order to address the unique learning challenges that the child has. So just going through the motions is not going to do the trick. And I like what you said, Dana is working with districts and trying to come up with solutions. But I don't think you should be signing waivers until you talk to an attorney.


Dana Jonson  28:16

Now, I mean, when I've had clients do that they were my client when they did it. So it was it was something I oversaw, and, and negotiated with them. But yes, as as, as a parent acting on behalf of your child on your own, you certainly want to get anything like that in writing and an email is writing Absolutely. tell parents that too. It doesn't have to be handwriting and email can be writing, if you have that agreement. It's it's binding.


Piper Paul  28:41

Absolutely. So one thing you said talking about, like, what would compensatory education look like for a student with an IEP or something, I think you have to keep in mind the purpose of Ida, which is independent living, to the extent possible to go on to further education or to be employed. So if you're wondering, you know, sort of observe those areas of your child, can you how independent is my child? Is my child going to be able to keep job? Is my child going to be able to go to on to further education? Can they access the technology? Can they stay focused? Can they get up in the morning on time? Can they tell time can all those kinds of things you could sort of put into a framework of skills and needed areas that either they've gotten better or they've gotten worse?


Dana Jonson  29:27

Right? And I like that you said get up on time. One of the things I've heard recently and quite a bit actually, is when I hear people talking about children with disabilities going to college, and what skill set they need and I've been in two different I think seminars now where they said if your child does not wake up independently, take their meds if needed, complete any hygiene routine needed, get out the door on their own 100% independent do not send them to college and they don't care if they have a disability or not. And Net by eighth grade, and I did not know this, but by eighth grade, those are skills a child should either obtain or be obtaining. Right. And, you know, that's, that's for any kid. Right? Right.


Piper Paul  30:11

Great area to look at now, and a lot of times district will say that the ADLs, the daily living skills were fine. But are they? And that's something you can observe now and see.


Dana Jonson  30:20

So what do you say to parents when they've been bringing concerns to the school district? Right? You bring these concerns? And they say, Well, I don't see that at school. We don't see that. It's not happening here. So we don't know how to assess for it or address it. We just don't see it at all. Well, now the kids home, this is their classroom. So apparently,


Piper Paul  30:37

the child has two personalities. Yes. Clearly, it's I find it incredibly insulting toward my clients. And children are not that savvy. And a lot of times, not a lot of times, sometimes districts will blame families. We don't see that at home. We only see it here. Look at the child's IEP. Is it one of their goals that they have to learn how to walk down a hallway on their own? And that they have a parent with them all the time? I mean, what are we really are we talking apples to apples, apples to oranges, follow your gut, don't let the onus or the burden be put onto the parent, it's about the child and blame is not helpful.


Dana Jonson  31:16

No, blame is not helpful. That's a very good point. It does sometimes make us feel a little better as parents. It's not productive.


Piper Paul  31:25

Interesting. I thought it would be the opposite. I thought it would be that it wouldn't make the parents feel badly because they weren't maybe doing the right


Dana Jonson  31:33

thing. Oh, that's so funny. I was thinking blaming the other direction.


Piper Paul  31:37

I love it. You and I we have different just as great views on some. Oh, I I usually my parents are pretty upset when they hear that. But I love the opposite way. Yeah.


Dana Jonson  31:48

I mean, I you know, sometimes I have to get my parents to stop, you know, okay, we blamed them enough. Let's take it down a notch. You know, because as a parent, you question yourself all the time, no matter what right? Am I doing the right thing? Is this right for my child? How badly Am I screwing them up? You know, how much do I have to save for therapy later? But yeah, and so it's hard when you hear school districts say they don't see something? It's like you're being gaslighted.


Piper Paul  32:12

So what you want to try to do? Yes. What do you want to try to do then is glance in advance of the IEP and look at something like, let's say it says that your child can tie their shoelaces, but you know, they can't, or they can't at home? Like that doesn't make any sense. So ask specific questions. So who actually is seeing, you know, ami tire shoes? And how many prompts? And how much time does it take, and then you're likely going to find out, it's like 15 prompts and like, five minutes or 20 minutes. So those questions and to try to just go into detective mode, agree to disagree, I always try to do this, I fail sometimes and get extraordinarily frustrated. But that's not helpful to anybody. So just trying to agree to disagree. And whenever you're so there's, so for instance, let's say somebody says they never see behaviors in your child. But you know, the year before 911 was called because they knocked over all the desks. So follow the truth of what you know, to be true. So let's say you see incredible behaviors, biting, kicking, in all kinds of things at home. And they said, Well, we never see that. You need to go to DDS, or DCF, for you know, trying to pass it off to another organization. You know, that's not true.


Dana Jonson  33:29

tunity to capture those things, they may say


Piper Paul  33:33

that they're still seeing it, or they're not recording it, right. So if you know, you've had conversation with the bus driver, because your kid, you know, is kicking in and throwing things, and then you ask, and it's an ongoing problem. And you say, Well, what are you doing about it, and they're like, We have no reports, try to figure out where the breakdown is. Or if your child attacked a teacher and fit them the year before. And they're like, We never see behaviors, remind them of what happened. Or if they say that nothing ever happens, but you know, your child just punched an aide in the face, ask the aide if they're there, if that happened, and then show that try to show where the disconnect is why is this pivotal information not being recorded in school?


Dana Jonson  34:17

Right. And I think that's the main issue is the documentation. Because someone comes to my office, if it's not documented, it didn't happen. So to make sure that the paperwork that if you go to an IEP meeting, even if it's virtual now, and you make requests, or you're told that you can't talk about things, you want to make sure that that document says it absolutely. I want a parent to come to me and say in this IEP, it says parent requested discussion of current program, school district refused,


Piper Paul  34:47

right? Parent requested. There was an issue regarding assessments and districts are saying that they can't do any well, they can't do some. There's assessment that can be done without one on one. When


Dana Jonson  34:59

the testing come The knees are relaxing those protocols now and stating that they are capable of being done certain ones, not all of them, but that a number of them actually can be done with fidelity via zoom or the telephone or whichever way it is. But they have to note it in the report just has to be noted in the report that this is how was conducted,


Piper Paul  35:19

the district's argument is why would we do that? Now, that's not going to be reliable? Because this is a whole different environment. And in that's a delay tactic. No, it needs to be done now.


Dana Jonson  35:30

Okay. When will we be back in the building? That would be my next question, I don't know. But, oh, then you need to create a program right now.


Piper Paul  35:37

Right? Because the key is it's always present levels of performance and where the child is now. And that's what we need that information documentation, we also need to be creating these programs. Once we get back to school, should this happen again? Which it likely will,


Dana Jonson  35:54

yes, it will likely happen again. And I think that even if we don't have a global pandemic, which knock on wood, I hope we don't. But even if we don't have a global pandemic, I think the fact that we can do this distance learning, it's been a bit of a nightmare. But if people are getting into a groove, we now know that it does work for a large portion of the population, we are still working towards workarounds for those for whom it doesn't work. But think that it's going to be utilized more. For like the year we had the all those hurricanes. And we were home a lot and the schools were trying to figure out how to do distance learning. I think when we have issues like that, we're going right back to distance learning,


Piper Paul  36:34

or how about kids with medical vulnerabilities, there's been times that I know that I've requested that, that there be you know, the the it'd be recorded, it's always well, there's violations of FERPA like, but now they're doing whole classrooms and sharing with older children, did they get waivers on that It either is a violation of FERPA or it's not a violation of FERPA. So I, you know, I think we need to update the technology so that it's safe, inform the parents, you have to inform the parents of their rights, and then start just really education through the technology. Some people some places use TV stations.


Dana Jonson  37:11

Oh, interesting. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, I think the other thing for parents to remember is, even for those who are hardcore, committed to sending their kids to school in September, no matter what, if schools open in September, we will still be social distancing. I agree. And so it's important for parents to think about that, how is their school going to social distance on September 1? And if in your head, you can't picture that, then there's a good chance it's not happening. Right. So they can't have every child in the school building and social distance? Yeah, I agree. physically not possible. So there is no way we are going back to 100%? Well, we're never going back to 100%. Like normal, right, that's changed. But I think it's changed for the better, because I think we're finding new innovative ways to work with kids. And for some kids, it's been astounding, I think I told you, I have a student, we're looking at residential placement, because the behaviors were so bad. And now after seven weeks of being home, the parents are saying, you know, we think there's a chance he doesn't need residential. Yeah. Right. And that's amazing. So let's figure out the difference. The kid like their school, the parents like their school. So it's not necessarily the school itself, right. It's what's different. What how is their program changed? What is working for this child? And maybe what we're focused on in the IEP isn't really what the kid needs? Yeah,


Piper Paul  38:41

I think it's a great, it's a great temperature gauge here to see what's actually going on with the student. And the environments that they flourish


Dana Jonson  38:48

flourish in. Yes. And I think it's really important for parents to just remind school districts that if they hear well, this is just temporary ask the question, then when will we be back? And if they can't answer that question for you, then you need a program? Yeah,


Piper Paul  39:03

I think you need a program. And I think that the argument should be let's we need to contingency plans, and then to really try to work with them collaboratively to come up with ideas. There's there's a lot of really talented teachers and staff and administrators and, and I hope at times there's been a tendency where people around the table did not speak up. And I hope that in the collaborative nature that that will change so that really, we can hear those creative ideas in brainstorming and working together.


Dana Jonson  39:34

The teachers and staff speak Yeah, I haven't had a virtual IP meeting yet. But what I've heard is because of the somewhat formal nature of it, because you're on video that they can present as the formal nature can be difficult for parents it might feel more adversarial because it has to be very formal and rigid. And so I'm trying to remind parents too, that that formality, it might feel less casual or less personal, but that's just the format. So to kind of keep that in mind that the format has changed.


Piper Paul  40:07

So you could do a couple of things. Oftentimes you can call in instead, if you don't want to go on the camera, or if you're on the camera, you can just like, like I was on a virtual call, I just like put the picture off, so nobody can see me because he's doing something, also, and then you can take your microphone down and just listen.


Dana Jonson  40:27

Right? Right. An interesting thing you said that I want to just touch on is, when we're talking about combat, you mentioned a highly skilled advocate. And then you corrected yourself and said, Go to an attorney. And I think this is a very important thing for parents to understand is that the compensatory education is a legal paradigm it is, and it's completely legal. So advocates, I think, can help you figure out what that combat might be yes, and how to make it happen. Yes, but you need to talk to an attorney to make sure you are properly setting it up and properly preserving your rights to get that compensatory education. And that is no offense to advocates in any way, shape, or form. And in Connecticut, we have some really great advocates are very well versed in the law, but they're not attorneys. And so I think for this piece, particularly compensatory education, parents need to they need to consult with attorneys. And I'm hopeful. I know we are in our office, and I'm hopeful that other attorneys are also adjusting, you know how they help parents because I think a lot of parents are going to need us for this limited scope, you know, for not, maybe they don't have a dispute in other areas of the program. But just in this either compensatory education slash distance learning component is where they're only an issue. And so we all have to adjust how we service parents a little bit, right, because usually we're taking cases that are going to hearing or you know, something along those lines that are at a high level of dispute, but these are on a smaller level, but parents are still going to need them. And you want to make sure you're doing it. Right.


Piper Paul  42:08

Right. I agree. And they can be, you know, could be a consultation, understanding what your rights are looking at documents. And sometimes, you know, I know that I work with several advocates. Yeah. And you know, just to double check.


Dana Jonson  42:20

I didn't mean every hire an attorney. That's not what I meant.


Piper Paul  42:24

Can you do I have a little bit of a, you know, I think there's tremendous advocates, but they can't provide advice on the law. So they do many really wonderful things and are very supportive and helpful. But like you said, this is a legal issue. And on there can be some significant repercussions in making the wrong decision. And I think if you hear the word labor, you should also hear the word attorney. And you can negotiate with attorneys, maybe a flat fee consultation, something, you know, and then you can make a decision.


Dana Jonson  42:55

Yeah. And we sell my office, we do coaching, so we do that. Yeah, well, we get a call, someone will call me and say, Oh, but we have a, you know, my child was just diagnosed with autism, and we don't need an attorney, but we might someday. So can you advise us behind the scenes, that kind of thing? Do that already. But I'm not an advocate. I don't do that component. And I think that's an important distinction. And when I said not everyone needs to hire an attorney and meant, yes, if you have compensatory education components, you must speak to an attorney. Don't wait six months, don't wait till we're back in school, give a call. I don't know, a single attorney who wouldn't talk to you, because we're all trying to get through this. As you said, they'll determine whether you need their support or not sure.


Piper Paul  43:39

You know, there's, there's all kinds of information out there. Some people are saying there is no compensatory education. That's not the language you should use. But Betsy DeVos is I hope I'm saying her name correctly, and what's coming down, we still have these laws in place, nothing's changed.


Dana Jonson  43:53

There's nothing has changed. There's still the protections, they're still entitled to last services, and entitled to fate moving forward. Because I think that's another component of this compensatory conversation


Piper Paul  44:06

is and what is that going to look like? We don't need to repeat the same errors. Let's get prepared. So we're not in this situation? Again.


Dana Jonson  44:15

Yeah. And also, you may have discovered completely new areas that your child needs assistance in or that other areas just aren't important,


Piper Paul  44:23

right? I think parents need to be kind to themselves. And you know, some people both could be first responders, they may not be sleeping, you know, so do the best you can and be kind to you.


Dana Jonson  44:37

Yeah, if you can't take care of yourself. You can't help somebody else it it's like the airbags on the airplane. Right? On your oxygen mask first, and then your kids. Absolutely. And that's the same thing now and you're 100% Correct. And, you know, for some students looking at Faith moving forward, what they are going to require after this may be very different and And in those cases, it might not be compensatory education, maybe what you're looking for is a new evaluation and a new program moving forward. So that's another reason to speak to an attorney. Because there are other strategies. If you give six of us attorneys the same case, we're going to walk away with six different strategies, that that's our job. It's our law, it's our job to be creative. And it's our job to understand all the angles of the argument. So we would have different strategies. And that's one of the reasons I think parents need to talk to an attorney because this is a legal component. And an attorney might say, you know, what, combat is not the way you want to go right now, your your child's in a different situation. And here's this other legal paradigm that I would recommend for you to pursue, right? Absolutely. Well know that if you don't talk to an attorney,


Piper Paul  45:51

well, and you can even talk to a couple because a couple of decimal points you Yeah,


Dana Jonson  45:56

I agree with that, too. Because I feel too, that these are your kids, it's so personal. You have to have faith in your attorney, and you have to be comfortable with them. So I do often recommend the parents talk to a couple different attorneys to see what their different perspectives are. And, you know, I always say Be wary, though, if you talk to like five attorneys, and they all disagree with you. And then you get one who's really gung ho, just maybe with a grain of salt.


Piper Paul  46:21

Well, the other thing that you need to do is be sure that you're talking to attorneys that are very experienced in this area. And we started private practice this year. Yeah.


Dana Jonson  46:35

And our do they exclusively practice? And when I say exclusively, I mean, they're only doing juvenile things. So for example, you do juvenile? I can't remember what do you do juvenile?


Piper Paul  46:45

And DCF? Yeah, or DCF. When it when it when it happens as a result of education cases, right? Rarely are there tulips, especially people



who do practice in those related areas of the law as it pertains to our children with disabilities. So, you know, when I say practices exclusively in special education, I'm including those attorneys who have a practice built around advocating for children in slightly different manners


Dana Jonson  47:16

from so I agree with that. So I think we hit everything I wanted to hit on compensatory education, I wanted to make sure that parents understood, this is a real legal paradigm, they are very likely entitled to it, the laws are in place, no rights have been waived. If you hear the word waiver, your red flags should go flying out. And if you are, if you have a child with special education needs, and you do not believe their needs are being met right now, for any reason, you need to consult with an attorney. Unfortunately, unfortunately, the first people who will get remedies from this COVID disaster will be those with attorneys. Second, will be the those who are the advocates, and then it's going to be those who spoke to attorneys and advocates, you know, there's going to be a long line at the end of this. But you know, maybe some people


Piper Paul  48:05

could work it out collaboratively. And you can always do that to, you know, well,


Dana Jonson  48:09

favourably, but there's still going to be resources that are going to be overloaded. So even if you work it out, and you agree to an evaluation, what evaluators doing those evaluations, what is their waiting list, you know, there are other components that factor into it that could come


Piper Paul  48:26

and we can't just wait for you guys and assessments to revise IEP s provide programs that can take months, thus I can work for the child.


Dana Jonson  48:35

Right. Right. So I think, you know, I want parents with disabilities to understand that they were already cooperative and flexible, and that they started there. So don't beat yourself up. And I have gotten a lot of calls from parents saying Can I ask for? And the answer is yes. You can ask for anything. I don't know if they'll give it to you. Or if you have a legal right to it until you talk to me. But you can ask for anything. Throw it out there. You know, schools are trying to figure this out too. Absolutely. So it's definitely worth a shot. Well, thank you so much, Piper, I really appreciate you joining me today. We have you back for other legal discussions. Well, thank


Piper Paul  49:17

you very much. And


Dana Jonson  49:20

my thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications when new episodes come out. And I want to know what you want to know. So join our Facebook group also named need to know with Dana Jonson or you can email me at Dana at special ED dot life. But definitely reach out with your comments and questions and I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson Have a fabulous day