Mandelbaum Barrett's Education Law Practice Group understands the needs of families and students. We offer comprehensive advocacy and informed counsel for a full range of educational law issues. The services the Firm provides are customized to the unique individual needs of each family. Listed below are some of the areas in which our Firm offers representation and counsel to parents and their children.
Bullying not only has a serious impact on the psychological wellbeing of a bullied student, it profoundly interferes with a student’s ability to learn, which, in turn, undermines a student’s civil right to receive from the public school a “free, appropriate public education” (FAPE). Bullying can take many forms and, with the high prevalence of social media, it can enter every aspect of a student's life, even when the student is away from the school environment. This is why it is important to protect students and address such occurrences swiftly and effectively.
New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires each public school district to adopt a policy prohibiting “harassment, intimidation and bullying” (known as HIB) of a student on school property, at school-sponsored functions and on the school bus. The school district’s policy must include a definition of HIB, a procedure for reporting and investigating an act of HIB, as well as the consequences and appropriate remedial action for anyone who commits an act of HIB. This law not only prohibits acts of HIB committed by students, but also by adults, including teachers and school administrators.
HIB is defined by the Act to mean “any gesture, any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic . . . , that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student's property or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or creates a hostile educational environment for a student by interfering with the student's education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.”
Despite New Jersey’s stringent anti-HIB statute’s requirements for schools, not every school effectively resolves HIB conduct and, consequently, parents need legal help to ensure their child’s wellbeing and rights are being protected. Other times, students are unfairly and incorrectly deemed by their school to have committed an act of HIB. Mandelbaum Barrett’s Education Law attorneys compassionately guide parents and their child through every step of the anti-HIB enforcement process, from the initial grievance, investigation and communications with the school to implement remedial interim protections, to the appeals process before the school board, Department of Education and other appeal tribunals.
Every New Jersey school district must have a written code of conduct or student handbook. Students have certain Constitutional due process rights, including being given advance notice of conduct that may result in suspension or expulsion, the right to appeal disciplinary action, access to an alternate educational program, access to behavioral support services and a referral for child study team evaluation (if not already in special education). Students who receive special education pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP), have different rights regarding the consequences of their actions.
Mandelbaum Barrett is committed to finding amicable solutions to disciplinary issues your child may be facing. Our Education Law attorneys can accompany you to disciplinary hearings and communicate with the school to ensure that your child’s interests and rights are protected.
Mandelbaum Barrett’s Education Law attorneys protect the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities. Your special needs child is legally entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) with individually tailored services and accommodations to meaningfully benefit from his or her educational program in the least restrictive environment (LRE). But what happens when your special needs child is not progressing in his or her program or needs more class support? What happens when the school district decides to take services away from your child? What happens when the school is not following your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)? What happens when your special needs child is disciplined for conduct related to his or her disability? The school district may make decisions that you do not agree with and you may not know what your legal rights are and what resources available to you and your child. If that’s the case, you need help from a special education attorney. Let us help. Our services include:
- Reviewing educational records, including evaluations, IEPs, and Section 504 plans.
- Consultation and advice about identification and classification, procedural safeguards, program and placement options, compensatory education, extended school year, related services, and independent evaluations.
- Attending IEP meetings.
- Advocacy at mediations and due process hearings.
- Planning strategy, settlement negotiations, judicial enforcement of settlements and orders, and obtaining attorneys’ fees awards following due process hearings.
- Consultation regarding student discipline procedures pertaining to disabled students.
School Residency Disputes
Each Fall, many school-age children in New Jersey are not allowed to register for or attend public schools because of disputes about where they live. Many of these students should be permitted to register for school. Some children are mistakenly denied because they are not able to produce written leases, or because they cannot show that their homes have certificates of occupancy. Other children are wrongly denied because of their immigration status. Any child living in New Jersey and between the ages of 5 and 20 has a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) (students needing special education services have a right to FAPE from age 3 through 21 years). This includes children who do not have legal immigration status. This also includes children who are unable to provide written leases or show that the apartment where they live complies with local housing laws.
Our Education Law attorneys assist parents and caretakers in addressing residency disputes with their school districts to ensure that their child or ward is not denied the right to FAPE.
Post-Secondary Disability and Testing Accommodations
Many parents of students with disabilities have learned the basics of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as their child progressed through elementary and secondary school settings. However, as students and their families prepare for the transition from secondary programs to postsecondary options, they often find they are less familiar with the legal protections available to them under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Because the ADA’s definition of disability differs from that in IDEA, a student who has had special education services in high school will not necessarily be eligible for accommodations in a postsecondary program. Each student’s eligibility to receive accommodations is determined by the postsecondary program on a case-by-case basis based on the ADA’s definition of disability - a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Often, modifications are rarely substantive or expensive, but post-secondary institutions may not be sensitive to the needs of their disabled members of their student body. Some examples are:
- Rescheduling classes to an accessible location;
- Using early enrollment options for students with disabilities to allow time to arrange accommodations;
- Substituting specific courses required for completion of degree requirements;
- Allowing service animals in the classroom;
- Providing students with disabilities with a syllabus prior to the beginning of class; clearly communicating course requirements, assignments, due dates, grading criteria both orally and in written form;
- Providing written outlines or summaries of class lectures, or integrating this information into comments at the beginning and end of class;
- Allowing students to use note takers or record lectures; and
- Allowing students with disabilities, whose disability prevents them from taking a full-time course load, to qualify for financial aid.
Modifications will vary, based on the individual student’s needs. Modifications of policies and practices are not required when they would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity.
Our Education Law attorneys provide parents and students with advice and representation to assist them in obtaining the accommodations necessary for each student to succeed in their post-secondary environment.