Education Law

Mandelbaum Barrett PC’s Education Law Practice Group understands the needs of families and students and advocates for them on a full range of education 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.

Mandelbaum Barrett PC’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 regarding student discipline procedures pertaining to disabled students.
  • Advocacy at mediations and due process hearings.
  • Attending IEP meetings.
  • Consultation and advice about identification and classification, procedural safeguards, program and placement options, compensatory education, extended school year, related services, and independent evaluations.
  • Planning strategy, settlement negotiations, judicial enforcement of settlements and orders, and obtaining attorneys’ fees awards following due process hearings.

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 PC’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 PC 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.

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.

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.

Partner Arla Cahill, Esq. has been appointed to the New Jersey State Bar Association School Law Special Committee

June 28, 2023

Congratulations to Mandelbaum Barrett PC Chair of Education Law, Arla D. Cahill, Esq. who has been appointed to the New Jersey State Bar Association School Law Special Committee. The appointment of members to the NJSBA’s special committees is made by the NJSBA President. The mission of the School Law Special Committee is to monitor developments in education law, provide updates of […]

Mandelbaum Barrett PC Attorneys Named to Morris & Essex Magazines “Top Lawyers” List

March 6, 2023

Congratulations to 8 Mandelbaum Barrett PC Partners who were named by the magazine on their Top Lawyers 2023 list! The publication, which will appear in print in June 2023, looked at attorneys across more than 30 specialties, using DataJoe Research. They facilitated an online peer-vote process and created a Top Morris & Essex County Lawyer […]

Arla Cahill to present NBI online seminar titled “Special Education Law: The Ultimate Guide”

March 1, 2023

Arla D. Cahill, Esq., Chair of Education Law and Co-Chair of Special Needs at Mandelbaum Barrett PC will be presenting a live online seminar for National Business Institute (NBI, Inc.) on May 16th, 2023 titled “Special Education Law: The Ultimate Guide.” Special education legal issues can be confusing for school personnel and attorneys alike. This […]

Arla Cahill Interviewed on Jersey Matters to Talk about Legal Remedies for School Bullying

November 25, 2019

Parents have legal remedies against bullying in schools on behalf of their children. Hear what Mandelbaum Barrett PC's Education Law Chair Arla Cahill has to say about New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act on a recent episode of Jersey Matters with Larry Mendte.

Finding the Right Fit:  What Parents of Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Students Should Know When Researching Post-Secondary School Learning Environments

May 3, 2023

For many students who are classified in the public school as having an educational disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the difference between the educational supports provided in high school and the college or other post-secondary learning environment can be significant. A major difference is that, in high school, a classified student has […]

Recent Landmark Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Opens Doors for Special Education Students’ ADA and Section 504 Discrimination Claims for Compensatory Damages Without Prior Administrative Exhaustion Requirement

April 25, 2023

On March 21, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools that a special education student and his parents could pursue their claims for money damages under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) against a public school district without first having to exhaust their administrative remedies under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Delivery of Public Education in New Jersey

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020 By Arla D. Cahill On March 16, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 104, which, among other things, ordered the closure of every public, private and parochial school in the State as of March 18, 2020. Many parents may have questions about whether missed time from school due […]

Disabled Students' Rights under Anti-Bullying Laws

January 8, 2018

January 8, 2018 By Arla D. Cahill A 2009 study by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety,” reported that 32% of students aged 12 through 18 were bullied in the previous school year. The study reported that 25% of the responding public schools indicated that bullying was a […]

Court Decides What Level of Educational Benefit Schools Must Deliver to Educationally Disabled Students

April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017 By Arla D. Cahill and Brian M. Block On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The case posed the following question: what is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to […]