At great risk of being left behind

by Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico, Inc.
At great risk of being left behind
At great risk of being left behind
At great risk of being left behind
At great risk of being left behind
At great risk of being left behind
At great risk of being left behind

Yet again, our efforts to support Special Education students in their progress have proved to be successful.

This is the case of Adrianne (not her real name) a 23-year-old special education student with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she was unable to adequately receive transitional services and missed all employment practices before her graduation date. Also, technological equipment was provided almost a year after the pandemic had begun and it had to be shared with other students at home, making it difficult for her to keep up with her classes.

Her parents turned to Puerto Rico Legal Services to present a complaint to the Department of Education. They were asking to have a one-year extension on educational and related services. Our Special Education Project represented her in the complaint. After attending various hearings and IEP meetings, it was established that on-line education did not suffice to reach the objectives and goals as established in her Individualized Education Program, as she was missing occupational therapy sessions. The Department of Education conceded to the claim and a one-year extension was granted. Today she is advancing in her education with compensatory services.

As we continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, we thank you for helping us develop the Special Student Defense Fund as a step to help many other students.

Thanks again for helping us continue meet our students’ challenges.

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Our mission to remove threats for Special Education Students progress has found another success story.

This is the case of Amelia (not her real name) a 12-year-old student with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. Her academic performance in school was low in relation to her age and grade. A clinical psychologist had recommended Psychological Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational and Educational Therapy. It was determined by her IEP meeting (COMPU in Spanish), that she was to be in a group of 7 students.

After visiting three different schools none was deemed appropriate for her needs.

Due to the uncertainty she was facing, and given the failures that the student was having, her fragile emotional state, and the great needs in academic skills, Amelia’s mom was looking for options that could certainly meet her needs. So, with the help of her PRLS lawyer, she asked the Department of Education to have a IEP meeting (COMPU in Spanish) evaluate if a private school could provide the educational and related services Amelia was lacking. The Department of Education never ordered the IEP meeting nor replied to her letter. A follow up letter received no answer either. Amelia was not receiving a free, appropriate, public education in a timely manner as she was entitled to.  

Again, her legal representation submitted a complaint to have a private institution to be the provider of all educational and therapies services needed.

The decision of an administrative judge was to order the purchase of educational services at the private institution. The Department of Education accepted to the proposed provision of services of the private institution.

 As we continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, we thank you for helping us develop the Special Student Defense Fund as a step to help many other students.

Thanks again for helping us continue meet our students’ challenges.

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Now that students are back in the classroom, all services, including those for special education students, are also resuming. Or so they should be. 

As we receive requests for services, we see many stories of special education students whose needs must still be met, and lost services because of the pandemic must be compensated.  As you may be aware, the lack of services and virtual education hobbled their progress. Students were unable to adequately receive the services or evaluations established in their individualized educational plans, due to the pandemic.  The pandemic created a novel scenario in many regards. Unfortunately, it also caused numerous breach issues that were detrimental to our clientele.

 Such is the case of a student, who we shall call Norman to protect his identity, who never received adequate services for his autism condition. In the middle of the pandemic, he was transferred from his school, an event unknown even to his mom until she learned of it through a friend. The new school failed to provide his therapies. Amid her despair, she came to Puerto Rico Legal Services for help.  After reviewing her dozens of documents, we concluded that the placement was not only inadequate, but a story of noncompliance with evaluations and procedures and lack of services were affecting Norman’s progress.  After a tortuous process, we were finally able to reach an agreement with the Education Department to have our proposal for purchase of services accepted. Norman was placed in a new school where services are being provided and progress is expected. His mom was truly grateful not only because of what was obtained for Norman, but because in the process she was empowered to continue to fight for his rights.

 This story, again, is just an example of the many stories going on regarding students with special needs.

 As we continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, we are thankful to you for helping us develop the Special Student Defense Fund as a step to help many other students. Crucial yet costly evaluations by experts are what ensure that children have access to the professional, skilled care they need and the provision of necessary services.

 Thanks again for helping us continue our task.

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Helping resume Special Education services disrupted by the pandemic 

As significant, meaningful progress has been made in José Ramón’s story, we would like to share it with you.  His story, regrettably, is representative of the many stories of struggle of special education students and their parents to seek and guarantee their rights to adequate and free educational services -- and about what can be achieved when there are resources and support.   

You may remember that José Ramon was being required involuntarily to graduate without receiving appropriate transitional services essential for graduating special education students. On his behalf, Puerto Rico Legal Services filed a complaint with the Department of Education (DOE). Had he not received adequate legal representation, José would have been forced to graduate from high school with all services under the Special Education Program to which he had a right terminated, including compensatory education. In addition, he would have not been provided with a proper transition process such as preparation for college admission tests.     

As a result of PRLS’s complaint, the discharge previously approved by the DOE was rescinded The DOE was ordered to carry out an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) Team meeting, develop a revised IEP, provide compensatory education, develop the Transition Plan, and provide the necessary transition services as established under the revised IEP.    

Here is the good news, since then José Ramón obtained his high school diploma. He was assigned a teacher to receive a one-on-one education. In addition, independent living skills were worked on, such as the use of public transportation, completing job applications, taking the entrance exams to post-secondary institutions, and job interviews. In turn, the steps necessary to submit his case to the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (VRA) have been taken. The VRA is the entity that offers services to the school population with functional diversity once educational services are completed. He hopes, and so do we, to rejoin cultural activities with his folkloric dance group and in the discipline of taekwondo once the restrictions of the pandemic end. 

Our Special Student Defense Fund is a critical element in our efforts to help many other students who have seen lack of services and a marked decline in their emotional and instructional progress as they were unable to adequately receive the services or evaluations to which they were entitled.   

As we see a rise in these cases, we will continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, to ensure children have access to the expert care they need, for testing and evaluation, and the provision of necessary services.  

Thanks again for helping us continue our invaluable task! Please share this good news among your friendsfamily, and colleagues to enlist their support, thus ensuring that students like José Ramon may share a happy ending too.

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When we created the Special Litigation Fund for Special Education students, we told you the story of José Ramón, the cheerful and friendly young man with mild intellectual disability who participates in the Special Education program of Puerto Rico’s Department of Education.

José Ramón has been a client of our Special Education Project at various stages. He received our legal representation and counsel before in different forums. This time, when the pandemic put an end to critical – for special education students --on-site learning, we again offered legal representation.

The lack of services for this population during the pandemic impeded his education and he was not able to adequately receive the services or evaluations necessary for his transition to vocational rehabilitation. Despite this, the Department of Education wanted to force his graduation upon him.

But, thanks to our intervention, José Ramón was able to secure the services he is entitled to receive. As a result of the complaint presented and with the help of experts that backed his claims, the Department of Education was ordered to provide compensatory services and that his transition to vocational rehabilitation be handled appropriately. José Ramón is now able to receive the instruction and compensatory services necessary to resume and complete his education, and move forward with his personal and occupational development.

His story is representative of the many stories of the continuous struggles of special education students and their parents who seek to guarantee that rights to adequate and free educational services are respected. And also, about what can be achieved when the resources are there. Hiring experts is essential in these cases, it can also be expensive. But his story cannot, must not, be an exception. There is still a lot to do for these students. Our Special Student Defense Fund will help solve the problems facing this exceptional population. We will continue to defend the rights of Special Education students in the courts and other forums, to ensure children access to the expert care they need, for testing and evaluation, and the provision of necessary services.

We expect to see many cases of students that have not received services, evaluations and monitoring due to the pandemic and the implementation of distance learning. The impact in their development is yet to be known as in-schools classes resume. Experts predict that many students may require evaluations while others may need to reinforce educational areas.

Thank you for helping us continue our mission. Please share this story among your friends and family to ensure more stories like José Ramón’s.

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Organization Information

Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico, Inc.

Location: San Juan - Puerto Rico
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @slprinc
Project Leader:
Alejandro Figueroa
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$2,665 raised of $10,000 goal
 
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