Special Needs Child with Autism Denied Use of School Bathroom?

You may have seen reports in the news about a teacher’s union trying to bar a special education student’s use of the only bathroom on the same floor as her classroom, because that bathroom is for “teachers only.”  The School had required that the child would have to go outside, up flights of stairs, and re-enter the building to utilize a student bathroom on an upper floor.  The child has autism, a chronic lung disease, and pulmonary hypertension. When the Mom objected, the school let the child use the teacher bathroom, and the union filed a grievance to stop it.  (You can read the story here:   http://www.post-gazette.com/local/south/2015/03/26/Steel-Valley-board-votes-to-allow-special-needs-student-to-use-faculty-restroom/stories/201503260217)

My first reaction was disgust at the teacher’s union, but on further thought, there appears to be even more significant issues at stake.

For example, the school has apparently placed all special education classes in the basement, two floors below the reach of the school elevators.  All of the other special needs students in the class continue to go outside and up flights of stairs in order to reach a student bathroom.   This lack of bathroom access by itself may be a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act — which bars discrimination or disparate treatment in schools based upon disability.   Indeed, the decision to place the special education classes in the basement even if there had been a bathroom might also be a violation of anti-discrimination laws.

The story reminded me of a personal experience I had back in high school in the 1970’s (yes I am old), in which I saw a group of kids in the hallway that I had never seen before and asked a teacher about them.  She told me they were students with disabilities who had a class in the basement.  In three years of high school, I had never seen those students before, and I never saw them again.

Instead of casting this issue solely as being about an unfeeling teacher’s union vs a caring school board as the press has done so far — it appears that the school board itself has created and endorsed an illegal situation, of which the union fight is simply an appalling side issue.  If reporters actually care about the treatment of special needs students in this school, they will hopefully continue to investigate and report on the issues impacting ALL of those students.

And if the union pressed it’s grievance in part as some  have suggested as an indirect method of trying to force the Board to address the other issues, those teachers might in future choose a more direct and explicit objection to the mistreatment of the students needing special education, instead of miss-using the plight of a young girl with disabilities who needs their support as some sort of political tool.

Education Lawyer PA NJ


3-D Print “Bionic” Limbs for Children with Special Needs

I usually post about children with special needs who have learning and/or developmental disabilities, but ran across some information about new technology for children who are missing limbs that I found truly amazing and wanted to share.

A student at the University of Central Florida has designed a myo-electronic prosthetic arm that can be created via 3-D print technology with a price tag as low as $350.  Devices with similar capabilities can cost in the tens of thousands and are therefore beyond the reach of most families.  The student’s company is called “Limbitless” and you can actually download the files to print your own arm here in New Jersey or Pennsylvania at this website:  http://enablingthefuture.org/upper-limb-prosthetics/the-limbitless-arm/

You can find a sweet youtube video of Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) giving one of these arms to a young boy here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEx5lmbCKtY

It’s easy to see why kids would love these.  The future holds such great promise.


Special Needs Students — Discipline and Bullying in the Schools

Hello All:

I will be speaking Thursday evening, March 19, 2015 to a Parent group in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and they have graciously opened it up to other parents who may want to attend.  It’s not far from the Ben Franklin for any of you driving over from Pennsylvania.

The topic is: “Legal and Practical Issues for Parents of Special Needs Children with respect to School-Based Discipline and Bullying.”   There is a lot of misinformation out there about disciplining children who have IEPs or Section 504 Plans, as well as about the laws concerning bullying in the schools.  Although there is much overlap with general education, there are significant variations for special education students.

I hope to provide some clarity to your child’s rights and exposures, and what you can do in advance in their IEPs or Section 504 Plans to provide additional protections and opportunities for growth.

The location is in the Cherry Hill School District Mahberg Administrative Building, 45 Ronaldo Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ.   I will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Please say hello when you come.