Understanding the Outplacement Process

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Attorneys Andrew Feinstein, Terry Bedard, and Paul Barger (from top)

DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a parent for parents. This article is intended as a resource for families who are navigating the special education system in Connecticut or Westchester, New York with particular emphasis on the process of outplacement. This article was written by a parent, not an attorney, and the views and opinions expressed in this article or in the accompanying webinar from January 13th, 2021 that serves as its source material are not intended to provide legal support, advice, or assistance, nor is this article or the webinar intended to replace the advice of a qualified special education attorney. Families in need of legal advice, support, and assistance should contact a special education attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Connecticut or New York to discuss the specific needs of their individual student. The inclusion of these attorneys on this panel and in this article should not be construed as an endorsement or support of Attorneys Feinstein, Bedard, or Barger by Special Education Legal Fund, its representatives, Board Members, or affiliates. Biographies for Attorneys Andrew Feinstein, Terry Bedard, and Paul Barger are included at the end of this article for informational purposes only. Special Education Legal Fund does not endorse or make recommendations for special education attorneys to applicants or clients of the Legal Assistance Program or any other S.E.L.F. programs.

What is outplacement? When is an outplacement necessary for a child? What are the pros & cons of an out-of-district placement? What are the most common misperceptions about outplacement? How does transportation work in an outplacement agreement? How important is an evaluation to the outplacement process? What is the difference between an approved special education school and a non-approved school?

On January 13th, 2021, S.E.L.F. hosted a webinar with special education attorneys Andrew Feinstein (Feinstein Education Law Group), Terry Bedard (Law Offices of Terry Bedard), and Paul Barger (Barger & Gaines), moderated by Lara Damashek (Early Insight Advocacy), to discuss the many issues and questions that parents have about outplacement and the outplacement process. The following is a summary of the discussion on January 13th, 2021 between Attorneys Feinstein, Bedard, and Barger, with contributions from moderator Lara Damashek and S.E.L.F. Executive Director & Co-Founder Christine Lai.

Takeaway #1: What is Outplacement?

Outplacement, broadly speaking, is the placement of your child at a school other than the district public school that your child is assigned to based on where you live in the school district. When most people think about outplacement, they think about outplacement to a private special education school that is paid for, at least in part, by the school district. For the purposes of the webinar and for this article, when we refer to outplacement, we will be referring to this type of outplacement – to a private special education school. However, students may be outplaced to other public schools within the school district, or to public school programs outside of the student’s home district.

Students are outplaced to programs outside of their home school when the team concludes that that the student’s assigned school cannot provide a free and appropriate public education for the student. When the school-based team, including the parents, agrees to an outplacement for a student during a PPT or IEP meeting, that placement is known as an IEP placement. The outplacement in this case is written into the student’s IEP. The school district in an IEP placement is responsible for all the costs of the placement, including transportation to and from the outplacement school.

A student can be also be outplaced to an independent special education school by his or her parents. When a parent decides to send their child to private school, this is referred to as a parental placement. There is no requirement by the private school to follow the student’s IEP, should he or she have one.

The third type of placement, and the one that most parents are interested in, is called a unilateral parental placement, or unilateral placement. In this placement, the parent has determined that the district’s program does not provide the child with a free and appropriate public education, the parent places the child in a private school, and then the parent needs to demonstrate that the district program was inappropriate and the new program is appropriate, and that they played fair with the school district in developing the district special education program. If the parent can demonstrate these three things, the parents may be entitled to tuition reimbursement to the private school program from the school district. If it goes through the hearing process, the reimbursement can be full, and if the request goes through the settlement process, the reimbursement can be through a cost sharing agreement between the district and the parents.

Parents should be aware, as Attorney Terry Bedard pointed out in the webinar, that if they want to unilaterally place their child in a private special education school and approach their school district for tuition reimbursement after the fact, they must notify their school district ten days before the removal of their child from the district school (“ten days notice”). This is a very specific requirement of private school tuition reimbursement in IDEA; the requirement allows the school district time to attempt to remedy or change the IEP to allay the parents’ concerns prior to the student leaving the school district. If you do not give the district 10 days written notice before removing your student from the district school, the school district may deny tuition reimbursement (or even deny consideration of tuition reimbursement). Keep in mind that providing this notice does not guarantee that parents will succeed in their request for private school tuition reimbursement from their school district.

An IEP placement is obviously the most ideal type of outplacement arrangement for a student and the student’s family, as the placement is included on the student’s IEP and the school district assumes financial responsibility for all aspects of the placement. However, an IEP placement can only be done at a state approved special education school. The Connecticut State Department of Education retains a list of approved special education programs, called APSEPs, on its website. While private special education schools can be approved or nonapproved, the IEP placement is limited to schools on the approved list. While students can be placed into nonapproved private special education schools, this placement would only happen through through settlement or hearing, rather than at a PPT meeting in an IEP placement. This is why most attorneys, when counseling parents who are engaged in the outplacement process, will advise that parents seek placement in an approved special education school first – assuming that the approved special education school is appropriate for the child.

Takeaway #2: Does My Child Need To Be Outplaced?

Step 1: Is My Child’s Current Program Inappropriate?

To determine if outplacement is the next step in your child’s education journey, you must determine if your child’s current program is inappropriate. The outplacement process often begins because a parent is unhappy with their student’s progress [or lack thereof]. If you are not happy with your child’s progress, your very first step should be to look at the data. Your school should be providing you with measurable data that allows you to track your student’s progress against his or her IEP goals. Look to the data to see if your student is showing regression or lack of goal mastery. Perhaps you are seeing the same goals and objectives year after year.

Step 2: WHY is My Child’s Current Program Inappropriate?

The next question to ask, once you’ve determined that your child is failing to show meaningful progress in his or her program, is why. Is the IEP based on a current evaluation or recent assessment? This part is really important. The evaluation is like a road map that can show you how to get where you want to be as far as your child’s development is concerned. Just like a map, if the evaluation is old or out of date, it’s not going to be that useful. That can be a sign that your child is not thriving in the school environment or in the program designed for him/her.

Might your child require a particular environment that your district school cannot provide? This might be the case if your student cannot tolerate the size of the public school or the size of the classroom in the public school. Does your child seem to spend a lot of his time in a special room, or “resource room,” instead of in the general education classroom? Is the school calling you a lot to pick up your son or daughter early? This might be a sign that the size of the school or the classroom might be too much for your child.

Are your child’s teachers appropriately trained? Does your child require a type of specialized instruction in order to access the curriculum? Perhaps your child has a hearing impairment and needs to learn American Sign Language (ASL) from a qualified special education teacher who is conversant in ASL and teaching ASL. If your child has behavioral challenges relating to a diagnosis of autism, perhaps an intensive program of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) with a qualified BCBA (Board Certified Behavioral Analyst) is necessary for your child to surmount his or her behavioral challenges to access the curriculum. Perhaps your dyslexic student requires an intensive Orton-Gillingham based remedial program in order to make meaningful progress in reading and writing. This is something that might be easier said than done, as Attorney Feinstein noted, because most school districts lack the resources to provide such intensive remedial tutoring and may also lack staff trained in Orton Gillingham or Wilson.

Takeaway #3: Building Your Case for Outplacement

Once you’ve determined that your child’s program is not appropriate and have identified some reasons why, the next step is to begin gathering evidence that your child’s program is not appropriate. Look to the data of your child’s progress, or lack thereof, to establish that the program in the IEP isn’t working for your child or isn’t appropriate for him or her. Progress reports, monitoring, and testing are all methods of data collection in this process. Remember, you need to build your case that the existing (district) program is inadequate. You are not, at this stage, trying to prove that an alternate program would be better or more appropriate.

One of the most obvious signs that a school program is failing a child is phone calls. If the school is calling you two or three times a week about your child, it might be a sign that something is amiss. If the school is asking you to pick up your child from school early on a regular basis, it might be a sign that something is amiss. This is data. Start keeping a log of the phone calls and requests for pickup. If you have just started keeping track of this data but it’s been going on for months, you can call your cell phone company to ask for a record of calls made from the school to your phone.

Another piece of data that might be important to track are nurse’s visits. Does your child seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the nurse’s office, either of his own accord or because he is sent there by a teacher due to an injury? Schools don’t always log visits to the nurse’s office so if you can track this data it can be important as an indicator that the environment is not appropriate for your child. Certainly if your child is visiting the nurse once a day for things like stomachaches or headaches, this could be a sign of classroom, school, or social anxiety. Remember that your child’s behavior is communication. Very few children will ever come out and say the words “I feel anxious” even if they have the verbal capacity and self awareness to do so. They communicate with their behavior. If your child is visiting the nurse’s office on a regular basis because of injuries sustained at school (whether accidental or no), this can also be a sign that something is amiss in the environment. Either way, keep a log of those visits.

The IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] is a failure-based system. You have to show failure to get relief.

Attorney Andrew Feinstein, Feinstein Education Law Group
Attorney Andrew Feinstein

As you continue to build your case, testing can provide crucial data in support of your request for outplacement. If it’s time for your student’s triennial evaluation, make sure that every concern that you have about your child is reflected in the testing that the district has ordered for the triennial. If you have concerns about language, make sure there is a speech and language evaluation scheduled. If you have concerns about your student’s fine or gross motor skills, perhaps a physical or occupational therapy evaluation is required. Does your child have behavioral issues? Perhaps you need a detailed FBA/BIP (Functional Behavioral Analysis/Behavioral Integration Plan) done by a qualified BCBA.

The next absolutely necessary building block in your case for outplacement is the evaluation. When you are making a request for outplacement, it is crucial that you have a recommendation for that outplacement from an expert. If your triennial evaluation was conducted within the past two years, you may want to consider challenging the conclusions or results of your evaluation and requesting an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation). The Independent Educational Evaluation is one of the most potent tools that a parent has under IDEA and it helps ensure that parents have an equal voice in the advocacy process and the development of the educational plan for the student. If the school district agrees to the IEE, the parent may select the examiner of their choice to perform the evaluations in question, as long as the examiner is qualified.

If your triennial evaluation last took place more than 2 years, but less than the required three years, ago, you can ask the school district to accelerate or move up the triennial evaluation but DON’T under any circumstances inform them that you want to move the triennial up because you are considering asking for outplacement! If you give them advance warning that this is a path you are considering, you have just ensured that the school district will produce an airtight triennial evaluation with all of its i’s dotted and t’s crossed, and you will guarantee yourself a much more difficult battle when it comes time to make the request.

Finally, the parent may also organize an evaluation (Parent Initiated Private Evaluation, or PIPE) at their own expense; sometimes insurance will cover a neuropsychological evaluation for a child assuming you use an in-network practitioner. A private evaluation has its advantages, mainly speed, in that you can schedule the private evaluation (as long as you make sure that you are not duplicating any of the district’s testing) to happen concurrently with the district evaluation. It also has its disadvantages, the main one being cost unless paid for by insurance; evaluations can run anywhere from $3000 to $7500 and beyond.

One final note about evaluations is important to remember. Many parents come to me to say that the school district is not following the recommendations in the IEE/private evaluation/doctor’s report/etc. The school district is not required to follow the recommendations in any evaluation, even one paid for through the IEE process. The school district is only required to consider (in a PPT meeting) the report and to consider whether to include the conclusions of the report in the student’s IEP.

Takeaway #4: Can I Get My District To Pay For Outplacement?

Outplacement isn’t for everyone. It isn’t appropriate for every child or every family, and a family should understand the positives and the negatives about an outplacement to a private special education program before deciding to move forward. Private special education schools often have their own methods of tracking goals and progress, and usually will utilize those methods rather than the goals and objectives you are familiar with in your child’s IEP. These can range from Winston Preparatory School’s QSIL to Wooster School’s Bridge Program plan. Private special education schools, unlike public schools, also have their own application and admittance process; they choose the students who are admitted to the school and they can also choose to ask any student to leave – for almost any reason at all.

Also keep in mind that in most cases, a private special education school outplacement represents one of the most restrictive environments that a student can be placed in. Independent inclusive schools that serve both a typical population and a population with specific learning needs don’t exist in Connecticut – the only one I’m even passingly familiar with in the tri-state area is The Ideal School in Manhattan. As a result, your child’s peers in the special education outplacement school will be other students with disabilities – learning or otherwise. Your child will no longer have typical peers to model or to interact with during the school day. Finally, the private special education school will likely draw students from a larger geographic base than the neighborhood district school that your child attended, making the community more geographically diverse, but possibly presenting challenges for your child in terms of making friends or having playdates and social interaction outside of school.

(1) You Need A Special Education Attorney

But assuming you have assessed the cons of outplacement and found the “right” school for your child, the process through which a family secures an IEP placement or reimbursement for private school tuition is a difficult one and isn’t always successful. First and foremost, you will generally need to hire a special education attorney to secure an outplacement involving any portion of district financial support. Most school districts are very reluctant to outplace students unless they fall into one of two categories: (1) children who are medically fragile, or (2) children with significant behavioral issues. I personally have only seen a handful of students outplaced without an attorney, and in all of those cases the children fall into one of those two categories.

(2) You Need An Expert

The second thing you will need in order to secure outplacement for your child is an evaluation concluding that your child’s unique learning challenges can be most appropriately met in the outplacement school that you propose. We covered this briefly above. Notice that I didn’t say “most optimally” or “best” – the legal standard, while it has improved in recent years, does not require that your child be in the best and most optimal learning environment for him. The legal standard for outplacement is not the school that optimizes your child’s potential.

Having this expert testimony, in the form of your evaluation (and in person at your PPT meeting if the examiner is agreeable) is absolutely critical to your outplacement request for your child. I hear from many parents who are convinced that they’ve found the perfect [private special education] school for the child but unfortunately your opinion as parents is not going to matter for much unless you have an expert backing you up. Don’t forget that the school team – the teachers, therapists, etc – are considered to be experts on your child, and their opinion is going to be that his needs will be appropriately served at his current in-district school. Your opinion is not going to be enough to rebut their opinion without the expert backing you up.

(3) You Need Data

What is good for a case may not be what is good for a child in the immediate future.

Attorney Paul Barger, Barger & Gaines
Attorney Paul Barger

Sometimes, as Attorney Barger pointed out, what is best for your outplacement case isn’t necessarily what is best for your child, in the short term. Sometimes the best thing to do is to leave your child in a program that’s not working in order to gather evidence that the program isn’t working. This is a really difficult thing to do from a parents’ perspective; leaving your child every day in a situation that isn’t properly set up to educate or handle him is one of the hardest choices that a parent of a child with special education needs will ever have. I cried in the parking lot every day for months after I dropped my son off at the school that was failing him, knowing that I would get a phone call to come pick him up in a few short hours, or an email regaling me with his latest behavioral transgressions.

(4) You Need To Cooperate

  • Consent to Evaluation
  • Don’t Delay the Process (Needlessly)
  • Participate in the Process (Attend Meetings, Ask Questions, Etc.)
  • Share Your Concerns

Finally, cooperation is KEY to the successful outplacement request. You need to show that you have cooperated with the school district every step of the way and the program that has resulted is still inappropriate for your child. How do you show cooperation with the school? First, you consent to have your child evaluated by the school district. If you do not give consent for the district to evaluate your child, that is a nonstarter. Another way to show cooperation is by not delaying the process. Now, there will be natural delays in any back-and-forth between parents and the school district, especially if they involve outside parties like neuropsychologists, attorneys, advocates, etc. Scheduling always causes delays. But you as parents have an obligation to show that you are cooperating with the school by not delaying the process needlessly, and they have the same obligation to you. A third way to show cooperation is to participate in the meetings. Show up. Ask questions. Look engaged. Make sure your input is heard and reflected in the notes of the meeting. When you ask for the outplacement, you need to be able to prove that you were a full and complete participant in the process, and STILL the program proposed by the school is inappropriate.

Finally, the last step in showing that you’ve been cooperative with the school district is to inform them of your concerns regarding the program they are developing for your child. More than one of the attorneys on our panel said that this can be an issue in seeking tuition reimbursement if the parent never let the district know, during the development of the IEP, that the parent had a problem or concern about the program. The first time the district heard about the parents’ concerns was when they received ten day notice of withdrawal from the district school in favor of the alternative private program.

Takeaway #5: How Long Does This All Take?

The short answer, according to all the attorneys on the panel, was a resounding “it depends.” The primary determinant to how long the outplacement process takes is where you are in the school year. Remember, prior to and during the outplacement process you will be gathering your evidence and building your case. Your annual review will be scheduled, and your child will have testing associated with that. Afterwards, there will be an additional neuropsychological evaluation, either paid for by the district (IEE) or by you (PIPE). The entire process can take up to a year … or more. The length of time differs district by district and state by state, with New Jersey tending to take longer than its tristate counterparts New York and Connecticut according to Attorney Paul Barger.

Takeaway #6: What Is The Effect of COVID-19 on Outplacement?

Has COVID-19 affected districts placing students outside of their home schools in private special education programs? This is a tricky question. The Connecticut IEP is written as if the child is in school all the time, yet only a fraction of school districts have resumed in-person teaching and most remain on a hybrid model even for students in special education. The U.S. Department of Education during the pandemic stated that IDEA should remain in place and there was no waiver of the requirements of the law allowable because of COVID-19. Many districts have recognized the importance of in-person learning for students with special education needs, and have attempted to prioritize their return to school. However, the pandemic raises an interesting question, which Attorney Feinstein and others on the panel discussed: can a program be deemed inappropriate because COVID-19 has eliminated in-person teaching and a child cannot access the curriculum remotely? This remains to be seen.

The pandemic has also laid bare some of the inequities inherent in the education system as a whole. While most school districts remained remote or hybrid at best, many private schools – both for neurotypical students as well as those with special education needs – returned to in person teaching. Greater financial resources and greater flexibility in the independent school model were the primary reasons for this, and yet the disparity between public school remote learning in 2020/2021 and private school largely in-person instruction during the same pandemic raises dormant questions but disturbing questions about equity in education. We at S.E.L.F. have experienced this first hand through a larger number of applicants to our Legal Assistance Program who are seeking outplacement because of the remote status of their home school district’s teaching model.

The most direct impact of COVID-19 on outplacement is less obvious. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools and those who remain open to in-person instruction have significantly reduced physical access to the school itself. Classroom observations, the hallmark of a good neuropsychological evaluation, are much reduced during the pandemic due to the attendant health and safety issues, and our attorney panelists pointed to this as a significant obstacle to success in the outplacement process.

The pandemic has also exposed and created problems that didn’t previously exist for many students. While not all students have been impacted negatively by the pandemic, many who lack access to in person instruction have experienced academic, social, and behavioral regression. Moreover, some students who previously were performing adequately under an IEP or 504 with classroom supervision have found difficulty mirroring their in-person performance on a Zoom screen. Students with ADHD or executive function deficits fare poorly in a virtual world, with many students failing to checkin or complete asynchronous schoolwork at all. Finally, we are seeing an increasing number of students with significant mental health issues as applicants to our programs. A year ago, it was relatively rare for us to see an applicant who had completed some form of hospitalization related to their disability; now, sadly, it is far more common. Some students’ mental health issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and some have been created by it.

Takeaway #7: What if I can’t afford an attorney? What if I can’t afford an evaluation? What if my child can’t wait for a year or more?

[IDEA] does not work for people of limited income….It is an example of the systemic racism of this society that we have a special education system that benefits the wealthy and in many ways is not particularly available to people of moderate and lower income. It’s a scandal.

Attorney Andrew Feinstein, Feinstein Education Law Group.

The special education system in the United States, unfortunately, does not work well or at all for people of limited means. The process described above that our attorney panel discussed and debated at great length requires a considerable amount of resources in order to arrive at an optimal conclusion for one’s child. As Attorney Feinstein put it, “[t]he right to challenge the districts is unavailable to people who don’t have money.” It does not work well for families who are under stress, or who speak English as a second language, or who are not conversant with the laws and regulations that govern the special education system. It also does not work well for families who face cultural or structural barriers to advocacy.

Navigating this aspect of the system, moreover, takes time, knowledge, and money. Very few students, as Attorney Feinstein highlighted during the panel, get outplaced willingly by their school districts and school district teams. These are almost always students with serious behavioral challenges or students that are seriously medically compromised. Private special education schools are expensive, with tuitions that can exceed $70,000 a year, and for residential programs tuitions can be far more than that. Few families can afford to shoulder the financial burden of two to three years, if not more, of this type of expense on their own. And while financial aid at these and other independent schools does exist, rarely would financial aid cover the full tuition amount (for a review of financial aid and independent schools, please see our blog post “Lessons Learned From A School’s Closure”).

For most families, the real enemy in the outplacement process is time. From start to finish, the outplacement process no matter what its conclusion can take up to a year, and in some cases and jurisdictions, more than a year. With resources, a family can accelerate this process. A special education advocate, at a $150-200 hourly rate, can help families prepare for the process, collect their evidence and data, and secure the all important IEE/expert testimony. Families looking to accelerate the process still further can secure a private evaluation, to the tune of $3000+, and move the timeline forward by scheduling the private evaluation concurrently with the school’s testing and review. Families with considerable resources can exit the system altogether by choosing to enroll their children directly in the appropriate private special education school or program, bypassing the system entirely by paying the tuition directly. In addition, even the cost-sharing settlement agreements negotiated with districts through the settlement process are beyond the means of most families, because most require that the family pay the tuition first and be reimbursement by the district after payment is made. Most low to moderate income families lack the resources to be able to front $75,000 in tuition and wait for reimbursement. But inevitably, for most families – unless their children are included in aforementioned categories of behaviorally challenged or medically fragile – the outplacement process almost inevitably leads to the hiring of a special education attorney.

Special Education Legal Fund was founded, in large part, to rectify some of these inequities that exist in the special education system. One of the most significant inequities that exists is the inability of families of low to moderate income to afford a special education attorney should they need one. Sadly, special education administrators and school districts are well aware of who can afford an attorney, and who cannot. And even more sadly, this knowledge often affects the provision of supports and services to a particular student, and the vigor with which a particular program is followed by a school-based team. It can affect the way an IEP is written, the goals and objectives within, and everything about a child’s in-district special education program. The reality that school districts treat families differently based on their ability to successfully advocate for their children in an advocacy process that requires money in order to be truly heard is the deepest tragedy and scandal of our special education system today.

Special education attorneys in Connecticut and New York can charge between $350-$500 an hour and require up-front retainers of several thousand dollars or more to take on a case and initiate legal proceedings on behalf of a family or student. This is beyond the means of most families. For low income families that have reached this impasse, Special Education Legal Fund provides direct support to qualifying families through our Legal Assistance Program. The Legal Assistance Program provides grants to a maximum of $5000 to qualifying families in Connecticut and Westchester County, New York so that these families may secure the legal support and assistance of special education attorneys who meet S.E.L.F.’s professional requirements.

The following is a list of resources for Connecticut families who are struggling with the ins and outs of the special education system.

FAVOR’s Family Peer Support Program assists families who need to navigate the special education or mental health care service systems, including caregiver education and attending PPT meetings with families.

Make the Road Connecticut is an organization that builds membership with low-income/working class Latinos in Bridgeport & Hartford. MTR-CT also provides parent advocates to assist ESL/ELL families in navigating the special education system, including attending PPT meetings with families.

Special Education Legal Fund provides free online training for ELL families through our Proyecto de Educación Especial, a groundbreaking special education, communication, & civics curriculum designed by S.E.L.F. for ELL families. It is free and available in Spanish, Creole, Polish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, and Chinese.

SpEdConnecticut’s Parent Adviser Services provides direct service to parents of children with a variety of special education needs in central Connecticut, utilizing trained volunteers who often come from the education and legal fields.

For parents wanting to further their knowledge of special education advocacy in support of their own children or on behalf of others, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) provides resources and a peer-to-peer network to families, including Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT).

Families seeking a special education attorney or advocate should refer to the COPAA Directory, a resource for COPAA members and the public to find attorneys, advocates, and related professionals who belong to the organization and advocate on behalf of children with disabilities.

Connecticut Legal Services is Connecticut’s largest legal aid agency, with seven offices statewide. They provide support to low income families across a variety of needs and can be reached for legal support here.

The webinar featuring Attorneys Andrew Feinstein, Terry Bedard, and Paul Barger covered far more than what is included in this review. The webinar touched on topics like the IEE, residential placement, the difference between an approved and a nonapproved special education school, what happens when a school is approved in one disability classification and not in another, transportation, cost sharing, and excess cost reimbursement. All of these topics are deserving of their own separate webinars.

Paul N. Barger (Barger & Gaines)

Paul N. Barger has practiced in the area of education law since 2003. He spent eight years representing public school districts in New Jersey. In 2011, Mr. Barger made the decision to “switch sides” and represent families in a variety of matters involving public schools. Mr. Barger now not only represents families in New Jersey, but in New York, Michigan, and throughout the country. While many of his cases involve securing appropriate services for students with special needs, Mr. Barger also handles bullying cases, residency disputes, disciplinary hearings, and virtually all matters impacting public and private schools. In addition, Mr. Barger represents students in matters involving colleges, universities and graduate programs.Mr. Barger has expanded his practice to the representation of private schools and provides counsel to private schools on a wide range of matters. Attorney Barger graduated from the University of Michigan in 1996 and George Washington University Law School in 1999. Attorney Barger is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, and the District of Columbia.

Terry Bedard (Law Offices of Terry Bedard)

Terry Bedard is an attorney and advocate on the front lines of protecting children’s rights. As a parent of a profoundly deaf son, Terry has a passion for helping children with disabilities to achieve their highest potential educationally. Specifically, Terry provides legal counsel and representation to families with special needs children to help secure placements and services needed. Since 2007, she continues to be the co-founder and president of the Hear Here Hartford Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America with a mission to empower teens and young adults with hearing loss. As a member of the Special Education Equity for Kids in CT (SEEK) Legislative Committee, she works with a team of attorneys and advocates to positively influence education-related legislative and policy initiatives by working with the Connecticut General Assembly and community stakeholders. Terry’s legal practice is located in Glastonbury, CT serving families throughout the state.

Andrew A. Feinstein (Feinstein Education Law Group)

Andrew A. Feinstein has represented children with disabilities and their families pursuing appropriate educational programs for twenty-five years, first in Hartford with David C. Shaw, and since 2008, as a solo practitioner in Mystic, Connecticut. He is co-chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the preeminent national special education advocacy organization and an adjunct professor of special education law at Central Connecticut State University. He is a founder of, treasurer of, and legislative chair of Special Education Equity for Kids in Connecticut (SEEK). He serves on the State Social Emotional Learning Collaborative. Attorney Feinstein graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 and the New York University School of Law in 1975. He completed the Senior Manager in Government Program at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, in 1983. He has served as a professional staff member of the House Committee on Armed Services and Chief Counsel of the House Civil Service Subcommittee


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