Special Education Update: Five Key Takeaways from LRP’s School Attorneys Workshop and National Institute

Special Education Update: Five Key Takeaways from LRP’s School Attorneys Workshop and National Institute

Ennis Britton attorneys Pam Leist, Giselle Spencer, and Jeremy Neff were at the LRP School Attorneys Workshop and National Institute in Savannah, Georgia earlier this month. Pam presented on the topic “Can you Keep a Secret? Navigating Confidentiality Under IDEA, 504, and FERPA” during the National Institute. Jeremy also presented during the National Institute on the topic “Successfully Mapping the Exit from IDEA Services.” In addition, Jeremy spoke at the School Attorneys Workshop on the topic “An Ounce of Prevention: COVID Lessons Learned for Future Disruptions”.

Giselle captured five key takeaways from the conferences:

1. Fittingly, at the end of the school attorneys workshop on May fifth, she learned that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. However, it does mark a historically, significant battle with some interesting connections to the outcome of the American Civil War as well as the Mexican fight for independence from brief period of French colonial rule (thanks for yet another history lesson, Jeremy). What does that mean to special educators? It has something to do with stepping back and taking a broader view and accepting that we don’t always understand the significance of something we’re going through while we are in the midst of it.

2. More specific to special education, an excellent session on parents and the different individuals who can fill those rolls offered the reminder that surrogate parents are only appointed in specific circumstances outlined in the regulations. It is not appropriate to appoint surrogates just because of difficulties in working with a parent or inconsistent attendance at meetings by a parent. Ohio’s special education regulations align with the federal regulations which only allow the appointment of a surrogate when an individual otherwise meeting the definition of parent cannot be identified or located, when the child is a ward of the state, or when the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth.

3. Pam Leist shared in her presentation that under FERPA and parallel privacy protections in IDEA, union representation does not get a seat at the IEP meeting table. IEP teams discuss important sensitive information that is not germane to labor management issues, or the terms and conditions of employment. While sometimes those issues may arise tangential to special education decisions, it is important to keep them separate from the IEP meeting process.

4. A speaker from a different state shared that there are varying residential placement tests applied by courts, depending on where a school district that the student is a resident of is found. The Ohio test for school district financial responsibility for residential services asks whether the need for residential services is intrinsically intertwined with the educational services or needs of the child. Residential placements at public expense should only be used in rare circumstances with low incidence needs, regardless of which test a court applies.

5. And finally, Giselle observed for her fifth take away and in recognition of the island location of the Savannah convention center as well as the stormy weather on a couple of the nights, that one should never get on a metal ferry during a thunderstorm.

Ennis Britton’s team enjoyed presenting at LRP this year and also learning from colleagues across the country. Thanks to the clients who made the trip for saying hello! We look forward to participating again next year when the National Institute is held in Phoenix, where we do not anticipate needing to ride any ferries. Until then, the Ennis Britton Special Education Team is able to provide quality, tailored professional development here in Ohio throughout the year.


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































On the Call: Predetermination

Sidestepping parental input before the IEP meeting can have you stepping into a big rain puddle of trouble. Jeremy and Erin discuss the legalities and implications of predetermination, including a recent case from Maryland where the district’s case was bolstered by the documented and constant discussion that items on the IEP were only a draft and could be changed at the meeting. They share several practical tips to help foster collaboration and ensure meaningful parental participation, which in turn, will have your team blooming like May flowers.

You can also listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for new episodes on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

Meet us in Savannah? Ennis Britton’s Jeremy Neff and Pam Leist will be speaking at the LRP National Institute in Savannah, Georgia from May 5th through 8th. This is their third year running at the conference! Pam’s session will navigate confidentiality and Jeremy plans to share insights on successfully transitioning from IDEA services. Learn more at LRPInstitute.com. Hope to see you there!

On the Call: When the 504 Plan Falls Short

Navigating the complexities between a 504 that is not working and Child Find under IDEA can feel like walking a very thin tightrope.  Erin and Jeremy discuss the legal framework surrounding The Rehabilitation Act, how to differentiate the disabilities covered by 504 versus IDEA, and a District’s obligations when the 504 plan falls short. The discussion includes a recent case in Ohio that serves as a cautionary tale and highlights the importance of regularly reviewing the data to ensure the 504 plan is being implemented correctly. As always, they provide some thoughtful tips to help you stay balanced during the process so you can get to solid ground. 

You can also listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for new episodes on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

What You Need to Know About Delta-8 and Potential Legislation

What You Need to Know About Delta-8 and Potential Legislation

Delta-8, a cannabinoid found in the Cannabis plant and also synthesized in labs, is in the news again.  Because Delta-8 is largely unregulated throughout the United States (including in Ohio), it is sometimes legally purchased and used by students.  A national study published in March 2024 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 11.4% of surveyed 12th-grade students had used Delta-8 in the past year.  This was the first national estimate of Delta-8 usage.

Governor DeWine has called on the Ohio General Assembly to regulate Delta-8.  Currently, seventeen states ban Delta-8, and another seven states regulate it.  Governor DeWine has suggested that Delta-8 regulations could be a part of marijuana regulation that has been under consideration by the General Assembly since voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2023.

Delta-8 is sometimes packaged like candy or other food products.  This can both aid in evading detection in schools and increase the risk of students unwittingly using it.  It can also be used in vapes, as a tincture, and smoked.  If it seems like Delta-8 is a relatively recent concern, that is partly due to the 2018 federal legislation which allowed for a minimal level of THC in hemp plants when farmed.

Because Delta-8 is not banned or regulated in Ohio, there is nothing to stop a store from selling it to school-age children.  In fact, the Ohio Department of Health conducted a limited test, and two fifteen-year-old students were able to buy Delta-8 gummies from a gas station within 3 miles of their school.  In recent years Ohio has averaged about 100 Delta-8 poisonings annually, and the medical community warns that use of Delta-8 is especially harmful to the developing brains of children.

School districts should revisit their student codes of conduct to ensure that any drug infractions are defined in a way that includes Delta-8 and other synthetic or derivative-type drugs.  It is important that policies and codes of conduct are carefully written to put students (and employees) on notice of prohibited substances, but to do so in a way that allows flexibility to include future variations of intoxicating substances as possible infractions.  It is not enough to simply ban illegal drugs because the law is not keeping up with the development of drugs.  Additionally, special education discipline questions can arise when a student is being disciplined for the use of newer drugs such as Delta-8.  Districts should consult with legal counsel to ensure student safety and legal compliance.

On the Call: Graduation Deferment

Graduating from high school is a significant milestone for any student, but for special education students, exiting from services can sometimes trigger last-minute deferment requests from parents. Jeremy and Erin discuss what is – and isn’t – required of schools under IDEA, what constitutes a diploma in some circumstances, and considerations the IEP team should keep in mind as the student progresses toward graduation. They share a recent case from New Jersey that defined a diploma under state law and reinforced the district’s actions in recognizing the diploma. They provide ideas to help lay the groundwork early for the transition which will have you tossing your cap high at the end of the year! 

You can also listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for new episodes on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.