ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE INEVITABLE?

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Being proactive and planning for your family’s future is a necessity in today’s world. If you do not take the time to plan, the state will step in and dictate what happens to your worldly possessions. In general, most estate plans will include at a minimum a combination of the following legal documents:

Will:

A will can fulfill several purposes. It nominates fiduciaries, provides the fiduciary with the authority they need to act and it disposes of probate assets. The will nominates a Personal Representative who will guide the estate through the probate process.  

Durable Power of Attorney:

A durable power of attorney is a document whereby one person, the principal, appoints another person, the agent or attorney-in-fact, to act as his or her attorney-in-fact. The person serving need not be an attorney so, to some extent, the term “attorney” is a misnomer. The attorney-in-fact, in effect, stands in the shoes of the principal and acts for him or her on financial, business, or other matters.

Health Care Proxy:

A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows you to name someone you know and trust to make health care decisions for you if, and only if, you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself.

Living Wills:

A living will sets forth the specific written instructions of the principal regarding his or her treatment preferences in various hypothetical situations. Living wills tend to focus on end-of-life situations and decisions about pursuing or terminating treatment, including life-sustaining measures.

Declaration of Homestead:

The Homestead Act allows Massachusetts homeowners to protect their home from future creditors.  The Act was updated and effective as of March 16, 2011. The updated Act allows homeowners to choose between an Automatic Homestead, which is effective without a written declaration and a written Declaration of Homestead. The amount of the Automatic Homestead protection is $125,000. When a written Declaration of Homestead is filed the exemption increases to $500,000. Both the homeowner and his/her spouse must sign the declaration form.

Contact Attorney Curran to discuss your options: 

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

IS YOUR CHILD FACING CONSEQUENCES FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR AT SCHOOL?

What rules do the school's need to follow? 

The Massachusetts Statute that applies depends on what the student did:

  1. If the student brought drugs or weapons to school and/or assaults a member of the school staff Rule 37H applies.

  2. If the student is charged with a Felony and “principal or headmaster determines that the student's continued presence in school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school" then Rule 37H 1/2 applies.

  3. If the student's behavior does not fall into either of the above categories then their behavior will more likely than not be classified as a "violation of the student handbook" which would mean that Rule 37H 3/4 would apply.

School Discipline

Suspensions and Expulsions

There is a lot of if X then Y should happen in this area. You should seek individualized advice based on your specific student's behavior as soon as possible. Here are some general points to be aware of...

  • All students excluded for any length of time must be given the opportunity to make up all missed work. This includes projects, quizzes, tests, assignments etc.

  • Your student is entitled to hearing before they are suspended.

  • If your student is to be excluded for more than 10 school days, they are entitled to some form of educational service. This could be an alternative placement (see below), tutoring and in some districts online learning.

  • A recent decision from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Problem Resolution System (PRS) has reiterated the requirement that a suspended or expelled student must be provided with a minimum of two options for receipt of educational services (In re: Intake 1561).

  • If the school calls you and ask you to pick up your child due to the child's behavior, ask if the child is being suspended out. If they say NO but you need to pick the child up - then they are technically suspending the child as he's not being allowed to remain in school. Whether or not you go and pick up your child is a judgment call only you can make. But this call should be documented and if it happens enough you should ask for some changes (BIP, FBA, IEP Meeting are a few suggestions).

Interim Alternative Educational Setting

A student may be unilaterally placed in an 'alternative' educational setting for up to 45 school days for the following behaviors:  bringing weapons to school, bringing drugs to school and/or causing bodily harm or injury to a person while at school or a school sponsored event. These placements can be made without the consent of the parent but at the end of the 45 school days a Team meeting will be held to discuss what options are available to the student. 

This link will bring you to a chart that highlights the Massachusetts Student Discipline Statutes and Regulations on the state's Education Department website. 

If your student is a student with a disability, they receive more protections in discipline matters.

According to the IDEA, a student with a disability is a child who receives special education services as part of an IEP. A student also may be considered to have a disability even if the school has not tested or identified the child as such. If the school "knew or should have known" of the child's disability, the student may still be protected by special education law. (We will be sharing post that focuses on the rights of student's with disabilities and discipline in a few weeks.) 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

@emcurranlegal

FOUR SPECIAL EDUCATION TERMS EVERY PARENT SHOULD UNDERSTAND

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There is a lot to know as a parent  of a child receiving Special Education Services but there are four key terms that are apply in almost every instance so you should be familiar with them. They are:

1. Special Education

The term “special education” is defined as "specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including— (A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and (B) instruction in physical education." 20 U.S.C. s. 1401 (29)  Special Education Law is a needs based law. Everything in Special Education is based on data and assessment. 

2. Related Services

The term “related services” means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services. This includes, but is not limited to , speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, physical and occupational therapy, social work services, counseling services as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children. 20 U.S.C. s. 1401 (26) 

3. Free Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE")

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) provides that each eligible child is entitled to a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE). This terms is defined as: 

special education and related services that— (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and (D )are provided in conformity with the individualized education program...

4. Least Restrictive Environment ("LRE")

"Least Restrictive Environment" means that a child must be educated to the extent possible and appropriate in the least-restrictive setting possible when determining where and how services are to be delivered. 

The list below shows you in order the least restrictive to the most restrictive types of placements used in Massachusetts:  

  1. Regular Education Classroom (least restrictive)
  2. Resource Classroom
  3. Part self-contained 
  4. Self-contained classroom
  5. Day School
  6. Residential School
  7. Home-bound placement (most restrictive)

When we put all of these terms together the bottom line is …

School districts must provide a free appropriate public education for students enrolled in their districts. An appropriate education is an education and related services designed to meet the individualized educational needs of a child with a disability as adequately as the needs of non disabled children are met. 

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

GOOD EDUCATION ADVOCATES/ATTORNEYS ...

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A good advocate is well-trained and knows the law …

As Founder and Owner of E.M. Curran & Associates, LLC, Ellen uses her knowledge and experience in both the legal and education settings to guide students and their parents through the entire, complex special education process. Ellen holds a Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School (2000) and a Masters in Moderate Special Needs from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education (2010).  Ellen has been trained by the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) and continues her professional development by attending events hosted by Wrights Law, SPaN, Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) and Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE).

A good advocate understands schools …

After practicing law for many years, Ellen decided to take a break and pursue other career options. Shortly thereafter, Ellen began teaching at an Alternative High School serving High-at-Risk teenagers in a very economically challenged urban setting in Massachusetts.  She taught in this environment for seven academic school years. All of her students had either an IEP or a 504 plan. Many were dealing personal issues on top of their educational difficulties. During this time, Ellen was responsible for drafting and implementing behavioral and emotional goals, IEP goals, behavior plans, transitions plans, and progress reports. She attended IEP meetings, transition meetings, and DCF meetings as well as parent and/or attorney requested meetings related to school, behavior, and learning concerns. Additionally, Ellen has taught pre-law undergraduate classes at a well-known local university for well over a decade.

So what we can do to help you and your student?

  • We can provide information about special education options and requirements, and can help you to seek a specific service or program for your child.

  • We can help you carefully read your child’s school records, testing information, and IEP.

  • Our work is driven by data and not our emotions. Of course we have your child's best interest at heart but as a third party, we are able to take that step back to analyze your child's evaluations and create a complete profile that is not swayed by our emotions or dealings with either side.

  • If you wish, and if it is appropriate, we may attend Team meetings with you.

  • A skillful advocate can often see solutions not immediately obvious to other people.

  • We can help you to become a better advocate for your own child

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

SEPTEMBER 9TH - 15TH is NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK

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What leads to suicide?

There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead fulfilling lives.

Suicide Warning Signs

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Here are are some resources to learn more about Suicide:

MA Dept of Health and Human Services

MA Coalition for Suicide Prevention

MA: Suicide Prevention Resource Center

SOME SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO ORGANIZE AN IEP BINDER

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Over the years, I have tried several different ways to organize a student’s IEP data and other academic related information. The one tool that always works regardless of the amount of paper I’ve accumulated is a 3-ring binder. It may sound like a lot of work but once you have it set up, you can re-use the binder and its set-up year after  year.

What do you to get started: 

  1. 3-ring binder. I usually get a 2 or 3 inch binder but the size depends on how much paperwork you think your student will generate in the year.
  2. Some tabbed section dividers. I buy a set of 6 dividers, as well as two sets of the 8 dividers.
  3. A three hole punch, if you don’t have one.
  4. Some lined post-it notes. I like the medium sized ones but you should use whatever fits your needs best. 

First step:

Put the 6 sections dividers into the binder and label them. These are the labels I use:

  1. Current IEP
  2. Evaluations
  3. Communication
  4. Report cards/Progress Reports  
  5. Behavior/Discipline  
  6. Sample work
  • I divide Communication, Report cards/Progress reports, Behavior/Discipline and Sample work into the four school quarters using the section dividers from the two sets of 8 dividers I have already bought. 

Second step:

I gather all my paperwork together and sort into each of the sections. I file all documents in reverse chronological order - the most recent document on top. I also hand write in light pencil, bottom right of each document, the date I received/sent the document. 

Current IEP

In this section, I file the most current IEP, any meeting notices and my goal tracker sheet. I update the goal tracker sheet each quarter after I've received the progress report. 

Evaluations

If you are new to the process the first two documents will be your request for evaluation followed by your consent to evaluate. Again I keep this section in chronological order with the most recent report on top.  I sometimes forget what reports say in meetings so I usually create a table of contents for this section and will include a blurb or two of the key points in each report. I do NOT write on these reports. If a blurb is not enough I will put post-it notes with my notes in/on the section that is important.

Communication

In the first week or so of the new school year, I’ll reach out to my student’s classroom teacher and discuss what would be the most efficient way to have consistent communication regarding my student’s successes and difficulties. I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters, so whatever is agreed to, I print out copies of all communications and keep them in this section with the most current one on top.

If I find myself calling the school/teacher/etc. frequently; I will create a phone log and keep track of who I spoke with, the date/time and a summary of the discussion. I would file this phone log in this section too. I would also break the log up into the four academic quarters. 

Report cards/Progress Reports  

I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters. I file each report card and progress report accordingly in this file. I sometimes will put  my goal tracker in this section too just because it related to the progress reports. Either section is appropriate and you need to put it in a section that makes the most sense for you. 

I frequently review this section asking myself:  What is the data telling me? What data is missing?  What doesn't make sense that I need to follow up on. 

Behavior/Discipline  

My student's disabilities often come hand-in-hand with behavior/discipline issues. I keep a log for each academic period. The log tells me how often the student is escorted and/or restrained. How often the student is out of class, for what reason and what the resolution was of the issue. I also use these logs to help me understand if the student is making effective progress and whether or not the placement is appropriate. 

Sample work

I like to either ask the teacher for sample work or I collect papers that are sent home each quarter. I tried to have a couple of pieces of work from each class. I do not collect all bad or all good work. I try to collect work that reflects my student's strengths/weaknesses. This way I can have my own insight into their successes and/or difficulties that I can discuss with their teacher. 

Third Step - Optional Step:

Your binder should be individualized to your student and their needs. Here are some other sections and/or pages you could include in your binder....

Medical Section

If your child has a medical issue you should create another section and label it medical. In this section you could  include names/address/contact info for each doctor, a list of medications (as well as dosage and what it is for), doctors notes if  your child was sick etc

Summary Sheet

This sheet includes the student’s name, dob , grade, teacher’s name and contact info, Aides/Supports/etc. will also be listed here, the Team Chair’s name/contact info

Table of Contents

This sheet is exactly what it sounds like. I create a table of contents that breaks down each section and what documents are in each section. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com 

DYING WITHOUT A WILL IS NOT A GOOD DECISION TO MAKE...

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If you die in Massachusetts without a valid, written will the state decides who will receive your Estate (assets) as well as how much they receive. 

Massachusetts Intestacy Statute

  • The surviving spouse receives the entire estate if the decedent is not survived by descendants or parents, or if the only descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendants.
  • The surviving spouse receives the first $200,000 plus ¾ of the balance of the estate, if decedent is not survived by descendants but is survived by a parent.
  • The surviving spouse receives the first the first $100,000 plus 1/2 of any balance of the estate in all other scenarios.

IF you want to make sure your estate goes to specific people, you need to have a written will that is properly executed and witnessed.

Contact Attorney Curran to discuss your options: 

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC
10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com
@emcurranlegal

IT IS A NEW SCHOOL YEAR... BE PREPARED.

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What can you do to support your student?

Develop a “partnership” with your student’s teacher.

As a former classroom teacher, I can assure you that the teachers your student interacts with on a day-to-day basis went into education to make a difference in the lives of their students. When a conflict arises remember that everyone has your child’s best interests at heart and will want to do what is best for them. Try to remind yourself of this while working through conflicts.  

Stay involved with your student’s classroom schedule, activities and special events. Offer support to the teacher and follow through.  Ask your student questions about their school days so that you are not surprised when someone tells you there is a ‘big issue.’  

Encourage your older student to self-advocate.

For older students, encourage them speak up and self-advocate appropriately.  Sit down with your student and read over their together so that they know what it says and what it means.  Have them identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as strategies they think work for them. Make a copy of their accommodations from their IEP, laminate it or put it in a clear sheet protector and then put it in their binder/planner. Then talk to your student about when/how they should use this ‘cheat sheet’ to appropriately self-advocate. For example, maybe they have a substitute teacher who is not aware that you student gets time and a half to complete a test.

Acknowledge your student’s achievements and performance.

Have high but realistic expectations of your student’s school performance. Remind your student of your belief in their abilities and encourage them to develop healthy beliefs and attitudes about themselves. Celebrate their strengths and wins and support them when they have “misses” and/or weaknesses.

 Share your concerns about your student’s performance NOT with the student but instead with their teacher.

What can you do you stay organized and on top of your student's academic needs?

A. Get a large three ring binder and some separators 

B. Set up your binder so that it has a few relevant sections. These are the sections I use:

  1. Current IEP
  2. Correspondence. I break this down further into a section for emails, snail mail and phone logs. 
  3. Report Cards - Progress Reports. Again I break this down further into the four quarters
  4. Behavior
  5. Tests, Assessments and Evaluations. I never throw any of these materials out. 
  6. IEP Goal Tracking. I break this section into as many goals as the IEP states and then I track each goal by the quarter. 

C. Do not write on the originals. If you want to make notes, write them on post-its and put the post-its on the document.

D. Keep all documents in strict chronological order. 

I only keep the most current school year and one past year's worth of material in the binder at a time. I also create a table of contents so I can quickly find documents/information.  I bring this binder with me to all Team meetings. 

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND YOUR HEALTH CARE PROXY

Religious Beliefs and Health Care Proxy

A Health Care Proxy is a simple legal document that allows you (the patient) to name someone you know to be your Health Care Agent. Your Health Care Agent’s authority to make health care decisions begins only after a determination is made that you lack the capacity to make or communicate your health care decisions.  For example, if you are temporarily unconscious, in a coma, or have some other condition so that you cannot make or communicate health care decisions.  This determination must be made in writing by your attending physician. You must be notified, it at all possible, of this determination. No decision of your Agent can go into effect if you object.

Health Care Proxies generally provide no guidance about what medical treatments are desired and, instead, simply designate an all-purpose decision maker (your Health Care Agent), to assess the medical situation as it arises and, in consultation with the treating physician, to make whatever medical-treatment decisions are required.  Health Care Proxies fill an important void in medical decision-making when a patient cannot make such decisions. Sometimes a patient's religious beliefs affects the medical decisions they would make for themselves. 

To be sure, death and dying are tough circumstances to contemplate in the best of situations, and the prospect of facing these issues without the ability to communicate or otherwise direct one’s care makes this context even more unsettling. It is, however,  possible for the patient to ask for modifications to the 'general' language of a Health Care Proxy to provide guidance to ensure that decisions being made on their behalf comply with religious requirements that the patient would have undoubtedly followed if they could make those decisions themselves.

Once you execute your Health Care Proxy, keep the original for yourself in a safe place. Then distribute copies to your primary care doctor, your Agent and any alternative Agent identified in the Proxy. This way if there is an emergency, there will be no delay in your Agent’s authority being recognized.

You may cancel (revoke) your Health Care Proxy at any time simply by informing your Agent or your health care provider that you want to do so. However, it is always to put this in writing so there is proof that your named Health Care Agent no longer has the authority. You can also cancel your existing Health Care Proxy by executing a new Proxy.

Have questions or concerns about your Estate Plan? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

HOW A DIVORCE AFFECTS YOUR CHILD'S EDUCATION.

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Divorces end marriages but do not end the child-parent relationship - this is a relationship that should last a lifetime.  Massachusetts requires divorcing spouses who have children under the age of 18 to participate in an approved Parent Education Program. Learn more about these mandatory programs by visiting this link: https://www.mass.gov/parent-education

It is important to recognize that the children in a divorcing family may be deeply affected by their parent’s divorce. If a child’s grades and/or behavior change before, during and after the parent’s divorce inquires need to be made to see if the child would benefit from counseling. The parents should be mindful not to blame the other parent for any of the child’s struggles. Both parents need to stay focused on what is in the best interest of the child.

Who makes the education decisions for the children after the divorce? That depends on what kind of ' legal custody' you have in accordance with MGL. Ch. 208 S. 31. This is what the statute states in relevant part: 

''Sole legal custody'', one parent shall have the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child's welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.

''Shared legal custody'', continued mutual responsibility and involvement by both parents in major decisions regarding the child's welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.

Tips for divorcing and/or divorced parents:

1. Let the school know in writing who may pick up the child at any time.

2. Let the school know in writing to send report cards, progress reports, and other educational notices to both parents. Be sure you provide current contact information to the school.  

3. Understand that your child's teacher is NOT going to pick a side so don't put them in that position. Your teacher's purpose is to educate your child and to ensure that the best interests of the child are fulfilled. 

4. Try and keep any and all marital issues out of the school. Don't bad mouth each other to your child, school personell, other parents etc. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

WHY DO YOU NEED A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY?

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A durable power of attorney is a document in which you appoint an “attorney-in-fact also sometimes called an agent” to do anything on your behalf that you, the “principal” could do for yourself. The attorney-in-fact, in effect, stands in your shoes and acts for you on financial, business and other matters. Your attorney-in-fact can be any competent adult that you trust.

Giving someone a power of attorney does not limit your rights in any way. It simply gives the other person the power to act when you cannot. Your attorney-in-fact would be your fiduciary. A fiduciary is a person who is held to a high standard of good faith, fair dealing and undivided loyalty to the principal. The attorney-in-fact must always act in the principal’s best interest. The attorney-in-fact should keep complete records of what they do in case there are any questions of impropriety or bad faith dealing.

A power of attorney normally, takes effect as soon as the principal signs it. Most people do not intend that their durable power of attorney be used until they are incapacitated. The principal should discuss this with their attorney-in-fact so that both parties are clear on what the principal’s wishes are so that they can be carried out without delay or question. 

A principal may revoke a power of attorney at any time. All the principal needs to do is send a letter to his or her attorney-in-fact telling the attorney-in-fact that their appointment has been revoked. From the moment the attorney-in-fact receives the letter, they can no longer act under the power of attorney. If want to have proof that this letter was in fact received by the attorney-in-fact, send the letter certified signature required.

Your Durable Power of Attorney should be updated every 3-5 years or as soon as possible after a major life event (i.e. marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a family member, etc.)

Have questions or concerns about your estate planning? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

HOW DOES A CRIMINAL RECORD AFFECT AN INDIVIDUAL'S LIFE?

A Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) is a record of all criminal court appearances in Massachusetts for a particular individual, including arrests, convictions, dismissals, and serious violations. Your CORI report is a summary of all your criminal cases in Massachusetts state courts. CORI does not include restraining orders or other non-criminal matters. Criminal records can make it hard to find a job, get housing or have a good life. Even if your criminal record is old, ti can create problems for you.

There are ways to reduce the impact of a CORI on daily life. In any case, removing an offense from your CORI requires getting a court order.

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Do you have good cause for getting your CORI Records Sealed? Have you experienced one or more of the following:

  1. You are having trouble getting a job, denied a job or are at risk of unemployment because of your criminal record? 
  2. Would you like to be able to have or train for a specific job but cannot do so due to your criminal record? 
  3. Are your prospects at your current job limited because of your criminal record? 
  4. Are you currently homeless or having trouble getting housing due to your criminal record?
  5. Are you unable to volunteer at your child's school or unable to participate in other community activities due to your criminal record? 
  6. Has a lot of time passed since you caught any new charges?
  7. Are you trying to make your life better be it through night classes, GED or other educational opportunities? 
  8. Have you completed all of your probation requirements? 

This is not an exhaustive list of good causes for getting your CORI Records sealed but just a glimpse of some of them. 

SEALING RECORDS

Most criminal records can be sealed eventually through an administrative process by mail or by a judge. Most misdemeanors and felony convictions from a Massachusetts state court can be sealed after a waiting period. The general rule is that you are eligible to seal a conviction after a waiting period of 5 years if it is a misdemeanor conviction, and after 10 years if it is a felony conviction provided that:

  • You have no new conviction(s) (except for motor vehicle convictions with a fine not greater than $50) during the same period in or outside of Massachusetts; AND
  • You did not serve a jail sentence during the same period in or outside of Massachusetts, AND
  • You are not now required to register as a sex offender.

Every time you are convicted or incarcerated, the clock re-starts to add another 5 years for a misdemeanor, and 10 years for a felony. 

Contact Attorney Curran to see how we may be able to help you:

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

CURRENT ADMINISTRATION PLANS TO MERGE DEPT. OF EDUCATION AND LABOR

On Thursday June 21st, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement:

“President Trump campaigned and won with his promise to reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective. Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long. We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools.  I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality.”

The full government reform plan can be found here.

What does this mean? 

The reorganization plan, entitled Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century states that the current administration intends to merge the U.S. Department of Education into the U.S. Department of Labor.  “The Administration proposes to merge ED and DOL into a single Cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW). As part of the merger, the Administration also proposes significant Government-wide workforce development program consolidation, streamlining separate programs in order to increase efficiencies and better serve American workers.” The merger would be detrimental to all students, particularly students with disabilities and learning differences.  
The reorganization plan offers no specifics about the proposed merger of the Department of Education into the Department of Labor.  You need to almost twenty-four pages of the plan before you find one short paragraph that addresses K-12 education. Which states in relevant part:

The proposal would merge all of the existing DOL and ED programs into a single department, DEW, with four main sub-agencies focused on: K-12, Higher Education/Workforce Development, Enforcement, and Research/Evaluation/Administration. This would help create alignment throughout the education-to-career pipeline, while also creating coherence within the workforce development and higher education worlds.

The K-12 agency would support State and local educational agencies to improve the achievement of preschool, elementary, and secondary school students, including students with disabilities, Native American students, and English language learners. The agency would comprise improved ED K-12 offices that would better integrate across K-12 programs and more effectively coordinate with higher education and workforce programs. The K-12 agency would administer activities currently implemented by ED’s Offices of Elementary and Secondary Education, Innovation and Improvement, English Language Acquisition, and Special Education Programs. As described below, the Rehabilitation Services Administration would be moved to the Higher Education/Workforce Development agency

If you read the plan further, you will see a chart on page 26 that shows K-12 education and K-12 programs broken into two new separate administrative departments. If you look closer at the chart you will see that both of these new departments are no longer affiliated with the Office of Civil Rights, Research, Evaluation and Administration, and Higher Education Programs.   See chart below:

Since this administration has come to power, they have time and time again taken steps to undermine public education program. This latest plan is concerning since it is so vague that the reader is unable to ascertain what will happen to our children’s educational administration. There seems to be no consideration for the fate of students receiving special education services nor the impact this merger would have on the legal rights of students moving forward.

It has been established time and time again that the right of a student with a disability to a quality education is a fundamental civil right.  How each state interprets this right is often the cause of much controversy. The U.S. Department of Education has a long history of protecting the civil rights of students on a national/federal level. Merging the U.S. Department of Education as proposed would mark yet another significant departure in the protection of the civil rights of students with disabilities.

 

ARE YOU LEAVING YOUR CURRENT SCHOOL DISTRICT?

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, it is time for some parents to think ahead to where their child will be living and educated in the fall.

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I frequently get asked what to do if you are moving your child to a new school district, so I think its a topic that needs a quick answer:

Whether you move to another town in the same state or a whole new state, your child's new school has a responsibility to obtain  your child's school records promptly. Some school districts allow you to pick up your child's records and bring them to the new school yourself - this is not allowed in every district. When you request that the documents be sent to the new school, ask how long this process usually takes and then schedule a call to the new school to confirm their receipt. 

The new school should review the child's current Individualized Education Plan (i.e. the IEP) to understand the child's diagnosis, special education services, related services etc that your child currently has in place to provide him or her with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). The new school needs to provide your child with services, placement, aids etc that are similar or comparable to what is stated in the child's existing IEP.  The new school cannot tell you that they "do not do that in their district." 

Tips:

  1. If you are moving to a new state, visit the state's Department of Education website and review that state's special education policies and laws. 
  2.  Your child's new school MUST  continue to provide your child's services with no delay, gap or other interruption.
  3. If your child's current IEP is going to expire at or near the time you plan to move, ask for the team to meet earlier to write the new IEP. (The new school would then have to adopt this IEP).
  4. Yes, your child's new school may do their own evaluation but they cannot unilaterally change the contents of the current IEP. 
  5. It might be helpful for your child's new teachers and aides to have an overview of  your child's strengths and weaknesses. Ask your child's current teachers and/or aides to if they would be willing to write a letter that you can share with the new staff. *Remember you should allow your child's new teachers/aides to get to know the child on their own. If you do get a letter do not use it as a 'weapon' when you disagree with the new staff.
  6. Schedule a visit to the school over the summer so that your child has time to get to used to the new building, layout and people. 
  7. Look into the district's parent supports: SEPACs, support groups, PTA, etc. Get involved so that you can build a network of people that you can look to for advice and feedback. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

NEED SOME SUMMER RESOURCES AND IDEAS?

The school year will be ending soon. What will your child be doing with all their free time? It may not be too late to find some great resources.

Start by asking your child’s teacher, other parents and your district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) for their recommendations for summer programs and/or camps.  Also consider reaching out to your local recreation department, community groups, zoos, religious organizations, the YMCA, Girl/Boy scout organizations, local museums and libraries. Many of these organizations have programs designed for and/or suitable for children with special needs.

summer

Here are links to some great programs and resources:

Summer Fun Camp Directory – Complied by the Federation for Children Special Needs. This directory provides links to over 200 camp websites serving children with disabilities.   

All out Adventures – This program offers outdoor recreation for people of all abilities. They have programs including biking, kayaking and camping.  

VSA Arts of Massachusetts - is a statewide organization that aims to make arts accessible to a broader audience.

Access Recreation Boston – Access Recreation Boston is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to increasing and enhancing recreation opportunities for people with disabilities in the greater Boston area. 

Super Soccer Stars Shine - Super Soccer Stars Shine Program uses soccer as a vehicle to teach life skills to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities including but not limited to, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome, ADHD and PDD-NOS.

Disclaimer: None of our comments in this blog should be construed as a testimony or guarantee of any of the programs identified. Individuals retain the services of these programs at their own risk.

What is a Living Will and do you need one?

A health care proxy and a living will are both directives used by individuals to control the medical treatment they receive in the event that they become incapable of making or communicating health care decisions in the future.

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A living will sets for the specific written instructions that you have regarding your treatment preferences in various hypothetical medical situations.  Living wills tend to focus on end-of-life situations and decisions about pursuing or terminating treatment, including life-sustaining measures.

It is NOT legally enforceable in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts gives explicit recognition and protections only to health care proxies. So why should you have a Living Will in Massachusetts?  Your Health Care Agent has the ultimate authority regarding end of life care, but a living will is a good source of guidance for your family, doctors and your Health Care Agent.

Your Living Will should be updated every 3-5 years or as soon as possible after a major life event (i.e. marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a family member, etc.)

Have questions or concerns about your estate planning? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

 

U.S. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT DISMISSING HUNDREDS OF CIVIL RIGHTS CASES

OCR US Dept of Education

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has begun dismissing hundreds of civil rights complaints under a new protocol that went into affect on March 5, 2018.  The new protocol explained in the Department's "Case Processing Manual" is meant to help clean up and eliminate the backlog of complaints. The Department stresses that the protocol is meant to help the Department become more efficient in the handling of complaints.The protocol allows investigators to disregard cases that are part of serial filings or that they consider burdensome to the office. This is concerning as the OCR has clarified in several interviews that this did mean legitimate cases would be dismissed if there were other cases already filed that were comparable. Additionally, the new protocol also eliminates an appeals process for the office’s decisions and bars complaints based on reports or concerns raised in articles or other media outlets.

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The Case Processing Manual (CPM) provides OCR with the procedures to promptly and effectively investigate and resolve complaints, compliance reviews and directed investigations to ensure compliance with the civil rights laws and regulations enforced by OCR.
— U.S. Dept. of Education CASE PROCESSING MANUAL - March 5, 2018

Many civil rights advocates in Massachusetts and across the nation are worried that this new protocol gives too much discretion to the office. Some fear that the office’s rejection of legitimate claims is just another example of the Education Department’s shrinking role in enforcing civil rights laws in the nation’s schools.  If there is evidence of a legal violation, the Education Department should be required to open a case and investigate – that is the purpose of the OCR.

The Education Department, however, cites statistics to support the new protocol. The Department reports that forty-one (41%) percent of the 16,720 civil rights complaints filed in 2016 came from just three people. In 2017, the Department reports that twenty-three (23%) percent of the 12,837 civil rights complaints filed came from the same three people. The Department categorizes these three people as ‘mass filers.'

These changes should be concerning to Education Advocates, Attorneys and parents of students in all schools in the United States. Since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has assumed control of the Education Department guidance on issues related to protecting students of color, transgender students and students who are victims of sexual assaults on campuses have been deleted from the Education Department’s website. Efforts should be made to keep an eye on what the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights does with this new protocol over the next few months. 

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com

WHY DO YOU NEED A HEALTH CARE PROXY?

A Health Care Proxy is a simple legal document that allows you to name someone you know to be your Health Care Agent. This should be a trusted person as they will make health care decisions for you if, and only if, you are unable to make or communicate those decisions for yourself.

Your Health Care Agent’s authority to make health care decisions begins only after a determination is made that you lack the capacity to make or communicate your health care decisions.  For example, if you are temporarily unconscious, in a coma, or have some other condition so that you cannot make or communicate health care decisions.  This determination must be made in writing by your attending physician. You must be notified, it at all possible, of this determination. No decision of your Agent can go into effect if you object.

health care proxy

Your Health Care Agent will make decisions for you only after talking with your doctor or health care provider, and after fully considering all the options regarding diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of your illness or condition.  It is important that you have an open and honest conversation with your Agent regarding your potential wishes and any moral or religious beliefs that may influence any medical decisions that may need to be made. If your Agent does not know what your wishes would be, your Agent would make decisions on what they believe would be in your best interest.

Once you execute your Health Care Proxy, keep the original for yourself in a safe place. Then distribute copies to your primary care doctor, your Agent and any alternative Agent identified in the Proxy. This way if there is an emergency, there will be no delay in your Agent’s authority being recognized.

You may cancel (revoke) your Health Care Proxy at any time simply by informing your Agent or your health care provider that you want to do so. However, it is always to put this in writing so there is proof that your named Health Care Agent no longer has the authority. You can also cancel your existing Health Care Proxy by executing a new Proxy.

Have questions or concerns about your Estate Plan? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549
ellen@emcurranlegal.com