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

ELLEN CURRAN ELECTED TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SPaN

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC is pleased to announce that Attorney/Advocate Ellen Marie Curran was recently elected to the Board of Directors of SPaN - Special Needs Advocacy Network. Ellen will serve a two-year term as Membership Secretary. 

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).

In addition to helping those students and parents who can seek out assistance, Ellen's goal is to assist those students and families who are often overlooked and forgotten in school districts that have little to no parent involvement. She firmly believes that if parents are educated and supported, they can become the best advocates for their own children. Ellen is an active participant of the Special Education Surrogate Parent (SESP) program.

If you are not familiar with SPaN, it is a statewide organize that's membership consists of both Advocates and Attorneys interested in supporting Students and their families through their Education difficulties. Here is a partial list of some of SPaN's key goals: 

  • Develop and promote standards for practicing advocates. 

  • Provide workshops, training and professional information on issues related to special education 

  • Help advocates establish sound business practices 

  • Provide information about governmental activities, both federal and state, that impact special education law 

  • Develop and maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship with public and private agencies which are concerned about special education

  • Provide the public with a list of special education advocates

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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

IS YOUR CHILD HABITUALLY TRUANT DUE TO THEIR SPECIAL NEEDS?

If your child is habitually truant due to their special needs, you need to be aware of the February, 2018  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case "Millis Public Schools v. M.P. & others".

Stressed Truant Student

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently heard a case involving M.P., a 15-year old girl with multiple diagnoses including OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorder, autism and a severe bladder condition; who was referred to the juvenile court as a child requiring assistance (CRA) on the grounds that she was habitually truant by her school district, Millis Public Schools.

M.P. was offered several alternative educational learning opportunities. Some of these alternatives included attending an online high school, a therapeutic program – with a shortened day, private tutoring at home, private tutoring at the library, and finally a special education day school. M.P. failed to consistently attend any of these alternative educational settings. At all times relevant, M.P. expressed her desire to attend school and to do well in school. She often expressed disappointment when she was unable to attend. M.P. and her family fought the CRA referral on the grounds that she was unable to attend school not because of her willfulness but due to her medical issues.

Under the children requiring assistance (CRA) statute, a child “willfully fails to attend school” if the child’s repeated failure to attend school arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior. CRA petitions can be filed where a child who is of compulsory school attendance age is “habitually truant.” The statute allows the juvenile court to change a child’s custody by placing them in the home of relative or an out-of-home placement if the judge determines the child “willfully failed to attend school for more than eight school days in a quarter.” The purpose of the CRA statute is well meaning. It has been established by multiples studies, that children who are not in school are more likely to get caught up in behaviors that may lead to delinquency and ultimately involvement in the court system. Allowing school districts to identify students who are habitually absent, is meant to help these students get support and hopefully help them prevent making negative life choices. 

Unfortunately, the CRA statute is frequently used when students with disabilities cannot attend school due to their emotional, social, medical and/or academic conditions. These students are often referred to the juvenile court system instead of steps being taken to support them and their needs. Many of these students with special needs are removed from their homes as a result of the CRA referral, which further exacerbates their condition instead of helping to alleviate some of their issues.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a juvenile court judge can only find that a child is truant if the child is absent from school “purposefully, such that his or her behavior arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior.” To put it another way, the Supreme Judicial Court found that a child’s absence must be more than “merely voluntary or intentional,” the juvenile court must look “into a student’s purpose in missing school.” The Court emphasized that “a finding of willfulness is a fact-based inquiry that will depend on the circumstances of each case … [E]ach child’s purpose or reasons for missing school should be examined individually in order to determine whether the absences are willful beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Millis Public Schools vs M.P. and others is important because it supports children who cannot attend school because they have a mental or medical illness and helps these children avoid the court system and allows them to focus on their well-being and health care needs.'

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

 

CHANGES COMING FOR MASSACHUSETTS ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

English Language Learners ELLs

A fifteen year old law governing how English Language learners are taught in Massachusetts schools was repealed last November. The former Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) law was controversial from its inception. Many ESL as well as regular classroom teachers expressed concerns over the restrictive English-only model didn’t serve all students well.  In addition there were many reports and studies done that raised concerns that the needs of the students were not being met because the teachers were not adequately trained in how to support and educate the English language learners.

As a result of these reports and studies, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice notified Massachusetts education officials that teachers were inadequately trained in how to educate English learners and the SEI model and required the state to come up with a new solution to bridge this gap. In response the state created the RETELL program – Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners – which required teachers in core academic subjects to take a graduate-level course provided by the state in SEI instruction.  The RETELL program has had mixed results across the state.

The new law called “Language Opportunity for Our Kids," Chapter 138 of the Acts of 2017, commonly referred to as the LOOK Act aims to provide school districts with more flexibility as to the language acquisition programs they choose to meet the needs of English learners, while maintaining accountability for timely and effective English language acquisition.

The new law has many important points but here are just a few key effects:

Increased Input from Parents and Guardians

Allows parents/guardians of English learners to select any language acquisition program offered by the district, provided that the program is appropriate for the age and grade level of the student.

Allows parents/guardians to request a transfer of the student to another language acquisition program available in the district, subject to approval by the superintendent.

State Seal of Biliteracy

Directs the Board to establish the State Seal of Biliteracy. Districts may award the seal to students who meet the state criteria in attaining a high level of proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Educator Qualifications

Requires districts to verify prior to the beginning of each school year that each educator in an English learner program is properly endorsed for that program.

Language Acquisition Programming Flexibility and Oversight

Provides districts with flexibility in choosing a language acquisition program that best fits the needs of their English learner population, while ensuring accountability through Department oversight.

Requires districts that intend to offer a new sheltered English immersion or alternative instructional English learner program in the next academic year to submit the required information to the Department and the district's parent advisory council by January 1 of the current academic year; this means that new English learner programs may commence no earlier than the 2019-2020 school year.

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

 

APRIL IS AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH

Autism spectrum disorder  is a multifaceted developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. There is no known single cause of autism. There are several behaviors associated with autism that an individual may experience including delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities.  Early intervention and access to appropriate services and/or supports have been documented to positively contribute to many individual's successful outcomes. 

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Autism Spectrum Disorders typically appear during the first three years of life. There are no medical tests for diagnosing Autism. So if you are concerned about developmental delays in your child(ren) consult with your child's doctor. Here are some of the early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders (this list is not exhaustive):

  1. No social smiling by 6 months;
  2. Poor eye contact;
  3. No babbling, pointing, or meaningful gestures by 12 months;
  4. Loss of skills at any time;
  5. No one-word communication by 16 months;
  6. Not showing items or sharing interests;
  7. No two-word phrases by 24 months; 
  8. Unusual attachment to one particular toy or object; and
  9. Not responding to sounds.

Here are some great resources:

Asperger Works. This program assist adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders with employment. 

Autism Eats. This program provides information on autism-friendly non-judgmental environments for family dining and socialization.

Autism Insurance Resource Center. This program provides information on issues related to insurance coverage for Autism related treatments and services. 

Autism Support Center at Northeast Arc. The center providses information and support for families of people with Autism, including a paretn support group. 

 

SCHOOLS ARE NOT LIABLE FOR INJURIES CAUSED BY BULLIES

Bullying

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recently ruled a school district cannot be held financially liable for bullying that left a child paralyzed.  

The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision came in the case of Matthew Mumbauer. In 2008, Matthew was 11 years old and a student at the Brickett Elementary School in Lynn. A fellow student who allegedly (although court documents show Matthew had been repeatedly targeted) had been bullying him for years pushed him down a flight of stairs in 2008. As a direct result, Matthew was paralyzed for life. Matthew's family sued the city, school district and administrators, saying they were negligent in failing to act.

The Supreme Judicial Court stated in their opinion that they were not deciding whether or not the school was negligent for failing to act reasonably to prevent the bullying that led to Matthew’s injuries. The SJC accepted for the purpose of their limited review that the school was negligent but that their main concern was whether, under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, the public defendants (i.e. the city, school district and administrators) may be held liable for that negligence. 

The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, establishes the procedure for asserting tort claims against municipalities. All claims for injury or loss of property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any public employee while acting within the scope of their employment are subject to this Act. The Court focused its attention on Section 10(j) of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, which bars “any claim based on an act or failure to act to prevent or diminish the harmful consequences of a condition or situation, including the violent or tortious conduct of a third person, which is not originally caused by the public employer or any other person acting on behalf of the public employer.”

In short, the Court concluded that the act protects them from liability for such negligence. Justice Kimberly S. Budd writing for the court said in relevant part “These claims are barred by §10(j) because they originate from a failure to act rather than an affirmative act….”

Conclusion. There is no question that bullying is a serious issue. The tragedy that occurred in this case highlights the emotional pain of day-to-day harassment suffered by those who are bullied, as well as the horrific physical consequences that can result.[15]

In this case it appears, based upon the allegations of the complaint, that those working at the elementary school could have and should have done more to protect Matthew. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Legislature has imposed restrictions on the act that exempt school districts from liability. See Whitney, 373 Mass. at 210 (“on the subject of sovereign immunity . . . barring any possible constitutional infirmities, the Legislature will have the final word”).
— Cormier, et al. v. City of Lynn, et al

To read the full case opinion please use this link: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/02/27/12323.pdf

If your child is experiencing difficulties with bullies, please 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

Want some legal assistance but not a full-time lawyer?

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If you have ever tried going it alone and represented yourself in a legal matter before, you were called a pro se party. As a pro se party you had to figure out for yourself, the legal system as well as all the ins and outs of the rules and pleadings that were necessary. E.M. Curran & Associates LLC can help you with your legal matters in a limited capacity this is called Limited Assistance Representation or L.A.R.  We can provide guidance on the rules of the court, help you fill out forms, review documents and give you feedback, help you draft responses and/or motions, and in some instances we can appear in court with you to help you with a certain part of the case.

Click here to read more about Limited Assistance Representation in Massachusetts

Limited Assistance Representation is much more economical and cost-efficient. The attorney and party enter into a detailed agreement defining what specific and limited tasks the attorney will be responsible for and what tasks the party will be responsible for. Rather than paying for months or even years of legal representation, you can seek legal advice for select issues or tasks such as but not limited to:

  1. Document review: thoroughly review documents, pleadings and other written materials and discuss and explain the content to you.

  2. Consultation/Coaching: evaluate, analyze and help develop a strategy for a particular situation; given you legal advice and inform you of your options.

  3. Specific Services: assist you with a specific service such as ghost-writing a response/letter or legal research about the laws and the relevant cases.

  4. Limited-Scope Attorney Appearance: in very limited instances we can appear in court with you to help you with a certain part of the case.

Contact Attorney Curran to discuss any legal issues you may:

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

Timelines in Special Education

 
IEP Individualized Education Plan

There are so many deadlines and timelines when dealing with Special Education. Here are just a few to be aware of:

Request to Evaluate a student for Special Education services

  • Once the school district receives a written request to evaluate a student for special education eligibility, they have 5 school days to send the parent/guardian an Evaluation Consent form.

  • Once the parent/guardian returns an executed Evaluation Consent from to the school district, the school district has 45 school days to complete testing and schedule the IEP team meeting to discuss the results. 

Student is found NOT eligible for Special Education services

  • The school district must send written notice to the parent/guardian with 10 school days, if after the IEP team meeting the student is found not eligible for special education services.
  • Immediately upon receipt of the notice, parent/guardian should send written notice to the school district exercising "Stay Put" and file for a Due Process Hearing. 

Proposed IEP sent to Parent/Guardian

  • After the school district proposes an IEP to the parent/guardian, the parent/guardian must sign and return the IEP response page within 30 days of receipt.
  • It is good practice to save the envelope that the IEP was sent to you and to write the date you received the IEP itself on the envelope. That way if there is a dispute about when the 30 days expire, you can provide proof of how and when you were in receipt of the proposed IEP.

Remember that when you are counting your days: School districts always use school days and parents always use calendar days

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 Will?

What is a 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.

  • If there are minor children involved, the will also nominates a Guardian or Guardians.

  • The will may make specific bequests; dispose of tangible personal property, and also of the ‘residue’ of the estate.

  • If you die without any estate planning documents, the State will step in and decide how your assets will be distributed to those who survive you, in accordance with the then existing intestacy laws

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How often should I have my will updated? 

Every 5-10 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

Yes, there's a test for that...

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It can be overwhelming to know what kind of evaluation/assessment your child needs, especially when there seems to be a test for everything. There are tests for behavior, intellect, math, speech and language, reading, spelling, writing, ELL, Transition and a handful of other areas. The goal of these evaluations and assessments is to help the student, teacher and parent figure out why the student is struggling in school - whether it be behaviorally, socially and/or academically. In future posts we'll look closer at all of these areas that can be evaluate and/or assessed.  

Today, it is important for you to know  you should speak up and ask questions of your child's teacher/therapist/etc when your child is not making effective progress or is just struggling -behaviorally, socially and/or academically.  After speaking with the appropriate person, send a written request (emails are fine) asking that the school evaluate your child in the areas that are most appropriate based on your concerns.  Most schools will ask that you sign their 'consent form.' You should know that nothing will happen until this 'consent form' is signed and returned to the school.  You should put a note on the 'consent form' that you are requesting that any and all written reports and/or results be sent to you at least two days prior to any meeting to discuss the evaluation.

Be sure you read these reports carefully. It is sometimes helpful to make a copy of any report given to you so that you retain a clean copy. You should then highlight sections that do not make sense to you, make notes in the margins and if there are any mistakes be sure you point this out to the team  so that it can be corrected. While you are at the meeting, refer to your notes and ask as many questions as you need to. Special Education has its own 'terminology' so if something doesn't make sense ask for clarification. 

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