SWAN V. BYRD BENNETT IN FEDERAL COURT, PART ONE, THE CASE FOR THE SPECIAL ED CHILDREN: Lawsuit against school closings... Three days of testimony against the Chicago school closings based on the needs of special education students

Three days of detailed testimony about the Chicago Board of Education's plans to close more than 50 of the city's real elementary schools took place in federal court in Chicago between July 16 and July 19, 2013. The testimony took place because of two combined lawsuits filed by parents on behalf of children with disabilities who argued that the planning for the closings of the schools and the arrangements for the so-called "welcoming schools" (the schools that will receive the children from the schools that have been closed) will result in a deprivation of the rights of children with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other federal laws.

Synopsis Overview for Plaintiffs’ Witnesses

by Susan Zupan

The following outline and summary listing gives readers an overview of the plaintiffs’ testimony in its entirety. This will assist readers in their ability to scroll down to a particular section with greater ease.

Witness #1: Dr. Pauline Lipman – research on the impacts of school closings on students; racial demographics of CPS closings

Witness #2: Kristine Mayle – overview of special education; implementation at local school levels; and IEPs in particular

Witness #3: Parent Mandi Swan – description of her son’s disability (autism); both her (and his) experience(s) with and impacts thus far regarding the closing of Lafayette

Witness #4: Lucy Witte – expert witness on special education and school closings; IDEA mandates, particularly FAP (free and appropriate public education); analysis of IEPs submitted for lawsuit

Witness #5: Sarah Hainds, CTU Researcher – attempts to speak to and enter certain documents on ADA compliance data into the record were denied; called back briefly after witness #9 but dismissed

Witness #6: Laurie Siegel – information on and impacts of school closings to students related to same for counselors and case managers (often same person) and clinicians, particularly social workers

Witness #7: Professor John Hagedorn – gang expert; violence in Chicago; gang influence on students with disabilities; impacts(s) of school closings; refutation of CPS’s Safe Passage

*Witness #8: Dr. Woods Bowman – financial administration; fiscal non-crisis of CPS

Witness #9: Parent Sherise McDaniel – description of attempt to save and last-minute-averted school closing of Manierre; racial undertones to CPS policy regarding school actions; parent of a child with a disability

*Witness #10: Pavlyn Jankov, CTU Researcher – certain documents allowed “provisionally” on CPS performance data comparing closing schools to receiving schools

The hearings, which are asking for a preliminary injunction barring the closings, ended and the federal judge as of July 22, 2013 was still considering his ruling.

The first day of the preliminary court hearings in the cases -- Swan v. Byrd-Bennett (13-cv-03623) and McDaniel v. Board of Education City of Chicago (13-cv-03624 -- took place before U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. When Courtroom 1225 of the Dirksen Federal Building, located at 219 S. Dearborn Street in downtown Chicago, filled to capacity (six benches reserved for approximately seven seated “concerned citizens” -- with two other benches in front reserved one each as needed for the defense and plaintiffs), an overflow room was set up where spectators were directed to Courtroom 1719.

The hearing on July 16 brought forth full testimony from more than four witnesses for the plaintiffs. (Two other witnesses for the plaintiffs remained in limbo more-or-less under further court consideration by the day’s end.)

The first witness was Dr. Pauline Lipman, a Professor of Policy Studies in the College of Education at the University of Illinois - Chicago (UIC) for the past seven years. She was questioned by one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Matt Farmer. Her background in teaching and research was presented to the degree that one of the designated lawyers for the CPS defense, Sally Scott, stated that there was no objection to tendering Dr. Lipman’s status as an expert witness.

There is not a substantial body of research on the effects of school closings on students, Dr. Lipman stated. There are a number of studies, but they are not large, peer-reviewed, or carried out over time enough to be able to draw larger conclusions. In other words, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is presently carrying out a policy that is an experiment. Normally, such policies or interventions are piloted on a smaller scale, due to their potential for harm to children. From 2001-2012, CPS closed, consolidated, or phased-out over 100 schools, Dr. Lipman told the court. However, in 2013 the number went up to 50 in one year, the largest she knew of ever in the United States. Research from the Consortium on Chicago School Research indicates that school closings for "under-enrollment" and "under-performance" result in immediate harm in the year of the closings and over the summer regarding student attendance and mobility. In the following year there were no statistical academic gains except for those students who went to the strongest schools -- this number of students being 6 percent of the total. She was asked to define “mobility” (the number of students who leave a school during a given school year), noting further that school districts as a policy track mobility for the exact purpose of trying to reduce it. There is a large, authoritative body of research indicating that mobility is harmful to students academically, socially, and emotionally. Closing a school is defined by mobility. Dr. Lipman then detailed a 2012 study from the Rand Institute showing that school closings for low enrollment and low achievement resulted in “immediate and persistent harm” with negative effects for three years on achievement, attendance, and graduation rates. This was mitigated, as with the previous research cited, only for the students attending the highest schools; otherwise, students did not recover.

Dr. Lipman described the racial components of the present CPS school closings. For the 2012 -2013 school year, 87% of the students affected by the school closings are African-American; in contrast, African-American students are 40% of the total student population in CPS. Presenting the historical pattern, in the past, African-American students more-or-less made up 45% of the total student population of CPS but representing 80% of the students whose schools were closed. Matt Farmer, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, asked for the historical data: “A page of history is worth a volume of logic”, he said, quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes. Lipman's testimony also included details based on what is called "qualitative research." Looking at this in a community context, she said, what CPS has been and continues to do is: close schools that qualitative research identifies as the "anchors in neighborhood communities" already destabilized by poverty, unemployment, and violence. Using CPS’s latest matrix for school performance, schools are labeled with levels of 1, 2, or 3 (top, middle, or lowest/probation). Presently, CPS’s school closing plan will result in: 46 schools’ students splitting half-and-half, with 23 schools moving to receiving schools having the same performance level and 23 schools moving to schools having one performance level higher; and 10 schools moving up two performance levels. (The number total of 56 is due to some schools moving into two different schools instead of one.) Just 7 (or 12.5%) of the schools will be moving to a "top quality school" in which the research indicates we can expect improvement. For 87% of the school closings we can expect no improvement, Dr. Lipman said..

On cross examination, CPS’s Sally Scott reviewed information basically already presented which included: few long term studies; therefore little data on definitive effects of school closings on students either positive or negative; and that mobility was not unique to school closings. The Board's attorney also asked if Dr. Lipman looked at information on the “welcoming schools,” the schools that CPS has assigned the children to. Dr. Lipman said that this was difficult to do, due to CPS not giving full comparisons of the schools re: resources, programs (from special education to enrichment), activities, etc. Ms. Scott referred to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (STEM) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs being added to the welcoming schools. Dr. Lipman responded that CPS was “promising” these programs, but they might not outweigh the harm of everything else considered. The plaintiff's attorney, Matt Farmer, redirected by asking if to Dr. Lipman’s knowledge there was any academic research discussing the benefits of having air conditioning, iPads, STEM, and IB programs. Dr. Lipman replied that she was not aware of any.

The judge ordered that the court take a 5-minute break.

Second Witness. Kristine Mayle, Chicago Teachers Union.

The second witness called by the plaintiffs on the first day of the court hearings for a preliminary injunction against the Chicago school closings in the combines cases of Swan v. Byrd-Bennett and McDaniel v. Board of Education City of Chicago came to the witness stand on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois presided in Courtroom 1225 of the Dirksen Federal Building. The overflow crowd was present in Judge Lee's courtroom and in the "overflow room" in Courtroom 1719.

The second witness that day was Kristine Mayle, a former special education teacher who currently serves as Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union. She testified about CPS special education procedures for the plaintiffs.

For those who work in the schools or are familiar in any way with special education, this witness basically described and explained what might already be known and practiced; for others, it might perhaps serve as a mini-special education overview.

EXPERIENCE: Questioned by lawyer Matt Farmer, the second witness, Kristine Mayle, stated that she is presently the elected Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Ms. Mayle taught 5th – 8th grade special education for three years at De la Cruz Elementary School, a school closed down by CPS. (See related articles and reports in back issues on this Substance website on the closing of De la Cruz and other schools prior to this year’s blitzkrieg of CPS closings.)

After the closure of De la Cruz, Ms. Mayle taught 5th-7th grade mostly learning disabled (LD) sped students at John F. Eberhart Elementary School for one year prior to being elected to CTU office. From her teaching positions and via experience in positions prior to teaching, Ms. Mayle has worked with LD students, students with autism, and students with behavior issues (for example, one student with “explosive disorder” aka rage issues).

She noted that Special Education terminology and labels in CPS sometimes differ from the ones used elsewhere. Due to her knowledge and experience, Ms. Mayle has become the “go to” person in CTU for sped issues for CTU members as well as parents. She serves on special education committees within CTU, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), and is involved with the Clinicians’ Committee of CTU, which includes nurses, social workers, speech pathologists, etc.

LRE and IEP Team: Ms. Mayle described Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and levels of for the courtroom. LRE 1 describes the level of a sped student integrated in the general education (gen ed) classroom; LRE 2 describes a level that includes participation in pull-out programs; and LRE 3 refers to the need for a separate sped classroom placement. The LRE placement is individualized, depending on the needs of the child. It is determined by the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team that meets to review documents and data to make the IEP to help meet and support the student’s needs. The team consists of: the case manager, the sped teacher, a gen ed teacher, the parent/guardian, the student (if age 14 or older), and often, depending again on the individual needs of the student, a social worker, nurse, translator, or paraprofessional, etc.

Ms. Mayle estimated that she worked on over 100 IEPs from her case loads over the years. The IEP Team together determines the “Justification of Placement in LRE” section of the IEP (see below). IEP: Ms. Mayle was asked to review the template of Plaintiff’s Exhibit 92A, an IEP of a child whose mother would be testifying; the IEP was redacted using only the child’s initials. The child had been a student at slated-for-closure Jean D. Lafayette Elementary School. Ms. Mayle said that although the template is now electronic, it is basically the same as from her past teaching experience.

She described “Section 7: General Considerations in the Development of the IEP.” (Often the largest section of the IEP, this section describes and documents student strengths and weaknesses in all areas of his/her school and home experiences and circumstances to the degree possible and necessary.) From her capacity within CTU, Ms. Mayle testified that this section is completed differently within CPS in different schools. CPS does not have a uniform policy in this regard, to Ms. Mayle’s knowledge: in some cases Section 7 is written by the case manager; in others by the case managers and the teachers; and in some schools, the teachers write the whole thing. The next section of the testimony reviewed basic parts/sections of the IEP including but not limited to: student identification information; the label for the disability (which indicates what to expect for school personnel); the date of the IEP meeting, in which the team sat down to put the document together; home language information; a checkbox for procedural safeguards (did parents receive paperwork re their rights?); etc. At the point in which the questions Mr. Cowlin asked pertained to whether or not case managers in CPS received any training, the lawyer for CPS, Michael Warner, raised objections. The answer “No” appeared to be allowed by the judge eventually. To the question of how sped parents were involved, Ms. Mayle described varied parental involvement in her experience - from parents simply listening to the IEP Team to parents providing input. Some parents gave more details while others replied, “No, everything’s fine.” TRANSITION: From another portion of Section 7, Ms. Mayle was asked to explain “Relevant Transition Information.” This referred to student movement: day-to-day, class-to-class, activity-to-activity, etc. She said that this section was especially important for students with autism. Another IEP heading entitled “Transition Services” referred to situations such as: a child entering kindergarten; a student moving from elementary to high school; a student graduating/leaving high school, etc. Transportation needs would also be determined by the IEP Team. When asked if such should be provided in IEPs concerning the closings of schools, the CPS lawyer objected to questions related to this topic. When asked if transportation was added to IEPs at De la Cruz when CPS closed that school, though the CPS lawyer objected, Judge Lee allowed Ms. Mayle’s response of “No.”

IEP MEETINGS: There are different types of meetings related to supporting and meeting the needs of sped students: annual IEP meetings; eligibility meetings every three years in which the IEP Team does a “deeper dive” to review the psychologists’ battery of tests and all other relevant reports to determine the child’s eligibility for continued sped services; meetings for behavior plans, for example, to reconvene if changes might be needed. IEP ACCOMMODATIONS and MODIFICATIONS: This is the IEP section in which the team determines from a wide range of supports those that will lead to the individual child/student being successful. Examples include: communication devices (with input from the speech pathologist), assistance in using the toilet, assistance with eating, scribes, tutors, using calculators, assessment modifications such as tests with less questions, modified grading scales, waived promotion requirements, etc. This section of the IEP is filled in by the case manager with input from other members of the IEP Team, and especially the teachers who see the child’s interactions in the classroom on a daily basis. On the question of which students might receive a continuation of services through summer school, to avoid flat-lining or regression, Ms. Mayle said this would be for the more severe disabilities such as: autism, Down’s Syndrome, cognitively-delayed, and others in a slew of “low incidence disabilities.” IEP GOALS: IEPs contain quarterly benchmark goals determined by the strengths but mostly weaknesses from the picture of the child painted in the other sections of the IEP. There should be at least one goal for every identified/described deficit and/or subject area. The goals are monitored via a quarterly sped report card. One question asked and then addressed throughout the testimony by plaintiff’s second witness, Kristine Mayle, pertained to that of who determines what goes into an IEP. The answer: the IEP Team.

On cross examination, CPS lawyer Michael Warner asked Ms. Mayle if the IEP process varied from school to school? Yes. Did the attendees to the IEP meetings vary from school to school? Yes and no. Did the contents of an IEP vary for each student based on the disability? Yes. However, Ms. Mayle corrected the language used of Mr. Warner by stating that the IEP’s contents were “based on the student not the disability.” How long was an IEP? This also depended on the needs of the student. There were no further questions and no redirect.

Third Witness for the Plaintiffs in the Preliminary Hearing of July 16, 2013 was Mandi Swan.

Parent Mandi Swan, of Swan v. Byrd-Bennett (13-cv-03623), was the third witness called by the plaintiffs before U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for the preliminary hearing held on July 16, 2013 in the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago. The preliminary hearing also includes that of McDaniel v. Board of Education City of Chicago (13-cv-03624). Courtroom 1225’s three benches reserved for “concerned citizens” were filled (approximately seven people each), with others directed to the overflow Courtroom 1719.

As with the previous two witnesses, the Chicago Public Schools defense team had what appeared to be approximately eight lawyers on hand to the plaintiffs’ seven. This report is on the testimony of the third witness, a parent with a child with a disability. The report gives the general public detailed information about one mother and her autistic son’s circumstances within the context of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago voting on May 22, 2013 to close 49 elementary schools, including Jean D. Lafayette Elementary School.

Mandi Swan told the court that she is the mother of five children ages: 10; 7; 5; 2; and 1. For the court case, her 10 year old son is identified with the initials IO and she, as guardian, is one of the main plaintiffs in the case. According to the mother, "IO" has a disability identified as "mild to moderate autism." Ms. Swan explained to the court that her son has to have a routine every day; he needs consistency. He needs to be helped and watched closely throughout his day. He has a history of “running away” that she characterized more as just not knowing and “wandering off.” There were a few instances in which the police had to be called to help find him. He does not know what is harmful to himself, including touching hot things. Except for certain tasks that he might be happy with, if IO does not have supports in place, he has tantrums and outbursts of rage that, depending, sometimes get physical. He yells and screams but also shuts down, blocking himself off from others. All of the above has occurred both at home and at school. His Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was admitted into the record with no objection. (For further information on IEPs, please see the report on witness Kristine Mayle.)

In IO’s IEP, it states that he maintains a limited awareness of his surroundings "but is not able to distinguish between safe and unsafe situations." IO also has serious "transition issues" going from his house to school on a daily basis. His mother testified that she has to physically put him on the bus, and from the bus he needs to be physically put into the school, usually while yelling and screaming. IO will be in 5th grade for the 2013-14 school year. He has been at Lafayette for four years, since 1st grade. Prior to this he was in a school outside of the CPS system. His mother testified that he had major transition issues at that time of moving into Lafayette, but the issues were different due to his being younger. At Lafayette, IO is a part of a Cluster Inclusion Program. He is in a classroom with 13 students, all diagnosed with autism or significant disabilities, but he goes to a general education classroom with his peers every week. One of the main reasons his mother does not want CPS to close Lafayette is because of the supports in place there that she testified were not in place at what is to be his Chicago Public School’s (CPS) welcoming school such as: a sensory room; a life skills room; and a calming room. Another reason is that she predicts her son will regress, that is, lose the gains that he has made at Lafayette. Presently, IO can identify only basic shapes; he cannot identify colors; he cannot identify the alphabet letters; he cannot read, except to continue work on a few sight words. When his mother says that he has made significant gains at Lafayette, she means the following: he is talking; he is making friends, a very difficult task for him; and he responds to behavior and social cues. When he transitioned from 2nd to 3rd grade, he kept the same teacher and did not regress. However, transitioning to a different teacher (even within the same school) from 3rd to 4th grade resulted in more “bad behavior” (as described above) and regression. When asked by plaintiff’s lawyer Patrick Cowlin if she knows who his teacher will be next year, the response was: No. Ms. Swan testified that the annual IEP Team meeting for IO’s IEP was held on March 20, 2013. She said that at that time no revisions were made regarding transition because they were not yet aware that the school would be closed. In addition to transition issues, she felt that if the school was closing IO would also need a social worker, a support component not presently on his IEP. With parts of IO’s IEP on display on courtroom screens, she was asked if there was anything in his IEP to address any kinds of transitions (moving from class to class, moving in hallways, etc.) to which the answer was: No.

Ms. Swan testified under questioning that she learned about the school closing from letters sent home, the news, and teachers talking. A parent meeting at the end of April discussed the “possibility” of the school closing. In attendance were three representatives from CPS, including a Specialized Support Administrator (SSA) identified by Ms. Swan as Rhonda Stone, who would help with the transition if the school closed. IO’s "welcoming school" had not yet been identified. It was between Frederic Chopin Elementary School and James Russell Lowell Elementary School. At a meeting about a week later, Ms. Swan and her husband (with their three youngest children in tow) met with Ms. Stone where they were told that the welcoming school would most likely be Lowell. This was due to Chopin’s program being full, and CPS wanted to move IO’s program as a whole. She said she was told that for another option they would have to live at a different address.

Ms. Swan has visited Lowell. The first time was to register her kids during the first week in June. When she got there, she observed that the street was barricaded off so that the kids could play in the street for recess. She said she saw one security officer, not near the children. The principal, Gladys Betty Rivera was seated at the security desk. When Ms. Swan inquired, she was told that recess in the street was the norm. She was told that if she did not like this, she could request for her son to stay inside for recess or she could volunteer for recess duty. Ms. Swan also attended an Open House at Lowell. CPS representatives were present, including SSA Rhonda Stone. Was she able to see special education rooms? No. Her son’s future classroom? No. Why not? They didn’t exist yet. Was she able to meet his teachers? No. CPS representatives could not tell her who the teachers might be; they informed her that this was a Human Resources issue. Did IO go with her? Yes. Did he meet other students? No, it was from 4:00 – 4:30, and no one was there. In mid-June parents and students from Lafayette took a “field trip” to Lowell. Were they able to see classrooms? Yes – art, music, gym, and one special education room with two younger students and an adult who might have been the teacher. Ms. Swan was concerned that no one from CPS facilitated any interactions for the Lafayette students with the Lowell students. There were no introductions; it was just walk around and “show and leave.” There were two possible rooms that might become the sensory room (already at Lafayette) that the contractors just came out for. Did she meet any teachers? Only art and music, no special education teachers and no teacher aides. She was very concerned about what she referred to as what she has come to know as “the stare” the Lowell students gave the Lafayette students. She expressed nothing against the Lowell students. She explained that they simply did not understand what to expect, such as was already understood by the general education students at Lafayette where these special education students were already included as part of a class that would graduate together. Did the field trip go smoothly for the Lafayette students? No, not for quite a few of the students. One child screamed getting off the bus and for the entire time there; she could hear him, though he was in the other group in different places in the school. Another child (Ms. Swan is familiar with all of the kids) regressed to saying repeatedly, “I want my mom, I want to go home, call my mom…” It was too much to handle. Since the field trip she has received no notes nor letters from CPS. Principal Rivera has told her that she would like to have all of the Lafayette student aides come to Lowell. However, Ms. Swan is only repeatedly told that that is a Human Resources issue.

As of the day of the preliminary hearing, July 16, 2013, did she know who her son’s teacher would be next year? No. How will this situation affect her son? He will regress, lose progress made with his behavior. Have you seen the calming room? No. The sensory room? No. The life skills room? No. What are you asking of the court? This is not just for her son but for all of the students. Please give them at least one year to meet the teachers and create the program before they are thrown into this new environment to figure out what’s around, what is safe, who is in authority, what is there. Moving from one grade to the next, one room to another room in the same building, one routine to the next are BIG SENSORY OVERLOADS, let alone transitioning from one school to another with a whole new neighborhood, area, and kids. What did she base this on? She based it on “being a mom for 10 years to my son.”

On CPS redirect, Ms. Swan was asked about her son’s original transition from Lyndon Township where he was a student for two years to CPS in first grade. Did he make progress after a month or two? Yes. Did her son’s present IEP meet his needs in the last year? Yes. Is specialized transportation provided? Yes. An aide? Yes. Did she individually meet with Ms. Stone? Yes. Was she told anything about services on the IEP related to the new school? Yes, but at this point Ms. Swan asked if she could add something; the reply was “no,” to just answer the questions. Did IO go on a field trip to the new school? Yes. Did other students go with him? Yes.

And that ended the testimony and cross examination of Mandi Swan.

Plaintiffs’ Fourth Witness for the Preliminary Injunction Hearing of July 16, 2013 was Ms. Lucy Witte, who was brought before the court as an expert on special education. The lawyer representing the plaintiffs during the questioning of Ms. Witte was Michael Persoon (from the law firm Depres, Schwartz, & Geoghegan). Ms. Witte answered the first questions, reporting that she was retained and paid to offer an expert opinion on special education and school closings. The defense, Chicago Public Schools - CPS, objected until “foundation” was established for her to be considered as an expert. Foundation was established quickly. The following are a few items from her curriculum vitae that were presented to the courtroom: BA in education from Indiana University in Bloomington (1975); MA in special education (1978); Director of Special Education (2001); 12 years in various leadership roles; a listing of professional associations; adjunct professor at Butler University (Indianapolis), teaching psychology of the exceptional child (from cognitive delays, autism, social/emotional to gifted); a school board appointment by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (with reporter’s note that this refers to the Indiana School for the Deaf); and current Executive Director of West Central Joint Services Cooperative of nine school districts, with currently 52,000 students. She has 37 years of field experience with special education in Indiana. The following have are a few of Ms. Witte’s specific administrative job roles and responsibilities: staff supervision, hiring, and evaluation; reporting to the Assistant Superintendent; overseeing the continuation of services (for general education but also specifically special education students in transition); pulling and reviewing IEPs for compliance… In a nutshell her experience was characterized as: “The special education buck stops with her.” CPS lawyer, Abizer Zanzi (of the law firm Franczek Radelet), accepted her as an expert witness on special education, but objected to her qualifications on school closings. Judge Lee granted her qualification as an expert witness on special education, but requested additional foundation for the school closings.

For her report and testimony, she considered IEPs given to her by the plaintiffs, eligibility determination reports, and documents from CPS’s “Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services “ (ODLSS). (Note: The latter title replaces CPS’s previously-titled Office of Specialized Services – OSS, which before that was called the Office of Special Education Services). At one point, when asked, Ms. Witte informed the court that only after she completed her report did she consult the deposition of Rebecca Clark, a witness for the defense.

Has she overseen transitions of special education students from school to school? Yes. She is currently overseeing the withdrawal of 4 of the 9 districts in the West Central Cooperative that are pulling out of shared joint services. They began the process in October of 2012 by looking ahead, determining what needed to be done, then taking a year to plan; the transition is not scheduled until August of the 2014-2015 school year. She has also overseen special education students transitioning from one school to another for both year-round and traditional programs. In doing so, she testified, the most significant needs of the students are taken into consideration. She referred to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requirements of the federal law known as IDEA — Individuals with Disabilities Act. (See report on witness #2 for further information on LRE.) The following are some of the requirements to take into account for a seamless transition for special education students moving from one school building to another: building compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA); adequate space in classrooms; the number of wheelchairs; access to restrooms; assessing if the staff is highly qualified; equipment moves; compliance with “FAP,” lingo used in reference to IDEA’s entitlement to a Free and Appropriate Public education; and review of student IEPs.

How and why would student IEPs be reviewed in transitioning special education students from one school to another? Parents were informed via phone calls, then letters, and meetings. Parents would need to know who would be the teacher of their child. Staff needed to review IEPs for preparation in order to ensure a safe transition as well as a successful IEP implementation assuring FAP. This was all completed prior to the transition, she was asked? Yes, absolutely, for her