The Mayerson Report – 2018 End Of School Year Newsletter

#justiceforallvoices

 
I used to look forward to sitting down with a cup of coffee to read the newspaper. Now I dread it. I imagine that watching the news leaves many of us feeling agitated and sad as we see the very foundations of our democracy being publicly mocked and challenged.
Gary Mayerson
A Piece of My Mind …

 

Stories of abject corruption, sexual assaults, bald-faced lies and fraud have become tolerated, if not accepted, as the new norm. It is difficult to process (let alone stay on top of) the daily media accounts regarding the many high profile (and low profile) people who are now being held accountable for their misdeeds. In the not too long ago past, just one of these outrageous scandals would have been enough to galvanize and sustain the nation’s collective consciousness and response.

 
I try to see the glass as “half full.” If there is any good news, it is that all this insanity has triggered some powerful and courageous public (and personal) responses and movements: the Parkland students’ #enoughisenough mass protests against gun violence in our schools and the #me-too movement’s social media campaigns and marches against sexual assault immediately come to mind.
 
We have improved our response time in identifying and calling out scandals. We quickly react to injustice with our Twitter and Instagram accounts. However, how do we translate and convert temporal reaction into systemic and sustained change? In other words, where do we go from here? In a recent New York Times Magazine piece entitled, “Cause and Effect,” Beverly Gage posits that: “…the real challenge comes after the grand event: Will the passion of the crowd translate into a movement capable of being sustained over the long term?” To become a genuine, bona fide movement for the benefit of future generations, the word “sustained” seems to be the operative ingredient needed to convert mere awareness into social change.
 
Gage’s question got me thinking about how it relates to people with disabilities. How do we shape a movement to effectuate systemic change in order to ensure that every individual with a disability will have the opportunity to be heard and respected just like anyone else?
 
In the Summer of 2015, after overcoming a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles at trial, Mayerson & Associates tried and won a landmark sexual abuse case in federal court. The jury’s verdict represents, as Beverly Gage wrote in her article, “the grand event.”
 
The student we represented was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and had reported to his parents, school officials, and others that he had been sexually abused by his paraprofessional. The student had never before leveled such an accusation and there were no eyewitnesses. The paraprofessional and his school district flatly denied that any act of sexual abuse had taken place. That much was expected. The defendants then crossed a red line by suggesting that by reason of the student’s Down Syndrome diagnosis, he lacked the capacity to tell the truth.
 
The risk and danger of testing that issue at trial was evident and palpable. If a person with Down Syndrome were ever to be found incapable of complaining truthfully about sexual abuse, it would become “open season” for sexual predators who choose people with disabilities as their victims because they are counting on their voices being mute, silenced or considered unworthy of belief. Maria McGinley, Jackie DeVore and I spared no effort in order to avoid such an unjust outcome.
 
After a grueling, two-week trial where we faced relentless motions made by two separate legal teams, the jury found that our client had in fact been sexually abused by his paraprofessional aide. Far more significant than the court’s sizable award of damages and attorneys’ fees was the fact that the jury believed the student’s accounts of abuse while rejecting the conflicting account given by the student’s paraprofessional. This individual student’s accounts of sexual abuse were heard and vindicated (without having to be validated by a parade of other victims). This was monumental. Progress. A huge victory.
 
The jury’s extraordinary and courageous verdict certainly was a “grand event” but now we must grapple with the real challenge, the challenge to sustain these principles, this movement, “over the long term.” We must continue to shape public attitudes and perceptions that affect and impact the law so that when a person with a disability tells someone that they have been sexually abused, their words will be respected, investigated and acted upon just as they would if they were NOT diagnosed with a disability.
 
In order to have a society based on equal access to justice, our work must go beyond the “grand event.” It is Mayerson & Associates’ ongoing mission to ensure that every individual with a disability have the opportunity to be heard, respected and believed. #justiceforallvoices    

Welcome to Mayerson & Associates! What’s next?

Sean LeVan
 
If you are a parent calling Mayerson & Associates about representation or consultation, chances are, the first person you will speak to in our office is me. For more than four years, I had the pleasure of being an instrumental part of the Mayerson & Associates paralegal team, working hand-in-hand with the firm’s attorneys. In my present position as the firm’s Office Manager, I continue to work directly with our attorneys, but I now have the benefit of seeing the entire process, from intake to outcome.
 
It can be difficult and even stressful to attempt to distill all the information we might need into your first phone call. Here are some helpful hints that can facilitate the process after that first call:
  
  • Send us anything and everything you think may be relevant to your potential case. Whether that be emails, evaluations, progress reports, etc., having our team get eyes on documents as quickly as possible is always extremely helpful.
  • We keep records of everything, but never send us originals. We scan everything and keep the majority of our files digitally.   Be sure to send copies, not originals that can get lost in transit.
  • For bulk sharing, DropBox is a dream. DropBox is a simple and very efficient way to send us multiple documents and files. Even large video files can be sent with ease.

Rest assured that your documents and child’s records will be in good hands. I look forward to hearing from you.


The UN Symposium On Empowering W omen And Girls With Autism
Susan K. Wagner
 
On World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), representatives from Mayerson & Associates attended the United Nations’ symposium highlighting the special challenges that women and girls with autism face.
 
For every female diagnosed with autism, approximately four males are diagnosed. While this discrepancy is largely consistent with the male-female statistics applicable to learning disabilities in general, at least some of the discrepancy within the autism population may be due to the fact that some girls with autism develop or adopt compensatory mechanisms that can sometimes mask or camouflage their symptoms.
 
Globally, women with autism or other disabilities are more likely to be marginalized, denied access to education, and unemployed as compared to men with autism. Women with autism are also more likely to experience physical, sexual, or psychological violence or abuse at disproportionately higher rates than men with autism.
 
A highlight of the UN symposium was the segment addressing the issue of women with autism in film. The actress Dakota Fanning spoke about the significance of her role in the film “Please Stand By.” The producer of “Keep The Change” also spoke and explained how current media trends are making autism more visible and changing public attitudes.

The Importance Of “Sharing”

Mauricio Bertone 
 
Of all the recommendations we make to our client families, we cannot stress enough how important it is that clients timely share with us any notices or communications that are received from the IEP team or school system. While some notices may appear mundane and inconsequential, often they are quite significant and time sensitive. If, for example, you receive a school placement letter, an IEP change of classification, or a letter stating “Prior Written Notice,” it is essential that you share such documents with us immediately, together with a copy of the postmarked mailing envelope. Parents also need to tell us if there are any special considerations we should be made aware of such as the existence of any insurance coverage or loan agreements, or a planned move to another school district in the middle of the school year. Having accurate and up to date information helps us to help you!  
 
A nother variant of sharing that can be critical for the outcome of the case is the sharing that is supposed to occur between parents and the school system. Parents, for example, are expected to cooperate in the IEP development process by timely providing the school system with copies of progress and other reports, assessments and evaluations. Demonstrating parental cooperation is relevant to proving at the hearing that the “equities” support the parents’ claim i.e. there is no evidence the parent acting inequitably. Parents should document those instances where documents are being disclosed or otherwise shared.
 
No parent should ever put their child’s “equities” evidence at risk because of a failure to share evaluations or other relevant documents that the IEP team could have had the opportunity to consider. Neglecting to share reports is an omission that parents should take care to avoid. Please call us if you are ever in doubt regarding a disclosure situation.

Facilitating the Reimbursement Process

Eric Tacher

As the firm’s Reimbursement Specialist, I can tell you from my own experience that once a case is won or settled, there still is much work to be done before funds actually become available. When a case is adjudicated or settled, we continue to work with the DOE to provide the supporting documentation that the DOE requires so that our client families can begin to receive funds ASAP. The DOE can be very strict with its requirements. Accordingly, it is important to adhere to the following guidelines: Any order that awards reimbursement relief for tuition or services will require proofs of payment (PoPs). PoPs typically come in two forms; “cancelled checks” and bank statements. “Cancelled checks” are front and back copies of checks that have been cleared by your bank. It’s very important that there be some indication that the check has been cleared by your bank. It should be on paper with the financial institution’s name and deposit information, or it should be stamped by the bank. Bank or credit card statements are typically needed when payments are made by credit card. They must show the date of payment, the name of the payor and payee, and the amount paid. All payments must match the invoices they are allocated to and must be dated after the dates of service. The DOE will not accept or process the pre-payment of services!
 
Payment for services (therapy, instruction, etc.) is contingent upon submitting invoices detailing the services provided. A valid invoice must contain the following information:
  • Provider/Agency Name
  • Student’s Name
  • Dates of Service
  • Service Provided
  • Rate/Cost and Length of each session
 
Every reimbursement or “direct” funding case comes with its own differences and nuances. It is important to communicate any concerns you may have as early as possible. Even if you don’t yet have an executed settlement or hearing officer’s award, getting your documents in and assembled ahead of time will ensure that once a case is won or settled, payment can be sought and secured expeditiously.
If you have any specific questions about the reimbursement or funding process, please do not hesitate to call me.

The #metoo Movement, Intersectionality, and the Disability Rights Movement

Jacqueline DeVore

April was both Autism Awareness Month and Sexual Violence Awareness Month.  As a special education attorney, former sex crimes prosecutor, and antisexual violence and disability discrimination activist, I could not help but see both the irony and the opportunity.  The disability rights movement has for decades pleaded for a seat at the table within the antisexual violence and gender equality movements.  Individuals with disabilities, especially women and girls, often do not feel “seen” – either in their personal communities or in the greater world around them.  Today, there is a struggle for visibility and representation in everything from children’s books to films to elected office.  
 
As the numbers show, individuals with disabilities are roughly twice as likely to experience sexual violence than the rest of the population.   One’s disability may significantly impact the ability to communicate, consent, or physically defend one’s own body.  Victims with disabilities can also be easily re-traumatized by being dismissed by those whom they reach out to for help – family members, teachers, and even law enforcement. 
 
But there is good news.  The #metoo movement, started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, an advocate for women and girls of color to be “seen” and “heard,” has gained worldwide attention over the last year through high profile cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Dr. Larry Nassar, and many others. Now more than ever, we are having the difficult conversations that we need to have concerning consent, respect, accountability, and power dynamics within our communities.  These power dynamics are especially complicated for individuals with disabilities, particularly for children.  I am so encouraged and inspired by the many young people with disabilities who are bravely speaking out about issues concerning representation, sexuality, gender, and access.  The more individuals with disabilities are included within larger movements – truly being “intersectional” – the more we will move forward as a society toward true inclusion and acceptance, as well as a safer world.
 

2018 Speaking Engagements And Special Events

Maria McGinley

Mayerson & Associates invests in the continuing professional development opportunities that keep the firm and its personnel on the cutting edge for the protection and benefit of our client families. In March, our firm sponsored and attended the 20th annual conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) in Monterrey, California. Senior Counsel Jean Marie Brescia presented a two-day advocate training seminar that was well received.
 
On March 23, 2018, Gary Mayerson spoke at a special education symposium sponsored and hosted by New York Law School. Gary spoke about the transformational impact of the Supreme Court’s 2017 landmark decision in Endrew F. and also had the honor of introducing the Keynote Speaker, Clifford Rowley – father of Amy Rowley– the student at the heart of the seminal Rowley decision. The Supreme Court’s 1983Rowley decision is the ruling that began to shape special education law in the U.S. Richard Marsico is a law professor at New York Law School as well as the Director of its Impact Center for Public Interest Law.
 
On March 23, 2018 we attended a reception at New York Law School celebrating the publication of Professor Marsico’s new textbook, Special Education Law and Practice.        
 
On April 10, 2018, Mayerson & Associates hosted a “Meet & Greet” for State Senator Gustavo Rivera, the Ranking Member of the New York State Senate Health Committee. Senator Rivera has a brother on the autism spectrum and his record shows tremendous support for the special needs population and worthy health and education-related initiatives. Gustavo has been very helpful, for example, in supporting work of the not-for-profit McCarton Foundation and the development of the McCarton Achievement Center, the first early intervention center in the Bronx designed especially for children with autism.
 
On May 2, 2018 , Maria McGinley and Jean Marie Brescia conducted a lunch seminar with Special Education Law students attending New York Law School, providing them with an overview of the field, answering their questions, and helping to guide them in making effective decisions about their career trajectories.
 
On May 8, 2018, Maria McGinley spoke as a panelist at an Autism Speaks Town Hall held at Fordham University (“Enhancing The School Experience”). 
 
On May 30, 2018, Mayerson & Associates hosted an ABA Workshop for professionals and parents. The workshop was well attended and we plan on future workshops in the Fall.
 
On June 4, 2018, Jean Marie Brescia presented at the New York Bar Association on the subject of “Endrew F. and Its Progeny.”
 
On October 18-19, 2018, Jackie DeVore will be presenting at the Autism NJ conference with our former colleague Cristiane Bertone (BCBA, LBA). Jackie will be speaking about “Understanding Your Child’s FBA and BIP.”
 
On October 20, 2018, Gary Mayerson will be presenting on ethics and sexual abuse at the annual NYASP Conference in Lake Placid.
Mayerson & Associates is proud to support many of the programs, schools and services that provide quality educational programming to our clients. Over the past few months, we have been honored to support Brooklyn Autism Center (February 6th), the IDEAL School (February 26th), NYU Langone / FACES (Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures) (March 5th), the Keswell School (April 24th), Manhattan Star Academy (April 25th), Center for Discovery (May 16th), Children’s Academy (May 22nd) and the Manhattan Childrens Center (June 4). 

Dr. Catherine Lord receiving the MCC Distinguished Scientist Award at the Plaza Hotel on June 4, 2018.