Wednesday, January 14, 2015

15-Year-Old Bullying Suicide Victim’s Family Sues School

          15-Year-Old Bullying Suicide Victim's Family Sues School 

           Bullying in our schools has become a national epidemic. The cruelest place in the world is the playground and, with the explosion of social media, kids can’t even find a safe haven at home. It happens every day and knows no geographic, demographic or socioeconomic boundaries.

            In some cases, the relentless name-calling, taunting, threats, ridicule and harassment turns physical—with victims being tripped, pushed and hit. Bullying instills fear, anxiety and depression in its victims—sometimes with tragic consequences. We’ve all seen cases in the news where children were driven to take their own lives—“bullycide.”

            Schools have a duty to protect your child from bullying, but too often they look the other way or downplay it: “Kids will be kids.”

            Attorney Thomas Blessing has some experience in representing victims and their parents to find justice. In fact, Thomas Blessing represented the mother of the bullying victim in a lawsuit against Greensburg Community Schools after, a then 15-year-old student, Billy Lucas, was discovered deceased in his family's barn from apparent suicide. 

           The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Thomas Blessing, (Attorney with Hollingsworth & Zivitz) and claims Lucas was a target for bullying because of several personal characteristics, including his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), his ethnicity and his perceived sexual orientation. The suit implicates... To read the full story, click here. 

            Mr. Blessing goes on to explain that it was not just the kids who caused the victim to feel bullied, saying “the peers ridiculing him and harassing him was bad enough, but when the teachers stood there and let it happen when it occurred physically in their presence, they would say things or make comments as well,” To read more click here.  He went on to say that "to the extended the school let him be subjected to this kind of torment is inexcusable. The school violated the law by not taking steps to protect him. Read more here. 

            Mr. Blessing "is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit." on behalf of the victim's mother. To Read more click here

            The news of Billy's death was the catalyst that prompted nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller, both victims of bullying themselves, to launch a project titled "It Gets Better." To read more about this story click here

To read a copy of the lawsuit, click here

            Thomas Blessing was interviewed by WISH TV Channel 8 regarding the lawsuit against the school district. To see the full interview, click here. 

            If your child is being bullied at school, the Indiana education attorneys of Hollingsworth & Zivitz may be able to help. Over the years we have represented several children who have been bullied, assaulted or sexually harassed at school. If you believe your child is a victim of bullying, contact a member of our Education Law team at 317/569-2200 or visit

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Father Writes a Letter to His Daughter with Down Syndrome

 If you are a parent with a child with a disability, then you know better than anyone that your child is so much more than that label. You also know the struggle to prove that to the world and the hope that your child can teach you. This Father describes these feelings very well in a letter he writes to his daughter about his path in dealing with having a child born with a disability. See the video link below:

Father Writes a Letter to His Daughter with Down Syndrome

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Indiana's New Restraint Law

         Indiana’s new restraint law comes on the heels of many recent state moves to govern the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. With both staff and student safety in mind, several states including Wisconsin and Ohio have also recently passed measures to guide educators with resources for handling out-of-control children safely and effectively while reducing the need for restraint and seclusion.

Indiana’s law requires school employees to be trained in:
  • Prevention and de-escalation techniques including Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and conflict de-escalation.
  • The safe use of physical restraint and seclusion to be used only as a last resort when a student presents a danger to self or others.
            The law requires the state to adopt rules to minimize or eliminate restraint and seclusion in Indiana schools. It also establishes a commission to develop a statewide model restraint and seclusion plan that calls for seclusion and restraint to be used only as a last resort when a student presents a danger to self or others. The commission must develop the model plan by August 1, 2013. Schools are required to have plans in place for the 2014–15 school year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Fragility Factor: A Nation of Wimps

Are parents going too far to protect their children from disappointment? Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers. This article discusses the possibility that many American parents are going overboard to cater to their children, creating something some are calling the Fragility Factor.

Read the rest of "A Nation of Wimps" on Psychology Today's website:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Will I know if my Child is Making Progress?

How Will I know if my Child is Making Progress?

            In order to measure your child’s progress, the Individualized Education Program (IEP)  team must first indentify her current levels as a base line or a starting point for creating goals. Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance are based on data from objective assessments. The team uses this data to write measurable IEP goals that will allow you and the school to monitor your child's progress.
             Every IEP should say how progress towards annual goals will be recorded and monitored. Parents should receive progress reports that the school may issue quarterly or with report cards. Your child's IEP must describe how your child's progress toward the annual goals will be measured and when you will receive progress reports. Be aware of progress being reported by "teacher observation." When a child's progress is monitored by subjective "teacher observations," parents do not have objective data about their child's progress toward the goals in the IEP.

            Ask your child's teachers and service providers how and when they will measure your child's progress. You may ask:
  1. How often will you measure my child's progress?
  2. What tests or assessments will you use to measure my child's progress?
  3. How often will you communicate with me about my child's progress of lack of progress?
20 U.S.C.§ 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)
20 U.S.C.§ 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(III)

IDEA Regulations
34 C.F.R. §300.320(a)(1)
34 C.F.R. §300.320(a)(3)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Does your child struggle with behavioral/emotional issues?

FBA… What is it?
            A FBA, or a functional behavior assessment, is a process schools often utilize when a child’s behavior begins to impede their learning or the learning of other students. Functional behavioral assessments are generally considered to be a continuous  problem-solving process for addressing students' unwanted behavior. It may identify:

·         purpose or function of behavior
·         variables that influence behavior
·         components of an effective behavioral intervention plan

            It relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the purposes of specific behavior and to help IEP teams select interventions to directly address the problem behavior. A functional behavioral assessment looks beyond the behavior itself. The focus when conducting a functional behavioral assessment is on identifying significant, pupil-specific social, affective, cognitive, and/or environmental factors associated with the occurrence (and non-occurrence) of specific behaviors. Common functions of behaviors exhibited by students are:

·         Justice or revenge
·         Acceptance
·         Power or control
·         Self expression
·         Rewards
·         Escape or avoidance

            By identifying the antecedents to specific behaviors through observing the environment of a child, teachers can better create a plan to either reward good behaviors or replace negative ones by creating a behavior Intervention plan, or BIP.  Behavioral intervention plans based on an understanding of "why" a student misbehaves are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of problem behaviors.
            The 1997 Amendments to IDEA are explicit in what they require of an IEP team addressing behavioral problems of children with disabilities:

          “The team should explore the need for strategies and support systems to address any behavior that may impede the learning of the child with the disability or the learning of his or her peers (614(d)(3)(B)(i));
            In response to disciplinary actions by school personnel, the IEP team should, within 10 days, meet to formulate a functional behavioral assessment plan to collect data for developing a behavior intervention plan, or if a behavior intervention plan already exists, the team must review and revise it (as necessary), to ensure that it addresses the behavior upon which disciplinary action is predicated (615(k)(i)(B)); and States shall address the needs of in-service and pre-service personnel (including professionals and paraprofessionals who provide special education, general education, related services, or early intervention services) as they relate to developing and implementing positive intervention strategies (653(c)(3)(D)(vi).”

 If your child is struggling with behavior or emotional issues that are effecting his or her school work, we can help.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Disability-related Acronyms

Disability-related Acronyms 

The disability community is full of acronyms that people constantly use in writing and in conversation, and it’s important to know what those acronyms stand for. Acronyms are used in order to abbreviate names or phrases.

A Acronyms

AAC | Alternative Augmentative Communication
ABA | Applied Behavioral Analysis
ABC | Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence
ADA |Americans with Disabilities Act
ADD/ADHD | Attention Deficit/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADLs | Activities of Daily Living
ADR | Alternative Dispute Resolution
AIM | Accessible Instructional Materials
APE | Adaptive Physical Education
APR | Annual Performance Report
ARD | Admission, Review, and Dismissal Committee
ARRA | American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
ASD | Autism Spectrum Disorders
ASL | American Sign Language
AT | Assistive Technology
AYP | Adequate Yearly Progress
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B Acronyms

BD | Behavioral Disorder
BIE | Bureau of Indian Education
BIP | Behavioral Intervention Plan
BOE | Board of Education


C Acronyms

CAP | Corrective Action Plan
CAPD | Central Auditory Processing Disorder
CAPTA | Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
CBA | Curriculum Based Assessment
CC | Closed Captioning
CDA | Child Development Associate
CDC | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CEC | Council for Exceptional Children
CF | Cystic Fibrosis
CFR | Code of Federal Regulations
CIFMS | Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring System
COP | Community of Practice
CP | Cerebral Palsy
CPRC | Community Parent Resource Center
CSHCN | Children with Special Health Care Needs
CSPD | Comprehensive System of Personnel Development
CST | Child Study Team


D Acronyms

DB | Deaf-Blind
DD | Developmental Delay
DD Act | Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act
DIBELS | Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy
DoDDS | Department of Defense Dependent Schools
DS | Down Syndrome
DSM | Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association


E Acronyms

ECE | Early Childhood Education
ECSE | Early Childhood Special Education
ED | Emotional Disturbance
ED | U.S. Department of Education
EDGAR | Education Department General Administrative Regulations
EHA | Education of the Handicapped Act (now IDEA)
EHDI | Early Hearing Detection and Intervention
EI | Early Intervention
EIS | Early Intervening Services
ELL | English Language Learner
EMH | Educable Mentally Handicapped
EMR | Educable Mentally Retarded
EPSDT | Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment
ERIC | Educational Resources Information Center
ESD | Extended School Day
ESEA | Elementary and Secondary Education Act
ESL | English as a Second Language
ESY or EYS | Extended School Year or Extended Year Services


F Acronyms

FAPE | Free Appropriate Public Education
FAS | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FBA | Functional Behavioral Assessment
FC | Facilitated Communication
FEOG | Full Educational Opportunity Goal
FERPA | Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
FOIA | Freedom of Information Act


G and H Acronyms

GE | General Education
GPRA | Government Performance and Results Act
GT | Gifted and Talented
HI | Hearing Impaired
HO | Hearing Officer
HoH | Hard of Hearing
HOUSSE | High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation
HQT | Highly Qualified Teacher


I Acronyms

IA | Instructional Assistant
IAES | Interim Alternative Educational Setting
ID | Intellectual Disabilities
IDEA | Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEE | Individualized Educational Evaluation
IEP | Individualized Education Program
IES | Institute of Education Sciences
IFSP | Individualized Family Service Plan
IHE | Institution of Higher Education
ITCA | Infants and Toddlers Coordinators Association
ITP | Individualized Transition Plan


L, M, and N Acronyms

LD | Learning Disability
LEA | Local Education Agency
LEP | Limited English Proficiency
LRE | Least Restrictive Environment
MD | Muscular Dystrophy
MD or MH | Multiple Disabilities or Multiply Handicapped
MDR | Manifestation Determination Review
MMR | Mildly Mentally Retarded
Mod MR | Moderately Mentally Retarded
MOU | Memorandum of Understanding
MR | Mental Retardation
NASDSE | National Association of State Directors of Special Education
NCLB | No Child Left Behind Act (Elementary and Secondary Education Act)
NIH | National Institutes of Health
NIMAS | National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard
NIMH | National Institute of Mental Health
NPRM | Notice of Proposed Rule Making


O Acronyms

OCD | Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
OCR | Office of Civil Rights
ODD | Oppositional Defiant Disorder
OHI | Other Health Impairment
OI | Orthopedic Impairment
O & M | Orientation and Mobility
OSEP | Office of Special Education Programs
OT | Occupational Therapy


P and R Acronyms

P&A | Protection & Advocacy
PALS | Peer-Assisted Learning System
PASS | Plan for Achieving Self-Support
PBS | Positive Behavioral Supports
PCA | Personal Care Attendant
PD | Physical Disability
PDD | Pervasive Developmental Disorder
PEI | Spanish acronym for the Individualized Education Program (Plan Educativo Individualizado)
Perkins Act | Carl Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act
PLEP or PLP | Present Level of Educational Performance or Present Level of Performance
PP | Paraprofessional
PS | Preschool
PT | Physical Therapy
PTI | Parent Training and Information Center
RFP | Request for proposals
RS | Related Services
RTI | Response to Intervention


S Acronyms

§ | This symbol means “Section” as in “§ 300.7 Child with a disability” in the IDEA regulations
SAS | Supplementary Aids and Services
SB | Spina Bifida
SCHIP | State Children’s Health Insurance Program
SE | Special Education
SEA | State Education Agency
SEAC | Special Education Advisory Committee
Section 504 | Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
SED | Serious Emotional Disturbance
SI | Sensory Integration
SIG | State Improvement Grant
SIP | State Implementation Plan
SLD | Specific Learning Disability
SLI | Speech/Language Impairment
SLP | Speech/Language Pathologist
SPOA | Specific Power of Attorney
SPP | State Performance Plan
SSDI | Social Security Disability Income
SSI | Supplemental Security Income
SST | Student Study Team


T to Z Acronyms

TA&D | Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
TANF | Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
TBI | Traumatic Brain Injury
TDD | Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf
TMH | Trainable Mentally Handicapped
TMR | Trainable Mentally Retarded
TS | Tourette Syndrome
T-TA | Training and Technical Assistance
TTY | Teletypewriter (phone system for the deaf)
TWWIIA | Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act
VI |Visual Impairment
Voc Ed | Vocational Education
VR | Vocational Rehabilitation
WIC | Women, Infants and Children (Special Supplemental Food Program)
WWC | What Works Clearinghouse

Are charter schools required to follow IDEA?

Charter Schools


Federal law requires any school receiving public dollars to provide students with disabilities educational choices comparable to those offered to non-disabled students. Charter schools cannot discriminate against students with disabilities.

However, it is important to determine whether your charter school receives federal funding. In determining whether a charter school is subject to the IDEA and Section 504, it is important to find out whether the charter school is a public school of the local education agency (LEA) or not. If the charter school is a public school of the LEA, and most are, then they are REQUIRED to follow the federal law and provide children with FAPE and follow the regulations under IDEA. You can usually find out if the charter school is a public school of the LEA or not by asking the charter school for its memorandum between either the state or the local school district.

Unfortunately, many parents experience charter schools telling them that they do not have to follow federal and do not write IEP’s or 504 plans. This is not true. Please contact us at (317) 569-2200 if you are having trouble with your child’s charter school. It is so important parents are advocates for their children and that they reach out to get their children the education that they deserve.


More details about charter school obligations to students with disabilities are available online at