1) “the dog ate my homework” – the District can shred your letter and then claim it never received the letter. Now a complaining parent is forced to resubmit the letter and the 30 day clock starts ticking all over again.
2) “the time machine” trick – A simple way to get an “extension” to the 30 day limit is to simply not time stamp incoming letters until after someone complains about a case being out of compliance. The District simply stamps the letter “received” on a day less than 30 days before the complaint is made and “voila” the District is in compliance.
3) “incomplete” – the District’s favorite trick is to identify any aspect of your request for a referral to the CSE that is not done perfectly, wait a bit and then inform you a few weeks into the 30 day period that your request has been rejected because the request is not phrased correctly or some report is either not prepared to their satisfaction (e.g., handwritten not typed, a certain box not checked), or the “wrong” person filled out the form (e.g. at the beginning of a school year, the teacher does not have sufficient experience with the student to write a meaningful report), or the parent did not give consent for testing. This trick is most effective when there is more than one “error” with the request so they can notify the parent of one error, wait until it is fixed, and then notify them of the next error.
4) “the way back machine” trick – similar to the time machine trick, this is an all-purpose trick where the District takes advantage of the “flexibility” of the Pitney-Bowes postage meter they use to stamp letters. The Pitney-Bowes postage meter allows anyone to spin a dial to change the date on the “indicia”, the little thing in the upper right hand corner that is stamped on the envelop in lieu of a regular stamp like you buy from the post office. Most people believe that the indicia is a like a “postage cancellation” stamp put on processed mail so they believe the date on the indicia on a letter form the City School District of New Rochelle is a “legal” date. The post office (and courts for that matter) do not consider a postal meter indicia to be a legal data precisely because it is so effortlessly manipulated by the sender.
5) “the response to intervention” or “RTI” trick – In 2004, Congress passed an amendment to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which includes a requirement that before a child is found eligible for services as a disabled student the child would have to been afforded theory-based instruction in their area of weakness and found not to have responded to the theory-based instruction. RTI is a double-edged sword. RTI can be a good thing for children because, in some cases, when a child has difficulty with reading, writing or math (the so-called “three Rs”) it is not necessarily a function of a “learning disability” but rather a “learning difference”. Such students have been shown to respond well to non-traditional means of teaching and may well prove perfectly capable of learning to read, write or do math using a different approach. Where the “trick” comes in is that the DoSE will first assert an overly broad definition of a “learning disability” to cover pretty much everything under the sun and then claim that because non-traditional approaches have not been attempted, referral to the CSE is “premature”. This is a “trick” because : (1) RTI only applies to cases that fall under one of the thirteen recognized classifications in New York State; “learning disability” is the classification which covers reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), and math (dyscalculia). Even though the DoSE will try to make it sound like the term “learning disability” applies to a wide range of disabilities it does not cover the vast majority of disabilities including speech and language impairment, autism, mental retardation, emotional disability, blindness, hearing impairment/deaf, deaf/blindness, traumatic brain injury, physical impairment,and other health impairments such as ADHD, Asthma, Heart Condition, epilepsy or other seizure conditions, Tourette’s (sic) syndrome, stickler’s syndrome, etc.; (2) neither parents nor the DoSE can make a determination as to the precise nature of a child’s learning problems without extensive testing and observation, precisely what the CSE is intended to accomplish. For the DoSE to assert that it can make a determination that a child is not learning solely because he or she has dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia would be like a doctor making a “diagnosis” without examining the patient.
The “RTI trick” is an especially significant roadblock for private and parochial school children because of the costs involved to provide this sort of intervention. These schools often lack resources to provide this type of theory-based instruction. All the more reason then for the parent to insist on the CSE meeting. If the District finds a child “ineligible” based on RTI, the parent can then advocate for the public school to provide the intervention services at the District’s expense. Such services include Linda Moodbell, Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, PAF for reading, Orton-Gillingham for writing, and Cloudnine for math, among others.