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Micaela’s Story

Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

08.20.2019 | New York Daily News | The city currently places foster care students on buses only if a route already exists. It also buses students whose special education plans require it — a substantial chunk of students in foster care. But for the remaining students, the Education Department offers only a MetroCard. For elementary schoolchildren who can’t travel alone, that means foster parents have to choose between spending hours shepherding kids on public transit, or simply switching schools, said Randi Levine, the policy director of Advocates for Children. Read article

08.19.2019 | The 74 | “Every step along the way brings its own questions and confusion, forms to be filled out, meetings to attend and rights to be aware of,” explained Maggie Moroff, special education coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York. She described special ed as “a crazy, complicated system where parents are forced to be their own advocates.” ... Said Moroff, “Our support line got around 3,000 calls just last year from parents who are struggling, who have questions, who don’t know where to start, don’t know where to turn, don’t know what their next steps are, don’t understand why their school isn’t seeing their kids’ needs the same way.” Read article

07.09.2019 | THE CITY | Representatives for the DOE also lack the authority to determine when a case should be settled rather than litigated. That setup leads to few quick resolutions, even when both sides agree, said Rebecca Shore of Advocates for Children, which works on behalf of at-risk kids. “I didn’t see any real plan that was going to improve the hearing system,” Shore said of the city’s submission to the state. “In fact, it seemed like the DOE punted on almost everything.” Read article

07.09.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | “These children only have one shot at education; whether we get it right or wrong today impacts their life chances,” said Randi Levine, the policy director at Advocates for Children, an organization that works with special needs families. The state’s initial report, known as a “Compliance Assurance Plan,” noted that the city had been violating federal law governing students with disabilities for the past 13 years and that previous efforts to reform the system had “not resulted in the systemic change necessary.” Read article

06.25.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | New York City is in need of more than 400 special education preschool seats as of May 29, according to a recently re-released New York State Education Department memo. While the city’s newest budget agreement allots for an additional 200 seats in September, the coming closures of two programs will cancel out more than 100 of those seats. “We have heard from parents desperate for their preschoolers to get the help they need, but who have been sitting at home for months waiting for a seat, while their peers attend universal pre-K classes,” Randi Levine, policy director of Advocates for Children of New York, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Children have a legal right to these classes. While the city and state have many choices when it comes to early childhood education, providing preschool special classes to children who need them is not optional.” Read article

06.14.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Eighty-five of the new social workers will work at high-needs middle schools as part of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, ThriveNYC, officials said. At least 31 “Bridging the Gap” social workers will be added specifically for schools with higher concentrations of students in temporary housing — an increase that advocates had previously called for — but City Hall and other City Council members offered different figures. “Increasing the number of school social workers is a real notable step in the right direction,” said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children New York. “We are eager to continue working with the City Council and administration to build on this necessary support for students who desperately need mental health services and behavioral supports.” Read article

06.13.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates have called for 31 more social workers for schools that enroll 70 or more students living in shelters and that don’t have one. “We know the Council has been fighting for an influx of school social workers for high-needs schools, as well as an increase in Bridging the Gap social workers to assist students living in shelters,” said Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children, a group that has lobbied for additional counselors. “Given the numerous calls we get about children’s mental health needs going unaddressed in school, increasing the number of school social workers is a priority.” Read article

06.06.2019 | New York Daily News | As it now stands, 100 city schools that serve 50 or more students who live in homeless shelters do not have a social worker specifically tasked to addressing their needs, according to Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children of New York. “We get calls from families of students who need behavioral and emotional support and are not receiving it in schools,” she said. Read article

05.28.2019 | THE CITY | Rebecca Shore, director of litigation for the group Advocates for Children of New York, said parents file complaints for a host of reasons. Some students are placed into schools that don’t offer programs mandated on their education plans. Others are thrust into classroom settings that don’t match those mandated by the IEP. In some cases, services called for in the IEP simply are not provided. “When the parents come to us, unfortunately, usually it’s at a point where it’s been three or four or five or six years [without services],” said Shore, whose group provided the external review to THE CITY. Read article

05.21.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | Suspensions have generally fallen, but lengthier out-of-school suspensions have remained relatively steady under de Blasio. Discipline reform advocates are hoping the city will aggressively cut down on these so-called “superintendent” suspensions, which were handed out more than 10,000 times last school year and which can last from six days up to an entire school year... City officials have strongly hinted that changes could be coming. A spokesperson previously said the mayor is “concerned with the length of our suspensions.” And the education department has quietly started sending students back to class faster after they are suspended. “I would expect suspension caps in terms of length,” said Dawn Yuster, the school justice project director at Advocates for Children. A bill making its way through the state legislature would cap suspensions at 20 days and eliminate suspensions for students in grades K-3, but it is not clear whether it will pass before the session ends in June or whether the city will consider those changes on its own. Read article