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Mishel’s Story

Mishel is a bright, engaging 14-year-old who just graduated from middle school!

Mishel began receiving special education services for a learning disability in 3rd grade, and though she had academic challenges, she made steady progress at her charter school, Success Academy, in an integrated classroom that included students with and without disabilities. At an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting at the end of 6th grade, she was promoted to 7th grade. Three months into the new school year, however, Mishel’s mother was visiting the school to talk about Mishel’s brother when the principal informed her that Mishel was being demoted to 6th grade and had to move to a smaller class that only had students with disabilities. When Mishel’s mother objected and asked that her daughter stay in her current 7th grade class and receive additional help in areas where she was struggling, the principal said the decision was final and not up for discussion. Instead of conducting new evaluations to assess Mishel’s needs or holding a new IEP meeting to discuss changing her placement—as required by federal and state law—Mishel was abruptly sent back to 6th grade the following day, where she was surrounded by younger students and learning material she had already covered the year before.

After being referred to Advocates for Children for assistance, Mishel’s mother again requested that Mishel be placed back in the 7th grade program that was mandated by her IEP. School administrators refused, instead transferring her to a different 6th grade class. Even after AFC filed an impartial hearing request and a hearing officer ordered Success Academy to let Mishel return to the 7th grade placement where she had started the year, the school refused. Since Mishel had by that point missed more than a semester of 7th grade instruction, we successfully sued for summer tutoring and intensive reading remediation so she could catch up and start 8th grade with her peers. After the hearing officer agreed that Mishel’s school blatantly violated her and her parents’ rights, noting in his decision that Success Academy “apparently feels entitled to operate outside the constraints of [federal law],” Mishel and her mother were part of a complaint AFC filed with the State Education Department to ensure that no other student would have to go through the same ordeal. We helped Mishel enroll in a new public middle school last September, and we are so proud of her for persevering and finishing 8th grade on time!