Special Education Tip #10: Choose Evaluators Wisely & Stay Organized
How to choose Special Education Evaluators or Experts Deciding to hire an attorney to undertake a special education case is a big decision for many parents. Preparing to file a hearing request with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals is often a long process filled with many unexpected expenses. Therefore, it’s only natural that parents would like to find cost-saving measures, while still creating the strongest case possible for their child. Here are two tips that will accomplish just that: 1. Choose Evaluators Wisely Independent evaluations are essential to successful outcomes in special education cases. These evaluations have the capacity to pinpoint the exact areas where a child is struggling in as well as outline the optimal program for that individual child. While it may be tempting to find an evaluator based only on price, there are many more factors that parents should consider in order to save money in the long run. The first factor that parents should consider when selecting an evaluator is whether they have the proper credentials to be administering the selected test measures. Many tests can be administered by a professional with a Master’s degree, however it is important to keep in mind that some assessments should only be conducted or interpreted by evaluators with a doctorate. Second, the evaluator should have experience working with children who have a similar profile to your child. Some experts work mainly with children on the autism spectrum, while others are more comfortable administering tests that focus on reading disabilities. Relying upon an evaluator who has experience working with children whose strengths and weaknesses are similar to your child will likely result in a much more precise report. Finally, parents should choose an evaluator who has experience testifying at a hearing. Evaluators provide hearing officers with expert opinions on what an individual child needs. Expert testimony can often win and lose cases, so it is extremely important to choose an evaluator who is comfortable in front of a hearing officer. By choosing an expert with the proper credentials, who has experience working with children of a similar profile as your own child, and who is willing to testify at a hearing, parents can avoid going through the time and expense of obtaining evaluations that are not strong enough to win their case. Selecting the right expert the first time can save parents the cost of having to repeat evaluations in the future. 2. Stay Organized In most cases, children have struggled to make progress in school for several years before their parents resort to hiring an attorney. During these early years, it is important for parents to stay organized and create a record. By keeping and maintaining documents in an orderly fashion, parents can save attorneys from spending several hours organizing and locating documents – which ultimately saves parents money on attorney’s fees. Parents should consider creating binders organized by either year or category. Binders should contain hard copies of all correspondence (including email), evaluations, IEPs, team meeting notes and attendance rosters, signed acceptance or rejection pages, progress reports,Read More
When an Employee Cannot Be Fired: Exceptions to the At-Will Employment Rule
Special Education Tip # 9: Share the Results of Outside Evaluations with Your Child’s School
At-Will Employment Law in Massachusetts
Special Education Tip #8: Provide Consent for School Evaluations
Background Checks on Applicants – Massachusetts Law Offers Certain Protections
Employment Background Checks – Massachusetts Law Background checks are often used by employers as part of the pre-employment screening process. Employers may be able to access certain information about applicants through the use of criminal background checks and credit checks, but the amount of information they will be able to access will depend on whether the particular employer is a public or private organization, the type of industry, and the nature of the position. In this article we will discuss the use of criminal records in the interview and pre-employment screening process; our next article will discuss the use of credit checks. Have Questions? Call Sankey Law Offices Today At (781)930-3127 Prospective employees with criminal records may face some challenges in the employment process. However, Massachusetts provides applicants with criminal records fairly strong protections when it comes to obtaining and using criminal record information in the employment process. It is important to note that, although many employers rely heavily on background checks, such as criminal records and credit checks, they may also access additional information about applicants through publicly available sources of information. Criminal Record Checks One of the primary ways prospective employers investigate applicants is through criminal record checks. Many employers in Massachusetts obtain copies of applicants’ criminal records through a state system called CORI. Some employers may also have access to more in-depth criminal record information through the federal government, which allows for nationwide searches into an applicant’s criminal history. Have Questions? Call Sankey Law Offices Today At (781)930-3127 In 2012, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking about criminal record information on their initial written applications. However, employers may ask applicants to disclose information about certain types of convictions during an interview. If an employer wishes to ask an applicant about his or her criminal history in an interview, certain rules apply. Felonies: An employer may ask if an applicant has ever been convicted of a felony. Misdemeanors: An employer may only ask an applicant to disclose information about misdemeanors that occurred within the last 5 years. An Employer may not ask an applicant to disclose information about misdemeanors where the date of conviction or completion of incarceration was five or more years prior to the date of application. An employer may not ask an applicant to disclose first-time convictions for: drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbing of the peace. Employers may not ask about arrests that did not lead to conviction. Most employers cannot ask about sealed criminal records (although some industries, such as daycare centers, do have access to all records, sealed or otherwise.) Have Questions? Call Sankey Law Offices Today At (781)930-3127 What is CORI? CORI stands for Criminal Offender Record Information. CORI provides information about an applicant’s criminal history within the state of Massachusetts. It may also have additional information if outside sources provided the state with their records, but it is not a national criminal record system and typically does not provide information about crimes that occurred inRead More
Special Education Tip # 7: Recording Team Meetings – is it a Good Idea?
Pre-Employment Testing: What Employers Can and Cannot Require
Pre-Employment Testing Under Massachusetts Law During the hiring process, job applicants may be asked to undergo various forms of testing in order to obtain employment. As a job applicant, you might expect a prospective employer to investigate your criminal background or check your references, but there are many other types of pre-employment screening that are sometimes used. These tests may include medical examinations, drug tests, and lie detector tests. Some of these examinations may be acceptable regardless of the nature of the position, while others may only be used by an employer when the essential duties associated with a position requires additional testing or when such testing is required by federal or state law. Below we will describe several different types of pre-employment screening, and when they are permissible in Massachusetts. Do You Have Pre-Employment Testing Legal Questions? Call Sankey Law Offices Today At (781)930-3127 Medical Examinations Medical exams, prior to the employer making an offer of employment, are not permitted unless they simply involve demonstrating how, with or without reasonable accommodation, the applicant intends to perform the essential duties related to the position. Employers may make an offer of employment contingent upon the applicant’s ability to successfully pass a medical examination. This practice is permitted as long as the exam is required of all employees entering the same position, regardless of any perception of disability. Potential employees may not be excluded from the opportunity to gain employment unless they are unable to pass any portion of a medical exam that directly relates to the applicant’s ability to perform a necessary job function and the problem cannot be remedied with reasonable accommodations. Drug Tests Federal law generally takes a neutral stance on an employer’s ability to administer drug tests as a condition of employment in most industries – although industries such as transportation, aviation, and defense may require drug tests in light of safety concerns. Under Massachusetts law the use of drug tests as a hiring mechanism is neither encouraged nor prohibited. If an employer in Massachusetts chooses to administer a drug test it should occur after an offer of employment has already been made – drug tests should not be administered at any earlier stage in the hiring process. Additional Considerations: If an employer chooses to administer drug tests it must be done so uniformly to all applicants; an employer may not single out specific applicants or groups of applicants based on a suspicion that a particular applicant might be a drug user. An employer that singles out specific applicants or groups of applicants may risk a discrimination claim. Employers who choose to administer drug tests must do so in a manner that does not amount to a significant, unreasonable, or serious invasion of privacy. For example, a drug test should not be administered under circumstances that would require multiple test takers to disrobe in the same room. Determining appropriate level of privacy often requires a consideration of the competing interests of the applicant’s need for privacy and theRead More
MA Supreme Judicial Court Bars Warrantless Searches of Vehicles Based on Marijuana Odor
Massachusetts Court Bars Warrantless Searches of Vehicles Based on Marijuana Odor In a pair of decisions issued on July 9, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court refused to uphold warrantless searches of motor vehicles which the police had attempted to justify based upon officers’ detection of a smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicles. These decisions demonstrate the court’s adherence to the 2008 Massachusetts voters’ initiative which decriminalized the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. In the first decision, the police argued that they had probable cause to search a vehicle based upon the officer’s perception of a “very strong” odor of unburnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The court rejected this argument, finding that it was “dubious” that an officer could determine by smell alone that what he smelled was a criminal amount of marijuana – more than one ounce – necessary to provide probable cause to search. The court stated that it was not confident “that a human nose can discern reliably the presence of a criminal amount of marijuana, as distinct from an amount subject only to a civil fine.” In a previous case from 2011, the SJC had held that the odor of burnt marijuana could not reasonably provide suspicion of criminal activity and, in the present case, the court extended that ruling to unburnt marijuana. In the second case, the SJC rejected two reasons offered by the Commonwealth to justify a vehicle search based upon the odor of unburnt marijuana: (1) that the search was necessary to prevent the driver from smoking marijuana while driving and (2) that the search was authorized because possession of even less than one ounce of marijuana remains a criminal offense under federal law. In regard to the first argument, the SJC noted that the smell of unburnt marijuana did not suggest a likelihood that the driver would smoke marijuana and drive unless the police intervened to stop him. To the contrary, the court found that the fact that the smell was of unburnt marijuana more likely demonstrated that the driver was not smoking while driving. The SJC recognized that were it to accept the Commonwealth’s flawed argument, “it would necessarily follow that police could search any vehicle containing sealed bottles of alcohol, based upon a potential risk that the driver could open a bottle and begin drinking while driving.” The SJC also pointedly dismissed the Commonwealth’s argument that the search was justified to enforce a federal prohibition of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The court emphasized that “given the clear preference expressed in the 2008 initiative that police focus their attention elsewhere, Federal law does not supply an alternative basis for investigating possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.” These cases seem to curtail all possible police arguments that they may search a vehicle based upon an odor of marijuana, whether the smell is of a burnt or unburnt nature. Recognizing that possession of one ounce of marijuana or less is not a criminalRead More
Using a Fake ID in Massachusetts – Not a Big Deal? Think Again!
Using a Fake ID is Illegal in Massachusetts Summer is upon us. It’s a great time of year to go to clubs and concerts. It’s tough being 19 or 20 years old though, when you’re left behind by your 21 year old friends as they head out to experience the Boston nightlife. The easy solution – a fake ID. The chances of getting caught seem slim, and they are easy and not too expensive to obtain. Using a fake ID is easy to justify because “everyone else has one” and even if your parents know, they don’t seem to get overly upset. It will also be useful to take back to college in September. Our advice: think again! There are serious criminal consequences in Massachusetts for offenses involving false identification cards, and police are very aggressive in detecting and prosecuting these offenses. It is against the law in Massachusetts to falsely make or alter a driver’s license or other forms of identification. This offense is a felony, with possible punishment of 5 years in prison. A felony conviction has serious permanent ramifications and can affect eligibility for financial aid as well as the right to vote or to possess a firearm. It is also a criminal offense to use or carry a false identification card. The simple act of using or carrying a fake ID can result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by imprisonment of not more than three months and a fine of not more than $200. Now, let’s consider reality. Is it likely that a teenager will actually go to jail for using a false identification card? Of course not. However, he may be summoned to appear in court with the result that the charge will appear on his criminal record, with negative implications for future employment. The main consequence that should get the attention of any teenager is the impact on his driver’s license if caught using a fake ID. Even if a car was not involved in the offense, most police departments will report any arrests for false identification offenses to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The Registry is required to suspend the driver’s license of any person convicted of making or altering a driver’s license for one year. If the charge is for using or carrying a false identification card, the Registry may suspend the driver’s license for 180 days, even if there is not a conviction. Offenses involving false identification cards are serious. Ask any teenager who has been through the process what it was like to be without a license for six months. Getting into a club for one night seems hardly worth the risk of serious criminal consequences and the inconvenience of being without transportation. If you have the unfortunate experience of being charged with a false identification offense, call a lawyer. There are things that can be done to avoid many of these consequences, but it is critical to intervene at the earliest possible stage. Written by Jeffrey Sankey For moreRead More