Mike Champa: SJC rules against Weston – News – The Weston Town Crier – Weston, MA


The Weston Town Crier

Mike Champa: SJC rules against Weston
By Mike Champa
Posted Dec 1, 2015 at 3:33 PM

On Oct. 23, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled against the Weston Public Schools and affirmed a lower court decision in a public records access case that could dramatically change the way school districts deal with the parents of special needs children.

The court ruled that the Weston Public Schools must allow public review of private settlement agreements they entered into with the parents of special needs children. The SJC decision brought an end to a three-year legal battle and ordered Weston to produce the documents for public review.

A Weston resident at the time, I was refused access to these records and brought the case. It was my contention that private settlement agreements have become the primary method used by Weston to transfer the cost of special education directly to parents, thereby avoiding the statutory requirement to provide what the special education laws refer to as “free appropriate public education.”

In addition, it was my position that these agreements obligated the town to the expenditure of millions of public tax dollars and the public had a right to review the terms of the agreements under the provisions of the Public Records Law.

Finally, it was my belief that if the agreements were reviewed it would confirm that all special needs children in Weston were not being treated equally, and that parents were required to pay a large percentage of the cost associated with the education of their special needs children, putting parents without the resources to hire attorneys and advocates at a distinct disadvantage.

At no time was there a request to identify specific children, and all information was to be in a redacted form that eliminated all personally identifiable information.

In amicus briefs filed with the SJC, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Massachusetts Department of Education all supported the notion of the public’s right to review redacted copies of settlement agreements. Weston had argued that the release of redacted documents violated student confidentiality laws; the high court disagreed.

On Nov. 10, Weston released 23 agreements executed between 2006 and 2013; the most recent documents have also been requested. A review of the released documents paints Weston school administrators as unfair and inconsistent in their administration of Weston’s settlement process and in the administration of their special education program.

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Connecticut Parent Survey

Dear Connecticut Parents –

Complete your 2014-2015 Special Education Parent Survey before September 18, 2015!

If you live in a ‘Cohort A’ town (see below) and had a child or children with an IEP or an ISP during the 2014-2015 school year, look for your email(s) to complete this valuable survey by 9/18/2015!

In advance, as a fellow parent, thank you for completing the 2014-2015 Special Education Parent Survey – as well as for any support you can offer in quickly sharing the news with other parents! 

Each town’s survey now has a three-year cycle, so Cohort A towns will be surveyed again in 2017-18.  This way parents and school districts can review results in January, celebrate successes, design and implement improvement strategies, and review parent results again in 2017-18.  The District and Summary Reports will be posted on the Bureau of Special Education website at http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2626&q=322094#8 .

Wishing all Connecticut towns an excellent annual parent response rates and excellent results!

More helpful information is below:

~ 2014-2015 Connecticut Special Education Parent Survey ~

Suggestions to Encourage Parent Responses

School District Name:  ______________________

o   send a brief flyer home in English and Spanish on colorful paper, alerting parents of students with disabilities to look for the survey in their mail and the importance of completing it

o   let parents of students with disabilities know that the survey is available in English and Spanish – and can be completed online

o   send a “robocall” or computerized auto dialer to deliver a pre-recorded message about the special education parent survey mailing

o   inform students and staff during morning announcements or summer programming

o   inform families during any summer PPT meetings

o   inform personnel serving students with IEPs or Services Plans in out-of-district placements

o   post on District and School websites

o   inform Board of Education members about the survey and if they may be able to outreach through their networks

o   inform municipal departments that serve families (e.g., health and human service departments)

o   alert local newspapers and radio stations; public service announcements are free in many cases for school district announcements

o   inform student, family and educator support specialists about the survey so they may communicate directly with parents in your district: Individuals may include the following:

o   bilingual, English learner, and word language directors and teachers; providers serving immigrant communities; interpreters

o   school- and community-based healthcare providers (e.g., school nurses, pediatricians)

o   family resource center personnel

o   school choice and registration coordinators

o   parent advisory committee members

o   school governance team members

o   parent advocates, liaisons, care support

o   comprehensive school counselors

o   school psychologists

o   speech and language pathologists

o   school- and community-based social workers;  probation officers; detention center personnel

o   family resource aides and home-school coordinators

o   transition coordinators; youth service bureaus

o   surrogate parents

o   SEPTO/A and PTO directors

o   state agency liaisons (e.g., DDS, DPH, DCF)

o   disability organization partners

o   community partners

o   faith leaders

o   ESY and summer program directors

o   magnet and charter school personnel

o   providers serving homeless families

o   discuss with student, family and educator support specialists, and community leaders, if assistance is available in the community to help parents who may have difficulty reading or completing the survey – families who speak other languages, families with cognitive needs

o   sponsor a “Parent night” over dinner to make it easier for parents to complete the survey; please remember possible childcare needs when sponsoring a community event

o   see if high school students can complete summer community service hours by disseminating information to local newspapers, radio stations, houses of worship

o   use computer labs in schools and public libraries as ways for parents to complete the online survey; remember, parents will need the six-digit code sent my mail or e-mail and can only answer questions about the name of the child on the survey envelope/letter

o   place survey flyers in clinics, community organizations, and laundromats

o   let outreach contacts know that the survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete; there will be a stamped, self-addressed envelope in which to return a paper copy  

o   let parents know that all information is kept confidential 

o   let parents know that they can access free educational materials from the CT Parent Advocacy Center at no cost, just for completing the survey

o   let parents know that if they need assistance completing the survey, they may contact the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center at 1.800.445.CPAC, or by e-mail at cpac@cpacinc.org; CPAC support for Spanish-speaking families is available

o   let parents know that if they have questions about the survey, they may contact Marcus E. Rivera at the Bureau of Special Education at 860.713.6932 or marcus.rivera@ct.gov.


2014-15 Connecticut Special Education Parent Survey (Cohort A)









East Haddam

East Hampton

East Lyme

East Windsor












New Canaan

New Fairfield

New Hartford








RSD 07 (Gr. 7-12 – Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford, Norfolk)

RSD 08 (Gr. 7-12, Andover, Hebron, Marlborough)

RSD 13 (Durham, Middlefield)

RSD 14 (Bethlehem, Woodbury)

RSD 15 (Middlebury, Southbury)

RSD 16 (Beacon Falls, Prospect)

RSD 17 (Haddam, Killingworth)

RSD 18 (Lyme, Old Lyme)

Rocky Hill









West Hartford*

West Haven*






* All parents of students with an IEP or Services Plan in the school districts listed above will receive a 2014-15 Connecticut Special Education Parent Survey by mail, except for parents of students with an IEP or Services Plan in the 11 starred districts above, where a representative sample of parents of students with an IEP or Services Plan will receive a survey, due to the larger number of students with disabilities in these 11 school districts.