Long Island districts - North Shore?

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Looks like family and I may be heading back to Long Island (hubby and I both grew up there.) At the moment, we're flexible as to the exact location - we'll be looking at places on the North Shore (from Centre Island/Oyster Bay area out to Miller Place/Mt. Sinai.) Anyone dealing with good school districts on the North Shore? Bad ones? My son will be in middle school starting next year, so I'm especially interested in PA friendly middle schools and high schools. And if anyone has horror stories in these areas, I'd like to hear those as well! Thanks!

On Jan 3, 2005

Hi Laura--

I currently live in Guilford, CT but am from Smithtown, Long Island. Smithtown has excellent schools! (Another funny coincedence is that I also have a sister named Laura).

Actually, I have been wanting to talk with you about having my pa daughter (who is just starting kindergarten in the Guilford public schools) ride the bus. The allergist has stated that she needs to have an aide on the bus that can administer her epi-pen. The school district claims that the bus company's union will not permit their employees to administer medication. (Apparently, they have aides on other buses who just monitor students with severe pa. They are paid by, and hence are, bus company employees).

I don't understand (at this point) why the aide can't be paid by the school district (and aide's are permitted to administer medication in Guilford).

We are suppose to have a meeting with the principal, the head of pupil services, and our doctor to try to come up with a solution. To me, they want to come up with a compromise so that they don't have to put an aide on her bus.

Do you think I should apply for 504 status at this point or wait until after this meeting? Also, is there a way to make sure that this process doesn't drag out forever? I really need her on the bus!

Thanks so much for your help! Ask me anything you want about Long Island too!

Rose

Quote:

Originally posted by LauraP: [b]Looks like family and I may be heading back to Long Island (hubby and I both grew up there.) At the moment, we're flexible as to the exact location - we'll be looking at places on the North Shore (from Centre Island/Oyster Bay area out to Miller Place/Mt. Sinai.) Anyone dealing with good school districts on the North Shore? Bad ones? My son will be in middle school starting next year, so I'm especially interested in PA friendly middle schools and high schools. And if anyone has horror stories in these areas, I'd like to hear those as well! Thanks![/b]

On Jan 3, 2005

Hi Rose!

And I'm originally from Massapequa. Now I'm in Sherman, CT. I must say, we have it pretty good in this state, in terms of PA. My son has what I believe to be an excellent 504 plan in place -- the entire staff at his school is trained in epi use, and he can carry his epi & benadryl on his person (in addition to extra kept in the nurse's office.) While the school isn't nut free, I feel his environment is safe. No nut containing foods are served on the lunch menu, there's a peanut free table in the cafeteria, and a no-nut policy in the classroom. We've made it from preschool to fifth grade with this plan in place, with zero "close calls" and zero reactions (knock wood!) So, I'm hoping to find a LI district receptive to these precautions as well. It would be nice to find a district where the path has already been paved, so to speak.... but if I have to pioneer again, I suppose some research into New York laws will be in order!!!!

Regarding 504. If you go to the second page of threads on the school section, there is an old thread I posted years ago called Proposed Food Allergy Management Plan. Someone pulled it up recently. Give it a read. What I'd suggest - regardless of the conversations you may have had to date with the school, without a FORMAL WRITTEN PLAN IN PLACE, they have no legal requirement to do anything for you. 504 is your protection. 504 demands action on their part. With 504 they can't just 'ignore' your requests. They are going to have to meet with you, and come up with a plan - a plan that doesn't go into effect until/unless you approve every little detail. And in the letter you write to them, you TELL them that children with peanut allergies are disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Tell them your child has a peanut allergy, and you would like to meet with them to discuss her special health disability. Then you say (key factor - phrase it exactly like this):

"I am hereby formally referring my child for a special education evaluation. Kindly advise me as to the procedure which will be followed from this point forward."

This referral can come from the parent. You write that phrase, and they can't ignore it - law mandates they must respond to you with a legally mandated meeting of some sort. Here, in Sherman, they call them PPT's (Planning and Placement Team meetings.) I don't know if the term is used statewide. I suggest you write this letter IMMEDIATELY, and do no meet/agree to anything with them prior to their receipt and response to your letter.

One thing I don't do with my son is the bus, simply because I work out of the home now, and I'm available to pick up/drop him off. But I recall an old thread here in the schools section on busing started by Janet LaFlamme. Janet is in CT, and she battled to get an aide on the school bus for her PA child. While she didn't get the aide, she did get the epi on the school bus. The thread is from 1999, called Transportation to School and Epi-Pen availability, started by Janet LaFlamme. Read through that, it has all the information you need to gather your supporting arguments. Before you even go to the first meeting, get the letter from your doctor stating that the medication needs to be available to your child 24/7, and there will be times where the child can't self-administer (I find most doctors are happy to sign a letter you have drafted for them - they are busy, and it saves them time! This way you get the lingo exactly the way you want it.) And if the doctor is willing to come to the meeting, even better! You can bring anyone you want to the meeting. I'd say ask for the school-funded aide. You never know, unless you try. If you make a strong enough case, they just might grant it.

If, during your meeting, the school says "no" to an aide, you tell them anything less than that is not satisfactory and you DO NOT sign your plan (unless you are in fact satisfied with a last picked up, first dropped off sort of thing, and epi /no food on the bus.) The bus company isn't the one who needs to pay for the aide - THE SCHOOL can hire and pay for an aide that is not affiliated with the bus company (any person trained in epi use, that you approve.) If they say it has to be a bus company person? That is an outright LIE!!! Then you fire off the next letter I suggested to Janet on that thread, about their proposed busing plan not being satisfactory and request the aide again - one hired by, and paid for by the school.

If they still resist, then it becomes a case of Dr.'s orders vs. school-being-cheap-and-not-wanting-to-spend-money. You can politely mention a due process hearing now, and that perhaps it might be best to resolve the issue at one. If the school suspects you may really do this, they will squirm. This might just give you the aide, because they do not like due process hearings!! (Costs them $$$ - probably more $$$ than the cost of the aide!)

I'd suggest you get the formal 504 ball rolling right away, and good luck!

On Jan 4, 2005

I don't have too much to add here except that I agree Smithtown has excellent schools as does Massapequa.

I am also from Massapequa. Small world! I currently live in North Carolina. Did you go to Massapequa HS? Maybe you could email me off the board.

[This message has been edited by StartingOver (edited January 04, 2005).]

On Jan 4, 2005

Hi Laura! Thank you for your informative reply! I have been reading a lot of your old posts too to learn more about 504 status.

If you wouldn't mind, I have two more brief questions for you.

1) Is it always necessary/advisable for a pa child to have a 504 in place? Yesterday the school and I came to a fair solution to the bus issue. They will put her on a small van where she will be the last picked-up; first dropped-off. Her ride will be about 4-5 minutes. Since the school district seems willing to work with me to create a safe environment, do I really need to push for the 504 status? (Maybe you should read my second question before responding to this one).

2) Yesterday when I dropped my daughter off at PM kindergarten I was concerned about the amount of crumbs/food residue that was on the carpet from the AM kindergarten session. I complained to the principal and he said the following: 1) both sessions of kindergarten parents have been "asked" (because he says he can't require them) to not bring in snacks that contain peanut products 2)they would have to hire a custodian to clean the classroom between kindergarten sessions because the kindergarten teacher can't be asked to clean and they will not hire one 3) they don't sit on the floor in the same area where they eat.

Apparently, he talked to the Superindendent of schools after our discussion, who said that we could move her into the morning session of kindergarten if we wanted her in a classroom that has been cleaned (they clean the classrooms each night). For various reasons, I can't switch to a morning session. At this point, I don't know how touch sensitive she is, but I wouldn't put it past her (she is only six) to try somethng interesting that she found on the floor.

Is it wrong of me to want my child to begin class in a room that doesn't have visible (and potentially dangerous) food residue on the floor?

Also, I wonder if he is tryng to limit his liability by giving me the "option" of putting her in the morning session. He felt the need to both call me about it last night and put it in writing this morning. Can they limit their liablity this way (in other words, if she gets sick from something on the floor from the AM session, they are not repsponsible because they gave me the option of moving her?)

I hope I haven't gone on for too long. I really appreciate all of your help! This really is new territory for me.

Thanks again, Rose

Quote:

Originally posted by LauraP: [b]Hi Rose!

And I'm originally from Massapequa. Now I'm in Sherman, CT. I must say, we have it pretty good in this state, in terms of PA. My son has what I believe to be an excellent 504 plan in place -- the entire staff at his school is trained in epi use, and he can carry his epi & benadryl on his person (in addition to extra kept in the nurse's office.) While the school isn't nut free, I feel his environment is safe. No nut containing foods are served on the lunch menu, there's a peanut free table in the cafeteria, and a no-nut policy in the classroom. We've made it from preschool to fifth grade with this plan in place, with zero "close calls" and zero reactions (knock wood!) So, I'm hoping to find a LI district receptive to these precautions as well. It would be nice to find a district where the path has already been paved, so to speak.... but if I have to pioneer again, I suppose some research into New York laws will be in order!!!!

Regarding 504. If you go to the second page of threads on the school section, there is an old thread I posted years ago called Proposed Food Allergy Management Plan. Someone pulled it up recently. Give it a read. What I'd suggest - regardless of the conversations you may have had to date with the school, without a FORMAL WRITTEN PLAN IN PLACE, they have no legal requirement to do anything for you. 504 is your protection. 504 demands action on their part. With 504 they can't just 'ignore' your requests. They are going to have to meet with you, and come up with a plan - a plan that doesn't go into effect until/unless you approve every little detail. And in the letter you write to them, you TELL them that children with peanut allergies are disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Tell them your child has a peanut allergy, and you would like to meet with them to discuss her special health disability. Then you say (key factor - phrase it exactly like this):

"I am hereby formally referring my child for a special education evaluation. Kindly advise me as to the procedure which will be followed from this point forward."

This referral can come from the parent. You write that phrase, and they can't ignore it - law mandates they must respond to you with a legally mandated meeting of some sort. Here, in Sherman, they call them PPT's (Planning and Placement Team meetings.) I don't know if the term is used statewide. I suggest you write this letter IMMEDIATELY, and do no meet/agree to anything with them prior to their receipt and response to your letter.

One thing I don't do with my son is the bus, simply because I work out of the home now, and I'm available to pick up/drop him off. But I recall an old thread here in the schools section on busing started by Janet LaFlamme. Janet is in CT, and she battled to get an aide on the school bus for her PA child. While she didn't get the aide, she did get the epi on the school bus. The thread is from 1999, called Transportation to School and Epi-Pen availability, started by Janet LaFlamme. Read through that, it has all the information you need to gather your supporting arguments. Before you even go to the first meeting, get the letter from your doctor stating that the medication needs to be available to your child 24/7, and there will be times where the child can't self-administer (I find most doctors are happy to sign a letter you have drafted for them - they are busy, and it saves them time! This way you get the lingo exactly the way you want it.) And if the doctor is willing to come to the meeting, even better! You can bring anyone you want to the meeting. I'd say ask for the school-funded aide. You never know, unless you try. If you make a strong enough case, they just might grant it.

If, during your meeting, the school says "no" to an aide, you tell them anything less than that is not satisfactory and you DO NOT sign your plan (unless you are in fact satisfied with a last picked up, first dropped off sort of thing, and epi /no food on the bus.) The bus company isn't the one who needs to pay for the aide - THE SCHOOL can hire and pay for an aide that is not affiliated with the bus company (any person trained in epi use, that you approve.) If they say it has to be a bus company person? That is an outright LIE!!! Then you fire off the next letter I suggested to Janet on that thread, about their proposed busing plan not being satisfactory and request the aide again - one hired by, and paid for by the school.

If they still resist, then it becomes a case of Dr.'s orders vs. school-being-cheap-and-not-wanting-to-spend-money. You can politely mention a due process hearing now, and that perhaps it might be best to resolve the issue at one. If the school suspects you may really do this, they will squirm. This might just give you the aide, because they do not like due process hearings!! (Costs them $$$ - probably more $$$ than the cost of the aide!)

I'd suggest you get the formal 504 ball rolling right away, and good luck!

[/b]

On Jan 4, 2005

Hi Laura,

I'm on the North Shore, but considerably west of the areas you are interested in. I no longer have my email posted on my profile, but if you want to talk we'll figure out a way.

My son is also in fifth grade, and I think we've done pretty well where we are, although I know another parent in another school in my district who is not as pleased.

Amy

On Jan 4, 2005

Going Nuts -- What town are you in? I might be willing to go further west for a peanut safe haven!!

Starting Over - Nope, didn't go to Massapequa high. My parents moved to Massapequa when I graduated from HS. I love Massapequa!

Rose -

OK. For starters, I just want to say a word or two about 504. I think some parents (not you - but some other situations I read about on these boards) are perhaps a bit confused as to what the true meaning/application of the statute is. It is an Equal Opportunity Statute - meaning DISCRIMINATION based on disability is prohibited. I think some folks miss this key point, drift from the discrimination aspect, and view it more as an "I want this" or "I want that for my child" type of statute. Yes, this is true to some degree, but always keep in mind that what you want is for your child to have an equal opportunity to safely participate in educational programs. You are looking to develop a plan that is designed to meet your child's needs as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. That is the bottom line, that is the protection this statute affords your child. This is a Federal Statue, folks. Applies to every single state in this country, and NO state law can supersede it. 504 rules :-) And in our State (CT), this law applies to the peanut allergic. You should encounter no difficulty establishing that (with your carefully phrased Doctor's letter!), and if you do for some reason run into trouble --- you contact the State Department of Education, and they will tell your school district a thing or two!!! Remember.... each individual state may have laws that further expand on the rights under 504. NO state law can take away rights it provides.

I can certainly understand your concern in not wanting to rock the boat with the school. It's great that they are being cooperative, and maintaining a friendly attitude with you. But keep in mind, by requesting a special education evaluation, you are not doing a 'bad' or 'mean' thing to the school. And you are NOT pushing!!!!! You are asserting rights on you child's behalf - rights that are GUARANTEED to her under both Federal and State laws. You are dealing with a DISABLED child. And the best protection for your disabled child in public school is a 504 classification (or IDEA, if applicable)

OK. Let's look at the scenario you have. You proceed as you stated above, with the plan you discussed with them, with no 504 classification. OK.....you could do this, if it falls within your 'comfort zone.' We all have different comfort zones - two of us can call a food manufacture, one decides it is "safe" for her child to consume, the other concludes "no way!" For me personally, 504 is my comfort zone. Without 504, you are vulnerable to all sorts of things going wrong, and your potential for accidental exposures will increase - you can be sure of that. Things may go well for a while, but down the road you may start hitting obstacles. Just some things you might hear one day that pop to mind:

1. "Sorry, Rose. Your daughter has to eat her lunch in the principal's office, because there is too much peanut in the cafeteria." Discrimination.

2. "Sorry, Rose. Your daughter can't go on the field trip, because the other kids want to stop at McNuts for food." Discrimination.

3. "Sorry, Rose. Your daughter has to leave the classroom during snack, because other kids eat peanuts." Discrimination.

4. " Sorry, Rose. Your daughter had an allergic reaction to the crumbs on the floor...and...and...and...nobody gave her the epi-pen, because the nurse is the only one who knows how to use it, and she was out to lunch."

5. "Sorry, Rose. It's too hard for us to deal with this peanut allergy thing. Your daughter has to go to a different school." With 504, the school CAN'T deny your child admittance - they CAN'T deny her the right to participate in, or benefit from any service they offer. THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH HER!

I think you get the idea. A 504 classification will cover all the aspects to assure that your daughter has an equal right to participate in both academic activities, and mainstream nonacademic activities, which include things like lunch and field trips. It will also buy you some peace of mind, knowing that you have developed a program with the school that addresses your concerns for your daughter - a program they are LEGALLY BOUND to comply with. And also, to cry "violation!" or "discrimination!" with the school, in the event something goes wrong....you need to have your child deemed disabled under 504. Then your procedural safeguards kick in.

And speaking of procedural safeguards....our state, CT has steps to protect your child's rights to Special education - steps that are based on both Federal and state laws. The State Department of Education (Division of Educational Programs and Services) mandates this, and the school will provide you with a brochure about it at (or after) your 504 meeting (they are in fact called PPT's statewide.) This contains the remedies/recourse you have, if the school violates your child's plan - including how to go about things like mediations, and due process hearings.

Back to your situation. That said, it makes sense that the school would like to deal with you, without having these federal and state mandates apply to them. Your suspicion about it absolving them from liability is what I suspect they are looking to do as well. It absolves them not only of liability for violations (violations? What violations? There is no plan!), but of the DUTY TO PROVIDE YOUR CHILD WITH AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS. That's what it boils down to.

One other thought - if you decide not to go ahead with a 504 now, you can always see how things are going, and then ask for the evaluation down the road - ie. if and when something goes wrong, and you can't take it anymore! However, I would think that if you are really polite and diplomatic about it now, they shouldn't give you a problem. You could even "feel them out" by having the conversation about the evaluation (and then follow that up with a letter) You could tell them that you appreciate their efforts, that you are happy with the busing arrangement, etc. (say the good stuff up front) and then state (to lead into the 504) that you'd like to formally have a special education evaluation. TELL them peanut allergy is a 504 disability in this state, and you want the formal meeting. Then see how they react to that. OK - they may sweat, and groan a bit, and tell you it isn't necessary...

Necessary or not? You decide! For me, personally, sending my PA son to school without 504 classification would be like telling him to dive into an empty pool. Bad move, he's gonna get hurt.

Also...don't be rushed or pressured into signing anything they have prepared for you. Take your time to read it, and make sure you fully understand! And finally? That PRINCIPAL can pick up the broom and sweep the floor himself, you know. That way he doesn't have to hire another custodian, doesn't cost the school a cent ;-) You can put THAT in your 504 plan, if you go ahead with it - it's a 'reasonable accommodation'!!!

On Jan 4, 2005

Laura, I'm temporarily putting my email back on my profile. Email me, and I'll fill you in.

Amy

On Jan 5, 2005

Thank you Laura! That was a wonderfully informative e-mail that I whole-heartedly agree with. I was looking around the forum for a sample letter for setting up a 504 meeting and haven't been able to find one. What exactly do I say and who do I send the letter to (the 504 coordinator? the Prinicipal?)?

Also, the Principal thinks it is a reasonable accomadation that my daughter be switched to the AM kindergarten session if I want a classroom that has been cleaned and vacuumed. I can't switch her at this point and was wondering if he has the law on his side. In other words, since both sessions of kindergarten are considered educationally equal (except for their overall cleanliness), couldn't the principal claim that his offer of placing her in the morning session is not denying her equal access? I just am worried that this may become a sticking point at the 504 meeting.

Many thanks! Rose

On Jan 5, 2005

Hi Rose,

Addressing the letter to the principal is fine. If you know the name of the district's Special Education person, you can cc him/her as well, and the superintendent too.

I've been going through my old papers here (I'm going to email you to get your address -- I'll cc my initial plan with the school and some other documents, and mail them to you. Since we are in the same state, you can go into the meeting showing them how one district has been handling this allergy for years - with a child that came in possibly smell & touch sensitive as well.)

As for the letter, keep it short and sweet. Remember, you want to work with these people, not against them! First paragraph - I'd start by thanking him for all they have done so far, how you are pleased with the resolution of the bus issue, etc., and how you appreciate them taking the time to learn about and understand (child's name) allergy. (something like that.)

Second paragraph - the "however..." paragaraph. Something like, "However...we still have additional concerns about (insert child's name) being afforded an equal opportunity to safely participate in the school's educational programs. For example, the crumbs on the carpet in the classroom are a concern. While I appreciate your offer of an am kindegarten class, this is not a feasible, or reasonable accomodation for our family situation.

Third paragraph: The 504 paragraph: "As you may be aware, children like (child's name) who suffer from life-threatening peanut allergies are disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This disability automatically qualifies my daughter as a student requiring special assistance. Hence, I'd like to formally refer (child's name) for a special education evaluation.

End: I look forward to hearing from you soon, and meeting with you to further discuss (child's name) situation.

Adjust something like that to your needs. Short, concise, and sweet :-)

And as for the crumbs -- I can think of all sorts of other accomodations. Really. How hard is it for someone to just sweep a room quickly? It would take the teacher all of two minutes. It's not like you are looking to disinfect the entire room everytime your daughter enters. Another possible thought? Have them lay out a cheap, disposable drop cloth to catch the crumbs (like the painter's use.) Teacher can crumble it up at the end of am session. Or another easy solution (some schools do this!) Have the SCHOOL provide the snack - something healthy, not containing peanuts - that way, you don't care if there are crumbs on the floor. Switching the class session isn't the only option you have here. The best way to address situations like this is to come up with alternatives -- the more you provide the school with (that don't cost them money) the more receptive they will be. Everybody likes to have choices! Another option (but costs money) is to have the school put a para professional in the classroom, assigned to monitor your child, make sure she doesn't stick stuff in her mouth. That is what I had for my son, up until I believe 2nd grade or so - when we found out he was not smell/touch sensitive, and I was no longer concerned about him sticking things in his mouth.

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