The firm’s attorneys have the privilege of representing students with and without special needs throughout northern and central New Jersey. Our attorneys attend Board of Education appeals hearings, mediation conferences, mandatory settlement conferences, and due process hearings at the Office of Administrative Law. When appropriate, we litigate in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and seek to obtain attorneys’ fees and costs.
Scope and Depth of Experience
Matthew A. Stoloff leads the firm’s education and special education department. Matthew has been representing individuals with disabilities since his law school days. After passing the bar, Matthew’s first clients were low income parents in New Jersey whose child with special needs had not received a free and appropriate education as required under state and federal law. In the years since then, Matthew has represented children with autism, central auditory processing disorders, developmental disorders, deafness, behavioral disorders (such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder), and children with various physical and intellectual disabilities. He has been successful in obtaining independent educational evaluations as well as out of district placements at the school district’s expense. In addition to representing children with disabilities, Matthew also represents students without disabilities in connection with the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Act. Recognized for his experience and expertise in this area, Matthew has provided consultation services to other special education attorneys who seek fees and costs from the school districts.
Defending the Rights of Students
We engage in a wide variety of activities to protect the rights of students (with and without disabilities), including counseling parents about the IEP process, reviewing IEPs and expert reports, offering advice regarding Independent Educational Evaluations (“IEE”), and representation at due process hearings at the Office of Administrative Law. We also represent students who are victims or who have been accused of bullying in violation of the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Law.
Most education law cases involving students arise under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”), a federal law that is designed to ensure that school districts provide children with disabilities with a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”).
When a school district fails to comply with the IDEA, we help parents in New Jersey request mediation or petition for a due process hearing to protect the rights of their children. When a petition for a due process hearing is filed, it will be transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law where an Administrative Law Judge will hear the case and decide how the issue should be resolved. If the parents are unhappy with the outcome of that process, parents may appeal in federal court.
In special education matters, parents and school districts may disagree on one or more issues, such as:
- The child does not qualify for special education services.
- An independent educational evaluation is unnecessary.
- The child’s Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) is inadequate.
- The special education services offered to the child are insufficient.
- The child requires Extended School Year (“ESY”) services.
- The school placement is inappropriate.
Other disputes may involve schools that fail to comply with the child’s Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”). For example, a school district that does not provide speech therapy services in accordance with a child’s IEP is required to provide compensatory speech therapy services. When a school refuses to acknowledge that it owes compensatory speech therapy services, it may be necessary to litigate that issue.
We have litigated on behalf of children with disabilities in many of these types of disputes:
- Accommodations and modifications
- Compensatory education
- Disciplinary issues
- Extended School Year (“ESY”)
- Extracurricular activities
- Home instruction
- Independent Educational Evaluations (“IEEs”)
- Out of district placements
- Transportation matters
The goal is always to resolve these disputes in an efficient, cost-effective approach for the benefit of the child.
Before filing a petition for a due process hearing, we can describe the litigation process, explain what you can expect to happen, and share what is needed to improve your chances of winning your case. After the filing of the petition, we will keep you updated as the case progresses, strive for an amicable settlement if it benefits your child, and prepare you for your testimony before the Administrative Law Judge.
NJ Anti-Bullying Law
In addition to representing students with disabilities, we represent students without disabilities in connection with the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Act (sometimes called the “NJ Anti-Bullying Law”). This relatively new law was enacted to protect the rights of students from bullying, intimidation, and harassment. The law requires that public school districts develop anti-bullying policies; conduct investigations of students who are victims of bullying, harassment, and intimidation; and discipline students who violate the law and the school’s anti-bullying policies.
Although the NJ Anti-Bullying law has its good intentions, some students have been wrongfully accused of violating the law based upon a misunderstanding of what transpired, or based upon the school administrator’s failure to appreciate the context that gave rise to the alleged incident, or based upon the school district’s broad interpretation of the law.
Like special education matters, parents who disagree with the school district’s implementation of the Anti-Bullying law may have their case heard by an Administrative Law Judge. We have the expertise and experience to take on these types of cases.
We are on your side
If you have an education or special education matter, we would like to hear from you. Because an attorney-client relationship begins with the first conversation, the initial consultation is always free. Contact Matthew Stoloff to discuss your child’s educational needs.