PALS Meeting Minutes
April 20, 2016 6:30 p.m.
933 Freeport Rd Pittsburgh, PA 15215
Pennsylvania Human Resources Commission: Assistant Chief Counsel and Acting Director of Western Pennsylvania, Morgan Williams, Esq. joined our meeting to introduce the PHRC. Prior to the meeting we offered some insight into the PHRC in the blog post How Can the PHRC Help You?
Morgan provided the group with an overview of the PHRC indicating it was a state level law enforcement agency similar to the federal level EEOC. The PHRC enforces the Pennsylvania Human Resources Act which covers discrimination in employment, housing, commercial property, education and public accommodations; and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act, which is specific to postsecondary education and secondary vocational and trade schools.
Morgan explained that parents/guardians should follow the Procedural Safeguards and can also file a complaint with the PHRC. Filing with the PHRC begins with a questionnaire which the PHRC turns into a statement signed by the parents/guardians prior to being sent to the school district or other organizations. The PHRC then installs a commission to look over the facts in order to resolve the dispute and bring the parties together. The turn around time from a parent first contacting the PHRC to hearing back is one week. Processing the questionnaire into a statement and sending it to the school district or other organization can take up to thirty days. From that point the school district or other organization can request a thirty day extension.
Currently the PHRC is working on 400 cases in Western Pennsylvania.
The topic of local institutions of higher learning came up and Morgan indicated that they have heard of problems. She suggests early and continued communications with the secondary institutions regarding the needs of the student. Since its is the adult student's responsibility to make his or her needs known, Morgan advises starting the conversation with the student's advisor and continuing it with individual professors/lecturers/instructors. Generally when fault is found by the PHRC is found with the party that seems to end the communication, therefore it is important that any verbal conversations be followed up by an email. On of the biggest problems facing parents and guardians is that once their child is an adult the nothing requires an institution to make contact with them concerning the child, including simply CCing them on communications. One way to address this potential problem is to seek a limited power of attorney to legally require an institution to include a parent/guardian in all communications with the student.
PHRC Pittsburgh Regional Office
Piatt Place, Suite 390
301 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Next Meeting: June 1, 2016, 9:30 a.m. Roots of Faith 800 Main Street. Pittsburgh, Pa. 15215 with Rebecca Klaw, Educational Advocate.
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