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PALS April 22, 2020 Meeting - Nancy E. Potter Education Civil Rights Attorney

PALS Meeting Minutes

April 22, 2020 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom

Please scroll down for important resources shared during this meeting, including the latest war on IDEA and what you can do to help.


Nancy E. Potter, Education Civil Rights Attorney

Nancy E. Potter is an attorney at McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. in their Western Pennsylvania office located in Pittsburgh. Nancy’s practice includes cases in all major areas of education advocacy, with a focus on special education and enforcing the education rights of the most vulnerable students. Nancy provides legal representation to students and families from early intervention through post-secondary education in the areas of special education, education civil rights, student discipline, and enrollment of special populations. She provides training, advocacy materials and technical assistance on education law to parent and student groups, lawyers, activists and service providers and is a frequent guest lecturer at area universities and law schools. Nancy graduated from University of Pittsburgh School of Law and received her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University. She served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Oliver J. Lobaugh. Prior to joining MLO, Nancy was a supervising attorney at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights were she led a team working to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools. Nancy also previously worked as a staff attorney at the Education Law Center and represented abused, neglected and at-risk youth at KidsVoice.


  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Juris Doctor

  • Oklahoma State University, Bachelor of Science


  • Pennsylvania Bar Association

  • The Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania

Practice Areas

  • Special Education

  • Student Discipline

  • Education Civil Rights

Nancy E. Potter

McAndrews Law Offices

600 Law & Finance Building

429 4th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

T: 412.313.5510



Nancy provided a presentation on navigating special education and accommodations while distance learning. She included the following indepth FAQ Handout.


(click 1st image to link to mentioned Dept of Ed 3/22/20 Supplemental Fact Sheet)


In last week's minutes (and today's) we provided a link to a Disability Rights Pennsylvania article regarding Congress requesting Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to recommend education waivers that would allow schools to drop services for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following is a redacted e-mail exchange between Senator Bob Casey and a parent who used the Disability Rights Pennsylvania's template. (scroll down to ADDITIONAL RESOURCES for more information and link)


Dear Sen. Robert Patrick Casey Jr

Subject: No IDEA Waivers

I understand that the CARES Act directed the Secretary of Education to submit to Congress recommendations for waivers for special education services under the IDEA and other laws.

I believe that NO ADDITIONAL waivers are necessary and I strongly urge you not to support any waivers requested by the Department of Education.

Given that IDEA offers flexibility by design and states, districts, communities, and families are working together to find solutions to the problems they face in the next several months, I firmly believe that this is not the time to roll back civil rights protections for students with disabilities.

Finally, there is no doubt that some districts and states are better equipped to pivot quickly and support students virtually and in order to achieve this in more communities, schools must be better supported to build the capacity to serve students with disabilities and their families under these new circumstances. Therefore, instead of waivers, I strongly urge you to protect the civil rights of students by providing increased IDEA funding to states and school districts so they can make every reasonable effort to educate students with disabilities during this national emergency.

Thank You


Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue. IDEA was enacted in 1975 to provide federal funding for the education of children with disabilities. It requires states to provide free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities. This landmark statute guarantees all children between the ages of 3 and 21 a quality education, regardless of their level of disability. IDEA is one of the largest educational programs overseen by the United States Department of Education, and approximately 90 percent of the funding is allocated to school-aged children. The novel coronavirus has created great disruptions in our education system. Schools across the Commonwealth and the country have closed indefinitely, and many have moved to online instruction. Although these closures are necessary to ensure the safety of our children, educators and families, schools face the great challenge of minimizing the negative impact of closures and continuing to provide a quality education to all children, including students with special needs. On March 25, 2020, the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide to provide a health care response and emergency relief for individuals, families, schools and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act included $30.750 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education to address disruptions caused by the pandemic. Of this funding, $13.5 billion will be allocated to states for coronavirus-response activities in elementary and secondary schools, including planning for and coordinating during long-term school closures and purchasing educational technology to support distance education for all students. The bill also provides $3 billion to states to provide emergency grants to local education agencies and public institutions of higher education which have been most affected by COVID-19. I have heard from many families of students with disabilities who are worried their children will not continue to receive an appropriate, quality education during this pandemic. Nearly $105 million will be allocated to Pennsylvania through the CARES Act, and this funding can be used to ensure that all students have access to a quality distance education. Additionally, this legislation did not include any waivers of IDEA. It will certainly be a challenge for educators to continue to meet the educational requirements for students with disabilities during this global pandemic, but I am hopeful that this initial infusion of funding will help address some of the concerns of families during this unprecedented time. Many school districts, school administrators and educators are understandably concerned about their ability to meet many federal reporting, funding and accountability requirements, including those under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). ESEA already provides the Secretary with significant waiver authority, and the CARES Act includes additional waiver authority to the Secretary. States must apply for waivers and publicly post their requests, and the Secretary must approve or deny the requests within 30 days. The CARES Act did not include waivers for any of the requirements under IDEA. However,the law requires the Secretary to submit a report, within 30 days, to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee providing recommendations on additional waivers that may be necessary to provide flexibility to states and school districts to meet the needs of students during this emergency. It specifically requires the secretary to consider recommendations related to IDEA, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ESEA and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2018. Congress would need to pass additional legislation to implement any of the recommendations. During my time in the Senate, I have continuously urged Congress to increase investments to strengthen the Nation's early-childhood education and foster equal opportunities for children with special needs. I believe that a quality education, from early childhood through college, is of paramount importance for the future of Pennsylvania and our Nation. This year, as in years past, I joined in sending letters to the Senate Committee on Appropriations requesting increased funding for IDEA. In December of 2019, Congress passed an appropriations bill that included $12.8 billion for IDEA, which represents a $400 million increase from FY 2019 funding levels. I am proud to have supported this appropriations legislation and was pleased to see funding increased for these vital programs. As Congress continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, please be assured that I will continue to fight to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, continue to receive a quality education. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we work to meet the exceptional educational needs of students created by this global pandemic. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you. For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, For resources on the novel coronavirus, I encourage you to visit I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania. Sincerely, Bob Casey United States Senator


I appreciate your response. I have witnessed the benefit of early intervention, quality education, careful consideration of not setting the bar low but challenging children with disabilities. We want our children to become independent functioning respected members of our communities. Our children want this even more.  They do not want to be left out, left behind, isolated or ignored. They are willing to work to become all that they can be. With the appropriate tools and education this can be a reality. Look to the future. With the number of children with disabilities increasing, we cannot afford to do anything else but provide an education that will enable our children to be a contributing member of our communities. There is no mystery here. Just plain logic and understanding and love. Please keep this in mind when confronted with legislation that reduces or diminishes the opportunities available to our children. They work so hard to achieve what most others take for granted.


The Peal Center

Intensive Behavioral Health Services: What Families Need to Know

For the piece about the webinar tomorrow, make this the blurb. I added the changes to Facebook already.

"Does your child or any children you know receive "wrap around" services?? Things are changing!!

Join us TODAY at 12:00 pm to learn about the changes! Space is still available in this webinar about "Intensive Behavioral Health Services: What Families Need to Know".

This webinar will NOT be recorded, so register for the LIVE webinar today, Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.


Join us for Youth Virtual Coffee Drop-In 

Calling all youth and young adults! Looking for ways to speak up? 

Drop in with us each week to share tips and connect with each other Thursdays at noon on Zoom. Listen in or share your own ideas with other young people from across the state!

Our first Virtual Coffee Drop-In is this Thursday, April 23rd at 12:00pm on Self-Advocacy Tips. 

Join us onZoom


Disability Rights of Pennsylvania's April Newsletter


Important message from Pennsylvania Disability Rights

Support Students with Disabilities in the Midst of COVID-19!

Once again, the rights of students with disabilities are on the chopping block. Here's the latest:

Congress has requested Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to recommend education waivers that would allow schools to drop services for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. While schools are designing innovative new ways to bring the classroom to students who are quarantined at home, Secretary DeVos is devising ways for them to skip providing that same innovation to students with disabilities!

We need your help to stop Secretary DeVos!

You can do your part to protect the rights of students with disabilities by emailing your Representative and Senators and telling them not to adopt any waivers for educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Click here for more information on the subject from DisabilityScoop



Information on Remote Learning for PPS (1st Day of Remote Learning 4/22/20)



From Open Up Pittsburgh

The Open Up team has been working hard to bring plans for accessible virtual practice to life. Today, we published our first digital book with written content as well as a video collections for all ages.

We look forward to sharing more resources from Open Up as we continue to work in the hopes of bringing a bit of lightness to our spaces.


From Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Intellectual Disability (OID)

Supplemental Security Income Recipients Will Receive Automatic COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments SSI Recipients with Dependent Children Should Still Go To to Provide Their Information

News release Wednesday, April 15th 2020

“The Social Security Administration announced today that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department. Treasury anticipates these automatic payments no later than early May.

SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic.

SSI recipients who have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment. They should now go to the IRS’s webpage at and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info section to provide their information. By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If SSI beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait until later to receive their $500 per qualifying child.”

For more information and a print version of the news release visit


From Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Intellectual Disability (OID)

The Home and Community Based Settings (HCBS) Final Rule, a federal policy change announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides new opportunities for people with disabilities to have the kinds of community services they want. From Learn more there.

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is offering webinars about Home and Community Based Services (HCBS / waiver services) and the Final Rule. If you have questions, please email Jamie at These webinars are supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

HCBS Settings Rule and Heightened Scrutiny

DATE: Thursday April 30, 2020

TIME: 10 AM - 11:30 AM


From The Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education is pleased to announce the following online conference opportunity:

AAC Talks Spring 2020 Web Conference: Communicating All Day

Friday, May 8, 2020 8:45 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Join us for our second annual AAC Talks web conference designed to provide participants with ideas, strategies, and resources for supporting students with complex communication needs in multiple environments throughout the day. National and local presenters will discuss a variety of topics including engaging students, increasing communication opportunities, vocabulary selection, and access and positioning for AAC and classroom activities.

Presenters: Erin Sheldon, Lindsey Paden Cargill, Lauren Enders, Karen Kangas, and more

Credit: Act 48 Clock hours*

Note: Individuals attending this webinar conference must log in and out of each morning and/or afternoon webinar, including the Keynote, on time and stay for the duration of each session and must submit the online evaluation survey with all the appropriate codes by May 15, 2020 in order to receive Act 48 Professional Education hours. No partial credit will be given.

Registration Information:

You may register online by visiting the conference page at by clicking on the name of the event on the Training Events Calendar at

For content-related information and questions, please contact Tammy Thompson-Cooke at tcooke@pattan.netor 610-878-7205.

For general registration information and questions, please contact Annette Bauerlein at abauerlein@pattan.netor 610-878-7211


The Statewide Support & Referral Helpline is staffed by skilled and compassionate staff that are available 24/7 to respond to those struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency. Staff at the Helpline refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs.

The toll-free, round-the-clock support line is officially operational.

The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

The Helpline was created by the Department of Human Services DHS and the Center for Community Resources (CCR). Helpline staff are trained to be accessible, culturally competent, and skilled at assisting individuals in the ID/A community as well as anyone else who might have a need – teens, adults, special populations and their supporters. Staff use the principles of trauma-informed care to listen, assess needs, triage calls, and provide appropriate referral to community resources to children, teens, adults and special populations.


Autism Connection of Pennsylvania's Spring Newsletter


Center for Community Resources


From Fox Chapel Area School District:

The Fox Chapel Area School District is continuing weekly food distributions for our families. These distributions, consisting of five breakfasts and five lunches, will continue as long as the school district is closed.

Next week’s distribution will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at the back entrance of Kerr Elementary School.

We will continue to keep you informed of upcoming food distribution sessions as they are scheduled.


During this time, we will continue to host virtual meetings using Zoom EVERY Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.. We will post the log-in information for these meetings on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. THIS IS A PASSWORD PROTECTED MEETING. THE PASSWORD WAS E-MAIL TO ALL SUBSCRIBERS ON 4/13/20. YOU MAY SUBSCRIBE TO OUR E-MAIL LIST TO RECEIVE IT.

Reference Material

Need information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania? The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.

Next Meeting: April 29, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom with Speaker Mary Evrard, Community and Communications Liaison Coordinator for Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Intellectual Disability (OID). Mary will talk waivers and welcomes your questions. Please e-mail questions in advance so Mary can come prepared with resources if available. You can e-mail your questions to

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