Category Archive:Uncategorized

ByShahar Pasch

Gifted Checklists Found to Discriminate Against Children With Disabilities

In a meaningful success, we prevailed in a 504 Complaint which found that the Gifted Characteristic Checklist used by the Palm Beach County School District discriminate against children with disabilities. We will continue to advocate to make sure all students have access to appropriate educational programs.

Most children with disabilities do not fit neatly into any one category. They often have layers of complex and co-occurring strengths and challenges which can result in multiple, co-existing exceptionalities and ESE eligibilities.  It is possible, and in fact common, for a child to be both Gifted and have Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Gifted and Specific Learning Disabled, or Gifted, Language Impaired and Emotional/Behaviorally Disabled, and the list goes on. All children, regardless of their exceptionalities and challenges, deserve the same opportunity to access school enrichment programming.

In Florida, there are three criteria used to determine Gifted eligibility. Pursuant to Fla. Admin. Code R. 6A-6.03019, a student must demonstrate (1) the need for a special program, (2) a majority of characteristics of gifted student according to a standard score or checklist, and (3) superior intellectual development as measured by an IQ score two standard deviations or more above the mean on a standardized test of intelligence. All three areas (need for a special program, the minimum IQ score, and the gifted characteristics) must be met in order for a child to be eligible for Gifted.  In other words, a child can have an extraordinarily high IQ, but can be denied Gifted placement if the teachers do not mark a sufficient number of characteristics in a checklist.

There is no standard for the Gifted Characteristic Checklists, and so they vary widely across the State, and indeed the country.  There are, however, some checklists which are rooted in research, are more expansive, and are sensitive to the varying strengths and challenges experienced by children with disabilities. Palm Beach County’s checklists were limited and, furthermore, valued behaviors which specifically excluded children with certain disabilities.  For example, the Gifted Characteristic Checklist for grades 4 and 5 asked teachers to rank a child on skills such as “adapts easily to different situations” and “becomes impatient with drills and routine procedures.”  Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder would have difficulty gaining higher marks for these types of behaviors.  In fact, the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) specifically considers whether a child demonstrates, “Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).” Thus, the more a child exhibits traits of ASD, the lower the same child may score on the Gifted Characteristic Checklist. While there are many children with disabilities in the School District’s gifted programs, some children were certainly excluded due to their disability.

Ultimately, all children should be valued for their strengths, diversity of thoughts and abilities that they can contribute, and not just excluded because of their challenges. A more inclusive checklist will allow all children to be considered fairly and equitably for Gifted eligibility. We are very pleased to have successfully advocated on behalf of our client, and to have helped make a difference for all students with disabilities in Palm Beach County who will benefit from the revised Gifted Characteristic Checklists.


Relevant Portions of the Investigation Report:

There is a finding of disability discrimination against the School District pertaining to the complaint of the Gifted Characteristics Checklist being discriminatory toward students with disabilities such as Language Impairments and Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Difficulties in the area of pragmatic language and social interactions, commonly experienced by students with LI and/or ASD, such as functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, social relationships, inflexible adherence to routines, highly restricted, fixated interests, absence of interest in peers and knowing how to use verbal and nonverbal signals to regulate interaction can prevent students from achieving scores of 3 or 4 on the Gifted Characteristics Checklist for items such as:
  9.   Is able to do more than one thing at a time
10.  Adapts easily to different situations
18.  Is willing to take risks
20.  Is sensitive to the feeling of others or to situations
25.  Is secure emotionally
It is recommended that the School District of Palm Beach County replace the current Gifted Characteristics Checklists for all grades and populations (PBSD Forms 1326, 1327, 1413, 1414, 1415, 1760).  The District should consider the adoption of new gifted characteristics checklists that are norm-referenced and that allow students with disabilities to be scored in a manner equal to that of students without disabilities.


ByShahar Pasch

Controlled Open Enrollment: What do you need to know and how can it help your child?

If you do not want your child to attend your local school, then you now have a new option.  Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, a parent may enroll their child in any public school within the State of Florida  if (1) the school is not at capacity, and (2) the student is not currently subject to an expulsion or suspension.  In Palm Beach County, “capacity” has been determined to exclude any school that is more than 90% full.    Here is some important information to consider if you want your child to participate in Controlled Open Enrollment:

  1. On April 3, 2017, the school district will publish a list of schools available for Controlled Open Enrollment.  The window to apply is April 3-May 7, 2017. You must apply online through the Palm Beach County School Choice site
  2. Transportation will not be provided.
  3. Pre-K is not available through Controlled Open Enrollment.
  4. Charter schools do not participate in Controlled Open Enrollment.  You need to contact a charter school directly to apply for enrollment.
  5. A lottery will be held for schools in which the number of applications for Controlled Open Enrollment exceed the number of spaces available.
  6. Preference for Controlled Open Enrollment will, per Florida Statute 1002.31, be given to the following populations of student:
    • Children of active duty military personnel whose move is a result of military orders,
    • Children in foster care who have been relocated to a different school zone,
    • Children who have moved as a result of a court-ordered change in custody due to divorce, separation or death of a parent/caregiver
    • Students who reside in Palm Beach County
  7. Once those seats have been filled, then preference will be given to (1) siblings of children already attending the school and (2) siblings applying together to the same school.
  8. ESE students are eligible for Controlled Open Enrollment.  It is important to note that Controlled Open Enrollment is separate and different from the McKay Public Option.  If your child has an IEP, then an IEP team may convene to ensure that the IEP can be met at the chosen school.
  9. You are not limited to schools in the county in which you reside.  Do you live in Martin County, but work work in Palm Beach County? Or do you live in Palm Beach County, but want your child to attend a school in Broward?  Open enrollment is available to Florida residents in any public school district within the state.  If you are interested in another school district, please check their website for the relevant application process and deadlines.

How do you choose what school to apply to for Controlled Open Enrollment? First, realize that seats at very popular schools will fill up quickly, so your odds of enrollment will be diminished if a lottery needs to be held.  Second, don’t go by school grades alone because they can be misleading and not always relevant to finding the best fit for your child.  Does your child have a particular interest that a school may offer?  For example, some elementary schools offer arts programs like band or drama.  Some middle schools have a great SECME team that your science-inclined child may enjoy.  Maybe your child wants to be part of a strong marching band program and baseball team in high school.  Take a tour of the schools you’re interested in and ask questions about clubs, sports and aftercare programs.

If your child struggles academically, then ask what type of supports the schools offers to meet your child’s challenges, including tutoring and types of reading programs they use.  If your child excels academically, then ask whether the school has enrichment programs, participates in academic games or offers pull-out or full-time gifted.  If your child has behavioral challenges, then ask about the school’s positive behavior plan and their suspension rate.  Of course, since transportation is not provided, consider the school’s proximity to your home and work.

While the process may feel overwhelming, the good news is you only have to do it once.  Once your child is enrolled, you do not have to reapply. Your child may remain at that school until the last grade completed.  As always, should you feel that your child has not been treated fairly, has been denied an appropriate accommodation or placement, or you wish to appeal a school district decision, then please contact our firm at 561-247-5852 for additional assistance.


ByShahar Pasch

Proud to Support the Fight Against Homelessness in Palm Beach County

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to sponsor Rise and Grind Sports and their partner, the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County, in the 2nd Annual Hoops 4 Homeless Awareness.