Michael P. Cianfichi
Associate, Ballard Spahr, LLP
In 2016, Ballard Spahr partnered with Project HEAL to represent a young student with disabilities in regard to her educational rights, and successfully obtained a more appropriate educational placement for her. We at Ballard Spahr were excited for the opportunity to work with Project HEAL on a local issue that could have such an important effect on the student and parent's lives. The attorneys at Project HEAL were an incredible resource for us during our representation. They were happy to lend their expertise to answer any of our questions and were always promptly responsive. In the course of our representation, we attended several IEP meetings with the parent, diligently analyzed the student's progress to document the school system's failures, worked with the student's Kennedy Krieger clinicians to identify the most appropriate recommendations, and drafted formal letters to the school system exposing the problems going on at the student's school. We were pleased to obtain a favorable result for the student and we look forward to working with Project HEAL again in the future.
Associate, DLA Piper, LLP (US)
John Wellschlager (Partner, DLA Piper, LLP (US)) and I had a great experience with a pro bono client from Project HEAL last fall. We began working the Kennedy Krieger patient and his mother the previous January, struggling to get Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) to understand the depth of our client's needs, which stemmed from both his emotional and his learning disabilities. This student received minimal services and supports until we became involved in his case. We finally succeeded in persuading AACPS to fund a nonpublic placement for this eleventh grader. To secure a non-public placement without litigation, we are told, is fairly unusual, and we considered it a major accomplishment.
This student was headed nowhere but the criminal justice system until last year. Now there's a real chance that our student's more appropriate placement in a nonpublic school will meet his needs and prepare him for a productive, happy life. One disturbing aspect of this case was that, even when the IEP team agreed that our student needed a nonpublic school, they refused to specify that he should have a program designed to address the learning issues reflected in his inability to read above a fourth grade level. Their rationale was that the AACPS system does not provide "reading intervention" so long as a student is reading on a fourth grade level. Fortunately, the new school team is prepared to try to remediate his reading issues.
We, who work with Project HEAL, may not be able to change the world with our pro bono work, but for at least this student, we changed the odds.