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02.21.2013 | Gotham Schools | Still, the end of the strike brings a new set of challenges. Thousands of students, many with special needs, have been out of school for the duration of the strike. Now that the buses are running, those students are able to get to school, where they face transitions parents and special education advocates said many students are likely to find difficult.

“It’s like learning a new routine all over again … a month is a long time for a child. There will be a certain degree of starting over for some of the children,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children.

Students who missed a month of classes and special services such as speech and occupational therapy will be “playing a serious game of catch-up,” Moroff said. Read article

02.18.2013 | City Limits | Many of the schools featuring special citywide programs, including many high schools, are simply unavailable to students with disabilities. "Physical accessibility to school buildings is way limited and therefore access to model programs that other students have is also limited," says Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children (AFC). "Most of the high schools I've visited are inaccessible. It's not based on whether it's a good program or bad program or sought-after program. If you can't get into the building, you can't get into the program."

Disabled students seem to also suffer poor academic outcomes. Statistics are only available for all special education students, which include students with learning and cognitive disabilities as well as physical ones, but the numbers are troubling. For the class of 2011, only 27.2 percent of students with disabilities graduated from high school by June of their fourth year. (This was an improvement over the 17.1 percent June graduation rate for students with disabilities in 2005, but still far below the 2011 graduation rate for non-disabled students of 66.9 percent.) One reason for this disparity may be material that is inaccessible to children with disabilities such as visual impairments. "We fight over and over again the battle for individual families to make the material accessible, to digitalize it, for example," says Moroff. "But why not generalize it so they don't have to reinvent the wheel every time?" Read article

02.15.2013 | Gotham Schools | For the striking drivers, returning to work would mean getting paid for the first time in weeks. For families, “it means a return to their normal routines,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children.

“It means the students still out will be back in school,” Moroff said. “It means the parents doing exceptional gymnastics to get their kids to school can return to their normal lives.”

Thousands of students, many with special needs, have been in and out of classes or missed school entirely because the burden of transportation has been on their parents during the strike. The city will have to do something to help them, Moroff said.

“I’m sure there will be bumps since so many of these kids have missed so much school this past month,” she said. “And, of course, the Department of Education will need to figure out next how they’re going to make up for all the school time and service time these kids lost.” Read article

02.14.2013 | NY1 | The DOE said that 2,300 students are signed up for the voucher program, but advocates said that many, like Adrian, struggle to actually use it. "There are a lot of problems," said Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children. "First, they have to find a car service that will take their child." Few companies signed up. But when NY1 called each one to see if they could take a child to school the most common answer was no.... Adrian missed a month of class before Advocates for Children helped him get on a new school bus route. It's a 90-minute ride, but at least he knows he'll get there. Read article

02.13.2013 | New York Daily News | Every day of the school bus strike, some 2,500 students with disabilities aren’t getting the education they need and deserve. This op-ed by Maggie Moroff, coordinator of the ARISE Coalition and special education policy coordinator at AFC, discusses the impact of the strike on families struggling to get their children to and from school. Read article

02.11.2013 | New York Post | The threat of a prolonged strike also has advocates calling on the city to do more to help ensure that affected students — particularly those with the greatest challenges — are able to get to and from school. Despite the city’s attempts to disperse MetroCards and reimburse parents for driving or taxiing their kids to school, attendance at special-education schools has been relatively low.

“They’ve done a couple of small things . . . but they didn’t set anything up for many families that was going to work for them,” said Maggie Moroff, of Advocates for Children. She said that one family told her they tried calling 20 car services in The Bronx from a list provided by the Education Dept. before they found one that admitted being part of a prepaid ride program. “The frustration is that it’s all being put on the families and on the kids,” said Moroff. Read article

02.08.2013 | Gotham Schools | Even before the inclement weather, at least 2,500 students who attend schools in District 75, which serve special education students with the highest needs, “were still home,” Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator at Advocates for Children, said in her prepared remarks. For students that made it to school, Moroff said parents sacrificed hours of their work days to get them there and many students arrived late anyway. Read article

02.06.2013 | Gotham Schools | After negotiating with the Department of Education for over a week, lawyers at Advocates for Children persuaded the department on Friday to authorize Rodriguez for all four taxi rides it takes to accompany her daughter to and from school each day.

“This is an evolving policy of the Department of Education,” said Maggie Moroff, the special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “Initially it was reimbursement only. Then it was pre-imbursement, but pre-imbursement for only the two trips where the child was actually in the car. Now under certain circumstances it covers all four, but that’s on a case-by-case basis. The policy is so evolving that this is the first week we’re actually seeing parents getting all four rides covered.” Read article

02.05.2013 | New York Daily News | “If the city is saving that much money, they need to be doing more to get these kids to school,” said Kim Sweet, director of Advocates for Children. “It’s outrageous.” Read article

01.30.2013 | WNYC News | Reports about the arrest and handcuffing of a 7-year-old boy following an incident at a Bronx public school are putting a spotlight how police handle school discipline. 

Eight hundred eighty-two students at school were arrested in the 2011-2012 school year and the group Advocates for Children says that number could be a lot lower with proper training of staff and school safety agents.

“More resources need to be pulled into training systems for school staff and school safety officers and generally increasing mental health services for youth,” said Bernard Dufresne, a lawyer with Advocates for Children. Read article