Thursday, 28 August 2008

Legal precedents in the United States

And a small step in reporting CE conferences

I am at the Chicago conference where I hear something so good and useful that I thought that I’d blog it in the break straight away, without waiting till I get home.

This was a joint presentation by Patti Herbst and Thom Thompson called 'Practical and legal considerations unique to Conductive Education'.

Patti is Executive Director (and founder) of the Center for Independence for Conductive Education, in Chicago. Tom Thompson is an attorney with DLA Piper US LLP.

Their presentation comprised alternating expositions about how parents might manage appeals against their children’s IEPs (Individual Education Plans). There are different terminologies elsewhere in the English-speaking world for analogous documents (for example Statements in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Co-ordinated Support Plans in Scotland) but, specifics of the different laws apart, this was all so hauntingly evocative of my own experience in England over the years.

The combined presentation was impressive partly because of the presenters' confidence and assurance about what had to be done, built out of considerable experience of doing this sort of thing over the years. Partly too, however, this was because of the excellent ‘literature’ that they handed out, in the form of a spiral-backed booklet. This is a collection of nine tabulated ‘legal authorities’ (that is judges' published decisions) in precedential cases in the United States running from 1982 to 2005, along with Patti's tips on how to approach all this in practice.

If you are in the United States and considering ‘due process’ proceedings against your local school board about a decision involving Conductive Education, then this collection will be very useful to your attorney. Get one. If you are running a center in the US you might also like to have a copy to hand for advising parents, and to structure and develop your own thinking.

Outside the United States, of course, these judges’ decisions have no direct precedential value (say, in an English court of law). But they may be enormously useful for people looking for arguments to use and for ways in which judges, even in a different jurisdiction, have made their minds up and arrived at their decisions.


Patti Herbst. I have to add a brief note on Patti Herbst. I first met her at the Columbia College in New York a few years back. I do well recall her impassioned and articulate railing about her son’s having to waste so much time each day at school on a bureaucratically imposed academic curriculum of no relevance to his life and future, when there was so much other, more useful learning to do! This afternoon, during her presentation in Chicago, she came out with a beautifully honed and distilled statement of the same position:

The inclusive classroom can be the most restrictive environment in the world for the child with a disability.

Tom Thompson. You can contact Tom Thompson at


Herbst, P., Thompson, T. (2005) Practical and legal considerations unique to Conductive Education. Booklet presented at the 4th ACENA Conductive Education Conference, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 29 August

To obtain a copy, contact Patti Herbst at There is a small charge payable: worth every penny!

And by the way...

...this blog is a first for Conductive Education, reporting on something at a conference on the very day that it happens. Another time, should the opportunity arise, I shall try reporting on a presentation in real time, as it's actually happening, from within the hall, using my mobile. This, however, will have to wait till I'm back home in the UK and it's cheaper!

Either represents quite a step forward for a sector where most conferences don't even produce published proceedings to show that they ever happened (see Gill's recent blog on this topic). Other Conductive Education bloggers do please note and emulate.

Full conference report

Next next week, when I'm back in England.



Anonymous Iain Nisbet said...


In Scotland, the Record of Needs has been scrapped a few years ago. The closest we have now is the Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP) under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004.

Thanks for the update, though.


Iain Nisbet, Solicitor
Education Law Unit
Govan Law Centre

Friday, 29 August 2008 at 11:13:00 BST  
Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

Many thanks for the correction. How embarrassing to be drifting so out of date. I should get out more!

Andrew Sutton.

Friday, 29 August 2008 at 23:04:00 BST  
Blogger NormanP said...

Wondering whether decisions of SENDIST tribunals in England were public documents, I came across an important announcement on the SENDIST website of changes being introduced from 3 November 2008.

I wonder how significant these changes are?


Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 07:25:00 BST  
Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

Beats me, I'm no lawyer. Unfortunately nor are the vast majority of those swept up into this Kafkaesque system.

It would be nice if the stataed intention, to make the new rules are intended to be 'simple, flexible and easy to understand', were to go some way towards helping in this respect. Call me paranoid, but I will be suspicious about the possible effect of any simplification or stramlining, at least till experience has clearly demonstrated that this acts positvely for the benefit of users rather than providers.

I suggest that in the meantime you could enquire whether the Educational Law Association has anything to say on this matter.

Sunday, 31 August 2008 at 18:38:00 BST  
Blogger Laszlo said...

I know (knew) Patti since 2002. She worked as an attorney, too before she had founded CFI in 1999. She was already very confident how to stand up for IEP's and how to go after children's rights when I worked for her between 2002-2004. She also had the drive to enthuse, advise parents to go for legal action. Until I was there they always won.

Monday, 1 September 2008 at 23:26:00 BST  

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