Mother in dispute with district over emails

May 15, 2016 – The Citizens’ Voice – by Michael P. Buffer

A Wyoming Area School District teacher compared making accommodations for a special-needs student to appeasing Adolf Hitler and suggested it “would be nice if we spent this much extra time” on students who are “going to amount to something,” according to emails obtained by the student’s mother.

The mother, Holly Miller, has been in a dispute with the school district for more than 19 months over the education of her 12-year-old daughter, a seventh-grade student with learning disabilities.


Maura McInerney, a senior attorney for the Education Law Center, said teachers sometimes don’t understand legal mandates regarding students with disabilities and don’t know how to deal with students with special needs.

“Teachers and administrators may not have a full understanding of a disability and how it manifests itself,” McInerney said.

The Education Law Center is a legal advocacy organization based in Philadelphia and is dedicated to ensuring access by Pennsylvania’s children to a quality public education.

The best approach for school officials and teachers is “a collaborative relationship with the family” when determining the appropriate education for a student with special needs, McInerney said.

Serino said she has been personally involved in issues involving Miller’s daughter, adding she had “a very productive” meeting with Miller earlier this month.

“I am willing to work with her and do whatever I can, and will continue to do so,” Serino said. “She is a concerned mother — I am never going to take that away from her — who cares about her daughter. I understand she wants everything that’s best for her.”


Education Law Center Welcomes Two Accomplished Attorneys to its Staff

May 2016

Education Law Center welcomes two experienced staff attorneys! Kristina Moon and Thena Robinson-Mock have joined ELC’s team of lawyers committed to ensuring that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education.

Kristina Moon joined the Philadelphia office on Monday, May 9. Kristina comes to us from Prisoners’ Legal Services in New York, where as a staff attorney she specialized in young adult advocacy, administrative advocacy, and federal civil rights litigation.

Kristina previously worked as a litigation associate at Dechert LLP in New York and as a fellow at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. Kristina is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. She brings a wealth of litigation experience and deep understanding of civil rights.

Thena Robinson-Mock joined the Education Law Center’s Pittsburgh office on May 16. Thena was most recently a Senior Attorney and Director of the “Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track” Program at the Advancement Project. Thena brings extensive experience with issues of education equity as a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Thena is a graduate of Hampton University and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. She is the recipient of the “40 under 40” award from Gambit Weekly in New Orleans and was named as a Women Rule! Leadership Honoree from Oprah Magazine and the White House Project.

Education Law Center is pleased to welcome these two experienced attorneys who will expand our capacity to protect the educational rights of students and families and further support ELC’s work to ensure all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education.

Education Law Center applauds new Title IX guidance affirming protections for transgender students

May 13, 2016

The Education Law Center applauds the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education for today’s important guidance clarifying that Title IX, the law that bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, protects transgender students. It makes clear that transgender students have the right to equal educational opportunities and to be educated in a positive school climate that is free from discrimination.

The Department of Education also released examples of best practices and policies, drawing upon the work that schools and partners across the country are already doing to support transgender students.

Here in Pennsylvania, we recognize Allegheny County Department of Human Services for its work and partnership in fostering collaborative, cross-system conversations about how we can best promote positive educational outcomes for LGBTQ youth in Allegheny County.

We also see Pittsburgh Public Schools leading the way with a new district-wide nondiscrimination policy for transgender students, developed with input from students, parents, educators, and advocates. This policy is in addition to the strengthened protections ELC advocated for in 2014, which resulted in stronger rules against harassment and bullying, more information about how to seek help and support, and a revised dress code that gives students the right to dress in accordance with their gender.

We still have a long way to go towards ensuring that schools are safe, inclusive, and affirming for all students, but today’s guidance represents an important step.

Related Coverage

  • In April, ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman was quoted in TribLive on the need for positive school climate and policies that make schools safe and free from discrimination for all students.
  • In 2014, ELC was featured in an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covering the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ effort to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline and increase protections and supports for LGBTQ students, parenting students, and English language learners.