Do Students with Disabilities Have a Choice in “School Choice”?

By Emma Fennelly, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

Under the current administration, “school choice” has been heavily promoted by the Department of Education and its current Secretary Betsy DeVos as an alternative to traditional public schools, giving parents more choices when deciding how to educate their children. Charter schools are privately administered schools that are publicly funded, but still have the ability to accept additional funds from grants and organizations. Traditional public schools do not qualify for such funds.

In addition to funding differences, private charter schools differ from traditional public schools in administration: families must apply to charter schools and be accepted; charter schools do not follow the same state-mandated curriculums; and charter schools are not held to the same accountability requirements as traditional public schools. However, while charter schools may be exempt from certain state or local requirements, they are still a part of the public education system and, as such, are subject to all federal laws and regulations related to students with disabilities, particularly the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under this law, a child age 3 through 21 years old who is considered to have a disability under any of IDEA’s twelve categories of eligibility is entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). An “appropriate education” is construed broadly and can include anything from assistance in a general education classroom with an occasional classroom aid, to a separate classroom for students with similar learning disabilities, to the implementation of related services such as speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, psychological counseling, or medical diagnostic services necessary for the child’s education.

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A Whirlwind of Wow

By Caitlyn Scofield, Investor Advocacy Clinic Spring 2019 Student Intern

I entered into the Investor Advocacy Clinic in the last semester of my last year of law school. I had waited for over a year to be apart of this clinic and had been looking forward to the experience. I was not disappointed and now I can’t believe it is coming to a close. Through my school journey I have had the opportunity to have a multitude of various experiences, but nothing has come close to what I was able to do in the Investors Advocacy Clinic. During my time at the clinic, I not only had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues, but also work with clients, the Secretary of State’s Securities Division, and speak with representatives from the SEC and FINRA. The time I have spent in the Investor Advocacy Clinic has honestly been one of the best and most valuable experiences of my law school career.

When I came into the clinic I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course, I had heard of other IAC interns working with clients on financial matters and with the FINRA arbitration process, but I had no idea of all the other opportunities and work I would get to be involved with.  From working with clients and blogging about video games to working with the Secretary of State, the things I got to do within the clinic were diverse, unique and invaluable.  Not only did I have the opportunity to advocate for investors who were wronged, but also at higher level with the Secretary of State, the SEC and FINRA. I am honestly humbled by the engaging opportunities I was presented with during my time with the clinic.

The most unique of the experiences was the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. and present to the SEC. Our time with the SEC was spent speaking to various representatives within the organization on what we saw and handled within our clinic and what we believed would be ways to improve protections for investors.  Our clinic presented on the need for investor communication and empowerment focusing on the beginning of the #NoShame movement. This a social movement to end the stigma against talking about money, which we feel will empower investors to better communicate by sharing their questions and concerns with others. That, in turn, will help them to avoid fraud and better invest their money. The opportunity to have those who make policy and regulations hear what we as students and advocates had to say was exhilarating. I personally felt like we were making a real impact on the lives of those that we are seeking to help. We were also able to interact with other Investor Advocacy Clinics from around the country and hear what their experiences were. It was a wonderful experience to engage with so many people who are interested in the same cause.

My time in the clinic was invaluable and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my last semester at Georgia State. At every turn I was wowed by the amount of investment, work and diligence of my colleagues and those we worked with. Every experience was memorable and unique. I hope to keep in touch with my clinic colleagues for many years to come.

Lessons for the New Age of Investing: The Fyre Festival as a Warning in the New Age of Investing, Part 5

By: Esmat Hanano, IAC 2019 Spring Intern

Welcome back to the final installment in our series on the Fyre Festival. Today, we focus on the lessons that retail investors can take from the Fyre Festival. The Fyre Festival scandal offers three important lessons for retail investors in the influencer-driven age of promotion and investment. First, retail investors need to ignore the “Keeping up with the Joneses” effect that flows from social media. Although constant access to other people’s lives on social media has been beneficial in some regards, it has also created an innate sense of competition between people that forces them to try and keep up with how others are living their lives. This is a particularly dangerous feeling to have when dealing with investment offers—an investment that is suitable for one person may be unsuitable for someone else. Continue reading

How Housing Affects Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

By: Caitlin Correa , Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

In the HeLP Clinic, we receive several cases each semester involving children with sickle cell disease. While many individuals with sickle cell disease may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, many attorneys and patients alike do not realize the potential remedies available for a housing issue as it relates to a sickle cell patient.

Patients with sickle cell disease have abnormal hemoglobin production. As a result, these individuals’ blood cells form a “sickle” shape instead of a rounded shape, and these sickled cells are more prone to clumping while travelling through certain areas of the body. This clumping is what leads to a pain crisis. These pain crises involve swelling and extreme pain in areas where cells have clumped.

Usually, sickle cell disease starts to manifest its symptoms in a patient’s first year of life. The earliest signs can be in children as young as five months old, and symptoms only worsen with time. Treatment options can include undergoing a blood transfusion or administration of high-powered pain medications. However, physicians commonly warn patients with sickle cell disease to try to avoid crises before they begin. In this regard, a pain crisis can be triggered by multiple causes, one of which is exposure to extreme heat or cold. For these reasons, Georgia summers provide a serious hazard to patients with sickle cell disease. This risk highlights the importance of understanding housing rights in Georgia, particularly for those renting an apartment or home.

First, as with all legal issues, every situation is different and sometimes the rights and remedies for one situation may not directly match up to another. However, as a general rule, if a landlord offers air conditioning in his or her rental units, he or she has a legal duty to keep these air conditioning units in good repair. If the landlord fails to fix units or lets units fall into disrepair, then the tenant has a duty to notify the landlord of the issue. This notification allows the landlord to have a reasonable amount of time to pay for the repairs and potentially take remedial measures.

Specifically for patients with sickle cell, who may have a pain crisis triggered by the lack of air conditioning, these remedial measures are particularly important. Such measures include the potential to ask the landlord to reduce the next month’s rent in proportion to the weeks spent without air conditioning. In addition, if the landlord actively chooses not to repair the air conditioning, and the sickle cell patient continues to suffer pain crises due to the heat, the tenant-patient also potentially has the ability to vacate the dwelling in something called a “constructive eviction.”

However, this constructive eviction option should only be used as a last resort, and as with all interactions between a tenant and a landlord, communication is key. Thus, a patient with sickle cell disease should communicate (preferably in writing) how fixing the air conditioning is a vital part of their health and well-being. Hopefully with this kind of communication between tenants and landlords, and the presence of legal rights and remedies, sickle cell patients will not continue to suffer pain crises due to fixable housing issues.

#FyreFraud and Investment Scandals: The Fyre Festival as a Warning in the New Age of Investing, Part 4

By: Esmat Hanano, IAC 2019 Spring Intern

Welcome back to the next installment in our series on the Fyre Festival. Today, we focus on the fallout from the Fyre Festival and similarities that it shares with other recent investment scandals. When the first weekend of the Festival arrived, McFarland and his team were still woefully unprepared. After making grand promises about the experience that attendees would have, they didn’t at all meet expectations. For weeks leading up to the event, attendees had been reaching out to gather more information on the structure of the Festival, travel details, and supplies they would need for their stay. Instead of answers, attendees received cryptic responses and were passed off from one employee to the other. This all culminated on the first weekend of the festival when guests began arriving at the airport. Upon landing, guests were immediately lost with no idea where to go or how to get to the event site. When guests did arrive at the site, they found absolute chaos. Eventually, flights back to Miami were chartered and the organizing team went into damage-control mode as they faced serious accusations. Continue reading

Coachella in the Bahamas: The Fyre Festival as a Warning in the New Age of Investing, Part 3

By: Esmat Hanano, IAC 2019 Spring Intern

Welcome back to the next installment in our series on the Fyre Festival. Today, we focus on the Fyre Festival’s marketing and sales tactics to potential investors and attendees. Billy McFarland hired Jerry Media and Instagram “influencers” to help implement his marketing campaign. The influencers were dubbed “Fyre Starters” and used to “ignite” a “coordinated influencers marketing campaign.” The Festival hired 400 of these Fyre Starters and envisioned working with them in the future as brand partners. Further, McFarland filmed a promotional video with eight of these Fyre Starters to announce the Festival to potential investors and attendees. These marketing tactics were directed at millennials and Gen Z social media users. The organizers promised attendees would experience morning yoga on the beach, meditation, massages, henna tattooing, Bahamian-style sushi, luxury villas, and an extensive line-up of musical artists. In addition to all these experiences, McFarland stated that the Festival would take place on a private island in the Bahamas once owned by Pablo Escobar. Continue reading

Access Through the Lens of Housing

By: Brieanna Smith, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

I observed landlord-tenant mediation recently and had a conversation with an attorney representing landlords; we talked specifically about pro se tenants who were lower income. Landlords’ attorneys are aware that tenants on Section 8 will lose their housing voucher if they get evicted. Attorneys will use this against tenants to get them to agree to pretty much anything to prevent eviction.

From what I have learned from being in my Access to Justice class and in the HeLP clinic, a lot of lower-income tenants have multiple legal issues going on. The most common reason why tenants are evicted is nonpayment of rent. A tenant could have lost their job, had a medical emergency, or their car could have broken down. Financial hardship, unfortunately, is not a legal defense. Also, landlords in Atlanta (from what I learned from participating in Alternative Spring Break) often do not keep properties in livable condition. Unfortunately, laws in Georgia are not tenant friendly. Tenants who live in substandard conditions may think that withholding rent is the only way for them to get justice, but it’s not. And even if they are constructively evicted and vacate the property, they may not have anywhere else to go. Imagine living in a subpar situation and having a sick child whose conditions are exacerbated due to these conditions. Some tenants may also be dealing with domestic violence or problems on their job. Some tenants may have awful relationships with their landlords or may not even know who their landlord is due to a change in management. During mediation, tenants also have expressed that leasing offices were often closed during the hours that they were supposed to be open. The landlords also would not return phone calls, make necessary repairs, and sometimes even refused to accept payment.

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