The Child & Family Law Center
A Division of Grund & Leavitt P.C.
NEWSLETTER
Spring 2023
~ In this Issue ~

Special Education Issues:
Specific Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia and the Science of Reading


Family Law:
Divorce and Financial Impact for Women
Divorce/Family Law and Schools: No Fundamental Right for Father to Villa Park School District from Helping Child Change Genders


May Is Mental Health Awareness Month
This school year has been one where student’s mental health issues have been at the top of mind in cases in our office. Regrettably, this has been a period where calls from clients often involves bullying, threats of school violence, and bringing weapons to school. These are not neatly categorized since the client may be experiencing all three issues simultaneously. 
The below fact pattern is an example of numerous cases that have presented themselves to our office in the past few months:

Mental Health Issues

A middle-school student in anger informed a group of students at lunch that he was thinking of shooting up the school. This student had been repeatedly bullied over the last six months and teased because he was in special education. He had been knocked down at gym and called a gay slur. The student told a teacher who encouraged him to work it out with the other boys.

The student was embarrassed to tell his parents that this was happening. He became increasingly isolated and started to complain of stomach aches and illness on many mornings.

The student was pushed down at outdoor recess and kicked by one of the boys who had been bullying him all year. No adult witnessed this event. The next day he came to school with a knife in his backpack. He told another student that he was going to hurt someone if he was bullied again. That student reported this to the School Resource Officer who searched his backpack and locker. A knife was discovered in the pocket of his backpack. The student was suspended and faced expulsion.

This fact pattern is unfortunately not isolated and is part of a pattern that has been increasingly common this school year.

Despite much anti-bullying rhetoric from schools, it has been my experience that this is often a reactive statement but that little is done to address a culture of bullying and threats until it has reached a crisis. 

Click here to continue reading about What Parents Can Do, Resources, and More.
Specific Learning Disabilities /
Dyslexia and the Science of Reading

Twenty-six years ago, I opened the Child and Family Law Center of the North Shore, now a division of Grund & Leavitt). Some of you who have known me well are aware that one of the inspirations for this law practice was my journey with my own dyslexic son. We lived in one of the most affluent and well-funded school districts in Illinois. Despite these demographics my son was not learning to read. He disliked school in first and second grades and there was little if any progress in his ability to read. He was still struggling with letter recognition and misspelled his name. All of the experts we saw recommended the Orton -Gillingham method for dealing with his dyslexia. [1]*Schools were then as they are now reluctant to use the word dyslexia in describing a student with a reading disorder. I was fortunate that I was able to find (after a number of months on a waiting list) a skilled O-G reading tutor. Five days a week I drove 45 minutes each way to allow my son to receive an hour of instruction.

He did learn to read but not until late 5th grade at great expense to his self-esteem but with his love of learning intact. Today he is an avid reader, loved college and all things to do with learning. However, in my naiveté, I assumed that once schools understood the need for research-based interventions and the importance of early intervention for all readers this would result in massive curriculum reform. I also saw that at least this aspect of my special education practice would be a non-issue, eliminated by the wide-spread recognition of the need for science- based reading instruction. [1] Click here to continue reading ....

Divorce and Financial Impact on Women

This weekend I read an article in the New York Times that discussed the impact of divorce on women’s financial future. I thought it was important to share the article in this month’s newsletter not only for its content but for the resources it suggested that provide women with pro-active and sound advice regarding their financial future after divorce.

 
Selected Resources:
Wiser Women: Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement www.wiserwomen.org
This not -for- profit organization dedicated to the issues facing women in securing a stable retirement. Their website is full of great resources and links to webinars addressing the complex issues surrounding Social Security, pay equity, retirement plans and pensions. Savings and investments, caregiving, divorce and widowhood, health and long-term care, and financial elder abuse.
Savvy Ladies www.savvyladies.org
Tools you need for Financial Wholeness: www.thebudgetnista.com

Knowledge is power. 
Divorce/Family Law and Schools: No Fundamental Right for Father to Villa Park School District from Helping Child Change Genders
 
In April of 2023, ruled in favor of a Villa Park, Illinois School District 45 and co-defendant Susan Hardek-Veserly, brought by Bryan Veserly, of Florida. A Florida man claimed that the school district conspired against him with his ex-wife, to encourage their child to change genders. The parents shared custody and decision making.

According to the complaint, Vesely believes, A.V. the minor, “expressed to his parents and School District 45 staff that he wanted to adopt a new female name and use female pronouns at school” and dress as a female and wear make-up and lipstick at school. The minor’s father objected to this transition and expressed his objections to the school district in writing, but these concerns were ignored.

The complaint alleges that A.V.’s mother and school district staff conspired to speed along his child’s gender transition at school without the father’s approval. The complaint alleges that the school district’s actions violated his fundamental rights as a parent, to direct the upbringing and education, of his child., as expressed in prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning the interpretation of the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Veserly sought a court order supporting his rights, and forbidding District 45 staff from referring to students “ using a name or pronouns at odds with their biological sex, while at school and without parental consent.

In response, District 45 and A.V.’s mother asked the court to dismiss his lawsuit, arguing that Veserly had no such rights over the child while at school.

The school district argued that under Illinois law, Veserly all but loses his rights as a parent, if he opposes, his child’s gender transition. The school district asserts that Illinois state goes beyond federal constitutional guarantees by recognizing a zone of personal privacy.

In her ruling, Judge Jenkins makes no reference to state law or the districts contention that Veserly had forfeited his rights as a parent by not recognizing his child’s alleged gender preference.

The Judge acknowledged prior United States Supreme Court decisions grant Verserly a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of his child. However, the Judge said other court decisions have indicated that this right does not necessarily extend over schools in which the student may be enrolled. She ruled that courts have found that parents do not have a fundamental right to control the education their students receive.

Citing from the decision known as Leebaert v. Harrington, from the U.S. Second Circuit, Judge Jenkins noted that prior court decisions “ do not begin to suggest the existence of a fundamental right of every parent to tell a public school what his or her child will or will not be taught.   
             
The Judge further stated that, the only absolute right afforded to parents under the Constitution related to education is to decide whether their child will attend public school or be educated privately. Jenkins said that the limitation on parental rights should also extend to the manner in which a public school may choose to treat a child who may wish to identify as a different gender. The District cannot accommodate both parents demands.

The district’s policy easily clears the hurdle, which requires only “ a reasonable relation to a legitimate state interest to justify the action. The district asserts that its policy relates to its legitimate interest in privacy, mental well-being and physical safety.

All of Veserly’s claims were dismissed. 
Our office is dedicated to advocating for the best outcomes for children and families. Call (312)-640-9850 or email me at mmoran@grundlaw.com. Consultations for special education and family law issues are available in person or by Zoom. Safety protocols are followed.
The Child and Family Law Center: A Division of Grund & Leavitt
Micki Moran
The Child & Family Law Center of the North Shore
A Division of Grund & Leavitt, P.C.
600 Central Avenue, Suite 248
Highland Park, IL 60035
Phone 312-640-0500
Fax 847-681-1295
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