NPR Philadelphia affiliate reports on Popper & Yatvin special education case

How this mom turned near-tragedy into a win for Philly’s most vulnerable kids

Kathleen Connolly’s autistic daughter Olivia fled her elementary school without supervision in 2014. Olivia was found safe that day, but her mother used the potential tragedy to fight for systemic changes to special-ed in Philadelphia (Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY)
Kathleen Connolly’s autistic daughter Olivia fled her elementary school without supervision in 2014. Olivia was found safe that day, but her mother used the potential tragedy to fight for systemic changes to special-ed in Philadelphia (Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY)

Kathleen Connolly tries not to think about March 7, 2014. But when she does, her mind drifts to Torresdale Avenue.

“I think about what happened there — what happened at Torresdale,” she said in a recent interview. “Only the drivers and Livvy know.”

Connolly’s daughter, Olivia, was eight years old on that chilly March afternoon. Some time around 1:30 p.m., Olivia — who has a form of autism that severely limits her ability to communicate or reason — bolted out the doors of Lawton Elementary.

The special education aide assigned to watch Olivia was only scheduled to work a half-day on March 7. It’s still unclear why. Connolly and her lawyers believe the School District of Philadelphia had been slashing hours for aides to save money during lean budget years.

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Litigation helps special needs students in Philadelphia

After a six-year campaign, Kathleen and Sean, parents of twin girls with Autism and an Intellectual Disability, have succeeded in changing the policies and procedures of the School District of Philadelphia regarding identifying and assigning 1:1 assistants to children who need them. Continue reading “Litigation helps special needs students in Philadelphia”

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Court grants class certification in suit against New York Department of Education on behalf of students with diabetes.

On June 18, 2019, United States District Judge Nina Gershon, of the Eastern District of New York, certified a class defined as:

All students with diabetes who are now or will be entitled to receive diabetes related care and attend New York City Department of Education schools.

The case, M.F., et al. v. The New York City Department of Education, et al., was brought by the parents of three New York City public school students with diabetes and the American Diabetes Association, suing as an organizational plaintiff on behalf of its members who who include children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who attend New York City Department of Education (DOE) schools and their parents. Continue reading “Court grants class certification in suit against New York Department of Education on behalf of students with diabetes.”

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Yatvin co-counsels suit against New York Department of Education on behalf of students with diabetes.

Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin is serving as co-counsel in a federal class action lawsuit filed on November 1, 2018, alleging the New York City public schools routinely violate the rights of students with diabetes by denying them necessary services and even excluding them from some school activities altogether. Almost two months into another school year, many parents of children with diabetes still face the impossible choice of sending their child to school without knowing whether their child will receive the necessary diabetes-related care or keeping them at home.

Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), the American Diabetes Association (“ADA”), and Law Offices of Popper & Yatvin are suing the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) and other New York City agencies for their systemic failure to ensure that students with diabetes can attend school safely and have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers. This constitutes a clear violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Continue reading “Yatvin co-counsels suit against New York Department of Education on behalf of students with diabetes.”

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Court of Appeals agrees with Yatvin on student’s right to attorney’s fees

In 2008, Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin filed an administrative complaint under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on behalf of Emily R., a second grader in the Ridley School District, in suburban Philadelphia. On March 30, 2017, after two previous appearances on this case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Yatvin was again before the Court for oral argument. Continue reading “Court of Appeals agrees with Yatvin on student’s right to attorney’s fees”

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Protecting special needs students when charter schools close

One of the unintended consequences of the proliferation of charter schools is that, unlike public school districts, they can easily go bankrupt or lose their charter and close. While such closures are painful for all the enrolled students and their families, already vulnerable students with educational disabilities are especially exposed. Not only must they often find an alternative placement on short notice, but there will frequently be a lag in provision of services at their new school. Because these closures are rarely telegraphed in advance, timing often renders the option of other charter schools or special admission public schools unavailable.

Another consequence of such closings is the complicating of avenues for challenging decisions of those school that continue to dog special needs students.  If a charter school makes an agreement with a parent, then disappears, what is the parent to do? If a charter school fails to identify or inadequately identifies a child’s disability, or owes a child compensatory education for services not provided, how does a parent pursue the traditional administrative processes for relief? And how do parents without resources get a lawyer to help them?

On December 5, 2016, those questions were answered in a case brought by Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin: R.V. Individually and on Behalf of S.V-W., a Minor, v. Pedro A. Rivera, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Education, E.D.Pa. Civil Action No. 16-2277. Continue reading “Protecting special needs students when charter schools close”

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Yatvin on Sirus XM’s Knowledge@Wharton

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 11am ET, Popper & Yatvin partner, Alan L. Yatvin, will be a guest on Knowledge@Wharton, a daily, call-in business interview program, broadcasting live on Sirius XM from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Alan will be speaking with host Dan Loney about the rights of children with diabetes.  Joining them will be Dr. Steven Willi, medical director of the Diabetes Center for Children at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The broadcast will repeat that night at 11pm ET. After that it will be online on SiriusXM’s On Demand feature for the next seven days, channel 111. If you do not have a SiriusXM subscription, an alternative is linking to the 30-day free trial subscription to SiriusXM.


Alan Yatvin has represented numerous families of students with diabetes who faced discrimination because of their medical condition. He served as the American Diabetes Association (ADA) national chair of legal advocacy from 2010 – 2013.  He is currently a member of the ADA Board of Directors.

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Diabetes Care in the School Setting: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association

Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin was a member of the writing group for Diabetes Care in the School Setting: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association, published in the journal Diabetes Care, October 2015 vol. 38 no. 10 1958-1963.

Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin was a member of the writing group for Diabetes Care in the School Setting: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association,  (ADA) published in the journal Diabetes Care, October 2015 vol. 38 no. 10 1958-1963. Continue reading “Diabetes Care in the School Setting: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association”

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Yatvin quoted by The New York Times

Popper & Yatvin partner Alan L. Yatvin was quoted by The New York Times in an October 27, 2015, article: Many Schools Failing on Type 1 Diabetes Care.  The article highlights the failure of many schools to provide students with type 1 diabetes with the routine care they need, and the fact that often parents do not know they have the legal right to insist on such accommodations.

Yatvin has represented numerous families of students with diabetes who faced discrimination because of their medical condition. He served as American Diabetes Association (ADA) national chair of legal advocacy from 2010 – 2013.  He is currently a member of the ADA Board of Directors.

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Marissa’s Story

MarissaFour year old Marissa really needed a preschool.  Her mother, Evelyn, was struggling with intensive treatment for breast cancer and her father had a chronic, progressive disease that required him to use a wheelchair.   But Marissa was full of life and ready to get going on her education. She wanted to start preschool, but her low income family could not pay for it themselves. Fortunately, Marissa got into a publicly funded Head Start prekindergarten program sponsored by her public school district. After starting in September she had a fabulous three months.  She practically jumped out of her skin with excitement every morning as her grandmother, Helena, helped her get ready for school.  Then she began her school day enjoying a federally funded breakfast with her classmates.  Afterwards she zipped through a full day of learning and play.  Once a week she met with a speech and language therapist to get help with her speech disability. Continue reading “Marissa’s Story”

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