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News 2017-10-27T19:08:20+00:00
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Attorney Heather Hulit, Longtime Advocate for Children, Joins Berney & Sang

February 14th, 2019|0 Comments

Berney & Sang is excited to announce that Heather Hulit, Esquire, is joining the firm as an associate attorney.  She brings to the firm years of experience fighting for children’s rights.  After graduating from Temple Law in 2012, Ms. Hulit served as a Child Advocate Attorney with the Philadelphia Defender Association for several years.  In that role, she represented countless youth in dependency proceedings.  Committed to continuing her work on behalf of children, Ms. Hulit will focus her practice at Berney & Sang on education law.

Ms. Hulit can be reached at hjhulit@berneylaw.com.

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Super Lawyers Selects Golembiewski as 2019 Rising Star

January 11th, 2019|0 Comments

Berney & Sang is proud to announce that Super Lawyers has selected associate Kevin Golembiewski as a 2019 Rising Star.  Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.  The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. 

Congratulations Kevin! 

Legal Intelligencer: Judge Defends Decision Awarding B&S Client $500K

January 2nd, 2019|0 Comments

Below is the text of the Legal Intelligencer’s recent article Judge Defends Decision to Slam School District with $500K Verdict over Bullying.  The article spotlights Berney & Sang’s landmark school bullying and harassment case, Wible v. Philadelphia.

A Pennsylvania judge is defending his decision to have the School District of Philadelphia pay more than $500,000 for failing to stop a student from being severely bullied.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Gene Cohen last week outlined his reasoning to the Commonwealth Court for a ruling he made in May, which held that the School District of Philadelphia was liable for failing to stop one of its students from being severely bullied, and needed to pay $500,000 in damages to the student, as well as $578,000 in attorney and expert fees.

The school district had appealed the ruling to the Commonwealth Court, but Cohen rejected the district’s arguments and asked the appellate court to affirm his decision.

As part of its appeal, the school district had contended that the school was immune from suit for claims arising out of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which makes it unlawful for public entities to deny “accommodations or privileges” based on a person’s sex.

According to Cohen, appellate courts in Pennsylvania have not yet determined whether the PHRA applies to students who have been bullied by other students, but Cohen said that the plain language of the text and the purpose of the law indicate that courts should allow these types of claims.

“Plaintiff’s time in the school district was a gauntlet of sexual harassment and violence that would test the mettle of the strongest and most resilient youth. This harassment was endured for years until it became unbearable and plaintiff was forced to withdraw from the school district,” Cohen said. “In this way plaintiff was literally denied the use of a public accommodation on the basis of her sex. The PHRA forbids this.”

Cohen further noted that his underlying ruling had not found that the school was vicariously responsible for the student’s conduct, but rather it showed an indifference to the bullying and harassment.

“The school district is not generally liable for all conduct of its students,” Cohen said. “But it is liable, in its role as proprietor of a public accommodation, if it is deliberately indifferent to harassment and violence that has occurred and inevitably will continue to occur, and this harassment is so severe that it makes it impossible for one of the students entrusted to the school district’s care to enter the building.”

In the nine-page findings of facts and conclusions of law that Cohen issued in May following three weeks of trial, Cohen said that in the fall of 2003, the plaintiff, Amanda Wible, began attending Robert B. Pollock Elementary School in northeast Philadelphia, and her classmates soon began to tease, taunt and harass her because of her gender presentation, which Cohen described as not conforming to “societal expectations for girls in terms of appearance and dress.”

She was physically assaulted by a larger male student, who also teased her with sexualized taunts, and Wible’s mother notified the school of the bullying, Cohen said. Although the student was suspended, “effective efforts by Pollock to remedy this situation were non-existent,” Cohen said.

Wible’s mother, Cohen said, had her transferred to Alternative Middle Years at James Martin School in the Port Richmond section of the city. However, Wible continued to be targeted. Wible’s mother again reported the harassment to school officials, but the bullying continued.

Cohen said that, while in seventh grade in 2010, Wible was attacked by as many as 10 students, and she began to have panic attacks after that assault.

Wible then transferred midyear to C.C.A. Baldi Middle School in the Bustleton section. Cohen noted that, when she transferred, Wible’s mother met with the principal and vice principal at Baldi and her mother sent letters to Wible’s teachers explaining the bullying. However, she continued to be harassed based on her gender presentation.

Cohen said Wible developed a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression and anxiety. According to Cohen, she also engaged in self-harm, had suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. Cohen also noted that she developed a condition called amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome as a result of the bullying. Regarding her treatment, Cohen said, Wible needs specialized and intensive psychological treatment and behavioral therapy.

David Berney of Berney & Sang, who represented Wible, said Cohen issued a “strong” opinion.

“I know both Amanda and her mother feel fully vindicated by the decision, and we are grateful for what we thought was a judge who listened to everyone, carefully considered both sides and weighed the evidence,” Berney said.

Phinorice Boldin of Fineman Krekstein & Harris represented the Philadelphia School District. A spokesman for the school district said the district had no comment.

Berney in the Legal Intelligencer: President Trump, Education, and the American Dream

December 20th, 2018|0 Comments

This week, partner David J. Berney published an article in the Legal Intelligencer examining President Trump’s education agenda.  In the article, President Donald Trump, Education, and the American Dream, Berney discusses the role that education plays in the American dream and analyzes whether the President’s policies will improve the education system in meaningful ways.  Berney’s analysis is rooted in his experiences as an education lawyer who has represented hundreds of Philadelphia families.

You can access the article here.

Berney on KYW News for Landmark Bullying Case

December 12th, 2018|0 Comments

On November 13, 2018, David Berney, Esq. argued before a panel of judges of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia. In that case, the student was the victim of brutal bullying and harassment. However, the lower court threw the case out because it did not believe that the minority tolling statute applied to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination law and the law under which the parent brought claims on behalf of the student. This case will potentially have long-lasting implications for students’ right to bring forth lawsuits for the unlawful bullying and harassment that they have suffered at school.

Listen to KYW News’s report here:

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

December 12th, 2018|0 Comments

There’s nothing more motivating for our work than seeing a student who has found the joy in learning. She just needed the right school.

Golembiewski Co-Counsels COPAA Amicus Brief in Ninth Circuit

December 2nd, 2018|0 Comments

Associate Kevin Golembiewski recently co-counseled an amicus brief in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a national nonprofit dedicated to parents and children with disabilities.  The brief, filed in support of the parent in Jay F. v. William S. Hart Union High School District, argued that manifestation determinations are critical to protecting the rights of children with emotional disturbance.

The California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy (CAPCA) also signed on to the amicus brief.

Philadelphia Gay News Spotlights Landmark Berney & Sang Bullying Case

November 9th, 2018|0 Comments

The Philadelphia Gay News recently published a story on Wible v. School District of Philadelphia, the landmark bullying case that Berney & Sang litigated this year.  You can access the article, Phila. school district appeals $500,000 award for bullying victim, here.

Philadelphia Inquirer Publishes Story on Berney & Sang’s Landmark Bullying Case

October 27th, 2018|0 Comments

The Philadelphia Inquirer published a story today on Wible v. School District of Philadelphia, the landmark bullying case that Berney & Sang litigated this year.  You can access the article, Bullied in school, a Northeast Philly woman won a $500,000 judgment. Her case could ripple, here.

Berney Presents on Special Ed Law at the Jenkins Law Library

October 25th, 2018|0 Comments

On October 24, 2018, partner David J. Berney presented on special education law at the Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia.  His presentation focused on his path to becoming a special education lawyer and why others should consider a career in special education law.

The presentation was inspired by associate Kevin Golembiewski’s recent article, Recent Law School Grads: I’m a Special Education Attorney, Please Join Me, which appeared in the Legal Intelligencer.

Berney and Sang to Present at 2018 Exceptional Children’s Conference

October 1st, 2018|0 Comments

Each year, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute hosts the Exceptional Children’s Conference, Pennsylvania’s premier conference on special education law.  At the Conference, select attorneys and hearing officers present on issues related to special education law.  Partners David J. Berney and Jennifer Y. Sang were selected to present at this year’s Conference.  They, with school district attorney Sarah B. Dragotta, will present on federal and state laws that protect children with disabilities from bullying and harassment:

The Conference is Monday, October 8, 2018 in Lancaster, PA at the Marriott.  The brochure is here.

Golembiewski Co-Counsels U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief

September 12th, 2018|0 Comments

This term, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether the Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to the states.  The case is Timbs. v. Indiana.  Associate Kevin Golembiewski co-counseled an amicus brief in support of the petitioner, Mr. Timbs, who seeks protection of the Clause.  Mr. Golembiewski co-counseled in his capacity as amicus chair of the Federal Bar Association’s Civil Rights Section.  Several other organizations also counseled the brief, including the DKT Liberty Project, the Due Process Institute, the Goldwater Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Here’s a brief overview of the case.  Mr. Timbs was convicted for non-violent offenses in Indiana state court.  The District Attorney sought to take his car by civil forfeiture, but the trial court held that the Excessive Fines Clause prohibits the forfeiture.  According to the court, the maximum fine for Timbs’s offenses was $10,000 and the car was worth four times that, so forfeiting it was excessive.

The state court of appeals affirmed, but the state Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Excessive Fines Clause does not apply to the states through the 14th Amendment.  In doing so, the Court recognized that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded the opposite.
Mr. Timbs then asked the United States Supreme Court to review the decision.  The Court agreed to.  It will hear the case in the coming months.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation Names Berney, Sang, and Golembiewski 2018 Upstander Award Winners

August 14th, 2018|0 Comments

The Tyler Clementi Foundation has named David J. Berney, Jennifer Y. Sang, and Kevin Golembiewski 2018 Upstander Award winners.  The Award honors individuals who advance the Foundation’s mission of ending bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.  The Foundation selected Berney, Sang, and Golembiewski based on their advocacy in Wible v. School District of Philadelphia, Berney & Sang’s landmark case holding that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects children from student-on-student harassment and bullying.

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Golembiewski to Recent Law School Grads: Become a Special Education Attorney

June 23rd, 2018|1 Comment

This week, associate Kevin Golembiewski published an article in the Legal Intelligencer, Pennsylvania’s premier legal newspaper, encouraging recent law school graduates to become special education attorneys.  Here are the first few paragraphs of the article:

You may not know what special education law is, much less what it means to be a special education attorney, but I hope you’ll consider becoming one.  Special education attorneys are responsible for enforcing the rights of children with disabilities.  But there aren’t enough of us. Around the nation, there are millions of children with disabilities and only a few thousand of us.  In Pennsylvania, there are 250,000 children with disabilities but just 100 or so attorneys who serve them. Kids and their families need you. Join us for them.

Join us for you, too.  Special education law is rewarding, and it offers young attorneys unique professional opportunities. I know from my own experience.

You can access the full article here.

 

Philadelphia Magazine Profiles Berney & Sang Win in Bullying Case

June 6th, 2018|0 Comments

You can read the article here.

Sang Wins Due Process Hearing, Secures Tuition Reimbursement

May 30th, 2018|0 Comments

This week, a Pennsylvania Special Education Hearing Officer awarded tuition reimbursement to one of partner Jennifer Sang’s clients.  Sang represented the client in a multi-day due process hearing against the Perkiomen Valley School District.  Based on the evidence offered by Sang, the Hearing Officer determined that Perkiomen failed to offer the client’s child a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and he ordered Perkiomen to reimburse the client for a full year of private school tuition.

Berney & Sang Files Third Circuit Amicus Brief on behalf of COPAA

February 28th, 2018|0 Comments

David J. Berney and Kevin Golembiewski filed an amicus brief today in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the Education Law Center, New Jersey Special Education Practitioners, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.  The brief supports the appellants in K.D. et al. v. Downingtown Area School District, No. 17-3065 (3d Cir.).

K.D. is a child with specific learning disabilities.  Her parents sued Downingtown Area School District under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), arguing that Downingtown denied her a chance to make appropriate educational progress.  The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled against the parents.  It found that, although K.D. made minimal educational progress, such progress was appropriate for her.  Driving this finding was the court’s presumption that children with learning disabilities like K.D. cannot reasonably be expected to make grade-level progress.

COPAA and the other amici intervened in K.D. because they are concerned about this presumption.  The presumption is factually flawed, and it contravenes the IDEA.  The amicus brief explains:

[C]hildren with learning disabilities are a diverse group, and with appropriate, individualized interventions, many are capable of advancing grade to grade with their nondisabled peers.  Children with learning disabilities have deficits in a specific learning skill, so some struggle in reading, some in math, and some in other areas.  And a child’s learning disability is just one part of her educational profile.  Beyond learning disabilities, other factors influence a child’s potential, including social intelligence, creativity, emotional regulation, and work ethic.  Each child with a learning disability possesses a unique blend of these attributes.  Many children with learning disabilities have average to above-average intelligence and potential for grade-level growth.

The brief then goes on to point out that:

[The] IDEA, designed to protect children from misconceptions and low expectations forbids [the district court’s] presumption.  It demands that schools expect grade-level advancement from children with learning disabilities, including those with severe learning disabilities in comprehension, reading, and writing.

You can access the full amicus brief here.

The Notebook: Berney & Sang Appeal Addresses Critical School Bullying & Harassment Issues

February 22nd, 2018|0 Comments

The Notebook, Philadelphia’s leading newspaper on public education, published an article today covering Berney & Sang’s appeal in Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia.  The appeal argues that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protect students from discriminatory bullying and harassment.  It is a landmark appeal, with the potential to secure important protections for children who suffer bullying and harassment.  Several prominent civil rights organizations are supporting the appeal, including the Education Law Center, the Public Interest Law Center, Pennsylvania Disability Rights, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.

The Notebook’s article highlights the importance of the appeal, stating:

[N]o appellate court in Pennsylvania has yet considered how the act applies to school districts when it comes to bullying.  That leaves students and families the option of going to federal court, which can be more costly and difficult.  If the appeal . . . is granted, the decision may set a precedent that makes it easier for families seeking recompense for discriminatory abuse in school.

You can access the full article here.

 

Sang to Serve as Panelist at Philly Linguistic and Multicultural Disability Summit

February 18th, 2018|0 Comments

Partner Jennifer Sang has been selected to serve as a panelist at the First Annual Greater Philadelphia Linguistic and Multicultural Disability Summit.  According to Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, one of the Summit’s organizers, the Summit aims to “bring together culturally and linguistically diverse disability communities for a day of dialogue, cultural appreciation, and action planning to address the needs of the disability community.”  The Honorable Tony Coehlo, who helped write the American Disabilities Act, will offer remarks.

Jennifer will serve on a panel titled, “Reimagining Special Education in the 21st Century.”  Her co-panelists will include Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, Councilwoman Helen Gym, Otis Hackney from the Mayor’s Office on Education, and William Hite, the Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.  Jennifer is honored to present with such an accomplished panel, and she is excited to leverage her experiences as a special education lawyer to address the needs of diverse disability communities.  Jennifer has represented hundreds of Philadelphia families in special education cases; she is eager to use what she’s learned in those cases to make a systemic impact.

The Summit is scheduled for March 17, 2018 from 9AM to 2PM.

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Golembiewski Co-Counsels 11th Circuit Special Education Appeal

February 16th, 2018|0 Comments

Associate Kevin Golembiewski is representing a child with autism in a special education appeal before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  He is co-counseling the appeal with Southern Legal Counsel, a public interest law firm based in Florida, and Alice Nelson, Esquire.

The appeal presents multiple issues of first impression, including the proper standard for IEP-implementation claims.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has filed an amicus brief in support of the appeal.

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