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Friday, March 21, 2014

A Transition Plan at the BSEA

From Special Education Today
A Special Education Law Blog from the Attorneys at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

By Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
March 20, 2014

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NOTE: On several occasions in recent years, NESCA clinicians have given expert testimony in cases being heard by Hearing Officer Crane. Irrespective of the outcome, they always found him thoughtful, respectful, even-handed and insightful. We are certain that BSEA Director Reece Erlichman is well aware that his will be a tough act to follow, and confident that she will give selection of his successor the care and attention it deserves.

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We recently learned that one of the BSEA’s most experienced hearing officers, William Crane, will be retiring within a short few months (June 26, 2014). The BSEA is soliciting applications for the position. We can only hope that applicants will bring a combination of experience, knowledge of the field, intellect and compassion comparable to those qualities that have characterized Bill’s work at the position.

Bill has been one of the most prolific, thoughtful, and eloquent adjudicators at the BSEA since he moved from the Department of Mental Health’s general counsel office to the BSEA in 1999. His decisions are typically lengthy – not for lack of a surgical editorial hand, but because he strives not just to rule but also to educate in his work as a hearing officer.

When I work with parent consultant trainees at the Federation for Children with Special Needs or attorneys learning about the practice of special education law, I often suggest that one of the best routes into understanding the nuances and complexities of the field is to read decisions written by Bill Crane and to study his interpretations and applications of law. While we have not always agreed with his rulings and orders, his decisions are always extraordinarily thorough, well-reasoned and grounded in a scrupulous analysis of the language of state and federal law and the intent and purposes behind those provisions.

He has also brought to his work a depth of understanding of the variety of learning and emotional challenges that undermine students in their personal and academic growth. His decisions, moreover, no matter the outcome, are always marked by his compassion for the children, families and professionals struggling to address those challenges.

Even in the most adversarial and hostile moments that arise between parties or their counsel in the course of litigation, Bill has invariably conducted proceedings with an obvious deep respect and patience for all participants. He has maintained a calm and courteous environment for the airing of the most fractious of disputes, and by doing so has ensured that as complete a record as possible will be developed on which he can ultimately base his decisions.

We expect that practitioners on both sides of BSEA disputes will greatly miss this consummate professional.

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Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

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