Around 13.7% of public school students get special education services of some kind. That’s around 7 million students across the nation.
Just like every other student, children with special education need to enjoy the guarantee of free and appropriate public education. It’s protected by federal law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
For students with disabilities, this typically takes the form of an individual education plan or a 504 plan. Unfortunately, not every school embraces these plans, and some become hostile when parents press for them. Parents often need a special education attorney in that situation.
Worried your child’s school might not provide adequate special education? Keep reading for five situations where you should hire a special education attorney.
1. The School Refuses to Provide an Assessment
In theory, a teacher will notice that your child faces a challenge or delay in their education progress. The teacher will then ask the school for an assessment, typically in consultation with you. The school then gives your child an assessment.
In ideal circumstances, the assessment will determine if your child needs special education services. In practice, things can often look very different.
Teachers often report that they work long hours beyond the school day and on weekends. This limits the attention they can give any one student. That means that parents may prove more likely to notice if their child struggles.
That leaves many parents fighting an uphill battle. You must convince a teacher or school that your child’s situation warrants an assessment.
Some schools may refuse the assessment. Some do this because the assessment can leave them on the hook for granting additional resources. If your school refuses the assessment, a special ed attorney is often the right next step.
2. You Meet Resistance from the School
Providing special education for a child under an IEP or a 504 plan pulls a school away from the standard model. The standard model lays out a set of costs per student that the school uses for budgeting. That means that educating your child will cost more money in terms of materials or teaching resources.
Even if your school means well, they may resist those additional costs. The school may also lack a solid IEP team that helps them navigate the divide between costs and services.
Whether the school likes it or not, they must provide your child with the appropriate resources. This doesn’t necessarily mean every cutting edge option. They must, however, set aside resources that provide educational progress.
If your school takes a firm stance against providing these resources, you should contact a special education lawyer.
3. The School Doesn’t Follow the IEP
Your child’s IEP flows out of a collaborative process between you and the school. You and the IEP team work out what resources will offer the best chances for educational improvement. At that point, it’s on the school to provide those resources for your child.
For example, the school must offer those resources in the least restrictive environment. That means your child spends as much time as practical with peers who don’t need special education.
So, let’s say that your school places your child in a special ed class all day. This ignores the basic principle of LRE.
Perhaps the IEP mandates more computer-based learning. The school must make a computer readily available for that process.
If the school ignores IEPs in whole or part, it opens itself up for special education lawsuits.
4. Suspensions or Expulsions
Children who need special education resources will often act out in disruptive ways. In theory, the IEP or 504 plan accounts for this possibility.
For example, a child on the autism spectrum may react badly to physical contact. This reaction is a predictable one.
The school should take steps to limit contact. Some contact is almost unavoidable in a public school. That makes the occasional outburst a normal part of that child’s education.
Unfortunately, some schools will use these kinds of disruptive behaviors as an excuse to suspend or expel students.
This almost always involves a manifestation hearing. You want a special education attorney present for these hearings. They’re in the best position to find experts and bring the law to bear on your child’s behalf.
5. The Process Leaves You Overwhelmed
Getting your child the special education services she needs can grow complicated. You can find yourself fighting the school at every step.
That can mean countless meetings and hearings. It also means you must develop expertise in special education regs and processes. That’s a tall order for any parent.
You must also contend with the emotional cost. You can find yourself understandably stressed. That stress can make it difficult for anyone to calmly deal with hearings or meetings with school officials.
Special ed attorneys deal with these situations regularly. That lets them navigate the process with legal expertise. They can file paperwork or draft letters that hit the right legal notes.
They can also help provide you with an emotional sanity check during high-stress moments. A special-ed attorney will typically remain calm, which can help you stay calm as well.
Deciding if You Need a Special Education Attorney
Hiring a special education attorney can feel like a step of last resort. Once you hire a lawyer, it may seem like a lawsuit is one step away. Fortunately, that isn’t the case.
In the situations described above, a lawyer often serves as a guide in the process. They help you navigate the system.
They also serve as a legal-sounding board. They can call out the school for ignoring regulations or failing to fulfill their obligations.
Think you need a special education lawyer to help your child with their California school? Contact Tsadik Law today for a consultation.