Nearly 14 percent of students enrolled in public schools have some form of recognized learning disability. Federal law requires that school districts accommodate these students to ensure that they receive the same quality of education as their peers.
In practice, however, getting your child the tools, supports, and accommodations they are entitled to can be a battle. Keep reading now to learn how a special education attorney can help.
What Is a Special Education Attorney?
A special education attorney is a legal professional who focuses on special education cases. These lawyers are intimately familiar with your state’s school system and the specific laws, requirements, and precedents governing schools’ responsibility to support students and help them achieve success.
- Your child’s rights as a student
- Your rights as a parent or guardian
- The school’s rights and responsibilities
A special ed attorney is familiar with the processes assessment, support plan development, and the legal actions you can take when your rights are not being honored.
Leveling the Playing Field
All school districts have lawyers. School attorneys protect schools and their employees and assist them in achieving the best possible outcomes in confrontations with families and other parties.
A special education lawyer levels the playing field by giving you an equally informed and powerful advocate on your side of the table.
The Growth of Special Education Law
Many parents are initially hesitant to involve a lawyer in matters concerning their children’s educations. They may feel that they shouldn’t need to or be self-conscious about the fact that attorneys were never involved in school affairs when they were in school themselves.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that special education law has become a well-established field of law. The number of children with disabilities of every kind has skyrocketed in recent decades. According to the CDC, the number of children with developmental disabilities jumped by 17 percent between 1997 and 2008 and still continues to climb.
Why the Increase?
The rise in students with disabilities can be attributed to several things. First, changes to the law have expanded the scope of what is considered a disability for legal purposes.
Second, improvements in medical technology are saving lives. Together with other improvements in technology and health, this is making it possible for children who would previously have been unable to attend school to enroll in classes.
Third, a wide variety of conditions ranging from autism spectrum disorders to ADHD have been on the rise across the population in general.
In some cases, changes to the structure of schools and school districts also contribute to the increased need to get an attorney for special education involved in protecting children’s rights. Consolidation and tight budgets can leave schools struggling to meet students’ needs.
The rise in students needing special accommodation has also strained school resources in many cases. Together, these trends can lead to schools failing to properly address students’ needs and provide the right supports.
Who Needs a Special Education Lawyer?
Parents can find themselves needing an attorney for a variety of reasons. Sometimes parents may find themselves in several of the following situations at once.
You Don’t Know Your Rights
Education law is complex. It is no surprise that many parents find themselves unsure about their rights. They may have vague ideas about what their children are entitled to, but lack the detailed knowledge they need to force action from the school district.
You Face Barriers to Asserting Your Rights
Low-income families or families for whom English is not their first language can run into trouble arguing for their rights against resistant school officials. They may have trouble understanding the hoops schools want them to jump through, or simply lack the time and resources necessary to work through complicated legal issues with the school.
Your Rights Aren’t Being Respected
In some cases, children have IEPs or 504 plans but the school or specific teachers within the school are not respecting and abiding by them. Parental attempts to bring the matter to someone’s attention and get enforcement can fall on deaf ears. When that happens, getting an attorney can provide the backup you need to get action.
You Disagree With the Services Your Child Is Receiving
In some cases, parents find that their children are receiving a full suite of the wrong services. When school districts are not open to renegotiating services to better meet your child’s needs, legal action may be required to force their hands. An attorney is always required to facilitate that process.
How a Special Education Attorney Can Help
“But what is a special education attorney going to do to help?” many parents wonder. Attorneys can help in a variety of ways and will tailor their actions to your specific situation. In general, you can expect them to use a combination of the following tactics.
Handle Communication With the School District
Attorneys may send letters and other formal documents to school district lawyers and officials. In some cases, this is enough to prompt the change you need. Schools are much more likely to respond to legal pressure than to parents directly.
Special education lawyers can also attend school meetings with you or on your behalf. They can help you assert your rights, interpret and evaluate school proposals, and negotiate the best outcomes for your child.
Get Services Implemented or Restored
An attorney can help you secure the services your child is entitled to. This includes services provided by the school and by third parties, where appropriate. In some cases, they can prompt the school district to pay for alternative educational placements that are better for your child.
If your child is receiving services that are inadequate or inappropriate, your lawyer can assist you in getting the testing and evaluations necessary to prove it. They can also help you identify and fight for the services your child should be getting instead.
Provide Mental and Emotional Support
Fighting for your child’s rights can be a lonely and exhausting battle. Lawyers can take on much of that burden.
They can give you peace of mind. They also free up time and energy so that you can be the engaged and positive parent you want to be.
Finding an Attorney
If you need a special education attorney, we can help. Tsadik Law specializes in helping families navigate the choppy waters of special education law. Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your child’s rights to succeed in school.