In the United States, almost 14% of students who attend public schools have a learning disability. In the State of California, almost 800,000 students receive special education services at a cost of $13 billion dollars per year. Student accountability data show poor outcomes for students with disabilities in California.
There are both federal and state laws that require schools to provide all students with an appropriate education. When the school is not providing services to your special needs child, you need a special ed attorney.
A special ed attorney can help you navigate the laws that protect your child’s legal and constitutional right to receive an education in the least restrictive setting. Here are a few areas an attorney can help you advocate for your child to receive fair treatment and special education services.
What a Special Ed Attorney Can Do
The four-year graduation rate is lower for students with disabilities than any other student group. More disturbing is that special needs students have a suspension rate that is almost double the California state average. Here are just a few of the ways a special education lawyer can help your child get the education they are legally entitled to.
When the School District Resists
You know the law is on your side. Your child has been confirmed to have a disability that prevents them from learning in a standard classroom setting. A 504 Plan or Individualized Educational Plan has been set up for your child’s education.
This should be a cooperative process with all people working to achieve the best setting for your child to receive an education. Unfortunately, schools have a tendency to resist providing services that require the school district to spend more money to meet your child’s needs. The school may want to take a cookie-cutter approach to your child’s education rather than working to meet the individualized needs of your child.
When a school district fights you on providing appropriate services to your child, that is when you need to consult with a special needs lawyer.
IEP and Section 504 Assistance
Your special ed attorney will review your child’s records and their Individualized Education Plan or Section 504 Plan. The attorney will write letters and file anything needed to secure your child’s rights in the IEP process.
Your attorney can attend the IEP meeting with you. Their presence will help alleviate the emotional impact and tension you feel fighting for your child.
A special education lawyer is comfortable dealing with controversial subjects in a non-emotional manner. They will present the law to the teachers, social workers, and administrators in a way that encourages them to comply and meet their obligations to your child. If the school continues to resist, your attorney will file the appropriate complaint and represent you at a special education hearing.
Your lawyer will be able to locate expert witnesses if they are needed. Expert witnesses may be used to dispute the school’s interpretation of your child’s assessment. Often hearing officers accept the schools’ interpretation of the medical or educational assessment as valid.
The hearing officers may also deny you the ability to submit anything that supports your side. Your special education lawyer will know how to get all documents admitted into evidence that supports your case. They will make sure expert witnesses are allowed to testify.
Having an attorney who knows how to navigate the legal process will put you in a better position should an appeal be necessary.
Prevent the School to Prison Pipeline
If your child is having behavioral issues at school the attorney can help your child avoid what is termed the “school to prison pipeline.” This term is used to describe a national trend that pushes children out of school and into the legal court system. It begins when the child is young and experiences behavior problems at school.
The school punishes the child for their behavior and pushes them into the juvenile justice system. The pattern continues as the child grows into a teen and adult. Eventually, the child ends up in the adult criminal system.
The majority of children who follow this pattern suffer from learning disabilities. What those children need is additional educational services or counseling. If schools increased services to these children, most would change their behavior and lead productive lives.
This is where an attorney who specializes in special education can help. They will advocate for your child and get the school to take appropriate action to meet your child’s needs.
This may include getting the teachers to provide the accommodations stated in the IEP or 504 plan. It may also mean getting your child moved to a different class or reviewing underlying issues that are creating a behavior problem.
When to Call an Attorney
You may be hesitant to contact an attorney for special education because you don’t know what warrants legal intervention. An attorney whose practice area is focused on special education will review your position and the child’s educational documents. They will provide you with a legal assessment of your situation.
There is no wrong reason to call an attorney. Here are just a few of the reasons you will want to schedule a consultation with a special education attorney.
- You are unable to reach an agreement on your child’s needs at the IEP meeting
- Your child is at risk of being suspended or expelled
- Your child is failing school
- Your child has been injured at school
- Your child is being bullied or discriminated against
- Your child is not making appropriate progress
- You think your child needs special education, but the school district is uncooperative
- The school district has an attorney at meeting regarding your child
- You want to appeal the administrative special education decision
- You need to file a complaint against the school district
- If you believe the school is retaliating against you or your child
These are just a few of the issues that may arise when you have a child that requires special education assistance. If you feel the school district is not fulfilling their obligation to provide your child with an education appropriate to their abilities, schedule a free consultation.
You Are Your Child’s Best Advocate
There is no better advocate for a child than their parent. To best advocate for your child, you may need the assistance of a special ed attorney who knows both special education and legal law.
At Tsadik Law we represent parents and guardians of children with special needs in northern and southern California. Our firm concentrates exclusively on special education law.
Our goal to make sure your child’s educational needs are met. Call us today at (213) 677-0999 and schedule a free consultation.