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Frequently Asked Questions

Many families feel that it is their responsibility to raise concerns with their school district, and if they do not, the fault lies with them. However, the school district has a significant obligation to identify and assess every child with a suspected disability whether you tell a school district or not. Additionally, they must identify any disability the child may be experiencing, not just what is apparent. Many clients tell us signs of a disability were apparent for years, yet nothing was done by the school district to address their child’s needs. Even though teachers and staff were aware of the challenges, they took no action and placed the responsibility on the parent’s shoulders. That could not be further from the truth.
Every school district has an obligation to “identify, locate, and evaluate” students with suspected disabilities through a process called “child find.” If a school district has failed to do this but you feel as though your child should be evaluated, you can request a referral for an assessment at any time. After a school district receives the request, they must begin the assessment process. If your child is found eligible for services, the school district will make an offer of FAPE through an IEP. If a school district has not conducted timely or appropriate evaluations, legal remedies may be available.

1) Failing Grades or Incomplete Work
There are several signs that your child’s IEP may not be written or applied in a manner that is appropriate for their needs. Federal and State education law require that your child’s educational program be designed to ensure appropriate progress, as close to or at grade level standards as possible. Signs that your child is not receiving their educational benefit may include failing grades or comprehension levels that are not grade-level. Oftentimes, if your student’s comprehension levels are not grade-level, they may have difficulty turning in on time and completed material. It is important to understand why your student is struggling to complete assignments.
Showing that your child is not receiving an educational benefit may seem like an uphill battle in your school district. Education Justice Law can assist you with this process as demonstrating this may require extensive understanding of federal and state law. Families who can successfully show that their child has not received an educational benefit may seek legal remedies such as reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs like tutoring or other services.

2) Inadequate and Immeasurable IEP Goals
IEP goals are legally binding statements that describe what knowledge, skills, or behaviors your child will be expected to obtain within a school year. Unfortunately, school districts do not always take the time to draft goals that are written with your child’s individual needs in mind. Far too often, school districts recycle used goals from one IEP to the next, making it difficult for you to truly measure your child’s progress.
When school districts fail to draft unique goals for your student, they may end up neglecting to draft goals in needed areas all together! Recognizing the areas your student needs goals may depend on the ability to comprehend complex educational evaluations.
The goals in your child’s IEP must also be measurable, meaning they are clearly defined and will help you track your child’s progress throughout the school year. Measurable goals should be written based on your child’s present levels of performance (“present levels”). Goals are well-drafted when they clearly articulate what your child’s present levels are and what knowledge, skills, or behaviors they will be expected to achieve within the school year.

3) Regression
You may notice that not only has your child failed to make progress on their goals and academics, but they have regressed in previously obtained knowledge or skills. While regression can occur for many reasons, it may be happening due to IEPS that are not appropriately written or applied.

4) Improper Services
Your child’s IEP should include services or supports/accommodations to help them make progress on their annual goals. Though not an exhaustive list, services might include physical therapy, speech and language, occupational therapy, counseling services etc. If your child is not making adequate progress, it may be because the services are not uniquely tailored to their needs, or they may need an increase in the amount/days of those services.

When pushback from school districts becomes adversarial or you feel completely left out of your child’s education, this is likely a sign that legal representation will help. The relationship may have already become adversarial if you were mistreated by school officials at the last IEP meeting, your input was not considered, or no one from the school district took the time to explain your parent rights. Unfortunately, it may appear as if the school district operates under a secret playbook or speak in terms which are not explained to you. If your school district or school staff tells you that you don’t need legal representation, it is certainly time to bring an attorney to the IEP meeting.

Legal representation may also be helpful if you and your student have experienced any of the following:
• You have tried everything to be a collaborative partner, but problems continue to worsen.
• Services on your child’s IEP are not being implemented as agreed upon.
• School officials do not honor your native language by not providing a licensed interpreter or all papers in your primary language.
• The IEP team attempts to recommend a program or transfer your child to a different school to you without your knowledge or consent.
• A school district does not respond in writing to your concerns about your child’s academic, social, behavioral, emotional, attentional, or orthopedic concerns.
• Your child with an IEP is suspended or expelled and the school district failed to consider whether the conduct was a result of your student’s disability.

Unfortunately, the kinder and more cooperative you are, the less the school is willing to do for you. But ironically, things can improve very quickly when you bring an attorney because the school staff knows they cannot carry on the way they had in the past. A stronger voice or position is necessary to bring you into the process, take your concerns seriously, and implement your requests.

No problem. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an IEP meeting, you may reconvene the IEP with an attorney to address all your concerns. IEP meetings should instill hope and confidence, particularly in the programs and services resulting from them. Your hopes and conclusions should align with your child’s team because of shared interests. You can always request another IEP meeting if you feel the meeting went poorly or disagree with the special education services recommended by the school district. If you are in an IEP meeting that takes a negative turn and you start to feel like you are not being heard, you can always ask to end the meeting so an attorney can be present moving forward.

There are two components to Special Education Representation:
(1) Legal Due Process Filings and
(2) Legal Representations at IEP(s)
Education Justice Law offers representation in both legal, due process filings and IEP representation. Depending on the unique circumstances of your child’s experience, your student’s case may be eligible for one or both of our representation areas. For example, when the school district appears to have violated a part of special education law or procedure, and this violation has stood in the way of your student receiving their educational benefit, our office can file a legal complaint detailing these violations and seek remedies on your behalf. Though remedies are not guaranteed, our firm will take the time to explain the likelihood of success through either a settlement negotiation with the district or a ruling resulting from a hearing. While all of this may sound costly, federal and state law authorize reimbursement of attorney’s fees through either potential settlement agreements or remedies ordered at a due process hearing. In other words, if Education Justice Law determines a high likelihood of success for you, your due process case will be accepted without any fees.
Unlike due process claims, school districts do not reimburse expenses for attorneys to participate in an IEP or work with families and districts at the school level. Education Justice Law provides affordable flat rate legal services to address this. Please note, if you’re concerned about your ability to pay our standard flat rate for IEP representation, ask about sliding scale payments or other alternative arrangements.

All children have unique and individual needs. However, state and federal special education laws require that every student have access to an appropriate education. We are here to help improve your child’s educational experience by addressing their academic, social, emotional, attentional, or physical limitations.
We believe so strongly in our ability to advocate for special education students that our attorneys exclusively practice in this area of law. We are committed to representing parents of disabled students. Our attorneys and advocates have substantial experience in special education law and are committed to seeing that every student gets an appropriate education.
If your child is having a challenging time at school and you believe they may require special treatment, please let us know, and we can discuss the following steps to assist you and your family. Please also let us know if your child already has an IEP or section 504 plan that you feel is insufficient or has not been implemented correctly.
We will take the time to learn about your child. Then, we will educate you about the options available. Our goal is to empower you with information. Finally, we will stand by your side and give you the tools you need to see that your child gets appropriate treatment as they make their way through the education system.