Thanks for having me as a guest blogger, Camp Akeela! Camp Akeela is a co-ed sleep away camp "where quirky campers thrive." Check out my guest post for their blog to learn when you should consider hiring an attorney / lawyer in the special education process.
When to Hire an Education Lawyer
As any parent whose child has a 504 plan or an IEP knows, sometimes the special education process can be frustrating, if not infuriating. Parents struggle to maintain positive relationships with school staff while also ensuring that their children are getting their needs met. Some school IEP “teams” are effective professionals with the child’s best interest at heart. If you have one of those, count your lucky stars and bake them some cookies! However, even these types of teams sometimes face limitations, like lack of staff or pressure from the district. “Good” team or ineffective team, children are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Protecting your child’s right to FAPE can be exhausting and confusing.
There may be times when you need some help. Consider hiring a special education attorney when:
- The IEP team refuses to evaluate your child for a disability, or staff outside the IEP process tell you your child doesn’t need to be evaluated.
- Your child is denied eligibility for special education or a 504 plan
- IEP Team says “we don’t do that.” Remember, this is an INDIVIDUAL education plan.
- IEP Team says they don’t have the resources or funding to give your child what she needs.
- Your child has an IEP but is not making progress in YOUR opinion, even if the school says they are. For example, a child with a learning disability is not making reading progress, or a child who needs social support isn’t getting services to address this issue or doesn’t seem to be improving.
- Teachers cannot explain when, where, and and what intervention is happening, and who is delivering it.
- The IEP is not being followed or the 504 plan is not being followed.
- Your child is suspended or expelled, ESPECIALLY if you believe the behavior was related to the disability in some way.
- You are considering filing a state complaint under IDEA, or you are considering filing for due process.
Keep in mind that as you move through the special education process, and especially if there are active disagreements, the school team has access to, or is actively consulting with, the school system’s attorney. If you are considering steps that will get their lawyer or legal office involved. (like contacting the director of special education or superintendent, filing for due process, or filing a complaint under IDEA), you should also have this benefit, since you can be sure that their lawyer will be reviewing everything you say or write.
How to hire a special education lawyer
If you decide to hire an education attorney to help you through this process, be sure you are consulting with someone who practices special education law exclusively, or at least primarily. There are certainly general practice attorneys who will be happy to get involved, but special education law is a highly specialized practice, and interacting with school systems is more effectively done by someone who is familiar with the players in your district. Ask any lawyer you are considering hiring what percentage of their practice is special education, how many special education cases they have handled, and what their familiarity is with your district.
THIS BLOG SHOULD BE USED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY READER AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO A SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEY, PLEASE SCHEDULE A CALL HERE.