How many times have you been in an IEP meeting and felt bullied? How often have you been confused about what your rights are for your child? How often have you wondered whether the special education program your child is receiving is truly benefiting their needs?
Let’s face the facts: Parents of special needs children don’t always understand the intricacies of special education law. At IEPs you are told that your child has a certain need, based on a test, where certain percentiles are scored leading to your child qualifying for a confusing three or four letter acronym. As a result, you put your trust in the school district (often times with no other option) even though it may not always feel right.
You go home and start questioning the school district’s decisions. You think to yourself, “Hey I know my child best. I should be receiving more services!” But where do you turn? Whom do you ask? What is special education law? Sound familiar?
Special education has come a long way since the first major law protecting our special needs children in 1975. Today, students who are determined eligible for services under the IDEA are entitled to receive appropriate special education and related services that consist of specially designed instruction at public expense. This concept is commonly referred to as a Free and Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. The key to providing a FAPE is for school personnel to develop and implement programs that are based on a full and individualized assessment of a student that consists of specially designed instruction tailored to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This may sound basic, but as we all know, it is not.
As a former special education teacher, parent advocate, adjunct special education professor, and now special education attorney, I have helped distressed parents who seek my help as a last option. I truly feel school districts have the best intentions, but for one reason or another frequently refuse to provide parent requested special education services. Even when a situation like this happens, I am often asked, “Do I need an attorney?” Ultimately, that determination is yours to make, but if you feel that your child is not receiving the services you have requested, it may be time to seek out counsel.
In 1980, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case Stemple v. Board of Education held that the IDEA contains a bill of rights – the due process hearing – for parents wishing to contest a school’s special education decision regarding their child. The purpose of this hearing is to allow an impartial third party, the Administrative Law Judge, to hear both sides present their arguments, examine the issues, and settle the contest. In a society based on litigation, even special education cannot escape the threat of a lawsuit. The reality, however, is parents were afforded this right and should always exercise that right when needed.
If you are in need of an attorney, feel free to call the LAW OFFICES OF LIU & NAIME. The special education advocates, paralegals and attorneys at our unique law firm are always willing to speak to you about your case. We provide free consultations and have a sliding fee scale making it affordable for your child to be represented. Remember that you are your child’s voice, so continue to advocate for your child, speak up for your rights and, most importantly, always ensure your child is being properly educated.
Craig Liu, Esq.