The law gives you the right to be closely involved in developing your child's special education program, as described in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is good, but it can be frustrating and draining. If you are in conflict with your school district over any issue, you may feel like you are outnumbered and ambushed by the district's personnel. They may seem like they're speaking in code, using abbreviations and terms they all know, but you don't. In this situation KSLN can be the ally you need.
Our attorneys have over 60 years of work in special education. We speak their language--and yours. We can reduce tension and establish common ground so you can work together with the school and provide for your child's needs. And, if necessary, we can go to battle with a district that refuses to give appropriate services for your child. Please contact us today for a free initial consultation to learn how we can help you and your child.
How We Can Help
If you are having a dispute of any type with your school district, or if you are having trouble communicating, either in understanding what they are telling you or getting them to understand what you are saying, we can help. We can go with you to meetings, help the school understand your concerns and how serious you are about your child’s needs. We can help you understand their objections, or to strategically address them, so that together we can work to get the services your child needs in order to succeed.
We can attend your IEP meetings with you. We can help you get your concerns heard, and make meaningful input into your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP).
We can also attend disciplinary hearings with you. We can help you work with the school to develop an appropriate plan for dealing with behaviors. There are special rules that govern discipline for children with disabilities and we will make sure they are followed. We will help you and the school work together to develop disciplinary procedures that can address inappropriate behavior without hurting your child's education.
Filing a Complaint
Federal law provides for remedies if you and the school cannot come to an agreement, if the school is not meeting your child’s needs, or if the school violated the terms of your child's IEP. If you and the school cannot come to an agreement, you can request mediation to help you find a solution that will benefit your child.
If you feel the school is not willing to give your child an appropriate education, or if you think it hasn't lived up to its responsibilities, you can file a due process complaint, which guarantees you a hearing before an impartial hearing officer (IHO).
If you have a dispute with your school, we can help you decide on the best course of action, including whether mediation or a due process hearing is likely to get you the best results. Also, we can put our experience and knowledge to work for you, whether in trying to partner with the school district or in advocating for your child’s rights in a hearing or in court.
If you need help working with your school district to get your child the free appropriate public education he or she is guaranteed by law, the lawyers KSLN have the knowledge and experience to help, often at little or no cost to you.
Due Process Complaints and Hearings
Even when parents and school districts alike have a student’s best interests in mind, disagreements over the implementation of special education assistance may emerge that cannot be resolved informally or through mediation. In these cases, parents have the right to send a written request to the school district for an impartial hearing. These hearings are somewhat similar to court proceedings, or an arbitration, in that you have the right to a special education lawyer, to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and other rights. An Impartial Hearing Officer will preside over the hearing and issue a binding decision.
KSLN has extensive experience representing and supporting parents in disputes with school districts. We understand that these disagreements involving the education and well-being of your child can be very emotional and frustrating. Therefore, we strive not only to be strong advocates, but also compassionate and supportive advisors.
Requesting an Impartial Hearing
If you have a child with a disability and have come to a disagreement with the IEP Team or your school district about your child’s educational program, you most likely will need assistance by someone experienced in special education law. A trained mediator may help the parties involved reach a compromise without bitter arguments or legal action. Our special education lawyers can participate in mediation sessions as well as informal meetings to make sure your views and concerns are taken seriously and to help you reach an appropriate resolution.
If mediation does not resolve the issue, or if you choose not to participate in mediation, you as a parent have the right to request an impartial hearing. With the help of our legal team at KSLN, you may prepare a written impartial hearing request. This request should include:
Your child’s name and address
The name of your child’s school
A description of the facts concerning your dispute
A description of a possible resolution
When requesting an impartial hearing, you should collect and prepare any documents relating to your child’s educational program. Our special education attorneys will help you determine which documents are necessary and how to compile them to best suit your case. We also have the legal knowledge and skills to analyze the issues and develop an effective strategy.
Impartial Hearing Process
An Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) will examine the evidence and listen to both sides in the dispute. Each side presents witnesses and other evidence and has the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses presented by the other party. Based only on the recorded evidence and testimony presented at the hearing, the IHO will make a legally binding determination. During the hearing, you may represent yourself or be represented by one of our attorneys, much like a hearing in court. The IHO’s decision may be appealed by either party.
IEP Team Meeting
As a parent of a child with a disability, your involvement in decisions about special education and other education assistance is crucial to your child’s success and development. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) mandates that you are entitled to be an active participant in your child's IEP Team. This group should meet at least once a year. In these crucial meetings, important recommendations and decisions are made about the services offered to your child.
Preparing for the Meeting
Your school district is required to notify you in advance of IEP meetings. This notice should describe the purpose of the meeting, and the meeting is to be scheduled at a time that is convenient to both you and the district. As a parent, you also have the right to request meetings of the IEP Team if you have concerns about your child’s education. The special education lawyers of KSLN can help you prepare for these meetings and can also accompany you as your advocate. To prepare, look over our IEP Checklist. Also, be sure to talk with your child about his or her questions, concerns, and ideas as well.
Speaking with one of our special education attorneys can be an important help and support in preparation for your IEP meeting. We can help you organize your thoughts and concerns, and help you communicate them in an effective manner. In addition, our lawyers may be aware of services your child may be entitled to but is not receiving.
During and After the Meeting
If you choose, someone from KSLN may attend your IEP Team meeting. The presence of a disabilities lawyer can ensure that your views are taken seriously by the school district and that you are not intimidated by district officials. In the meeting, we can help you seek a satisfactory agreement with the school district that provides for all of your child’s needs.
If, however, a workable agreement cannot be reached, KSLN can also represent you in mediation sessions or impartial hearings to resolve the disagreement. Having our legal assistance team can be very helpful in giving you the opportunity to get what your child needs.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Checklist
Your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) is crucial to ensuring your child receives the free appropriate public education (FAPE) to which they are entitled by law. The IEP includes an assessment of your child's current performance, gives measurable goals for your child's growth over the course of the school year, and mandates what services the school is to provide, how often they are to be provided, by whom, and where. A well-designed IEP is a blueprint for your child's success (assuming the district upholds its promised services), so it is important to be prepared for your child's annual IEP meeting.
This checklist will help you prepare for your child's annual IEP meeting. If you want, we can attend your child's IEP meeting with you to help ensure your child is provided with an appropriate IEP. For a free initial consultation on this possibility, or regarding any aspect of your child’s education, please call or email KSLN today.
Preparing for the IEP Meeting
1. Get (and organize) all school records relevant to your child's IEP, including:
Notes from teachers and others who have worked with your child
Results of standardized tests and evaluations
A draft of the new IEP or a copy of notes toward the new IEP if the district has them
Relevant school health records
2. Assemble representative samples of work (with teachers' marks) your child has brought home. If you don't have samples, ask for them from the school.
3. Talk with people who have worked with your child to get their views of your child's progress and needs, including teachers, other school officials, doctors, nurses, and others. Make sure to note any concerns expressed by these people to ensure they are addressed at the IEP meeting.
4. Talk to your child's teacher(s) about the possibility of observing your child in a classroom setting.
5. Read the Procedural Safeguards that your school district is obligated to provide to you
6. Consider reviewing the regulations governing IEPs on the government's IDEA website, starting here:
7. Assess your child's present level of functioning, including assessment of:
8. Review your child's previous IEP, and ask:
Have the goals been met?
Were the services promised in the IEP provided for my child?
How has my child changed since this IEP was written? Do they still need these services? Are there additional services that will help them meet academic, social, and other goals?
What are reasonable goals for my child during this year?
What skills should we be building now for the future?
9. Consider whether you need additional help to meet your child's needs at home, including help with:
Physical therapy techniques
Occupational therapy techniques
Positive enforcement techniques
10. Based on your child's current skills and the goals you want for your child in the upcoming year, make a list of any special services you consider necessary for inclusion in your child's IEP.
11. Ask yourself: is my child old/mature enough to attend the IEP meeting?
12. Consider who you might like to have with you at the IEP meeting, including a friend, family member, or special education attorney.
13. Consider whether you want to tape the meeting and inform the school district if you will be taping it.
During the IEP Meeting
Remember that you are an equal member of the IEP team, but not the only member. Never hesitate to share your opinion, but always be prepared to listen. Take detailed notes and for the most important points make sure you read your notes back at the meeting to ensure you have accurately represented the points being made.
Start by sharing ideas about the previous IEP and your child's progress during the previous year. Make sure everyone is in agreement about how much progress your child made, which teaching techniques worked and which didn't. This is also a good time to be sure you understand all the jargon used in the IEP.
If your child doesn't have a previous IEP, begin by reviewing the evaluations that have been used to identify whether your child has a disability. Make sure you have a good understanding of these evaluations and of your child’s disability.
Always keep your child's interests central to the conversation. Services provided must be based on your child's needs, not on restricted availability of resources, and should be provided in the least restrictive setting that is appropriate to your child.
Remember that your child is not entitled to optimize or maximize their potential, but rather has a right to an appropriate education. This means the IEP must be designed to meet the unique needs of your child.
Remember to keep a balance among your child's various needs, including academic, social, physical, and language skills, among others.
Also remember that the IEP should include accommodations and modifications your child needs during regular education classes.
Don't forget that extracurricular activities can be a very important part of the education process, especially for older children. Address any accommodations that may be necessary to ensure your child has access to appropriate extracurricular activities.
Make sure goals remain measurable and that the standards to be used for them are clear.
If you cannot come to an agreement with other members of the IEP team, make sure the points of disagreement are clear. If you think it may be helpful, you can request another meeting to resolve differences.
Finally, before you leave the meeting make sure:
The entire IEP form is filled out, or when it will be provided.
The services the district is to provide are all clearly delineated: What is to be provided? Who is supposed to provide it? How long it is to be provided for?
Regular education time is also included.
After the IEP Meeting
Request a copy of the IEP meeting minutes or notes (if any) and review them for accuracy. If there are corrections, make a copy of the corrected minutes and send it back to the district.
If you have unresolved conflicts with the rest of the IEP team, consider ways to resolve the conflict:
If you have a second meeting scheduled, the attendance of a special education attorney may help smooth difficulties
Non-binding mediation can be a good method to resolve conflicts
You can request a due process hearing before an impartial hearing officer (IHO)
If you are satisfied with the IEP, consider sharing it with others who work with your child outside the school setting, including health care providers, family members, day care providers, and those who provide after-school activities or care for your child.
Observe your child's program throughout the year, and communicate with the teacher and others, to ensure your child is making good progress toward goals and is getting the services promised in the IEP.
If you have any concerns about your child's progress or the IEP, remember that you can request an IEP review meeting at any time.
When disagreements between parents of children with disabilities and school officials arise, the two parties are sometimes unable to come to an amicable solution. However, because the relationship between parents and educators is necessary and ongoing, good communication and goodwill are extremely valuable. Therefore, in resolving such disputes, KSLN can help you through a process of mediation before taking any legal action.
Disputes between Parents and Educators
There are many occasions in which disagreements can emerge between educators and parents of children with disabilities. Parents and school officials may have differing views about a child’s needs and abilities that lead to disputes over goals and outcomes in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or about the implementation of the IEP. Often faced with budget shortfalls and funding cuts, school districts may suggest cutbacks in services that parents oppose because they feel the services are necessary for their child’s success. In addition, some disabilities in children lead to inappropriate or disruptive behavior, especially when the child’s needs are misunderstood, creating disciplinary problems.
When disagreements occur, KSLN works to support parents and act as advocates for their child’s best interests. Parents naturally can become very upset when the issue at stake is their child’s education, well-being, or safety. Therefore, resolving disputes through mediation with an impartial mediator can often help both parties reach a resolution that satisfies everyone. KSLN has years of experience working with parents of children with disabilities and educators, which gives us considerable knowledge and skill in resolving disputes to protect the best interests of the student involved.
We will help you prepare for, and participate in, mediation sessions by organizing and effectively presenting your views and concerns. In the meeting, we can be there to support and represent you in advocating for your child.
Compromise Instead of Conflict
With the strong backing of our disabilities education legal team, you can rest assured that school officials will take your concerns seriously. Not only will we help you communicate your point of view in a given dispute, but we will help you find solutions that resolve the root issues of the problems. In other words, our goal is to facilitate not just the resolution of one dispute but to help ensure that you are satisfied with your child’s educational program and environment in the future.
If after mediation sessions you feel that school officials are still not listening to your concerns or are not adequately providing for your child’s needs KSLN can also help you initiate any necessary action. This may include impartial hearings and even litigation. Mediation is an optional step and parents have the right to ask for an impartial hearing at any time. However, to maintain a positive working relationship between parents and educators, we are available to help you reach a satisfactory compromise first.
Disciplinary Hearings and Suspensions
One of the most difficult and frustrating experiences for any parent can be dealing with disciplinary procedures at school. For parents of children with disabilities, especially those whose disabilities sometimes lead to the disciplinary issues, the experience can be even more complicated and difficult. KSLN understands both parents’ frustrations and educators’ concerns and can be crucial in achieving a resolution that meets the needs of the child as well as the school.
Disabilities and Disciplinary Problems
Many disabilities that affect students’ ability to learn may also interfere with social interactions, sometimes leading to behaviors that teachers or administrators consider disruptive, harmful to the classroom environment, or otherwise troublesome. While the majority of educators understand that each student confronts his or her unique issues and can make allowances for students with social difficulties, teachers and administrators also have a responsibility to maintain a safe and appropriate learning environment for other students. When a student has a disability, (such as autism or emotional disturbance) that can lead to problematic behaviors, it frequently becomes a disciplinary issue at some point.
When discipline becomes a problem for your child, it is often your parental responsibility to act as an advocate for your child. You may feel that your child is being treated too harshly or that the problem behaviors may be caused by some aspect of the classroom environment that is not meeting your child’s needs. In these cases, the special education attorneys of KSLN have the experience necessary to help you reach an appropriate solution with the school. This may involve attending meetings with teachers and administrators, district officials, disciplinary hearings, due process hearings, or mediation.
Solutions Instead of Suspensions
When children with disabilities are misunderstood by teachers and administrators, harsh punishments may be given when a parent or advocate cannot speak on the child’s behalf. As a result, your child may be suspended or deprived of privileges, making matters worse and not addressing the root cause of the problem. In addition, suspension deprives your child unfairly of learning opportunities simply because his or her behavior is not properly handled or understood.
The IDEA mandates special and complex rules involving discipline of students with disabilities, including rules requiring schools to conduct Functional Behavioral Assessments, develop Behavioral Intervention Plans and to ensure appropriate services to students during suspensions.
KSLN will help you negotiate with school officials to address the real cause of problem behavior, and if necessary will help you initiate a hearing if an agreement cannot be reached.
At KSLN, our goal is to help you ensure that your child is educated in a safe, fair, and reasonable environment. We understand your concerns as a parent as well as the need for schools to maintain order and fairness, which enables us to help achieve real and lasting solutions instead of punishments and suspensions.
Harassment at School
All children deal with the risk of harassment and bullying at school, but children with disabilities often suffer much more severe teasing and harassment. Some children may have obvious physical limitations or disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, an orthopedic impairment, deafness and visual impairments, that draw the attention of bullies. Other children with less noticeable issues such as learning disabilities, autism and intellectual disabilities, may be called “stupid” or “slow” by their classmates. While learning to deal with mean individuals and ridicule is part of growing up, harassment because of a disability is unfair and can be emotionally damaging.
If you have a child with a disability, harassment at school may be a major concern for you and your family. Coping with a disability is difficult enough for a child without bullying to go with it. The Special Needs and Special Education practice groups work closely with families of children with disabilities and understand your justifiable concern and outrage when harassment affects your child. We will work with you and your child’s educators to address the problem and protect your child from harassment.
Identifying Harassment and Bullying
Communicating with your child regularly about how they feel about school, their peers, and their teachers is very important. This not only helps to identify potential harassment, but also keeps you informed about the day-to-day implementation of your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Parent-teacher conferences, IEP team meetings, and PTA meetings are other excellent forums for raising concerns about bullying.
However, some children with disabilities are not able to communicate verbally about harassment at school. Still others may feel ashamed or uncomfortable talking to parents about this type of problem. Even worse, harassment is sometimes unintentionally or intentionally allowed or encouraged by school employees. In this case the child may be afraid of telling his parents about the problem. When your child is unwilling or unable to tell you about bullying or harassment, regular and frank conversations with teachers and administrators are necessary. Educators have a responsibility to prevent harassment or bullying of students with disabilities and to foster an educational environment that values everyone and does not allow violent or cruel behavior.
Dealing with Harassment
If you believe your child is being harassed or bullied at school, our disabilities and education legal team at KSLN will help you fight for your child’s right to a safe and encouraging school environment. We can help you work with your child’s IEP team, or school administration to include proactive anti-bullying measures by teachers and administrators. If necessary, we can also help you negotiate with administrators about moving your child to a different class or school.
Section 504 and the ADA Accommodations in the Schools
Although the IDEA provides for children with educational disabilities, there are many other disabilities that may make it difficult for your child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), or for which your child may need accommodations, that are not covered under IDEA. If your child has one of these disabilities, school districts are required under Section 504 and/or the ADA to make reasonable and appropriate accommodations, and in some instances provide a FAPE, so that your child can take full advantage of educational and extracurricular activities associated with school.
If your child is not getting needed reasonable and appropriate accommodations, or is being denied an appropriate education, in the school setting, the lawyers of KSLN can help. We can help you work with your school district to remove barriers that exclude, or limit, your child from full participation in all activities. To talk to a lawyer about how the ADA or Section 504 applies to your child's situation, please schedule a free initial consultation today.
What Are Section 504 and ADA?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (generally referred to simply as "Section 504") is a federal law protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of those disabilities. This law applies to all organizations that receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency. Because all schools receive some form of federal funding, Section 504 applies.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, it extended the reach of Section 504 protections to apply to all public and private entities that provide services to the public, essentially providing protection for individuals with disabilities against discrimination in almost all situations.
Who Is Protected?
If a child has an educational disability, that child is protected under the IDEA, and must receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in accordance with IDEA's mandates. However, children with other disabilities may also receive accommodations and a FAPE under Section 504 or ADA in schools to enable them to enjoy the same opportunities as children without disabilities.
In order to be eligible for protection under Section 504 or the ADA, a child must be evaluated to determine the existence of "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Once the existence of a disability has been confirmed, the school district is required to remove obstacles, and provide necessary services and accommodations, that would prevent your child from enjoying a school experience that is, to the extent possible, comparable to that enjoyed by other students.
What Are the Limits of a School District’s Responsibility?
Section 504 states that schools must make "reasonable accommodation" for a child with disabilities. What constitutes reasonable accommodation has been interpreted in many ways, but some common principles used by courts in the past say that the accommodation should:
Meet the need or desire of the student to participate in common activities, both curricular and extracurricular
Not put any student at undue risk
Not interfere with other students' ability to participate in the same activities
Not interfere with the essential or fundamental purposes of the activities
Not put undue burden on the school district
The 504 regulations for public schools, in addition to requiring reasonable accommodation, require school districts to provide a free appropriate public education for Section 504 students. This is provided through a 504 Plan (like an IEP under IDEA).
Each school district is allowed to establish its own procedures for identifying and serving Section 504 students. However, most school districts use a procedure similar to that established under the IDEA, with a Section 504 team that meets to establish and regularly review a 504 plan.
Ideally, parents and school officials should work together to find mutually-agreeable solutions to the problems. If a parent disagrees with a 504 Plan, or with a school district’s refusal to provide a 504 Plan, or a district’s implementation of a 504 Plan, or with how a child with a disability is treated, there is a right to a hearing. The parent can request an impartial hearing, and, if successful, the district must reimburse the parents for attorneys’ fees.
Section 504 Disabilities
Section 504 protects individuals with disabilities beyond learning disabilities from discrimination based on their disability. Because most schools receive some form of federal funding, the schools are required to comply with the Section 504 law.
To receive the appropriate accommodations under Section 504, a child must undergo an evaluation that confirms the existence of "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” including:
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Typically, parents of children with disabilities are able to resolve disagreements with educators about their child’s educational program without resorting to litigation. In the vast majority of cases parents, teachers, and administrators all have the child’s best interest at heart and a sincere desire to work out a positive solution. As a law firm serving the families of children and adults with disabilities, KSLN often supports and works with parents to reach an agreement long before a hearing or court proceedings are considered.
KSLN attorneys attend IEP meetings, and other education-related meetings that affect the implementation of special education assistance. In each of these instances, we act as advocates for parents of students with disabilities to make certain the child is provided an appropriate education to meet his or her individual needs.
Unfortunately, some disagreements arise that cannot be resolved informally. In these cases, we represent and support parents in pursuing impartial hearings and in filing appeals. When necessary, KSLN is fully qualified and prepared to continue our advocacy in the courtroom.
Knowledgeable and Experienced Litigators
Much of our service to families of children with disabilities is outside the courtroom, taking place in classrooms, conference rooms, offices and in hearings. However, our special education attorneys are also knowledgeable and experienced litigators who can effectively argue your case in Federal Court.
In addition to litigation to adjudicate disputes with the school district, we are also experienced in bringing discrimination suits on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Discrimination may take place in school, in the workplace, or in public accommodations, and KSLN is committed to fighting for the rights of discrimination victims.
Federal and State Laws
Parents of children with disabilities nationwide can benefit from a basic understanding of Federal and State laws regarding special education for children with disabilities. Knowing your rights and the school district’s obligations makes you a more informed parent and a more effective advocate for your child.
KSLN is a law firm serving families of children with disabilities and this experience has given us a deep understanding of both Federal law and New York State special education laws and regulations. We can help educate you about your rights and how the law affects your child. You can also rely on our special education attorneys for assistance in working with the school district to provide for your child’s education.
Federal Laws for Special Education
The most important law governing education of students with disabilities is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law guarantees children with disabilities the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which includes special education, related services and any necessary modifications and assistance the child needs to succeed in school. The core of this law is the process of creating and implementing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which lists in detail the goals and milestones for your child and the services (and placement) the school will provide to help him or her reach them.
Federal law also includes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504, which list requirements for accessibility and inclusion of students with disabilities in the activities they choose. KSLN supports families of children with disabilities in securing the services their children are entitled to under these laws.
New York State Laws for Special Education
New York State has passed additional laws to complement IDEA and other Federal regulations. The details are fairly complicated, but New York has generally made more services available than required by IDEA, including services for students with disabilities at private schools. New York Education Law provides for a system of dual enrollment in both private and public school programs. This law empowers students with disabilities to receive, from the school district in which the private school is located, an IEP and a FAPE to meet the student’s needs.
In New York State, your child's IEP is made by the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE). KSLN can accompany you to meetings with the CSE/CPSE and help you prepare to work with them.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the law requiring all public schools to accommodate learners with disabilities in accordance with their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Private schools, however, are not subject to the same requirements under IDEA, though they are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities under other laws.
This means that fewer legal options are available for parents of students with disabilities who are enrolled in private schools. However, for parents in some states, including New York, state laws provide parents and students with additional rights – including rights to a FAPE. KSLN will inform you of your options and act as advocates for you and your child.
Private School Disability Services and Accommodations
Despite the fact that private schools are not subject to the same strenuous disability requirements as public schools, many private learning institutions are even better equipped to engage and educate students with disabilities because of a specific interest in doing so. However, students with less obvious or previously undiagnosed disabilities may have trouble getting the assistance they need.
For example, a student who has always been enrolled in private school may realize in middle school or high school that he or she has a specific learning disability that causes the student to struggle in reading or math. This student may face the same problems as similarly affected public school students—being labeled "dumb," and low grades-but does not have the same legal options to ensure that he or she receives the same assistance and accommodations as a public school student. "Needs to read " This student may face the same problems as similarly affected public school students—being labeled "dumb," and achieving low grades—but does not have the same legal options to ensure that he or she receives the same assistance and accommodations as a public school student.
If you have a child in private school with a disability and you feel that his or her needs are not being met, the disabilities education lawyers of KSLN have years of experience in these matters. We can help you become an effective advocate for your child and educate you about your legal options.
Public School District Funding for Private School Placement
In many cases, IDEA may require your local public school district to pay some or all of the cost of your disabled student’s private school education. However, there are fairly strict limitations on when this funding is required. Generally, the school district is not required to cover private school costs when it has made a FAPE available to your child. If you, the school district, and your child’s IEP team all agree that a FAPE is not available in the district AND that a private program will appropriately serve your child, the district, can be responsible for the cost.
KSLN may be able to help you receive full or partial reimbursement if you can demonstrate at a hearing (or in court) that the school district did not offer or provide an adequate FAPE and that the private school program meets your child’s needs.
The term “unilateral placement” is used to describe a parental decision to remove a child with a disability from public school where he or she was receiving assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), place the child in a private school program and look for the school district to pay for the private placement. The local school district may be held responsible for reimbursing parents for the cost of private instruction in the case of a unilateral placement, if the parent can prove the private placement was the only way to ensure a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for your child.
Public Funding for Private Schooling of Students with Disabilities
To qualify for public school district funding for private education of a student with a disability, certain requirements must be met. Ideally, the decision to place a disabled student in private school should be the mutual decision of the parents, the school district, and the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. When all parties agree that the district cannot adequately provide the student with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the public school and that the private program will meet the student’s needs, the district is then responsible for paying for the private placement.
KSLN concentrates in providing legal services for families of students with disabilities. Our experience working with parents and educators enables us to effectively negotiate or mediate agreements such as private school placement decisions. We can accompany you to meetings and help you communicate with school district officials to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Possible Funding for Unilateral Placement
If you are not able to come to an agreement with the school district and wish to unilaterally place your student in a private school, KSLN may be able to help you secure reimbursement for the cost. In order to be reimbursed by the district, we represent you in hearings (and in court) to prove that the school district was not providing a FAPE to your child and that the private school program meets his or her needs.
However, there are some actions you must take under the IDEA, such as notifying the school district in writing at least 10 days in advance of the unilateral placement or declaring your intentions at your most recent IEP meeting, to avoid having your reimbursement denied or reduced. Therefore, it is important to consult with our disabilities education lawyers as early in the process as possible.