What you need to know about the law and your rights when seeking special education for your child.
If you have a child with a learning disability or special needs, when it comes to education, there are criteria that the school system is required to follow based on federal law. IDEA is a federal law that requires public school systems to provide a "free and appropriate public education" to all students. Schools are required, under Child Find Law, to identify children who are not performing up to their academic abilities and provide them with the necessary services needed.
Unfortunately, many school systems fail children miserably in this regard. While they claim lack of funding and resources, it is important to know that schools receive extra federal and state money for children with special needs. In my opinion and based on my research, the problem lies in the distribution, management and spending of the funding they receive.
As a parent of a special needs child, our family went through a four year Legal battle with the largest school system in our state and won. (See Legal case) The school system spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight us over a four year period, simply because they had the money and power to do so. This is a perfect example of when money, that could have been spent to provide services and resources for my son along with hundreds of other children, was instead used for Legal fees. The school system attempted to "out resource" and intimidate us in hopes that we would back down rather then spend the money to do the right thing and provide the services required by federal law.
We fought this battle not only for our son but for all families who have a child with special needs. We experienced the tactics of intimidation and non-truths they employed to decieve us and other families; we were unwilling to allow the blatant disregard for the law and the rights of our children to continue. The 28 'Golden Rules' Of Divorced Parenting
Changes were made within our school system as a result of our battle — but more change is needed. Unfortunately, problems continue to persist for many families seeking support from their school system. I just did a talk a few weeks ago for parents with chronically ill children. Listening to the stories of what they have endured from teachers and administrators was heartbreaking; there is still much work to be done.
In that vein, the first step is to educate parents about the law and the rights of their children. Schools often mislead parents about their rights or just don't inform them. I recently worked with a family who was told for two years, prior to coming to see me, that because of state laws their children were ineligible for services. This was a bold face lie. The school psychologist even said the same thing to me on the phone. When I mentioned IDEA she said, "we'll just have to agree to disagree." Within a week after that phone call, the family had an IEP meeting scheduled, which they had been requesting for two years!!!
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