It's that time again! For parents of children with special needs, “back to school” means the start of a new IEP advocacy year. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
"Back to School" Supplies
(1) New spiral book. Get a new spiral notebook to document incidents concerning your child at home and at school, and conversations with the school and professionals. Start by documenting how your child did over the summer, which is important if you plan to ask for an Extended School Year. Keep this book handy (in the kitchen, for example).
(2) New very large folderr. Get a folder in which you can toss ALL school work and notes your child brings home for that year. This can be very important for you to evaluate and monitor and document the child’s progress during that year, and from year to year.
(3) New loose-leaf book. Use this to file IEPs, the latest Parental Rights book from your state Department of Education, notices, emails, official reports to and from school and doctors/therapists. Remember that your requests to the Child Study Team MUST be in writing in order to initiate certain procedural protections.
Update the School Nurse. You may want to disclose medication status and changes.
Educate the New Staff. Initiate friendly contact with your child’s new teacher, aide and therapists to describe how to best handle your child.
Monitor. Watch your child's progress on a regular, periodic basis. Report your concerns early to the teacher and your Child Study Team Case Manager. Don't assume your child is making progress during the year. And, don’t wait until the annual IEP meeting to find out.
Check up by Private Specialists Have your your child periodically examined/treated by your own team of therapists and specialists. If you have concerns about the upcoming school year, it is helpful to get a “baseline” picture of your child at the start of the year.
Catch up on new legal developments in special education
Overall, it's been a good year. Here are a few recent noteworthy cases and legal developments.
Forest Grove School District v. T. A. (U.S. 2009) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) authorized reimbursement to parents for the cost of private special education school when a school district fails to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education services through the public school. In this case, the District had evaluated the child but found him not eligible for special education services, and the parents unilaterally placed the child in a private school. Most notably, the Court noted that the IDEA review process is “inadequate to ensure that a school’s failure to provide a FAPE is remedied with the speed necessary to avoid a detriment to the child’s education” and also that IDEA may be interpreted “permissively” to allow reimbursement awards.
Arlington v. Murphy. In June, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court held that parents can not recover the cost of experts who testify in due process hearings even if they prevail. However, in July 2009, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 2740, was introduced to make it mandatory for districts to reimburse prevailing parents for expert fees in due process and further proceedings.
Henrico School Board v. R.T. In June 2006, the Eastern District of Virginia issued a favorable decision regarding tuition reimbursement to parents for placing their autistic son into private school based on the school district’s knowing and repeated failure to provide an appropriate education. The Court criticized the School District for “inertia” and found the District’s attempt to avoid tuition reimbursement as “unconscionable.”
Schaffer v. Weast. In November 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the burden of proof is on the party bringing the litigation, but declined to address that a state could, by statute, place the burden exclusively on the school district. Since at least one state has already passed legislation to make this so, check your current state laws.
FGuidance on FAPE: IEP Goals Must Be Aligned with Grade Level State Academic Content Standards - If a child is performing below grade level, s/he needs to receive specialized instruction; IEP team needs to develop annual goals to "close the gap." (Policy Guidance from OSERS, November 2015)
Guidance on Educating Students with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia - federal education agency issued guidance affirming that schools need to address the "unique educational needs of children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia" and the legal requirements for ensuring that these students receive a "high-quality education." (November 2015)
The content herein is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as or acted upon legal advice.
Last revised: 08/18/2016
Copyright © 1998-2017, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr
Wright. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1998-2017, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved.