Special Education

The U.S. Supreme Court Establishes a Stronger Standard

The issue that has bedeviled parents, students, school districts, and courts since the passage of the IDEA in 1975—what constitutes a sufficient “educational benefit” under the IDEA, or how much educational benefit does the district have to provide to meet its legal mandate to provide a child with a disability an “appropriate” education.

The U.S. Supreme Court first addressed this issue in 1982 in the Rowley case.  Amy Rowley was in kindergarten, was doing well, but needed a sign language interpreter to access communication in the classroom.  Because she was doing well academically – not difficult at the kindergarten level, the Supreme Court ruled against her concluding that under the IDEA a school district need only  “open the door of public education to handicapped children”  rather than guarantee any particular level of education once inside.”

When the IDEA was re-authorized in 2007, Congress appeared to expand the Rowley standard of educational benefit, noting that implementation of the IDEA was “impeded by low expectations” and that children with disabilities are entitled to “high expectations” and, “to the maximum extent possible,” to meet the challenging expectations that are established for all children.  Other, lower courts have either agreed with Rowley or expanded – educational benefit is measured against the child’s abilities.

On March 22, 2017, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the U.S. Supreme Court in an unanimous decision ruled that an autistic child who had moved from grade to grade but appeared to have made questionable, actual progress was entitled to an education that provided only de minimis progress.

The key findings by the Supreme Court:  1) a child’s IEP/program must be “appropriately ambitious” and “calculated to allow a child to make progress appropriate in light […]

Special Education Blog – What Happens When School Districts Make a Decision about Your Child before the IEP Meeting?

Have you been to an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting where it seems that the important decisions about your child’s program have already been decided by the school and before the meeting?  If so this is against the law and good educational practice.

The IDEA – federal special education law which applies to all states – requires that all IEP decisions – whether eligibility, goals and objectives, related services or placements – must be made at the IEP meeting, must represent a consensus of all members and cannot have been “pre-determined” by the school.

If the school has “pre-determined” any portion of the IEP they have taken away your legal right to be a co-equal member of the team.  They are making a unilateral decision which violates the law.

What constitutes “pre-determination?”  It does not mean that an IEP team member can’t come in with thoughts about what he or she thinks is right or that the school cannot pre draft goals and objectives.  What it does mean is that each member must come with an open mind and must not have already made up his or her mind.  The line between an open mind, a pre IEP meeting thought and pre-determination can be a thin one.  Look for statements that suggest a decision is already formulated, e.g., “we don’t provide that in our district” or that the speaker is clearly not open or flexible, e.g., “I reviewed the assessments before the meeting and concluded your daughter does not need that service.”  And it may just be an over-all sense that the discussion is perfunctory and not a true give and take about the IEP items.

If the school has “predetermined” then if you were to […]

By |November 12th, 2015|IEP, Special Education|0 Comments

Special Education Blog – Advocating for a Special Needs Child

It has been my experience that when a parent first becomes aware that his child has a disability of any type there is a grieving process that must take place.  This is an emotional time and no two people experience loss in the same manner.  It is important to allow yourself that time, if possible, prior to leaping into the advocate role.  You may have a long road ahead in advancing the needs of your child and you need to be emotionally sturdy before you head down this path.

 

  • Take your time
  • Build a network
  • Know you are not alone
  • Acquire knowledge
  • Be a good record keeper
  • Put things in writing
  • Read an email twice before pushing “send”

 

Build your foundation for what services your child needs to access his education through educators, testing, professionals, and current literature and be prepared to support your IEP requests through these foundational pieces.

Draft an outline as to what you believe your child needs, and where support for that need can be found.  Pretend you are the superintendent and can do anything you want – create a specific and comprehensive program for your child.  This does not mean your child will have this entire program, but you must start as high as possible, knowing that usually one may not secure everything.   Having this information at your fingertips will be helpful in future meetings.

Whether you are headed to your first or your final IEP meeting and whether you feel as though the school district has been completely supportive or diabolical, try to maintain a professional and personable affect. Being confrontational and accusatory does not typically produce the result you desire, or may come at a difficult cost. You likely have to continue to work with these professionals […]