Clinicians who work with disabled children are often very willing to sit down with a family to discuss specific recommendations, not just for private therapies, but interventions that could be done during the school day. However, many of those recommendations are rejected or ignored at the IEP meeting. Often, the school district is not committing any legal wrong in doing so. This is a combination of two distinct legal factors.
The steps of an IEP meeting can be very complicated and confusing. The school officials have a form that they are trying to complete and you may not know what things belong on what sections of the IEP form.
One thing school staff are required to ask about are concerns of the student's parents. These concerns can range from implementation of the IEP to communication between parents and school to goals or service levels or needs or basically anything. But just because you mention something does not mean the school district has agreed with you or agreed to implement your preferred solution.
Occasionally, I see a client whose progress towards particular goals is not sufficient to meet those goals before the year term of the IEP. Frustrated parents want to know if this failure is enough to go to litigation, and are always disappointed when I explain it probably is not. Here’s why:
When evaluating the legality of an IEP, courts look at a snapshot at the moment the IEP is created. The judge essentially asks “What decision did the IEP team make incorrectly?” An IEP need only be “reasonably calculated” to provide educational benefit, and maximizing potential is never required.
From time to time, I see an IEP with goals repeated from a previous IEP. This always makes me very suspicious. Presumably, goals are repeated because they were not achieved in the previous school year. I've explained that the school district is not required to achieve the maximum amount of progress, but that doesn't mean the school district can sit on its hands. Repeating goals is the practical equivalent of repeating a class because the student did not learn the material the first time. This is a significant event, and should be treated that way.
Simply by putting a goal in the IEP, the
In addition to interventions like the Individual Education Program (IEP) and the Section 504 plan, the State of Georgia has created the Student Support Team process to try to help students struggling to achieve academic success.1 SST is a state law process, not part of your child’s federal rights. Nothing in federal law requires (or prohibits) the use of the SST process.
SST is implemented in three tiers. The first tier is basically the level of support provided to any student in the public schools. In the second tier, more intensive support is provided.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals1 recently issued an opinion in Phillip C. v. Jefferson County Board of Education affirming the important parental right known as the independent educational evaluation (“IEE”), stating:
[States] must reimburse parents for the cost of an IEE in order to ensure that parents can exercise their right to an independent expert opinion, which is an essential procedural safeguard. . . . The right to a publicly financed IEE guarantees meaningful participation throughout the development of the IEP.
School districts are always required to consider the opinions of
This week, I meant to write about the important legal concept known as "Least Restrictive Environment." But there is a lot of ground to cover about LRE, and I was much busier this week than I anticipated. Instead, I'm going to discuss a different provision of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act: 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3)(A). Colloquially known as the Childfind requirement, this provision states:
All children with disabilities residing in the State, including children with disabilities who are homeless children or are wards of the State and children with disabilities attending
A parent recently told me that the school district preferred a 504 plan over an IEP for her child with special needs. The parent asked me whether an IEP is better than a 504 plan. I said that, all else being equal, an IEP is better.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates creation of IEPs, is filled with procedural rights for parents. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which includes section 504, has far fewer procedural rights. For example, the school district must hold an IEP meeting every year and write a new IEP document - in practice, drawing on the previous IEP.
In theory, every child with special needs must be evaluated by an expert so that the school district will know the precise extent of the child’s needs and receive some guidance from the expert in effective strategies to educate the child. Like any medical intervention on your child, you generally must authorize the evaluation or it does not happen. In practice, the evaluation process can be very aggravating for parents. Here is some basic background on the legal issues in trying to get out of the evaluation process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
The school district is