I recently read an article by an educational psychologist frustrated with the reality that if she robbed a 7-11, would she get an attorney at taxpayer expense if she could not afford one herself, but parents who are at odds with the school district get no free help from an attorney.
In fact, the school district’s attorneys are paid by taxpayer dollars, essentially meaning that parents are funding the attorneys on the other side of the table.
This educational psychologist is correct, this is not fair, but it’s a reality of the special education litigation system. If your child is not receiving the proper special education assessments, services, accommodations, IEP goals…if your child is being denied a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)…Then you, parent, need to act to correct this on behalf of your child. Litigation is costly and, as said, the district has tax-payer funding behind their legal team.
Here are the 4 ways.
First: Make sure you get involved in every step of the IEP process, from assessment through IEP meetings. Parent participation in the IEP meetings is the key to making sure your child’s IEP is not missing something that’s important to their success.
Second: Keep every record and do everything in writing. The more documentation you have on your side, the more likely you are to get good results.
Third: Keep emotion out of it. I get it, this is your child, and these people at the school are infuriating and you want to say mean things to them. Don’t do that! If you make this emotional, you won’t get what you want and likely labeled the crazy parent that no one wants to handle.
Remember the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey,” and abide by those words. That said, this is an emotional situation, and nearly impossible to set all emotion aside.
If you find you get to a point where you cannot keep your emotions at bay, hire an attorney to advocate simply for you in the IEP process. It’s much less costly than litigation but can often get the results you want. A lot can get accomplished through letter-writing and meetings.
Fourth: Be patient. Parents you are the only ones knowledgeable about every detail involving your child. School personnel and teachers move on a much slower timeline than you would like. If you patiently keep records, tests, assessments, and show the school you are right, they should come around.
Sometimes they do not, and that’s the time to hire an attorney to either advocate or litigate. The best thing that can happen when you enter an attorney’s office is to show them how patient you have been and how much you have documented, and this will only serve to bolster your case.
If you are in need of a special education advocate, please email or call us at (303) 837-9284.
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