What is special education law?
Special education law is a branch of educational law that deals with the rights of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate education. This includes the right to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and access to related services, such as special education, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
What does special education law guarantee?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that governs special education. IDEA guarantees certain rights to students with disabilities and their families. These rights include:
The right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment
The right to an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
The right to receive related services, such as special education, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
IDEA requires that schools make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. This means that every child with a disability has the right to a public education that is tailored to his or her individual needs and that is provided in the least restrictive setting possible. In general, this means that students should be educated in regular classrooms with their non-disabled peers, with supports and services as necessary to ensure their success.
What is an IEP?
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are required for all students with disabilities who receive special education services. A child’s IEP is developed by a team of educators, parents, and other professionals who know the student and understand his or her unique needs to ensure that the child’s rights are respected by their school district and school educators. The IEP outlines the student’s strengths and weaknesses, present levels of educational performance, annual goals, short-term instructional objectives, special education services and supports that will be provided to the student, and specific accommodations that will be made for the student in the classroom and/or school.
The IEP team meets at least once per year to review the student’s progress and revise the IEP as necessary. Parents are an essential part of the IEP meeting team and play a vital role in advocating for their child’s educational rights.
If you have any questions about your child’s IEP or special education services, you should contact your child’s school or district special education administrator.
If your child has been diagnosed with a disability and you think he or she may need to be a part of the special education process, you should contact your child’s school to request an evaluation.
When do you need a lawyer to protect your child's special education?
If you are thinking about hiring a lawyer to help you with your child’s special education, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, it is important to understand that not all lawyers are created equal when it comes to handling special education cases. While any licensed attorney can technically represent you in an administrative or due process hearing, it is always best to hire an attorney who specializes in representing parents of children with disabilities.
Second, even if you do hire an experienced special education attorney to represent parents who are advocating for their child, there are some things that only the parents can do. For example, no one knows your child better than you do. As such, you are in the best position to advocate for your child’s needs and ensure that his or her rights are protected.
Third, while parents are ultimately responsible for their child’s education, they should not have to go through the process alone. There are a number of organizations and resources that can help parents navigate the special education system and advocate for their child’s rights. Some of these organizations include the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network in New Jersey, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). These organizations can provide parents with information, support, and resources that they may need to effectively advocate for their child.
Fourth, it is important for parents to be aware of their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a federal law that guarantees all children with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Parents should familiarize themselves with the IDEA and know their rights under the law.
Fifth, parents should also be aware of their state’s laws and regulations regarding special education. Each state has its own set of laws and regulations governing special education services. Parents should be familiar with their state’s laws and regulations so that they can be better prepared to advocate for their child’s rights.
Sixth, it is important for parents to keep records with a detailed description of their child’s educational progress and special needs. Parents should keep track of their child’s IEP goals, progress reports, evaluations, and any other important information related to their child’s education. These records will be important if parents need to advocate for their child’s rights or access to services.
Tina James, Special Education Attorney
Advocating for your child’s education can feel like an uphill battle. Our firm is well-versed in state and federal special education law and stand ready to empower parents to obtain a free and appropriate public education for their child. We can help parents navigate the process for screening and evaluations, eligibility for services, obtaining an appropriate individualized education program (IEP), and appropriate placements. We can also assist with dispute resolution, such as mediation and due process petitions. If you are a parent and need assistance with obtaining special education supports and services for your child, please contact us to help.