August 14

It’s 10 Day Letter Time!

If your child has an IEP and hasn’t been making either social emotional or academic progress – or both – you have the right to withdraw your child an enroll them in an appropriate private school. Note that it can’t just be any private school. It has to be a private school that has the learning supports and/or learning environment that were lacking in the public placement. You can seek reimbursement of the private school tuition, but you’ll have to prove three things:

1) your child’s program did not allow for progress;

2) the private school you’ve selected will allow your child to make progress, especially in their area of unique need; and

3) that you cooperated with the District by attending all meetings, sharing all reports and evaluations you may have obtained about your child and discussing them with the public school district and that you provided notice at least 10 BUSINESS days prior to withdrawing your child from public education and placing them in a private school. The notice is called the ’10 day letter.’

If your start date for the 2018-2019 school year is September 5, 2018, then the deadline is coming up. As always, my office is here to help.

July 11

IDEA Relief – What Can I Get?

Students who qualify for Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”) are entitled to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”) for THAT student. The special legal process used to secure the many different rights under this statute is called a due process hearing- also called an impartial hearing. This isn’t a law suit and the people who hear these disputes are called impartial hearing officers. The relief that parents generally seek includes:

1) Classification in the first instance and evaluations. These claims can be brought only after the parent has engaged in the process of asking their school to give their child an IEP or they have made written requests for evaluations, reevaluations or independent evaluations at public expense. The hearing process can also be used to challenge a school district’s threat to revoke a child’s IEP.

2) Private school tuition
If you can prove that your District didn’t provide a FAPE to your child, i.e. that your child didn’t progress, that the school you have chosen will allow your child to make progress, that you cooperated with your school and gave them timely written notice of your intent to place your child in a private school, then you might have a claim for tuition. Specialized schools are familiar with the process in the New York area often extend financial support, knowing that the parents will be using the impartial hearing process to get the tuition funded.

3) Compensatory education

Compensatory education awards ‘make up’ for services the school district should have supplied and the objective is to place the student in the position they would have occupied if they had received an appropriate education in the first place. Services awarded can include specialized tutoring, specialized therapies (OT, PT, speech), ABA instruction – sometimes in school, often outside of school by private providers. Summer program tuition might qualify in some instances and, in some cases, this relief can be awarded to students who are aging out because of high school graduation or because they are 21 and haven’t gradated from high school.

It’s important to work with someone who understands all of the possible legal claims and how to develop and present a factual record to support those claims. Attorney’s fees are reimbursable if you win, but fees to your experts or non-attorney parent advocates are not.

June 8

What Can I Do Now?

The school year is nearing a close and you’re concerned that your child hasn’t learned, or that your child is having difficulty meeting the demands of school or their independence hasn’t increased. What can you do now? You need to know your rights!

Ask for an evaluation

If you haven’t met with your school and no one has told you that your child qualifies to receive an IEP, write a letter to your school psychologist and principal describing your concerns and ask the school to perform a psycho-educational evaluation BEFORE the next school year.

If your child has an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”), but you think there are issues or deficits that haven’t been addressed this year, it’s possible that more detailed evaluation is needed. Write a letter to your school psychologist and principal detailing your concerns. The evaluation can be done over the summer.

All requests must be written. Send your letter in a way that creates a record of when your request was received by the District – by email or regular mail using “return receipt requested.” Keeping written records is absolutely crucial.

You might need to explore private schools or supplemental services outside of school; if your child has an IEP (or should have had an IEP) there are certain circumstances where you might qualify for tuition reimbursement from your school district or where you could use the legal process to make the District pay for the extra services you obtain outside of school.

April 4

Is Private School Always Better for IDEA Students? Parent, Beware!

As a special education lawyer in New York, I often help parents access their right to private school tuition reimbursement under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). So, do I support Betsy Devos’s ‘school choice’ agenda? Absolutely not. Let me explain.

Private does not mean better. A system that directs children with certain types of disabilities to certain private schools is problematic for several reasons:

  • It lets public school districts off the hook; there’s no motivation to accommodate and integrate all different kinds of students into the educational community.
  •  ‘School choice’ programs can promote exclusion of students with certain disabilities and this type of segregation is exactly what the IDEA sought to eliminate or discourage.
  •  Private schools on the voucher list aren’t necessarily appropriate for the child – and if it isn’t, then the parent and child are left empty handed.
  •  Charter schools frequently are unable to serve students with certain disabilities – I’ve seen that a lot here in New York.

The current IDEA system is better for classified students and their parents:

  • The IDEA requires public school districts to attempt to meet the needs of their students. This is especially important in areas where a variety of alternative private school options are not readily available.
  • The IDEA allows Parents to explore a variety of private schools to find the learning environment and specialized instruction tailored to their child’s need instead of being forced to accept a private school that might not really serve their child’s needs.

Ironically, a typical school district defense to an IDEA private school tuition reimbursement claim is that the school selected by the parent is overly restrictive. Districts that used to be determined keeping certain students out became determined to keeping them in. In my view, the ‘school choice’ agenda would allow public school districts to revert to an exclusionary agenda and not in a manner that serves students. So,  beware; private is not always better! Make sure that the school you select for YOUR child is a ‘fit’ and serves your child’s needs in a way that will allow YOUR child to be prepared for further education, employment and independent living. Of course this means that parents need to understand their children’s learning profile and the type of classroom that will serve their child’s needs – which means that the parents need to learn a thing or two about education.

NEWER OLDER 1 2 14 15