December 29

Signs it’s Time to Look for a Specialized Private School and Seek Tuition Reimbursement

These are some signs a that a school isn’t working for your child:

  1. An early elementary school child with the capacity to learn has difficulty reading or doing math – especially if the child has been getting support in school and still struggles
  2. A child approaching middle school is totally disorganized, forgetful or has difficulty following multi-step instructions
  3. A child tries to leave the classroom, doesn’t know how to behave in a class or has no friends
  4. A child of any age becomes reluctant to go to school (called school avoidance), engages in self-harm, suddenly changes their group of friends and drops out of activities they used to enjoy
  5. A child of any age whose behaviors become worse or whose abilities decline.

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to recognize these, and other, signs and evaluate a child. You can ask for an evaluation in writing whether your child has an IEP or not. You’ll need an evaluation to understand your child’s needs and for admission to a specialized private school. Children with IEPs must be evaluated at least every 3 years or as needed (but not more than once a year).

If your child is exhibiting these problems or has other signs of regression, you have the legal right to enroll the child in a private school that will address the child’s problems and demand that the public school district pay the tuition. The specialized private schools in the New York metropolitan area are familiar with the process. Speak with admissions about finances and don’t let the tuition price scare you off.

Mid-year (like, NOW) is a good time to look for a specialized private school in the New York metropolitan area. There are many fine specialized private schools for all different kinds of children in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Westchester, Southern Connecticut and Long Island, but spots fill up by early spring. Having a special education lawyer on your team at the start of your search is important; we’ll be able to tell you what you need and speak with admissions about the strength of your case. Because the IDEA awards attorney fees to the prevailing party, I (and many of my colleagues) work on a sliding scale .

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.

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