An evaluation is where it all starts. Evaluations assess intelligence, attention and memory, emotional and personality factors, behavior, organization, judgment, planning and efficiency at producing work.*
An evaluation may be requested either by the parent or the school district. This is called a ‘referral.’ After the school has evaluated a child, the parent has the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense by an evaluator of their choice. 20 U.S.C. §1414(a),(b); 20 U.S.C. §1415. Failing grades or below grade level performance is not the sole criteria for IDEA or special education protection. Often, the ability to function in school and in society are greater concerns. A good evaluation will describe the modifications, supports and services that your child needs to make progress.
School districts often try to get parents to agree to a “504 plan” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are times when this type of plan will suffice to help a struggling child with Section 504. New York statutes, however are not as broad as the IDEA. For example, Section 504 does not give the family the right an independent evaluation at public expense.
Your child might need additional, specialized tests evaluate disabilities in other areas, such as reading, receptive and expressive language skills, dexterity, behavior or the need for assistive technology. School districts often fail to evaluate in these discrete areas. We can guide you through the process to assert your right to complete evaluations. Getting the right evaluations is important to securing the special education services your child needs.
These are the classifications under the IDEA for special education: “… intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance …, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities” . ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and other conditions are recognized as disabilities under the IDEA. Classification under the IDEA gives students and their parents a package of rights and holds school districts accountable.
School districts often try to get parents to agree to a “504 plan” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. An evaluation is still necessary, but 504 students must have a condition that “interferes with a major life activity,” such as “hearing, speaking, working and learning.” 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i). Sometimes a 504 plan is enough, but the package of rights is not as extensive as the rights conferred by the IDEA.
Individualized educational program (IEP), formulation, sufficiency and implementation
Once classified as eligible for protection under the IDEA, the child is eligible for an IEP. The program is formulated at a meeting between the parents and certain school district personnel and written into an IEP document. IEPs specify the type of class in which your child will be placed, any related services that will be provided, annual goals, reporting periods and accommodations. You do not have to attend the meeting alone, and Schinagle Law collaborates with qualified non-attorney advocates in New York to strategize for the meeting.
You don’t have to agree with or accept the IEP, but you do need to cooperate with your district and consider the placements and services they offer.
If you are dissatisfied with the district’s proposals, we can help you challenge the IEP and, in certain cases, either get payment for services from outside, independent providers or private schools for New York tuition reimbursement.