You’re listening to Special Education Matters, a regular podcast about things that matter in special education. I’m your host, Michael boll, and I am the proud father of a 18 year old boy with autism. Hey, they’re ingredients to everyone. My name is Michael and I’m the Director of Operations at California Special Needs Law group, or as we typically call it CS lg, I’m here to introduce a special serious. We are running on our podcast, Special Education matters, or lead attorney, Richard isaacs, and others will be discussing the process and steps that happen when a parent asides to work with us. Some of this process is unique to working with csg, but a lot of the information you hear you can take with you and use in your own specific situation. For example, if you’re working with an advocate, I’m going to be here for the first show and Richard and others will join us for future stages. Deciding to work with a law firm can be a big step you might have, and you probably do have a lot of questions about how the entire process works.

 

This is the first stage in a multi stage discussion about all those sorts of things, and as you listen to this podcast and future ones, hopefully your questions will be answered. The first tag is deciding to work together. You have to decide if you wanna even work with a law firm to do that as best to have a conversation beside of working together is something that will help everybody. Here’s how it works for us here at csg. We ask you to fill out an intake form for your information that’s on our website at CSG com slash intake. We ask you a pretty detailed list of questions about your situation and about the situation for your son or daughter or guardian. That information is transferred to us and we work to set up a free consultation. This consolation does take a little bit of time during that time. We learn whether we can help you or whether we should direct you to help from somebody else. It helps us to get an understanding of the case and help share with you and what the next steps will be for a typical family. We try to get real information that you can use even if you don’t decide to work with us, for example, what the next steps might be and what the law says regarding your situation, we then, if you want, send an agreement to you. This agreement is called a retention agreement and it gets a specific description of the contract of what we offer along with the retention agreement are two additional forms. One is the authorization for representation, and the next one is the authorization to request records. The letter of representation is sent districts to let them know that you are being represented by a law firm, the records authorization letter. Let’s us request records from the district right away. We send both of those letters and districts have five business days in which to send back records that we request on your behalf as a father, myself to a son with autism, have a strong relationship with the school district and with the teachers is very important to me, going to a law firm isn’t something I would personally do lightly. It’s interesting to know though that districts are pretty used to representation, especially larger districts. Teachers, depending on their level of experience, might become a little bit stressed about it. So those are all things to consider before you decide whether or not to hire a law firm in our next show. We’re gonna talk about what happens once we get all the files we need to understand the situation and what role assessments play in that.

 

Thanks for listening to another diction of Special Education Matters for more information, including shows, head to our website, Cs in lcom, sasha, listen. And if you like what you hear, please consider giving us a review on itunes. Those reviews bring us lots of happiness. I’m your host, Michael boll, and we will talk again soon.

 

 

This is a summary of the third edition of CSNLG’s Beginner’s Guide to the IEP. In this podcast, host Michael Boll and CSNLG attorney/advocate Linaja Murray discuss what happens during the IEP meeting and what it feels like to be there. The podcast can be found here.

What is the atmosphere like?

  • The atmosphere is collaborative — the one purpose of the meeting is to identify the student’s strengths/deficits and how to address each area of concern.
  • You may be nervous or on edge at the beginning, which is totally normal, as a parent you are likely concerned for your child.

Who is there? What are their roles?

  • About 12 people will be present, this may include:
    • General education teacher.
    • Teachers who assist with your child, such as a special day class teacher and SAI teacher.
    • Assessors, such as the school psychologist
  • At a triennial IEP meeting, all assessors will be present
    • For some children, assessors may be an occupational therapist or a speech and language pathologist.

What should I bring to the IEP meeting?

  • Notebook to take notes.
  • A friend, family member, or someone else who supports you

Assessments should be provided to you in advance

  • Request these about ten days before the IEP meeting so you can familiarize yourself with them

What should I take away from the IEP meeting?

  • Copies of everything discussed

What is the difference between an annual IEP and a triennial IEP?

  • At the triennial IEP meeting there are a lot of assessments to go over such as the psychoeducational assessment.
  • This will also include ancillary assessments, such as speech and language, OT, visual, audio processing, or behavior assessments depending on your child’s specific needs.
  • At the annual IEP meeting, these assessments are not necessary — annual IEPs tend to be shorter, with much fewer people involved.

What does the process of the IEP meeting look like?

  • The IEP meeting is called.
  • A teacher or district representative will ask to do introductions where each person will give their name and title.
  • The meeting then starts; an agenda may be followed.
  • The strengths of the student will be shared.
  • The progress and goals of the student will be shared and whether goals have been met or not
  • Feedback from people in charge of those goals will be shared.
  • Parents can weigh in to discuss whether they believe goals have been met.
  • Services and accommodations (such as extra time during testing, preferential seating, behavioral aid) are discussed. This is when FAPE is brought up: special education and related services that your child should be receiving.
  • As a parent, you should get as much in writing as possible.
    • This process tends to be toward the end of the IEP meeting.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the IEP

 

 

This article is a summary of the podcast Special Education Matters: Understanding Your Case, with host Michael Boll and CSNLG lead attorney Richard Isaacs. The podcast can be found here. This conversation focuses on understanding your case and the steps that are taken once you’re involved with an attorney.

What happens after a family decides to work with CSNLG?

The next step is to complete a file review. We’ll request the complete file from the school district and any other important documents.

Everything is carefully looked over. This includes:

  • Assessments
  • Individualized education plan (IEP)
  • Goal/progress
  • Grades

Why this is done

  • This is done so we can find out who the student is and understand what might be missing in the file.
  • We may discover early legal issues: if the district has procedural violations, implementation issues, etc — these are things that can be leveraged later.

After the file review

  • This is when another conversation is held between families and us.
  • After reviewing the file, we have a better understanding of the situation. We can discuss and present solutions. For example, this might include calling for another IEP meeting, a district assessment, an outside assessment, and other long term goals.

When would it be appropriate to get an outside assessment?

  • There may be problems with the district’s assessment. It may be wrong or unsuitable.
  • Parents have the right to disagree with district assessments and request the district to fund an outside assessment (an Independent Educational Evaluation, or IEE). The district has only two choices when an IEE is requested. It can either fund the requested IEE or file for due process against the family to defend its assessment.

What happens if the school district says no and defends their assessment?

  • If a district decides to defend their assessment, they must file a due process complaint against the family to defend their assessment.

How long do assessments take?

  • The assessment process can take several months.
  • When the school district starts an assessment, they have 60 days to complete  and review that assessment at an IEP meeting. A privately funded independent assessment has no time restriction and as such, often  takes longer. In a best case scenario, it takes about 2-4 months.
  • If the District is funding the IEE this can delay the completion of the assessment by several months.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the Special Education Legal Process.

 

The IEP can be stressful at times. These five (plus one) tips will help you relax, prepare and feel good about your parental role before, during and after the IEP.  

In earlier podcasts in this series, we touched on some of the specific rights parents have with regard to an IEP. This show condenses all that information into one discussion so that you have a complete understanding of your rights surrounding an IEP. 

Michael Boll, father to a son with autism and CSNLG team member, talks with attorney Linaja Murray about what happens during the actual IEP meeting and what it feels like to be there.

Michael Boll, father to a son with autism and CSNLG team member, talks with attorney Linaja Murray about the IEP.  We cover a general overview of the IEP itself.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Special Education Legal Process #7: Going to a Hearing

This is a summary of the third edition of CSNLG’s podcast Special Education Matters. In this podcast, our host Michael Boll and lead attorney Richard Isaacs discuss the rare event of a due process hearing, and what families should expect going into this trial. The podcast can be found here.

Overview of the Due-Process Hearing

  • A Due Process Hearing happens after many attempts have been made between a school district and families to find a solution that both sides can agree on, but no resolution is reached.
  • The final step (outside of appeals)  that can be taken to get the district to provide the solution the family is after.
  • Happens very rarely. 94-97% of cases settle before it reaches a due process hearing.

What Does the Process Look Like?

  • Held at the school district. Sometimes in the same conference room that the mediation took place in.
  • There’ll be a table for the judge, a table for the witness, a table for the district, and a table for the family
  • IEPs and assessments are often submitted as evidence, in which case the assessor would be considered a witness for questioning.
  • The due process hearing is relatively informal and is an easy process to navigate for the most part. It should be thought of more as a question and answer session. While there are inevitably rules on how to enter evidence to take it under submission for the court, there’s still a lot of flexibility which make is much less formal than your typical civil hearing.

Cross-Examination

  • Cross-examinations can often get frustrating as district councils will often interrupt and object and make it more difficult for the witness and the family.
  • In spite of this, the ALJs are typically helpful in quieting that and making the process easier.
  • It’s important to remember that our objective is to get the facts and information out – we have nothing to hide. When the district continues to object, it’s usually when they’re afraid of that information getting out to the judge.
  • Students almost never testify as a witness.
  • Parents almost always testify. This isn’t too scary because the objective is really just to tell the story of your own child to the ALJ.

What’s the Time Span of the Hearing?

  • You should be able to present the entirety of your case in no more than three days.
  • The hearing starts at 9:00 – 9:30 in the morning, depending on the day of the week.
  • The hearing runs until 4:30 – 5:00, depending on when the last witness of that day is finished.
  • Some attorneys will try to drag a hearing out – we have to pay for experts, so wasting time makes it more expensive.

How Does the Hearing Conclude?

  • The decision doesn’t come at the end of the hearing; rather, the judge takes the case under submission with a written decision being prepared about 30 days after the trial is closed.
  • Documents are submitted to the judge as evidence.
  • It’s important to note that closing arguments aren’t made. The closing arguments are written. This allows everyone to take the time to look at the evidence and apply it to the law before submitting it to the court.
  • At the conclusion of the hearing, the case will remain open and the judge will give you a later due date to submit closing briefs.
  • After the closing briefs are submitted, the case is closed and new evidence can come in.
  • The court will then make a written decision usually in about 30 days after those closing briefs are submitted.
  • Unless the case is appealed, the case comes to a close at that point.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the Special Education Legal Process.

 

Michael Boll, father to a son with autism and CSNLG team member, talks with attorney Richard Isaacs about going to hearing. When all other efforts to find an agreement have failed, heading to a hearing is one of he final things for a family to do.

 

 

This article is a summary of show #6, Understanding the Mediation Process, from the podcast Special Education Matters, with host Michael Boll and CSNLG lead attorney Richard Isaacs. This podcast can be found here. This conversation focuses on mediation: what it is, what happens with it, what it feels like, and how a parent should respond when it is time to do the mediation.

What is mediation?

  • Mediation is an opportunity for the district administrator (in many cases the special-education director) to sit down with a family and negotiate in the presence of a mediator.
  • Typically, the mediator is an administrative law judge (ALJ).
  • Mediation usually takes place at the school district office.

When does it happen?

  • The parties involved will mutually agree upon a mediation date.
  • Mediation typically occurs shortly before hearing (30-60 days); it is often the last official opportunity to sit down with the school district prior to going to trial.

What is mediation like?

  • Mediation is low pressure. It happens at the school district office for the most part.
  • Usually mediation starts at 9:30 AM.
  • In the first half hour, the mediator explains the process and its benefits.
  • Sometimes the parties will meet together first to review where things are with the settlement, then they will be separated into different rooms.
  • The mediator will then go back and forth between the rooms, with offers and counter-offers between the parties.
  • Typically, a good mediator will encourage and push both parties to reach a settlement.
  • Mediation is a slow process, with many steps and does not always lead to settlement.

Should an attorney be involved?

  • The purpose of mediation is to reach a settlement agreement; an attorney is important as they need to look at the language of the settlement agreement in order to make sure that the family is protected.

Why is mediation effective?

  • If a case is not settled, nothing is guaranteed going into hearing.
  • In the case of mediation, if a settlement is reached you know what you are going to get in terms of placement, services, or reimbursement.
    • For example, if there is an agreement of reimbursement for services that amount is guaranteed.
    • If there is an agreement for additional speech or occupational therapy hours, those hours are guaranteed.
  • However, if no settlement occurs, the case moves toward hearing.
  • Hearing does not guarantee that the judge will rule in a family’s favor.
  • In mediation, resolutions can be creative. Services can be agreed upon that would never be granted by the court.
    • For example, while a Judge may  not order a district to pay for a specific private school, at mediation the parties may be able to agree on the school via a settlement agreement thus guaranteeing the student’s placement.  

Why might mediation be unsuccessful?

  • In many mediations, a finalized agreement is not reached. This does not necessarily mean mediation is not effective, as the discussions allow for increased understanding between parties and often will lead to an eventual settlement.
  • If mediation is not successful, a settlement is often reached shortly before hearing.
  • Mediation may also be unsuitable if there is a low quality mediator. Whereas excellent mediators will encourage parties to reach settlements, ineffective mediators will not necessarily push as hard.

Is mediation still a worthwhile effort?

  • Yes. Although mediation will not always lead to a settlement, it enables better understanding between parties.

This summary is part of our complete Beginner’s Guide to the Special Education Legal Process.