Tia began working as an educator more than fifteen years ago. Having completed an undergraduate degree in English, she began her career with Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes®, treating weaknesses in reading and language comprehension. As an Executive Director and Workshop Presenter, she oversaw the program implementation in multiple sites, led coaching efforts for current and new staff, and taught school administrators, therapists, and parents how to implement the programs in their homes or schools.

Brock Tropea is a speech and language pathologist and clinical director of Stepping Stones Therapy and Learning Academy. He is also an outside consultant to various school districts within Orange County.



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.


Brenda earned her Bachelors Degree in Criminology, Law and Society in 1998 from UC Irvine, a Masters Degree, from UCI, in 2001 and advanced to candidacy for a Ph.D. in sociology in 2003. Brenda has taught at several Southern California colleges and universities between 2001 and 2009 and has been advocating for disabled students since 1998.

Dave is the founder and CEO of Sacramento Autistic Spectrum and Special Needs Alliance (SASSNA), a nonprofit organization in Sacramento, California that provides high-quality, comprehensive social services to mentally-diverse young people and their families in the Greater Sacramento region. Dave’s formal background is in applied behavior analysis and psychology.

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. 

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) calls for “Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)” that is tailored to an individual’s needs.

Yet what does that really mean from a legal perspective?  What are its limits?



A Beginner’s Guide to the IEP #1: Overview of the IEP

This is a summary of the first edition of CSNLG’s podcast Special Education Matters. In this podcast, our host Michael Boll and CSNLG lawyer Linaja Murray provide an overview of the Individualized Educational Program. The podcast can be found here.

What is an IEP?

  • IEP: Individualized Education Program. It’s an educational program that is specifically tailored for your child.
  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), only students who are entitled to special education will receive an IEP.
  • There are two types of IEPs.
  1. An initial IEP. The first request for special education
  2. An ongoing IEP. This is where the student already is receiving some form of special education.

How do I request an IEP for my child?

    • A request for an IEP can start with a parent, a school administrator, or a teacher. Really, anyone involved with the child or his/her education will often request an IEP.
  • An IEP starts with a referral for assessment. Each school district has a different system set in place on how to make this referral for assessment. Check with your child’s teacher for more information.
  • Parents can write a letter to the school district that describes the situation of their child and request an assessment.

What is an assessment?

An assessment, or educational evaluation, is how schools determine how your child is functioning.

There are various areas in which a student can be assessed, ex. psychoeducation evaluations, speech and language evaluations, social-emotional, Educationally Related Mental Health Services

Receiving an assessment for your child

  • At that point, the law requires the school district to provide this assessment once it has been requested.
  • The district has 15 days to give you an assessment plan after the request.
  • The parent then reviews that assessment plan, talks with the school if they think changes need to be made, and then provides consent to the plan.
  • The district has 60 days to complete the assessments and hold an IEP team meeting to discuss whether or not the child is eligible for special education related services.
  • Typically, if the issue includes the student’s slow progress academically, a psychoeducational evaluation should be included in their assessment. Unless it is a behavioral or emotional/mental health issue.

Using your school psychologist for an evaluation

A good school psychologist who does a psychoeducational evaluation will point out areas of deficit that weren’t included for further assessment.

  • They are a good resource in adding to a student’s evaluation.
  • Oftentimes for school psychologists, this is their first job, so they typically don’t go as deep as parents would like to benefit their student.
  • If don’t have a good school psychologist, there’s a lot of resources available online from evaluators, and that can give you a good place to start.

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


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-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.