When you have a special needs child in the school system, there is always the potential for disagreement between you and your school district about how the needs of your child must be met and handled.
Because of the special education laws in our country, children with special needs must be accommodated for under the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA) and the Individualized Education Program (IEP). These two laws mean that the school system must take certain measures to make sure your child is in a situation where they’re able to get a quality education, which can often mean that certain changes and exceptions must be made on an individual basis.
If you feel like those accommodations and exceptions aren’t being made for your child, it might be time to get a third party involved who can fight for the rights of your child.
A special education attorney can help you in a variety of ways, from being a simple behind the scenes consultant, up to representing you in court. Regardless of what level of involvement you might need, a special education attorney will know the ins and outs of these laws, as well as the rights of you and your child, and the rights of the school district.
But what are some other reasons or scenarios where an attorney could help you?
Assuming a dispute or disagreement between you and your school district, here are a few places where you may need some help.
Dealing with complexity: The complexities and specifics that you might face as parents of a special needs child can be daunting, even on a good day. IDEA and IEP, like any laws, are complex in the rights that they afford to both you and the school district, and understanding those complexities can take a lot of time.
What an attorney can do for you is provide you with a “readers digest” version, since they’ve already studied and understood the law more fully than you would ever have time to do.
Dealing with a loaded-for-bear school district: If the school district that you disagree with brings their attorney into the picture, that might be your cue to do the same. Try not to worry about damaging your relationship with the district, as it’s already on thin ice if they have an attorney in the picture.
By making that move, they’ve lit the torch to start burning their side of the bridge, and when that happens, there’s no reason to leave yourself defenseless. At that point, your child’s rights take precedence over your relationship with the school.
If your case is strong: If you believe you have a strong case, and you’re confident about your own interpretation of the law, then hiring an attorney is more likely to pay off than if you’re unsure about your situation.
Often times special education attorneys will allow for a free consultation period where they can inform you as to whether or not you are on the right track. If so, hiring that attorney to represent you will be a much safer bet.
To save you time and energy: You probably already work a full time job and have a lot going on. The last thing you want to do is spend your evenings devoting time to reading the IDEA act and trying to filter the information given to you by the school district. If you don’t have the time to devote to that task, an attorney can do it in a more timely manner and can relay you the information, probably in a more clear way than you would be able to pick up on your own.
Making the Call
Hiring an attorney is a big decision, and there’s no easy answer as to when that’s right or necessary. However when you’re dealing with a special needs child and you’re paying taxes that fund the public school system, your child needs to be accommodated and taken care of.
A special education attorney will know exactly how to fight for your child, and make sure that they’re getting both a proper and lawful education.