The Back Bone of Special Education

 Six Important Core Federal Rules Governing School Actions in Special Education 

These rules are also parent and child rights!

  • ZERO REJECT
    Kids have a right to be in school; suspension is a legal matter. If your special education child is suspended, there are specific guidelines for how often a school can suspend, as well as limits on the duration of suspensions. Too many suspensions and the school has functionally excluded the student from education, in violation of federal law. Zero reject means no student gets rejected because of a disability.
     
    If your child is informally sent home in addition to suspensions, your child is being functionally excluded from school. Functionally excluding a child from school is not legal and we have cases where children are functionally excluded from school every year. All children have the right to be in school and have a meaningful education.
  • NONDISCRIMINATORY EVALUATIONS
    Court cases have proved schools guilty of racial bias when identifying children with disabilities. Testing instruments must be designed to be culturally unbiased. However, bias is found in more ways than just culture. I have used the concept of bias in evaluations to get parents independent educational evaluations (IEEs). We had a case where a student was falling further and further behind in school and the school aruged that school failure was the result of low-ability. In other words, the student was not able to learn due to intellectual delay. The student's IQ dropped from 84 in first grade to 71 in fourth grade (Note that the legal IQ score allowed for using the label of Intellectual Delay (formerly known as mental retardation) is 70). I was able to use the state procedural safeguards unit to show that biased procedures in assessment (a failure to assess in all areas of suspected disability) denied the student a non-discriminatory evaluation. I was able to demonstrate that the real cause of both low achievement and falling IQ score was caused by a separate condition mentioned in the school's assessment but not fully assessed. As a result, the California Department of Education ordered the school district to provide an IEE for the student. Parents have a right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation, by a non-public school expert (Ph.D or Psy.D) at school expense, if they disagree with the school's assessment. Parents only need to write a written request for an IEE by stating: "I disagree with the school's assessment and I am requesting an IEE." Parents do not have to explain why they disagree with the school's assessment. It is important to note that school has two options in response to an IEE request: file due process to defend the school assessment or provide an IEE. 
  • APPROPRIATE AND INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION
    The education plan for a child must be based on that child's individual needs, not district funding problems. If the child is placed in a class that is not educationally or socially beneficial, the parent has the right to dispute the placement. Parents need to justify why the class is not beneficial in order to get a placement change. Furthermore, if the child is unable to initiate simple conversation  techniques on the playground, the child's IEP must provide interventions (and possibly playground support) that train the child to participate in the social curriculum within the school. The IEP should also provide reading and math remediation if the child is falling further and further behind in academic achievement. The IEP should be tailored to the child's individual unique needs in all curriculur areas.  

    Often schools do not take parent concerns seriously because parents are not credentialed professionals but the federal law doesn't discriminate when establishing rights. Parents are equal participants with educators within the IEP team. Parents have the right to disagree with the IEP and seek help in the dispute resolution process. If you believe your child's placement, services, accommodations or modifications are not appropriate, contact an advocate or attorney to get advice. 
  • LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT
    A student can not be separated from the main stream environment without first trying to educate the child with non-disabled peers. The least restrictive environment is a tricky issue because sometimes a student with a behavior problem could benefit from a short-term placement in a restricted non-public school setting, at public school expense. Parents and children have a right to procedural due process. If a parent does not agree with the school actions, the parent has several options. First, a parent can file a complaint with the state procedural safeguards unit at the state department of education. Procedural complaints must tell the story of what the school has done that violates procedural law. Parents can also file personnel complaints with the school bureaucracy. Parents can file a "uniform complaint," with the local school district, against any person working at the school and explain how the school employee violated a student's rights.  Parents can also file a due process hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings arguing that the school has not provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education to their child. Filing due process is a complicated process and no one should go to due process without the help of an expert and/or an attorney. If the parent files a legal case against the school and settles or wins at trial, the school must pay the attorney fees and other negotiated expenses.
  • PARENTAL PARTICIPATION
    Parents are equal decision making partners with school officials. Federal law says that parents are deemed the best advocate for the child because schools are predisposed to make educational decisions for a child based upon organizational budget concerns and not based upon the individual needs of the child. Therefore, parents are the best people to make sure schools act in accordance with federal law. 

Research shows that in practice, school officials treat parents as if they should be passive recipients of professional advice and do not adhere to the law. 

Parents must overcome intimidation from officials and resist the pressure to passively accept school offers when parents believe the IEP does not meet the unique needs of the child.  
  • PROHIBITION OF MANDATORY MEDICATION
    Your child does not have to take Ritalin or other drugs to attend school. No school can deny your child entry to school because you refuse to medicate your child with psychostimulant or other behavioral control drugs. Parents have the right to decide if psychostimulant medication is used to treat attention and behavior, not schools.