4 Reasons Why Inconsistent State Special Education Laws May Be Harming Your Child’s Education!

4 Reasons why inconsistent State Special Education Laws may be Harming Your Child’s Education! By JoAnn Collins Key words: Autism, PDD, Asperger’s, IDEA 2004, specific learning disability, SLD, IEE’s at public expense, FAPE
Are you the parent of a child with Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or Asperger’s that is having a dispute with your school district? Are you concerned about your States special education laws, and whether they are in compliance with IDEA 2004 (federal special education law)? Many states seem to have special education laws that are inconsistent with federal special education laws. This article will discuss why these inconsistent State laws may be harming your child’s education.

1. Some school districts are using State laws to deny children eligibility for special education. For example: In Maine the State laws require that children suspected of having a specific learning disability (SLD) must score 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in two or more areas of psychological processing, but cannot be more than 1.5 standard deviations below the mean (mean is average). In OSEP policy letter to Hugo OSEP states that this is inconsistent with federal special education law because it may result in children with SLD not being properly identified. A child not receiving needed special education and related services could negatively affect the child’s education and future adult life!

2. Some school districts are using State laws to deny children needed ESY services. For example: In New York their State laws say that in order for a child to be provided ESY services they must have substantial regression (with a long recoupment period). They also state that a child needs to be in self-contained placements, have severe multiple disabilities, or be in home and hospital placement. This is inconsistent with IDEA 2004 which states that ESY services must be determined on an individual basis, and given if a child needs the services so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

3. Some school districts are preventing parents from “obtaining” IEE’s at public expense by using State laws requiring “pre-notification” or “requesting” of the IEE. IDEA 2004 (federal special education law) states that parents have the right to “obtain” an IEE at public expense when they disagree with a school evaluation. Some States laws are taking out the word “obtain” and putting in the words “request” or “pre-notify.” For Example: In my State of Illinois the regulations state that parents “must request” an IEE at public expense rather than parents “have the right to obtain” the evaluation. This may prevent you from determining what your child’s disabilities are and what services your child needs for FAPE

4. Some school districts are using State laws to deny parents “meaningful participation” in all aspects of their child’s education. For example: In Maine their State law requires parents to submit written statements of concern at least three days before a scheduled IEP meeting. In OSEP policy letter to Breton OSEP states, “However, the IDEA does not permit a public agency to establish criteria for parental participation in an IEP meeting. Therefore, we maintain that it would be inconsistent with… IDEA for a local educational agency to adopt a blanket policy requiring parents to provide a written copy of their concerns to the IEP team three days before the meeting in order to have their concerns addressed in that meeting.”

Use this information in your advocacy to ensure that your school; district is in compliance not only with State law, but also with Federal law.

Special Education Law – Overview

Many of us, who went to school not that long ago, remember that being a special needs student meant riding to school in a separate bus and attending one class with other children of varying disabilities. These classes resembled more of a day care than school, and even the most advanced students had little hope of receiving a high school diploma, let alone attend college. Since that time, the term disability, and special needs student, has expanded to encompass much more than a person with an IQ below a certain arbitrary standard. What I have attempted to do in my first article is to give a little history of the evolution of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) which found that segregated schools were a violation of equal protection rights. It would be another twenty years before this concept was applied to children with handicaps, especially learning disabilities, trying to receive an education. In fact, shortly after Brown was decided the Illinois Supreme Court found that compulsory education did not apply to mentally impaired students, and as late as 1969, it was a crime to try to enroll a handicapped child in a public school if that child had ever been excluded.

Due to court challenges in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in the early 1970’s things started to change. In 1975 Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. This was the first law that mandated that all handicapped students had a right to an education. Not only did it mandate that all handicapped students had a right to an education, it also mandated that local educational agencies could be held accountable for not doing so. Shortly thereafter, the term handicapped was replaced with “child with a disability”. Although revised in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the most comprehensive changes came in 1997. This law required schools to identify children with disabilities to make sure that all children have available a “free appropriate public education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living” 20 U.S.C. ยง 1401 (d). Unfortunately, the most recent changes in 2004 made the law slightly more difficult to receive the benefits they deserve, which, depending upon the next administration and the make up of Congress may or may not be a trend that will be followed in the future.

Exactly what is a “free appropriate public education”? Under the law, it is defined as “special education and related services that (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge: (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary or secondary school education in the State involved; and (D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under [the law].” In other words, the school must provide services that meet the needs of a child with a disability that may affect their ability to learn. These “related services” can be services that are provided in the classroom, such as giving the child extra time to finish taking tests. They can also encompass services that can be provided outside of the classroom, such as tutoring, or having the child attend either a day or residential program outside of the school, along with transportation.

For the historical data, I relied on Wrightslaw: Special Education Law by Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright and Special Education Law in Massachusetts by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education.

Education Law – What You Need to Know

If you’re involved in any aspect of education, from teaching to recruitment, then you’ll need to be aware of education law, and the areas it covers.

1. Education establishments are just accountable as other organisations, and need to adhere to rules and guidelines in the same way.

2. You’ll need to make sure that your school, college, university or other educational establishment complies with all the relevant laws and government policies. Having an education law expert to help you will make a big difference, and can ensure that you’re not acting illegally.

3. You’re probably used to dealing with suppliers for everything from catering and stationery to IT and the maintenance of the grounds. Are you using a specialist in education law to make sure that the contracts art legal, and that you’re getting the best deals and service?

4. Pupil discipline is becoming more of an issue in many schools. Although to may be tempting to introduce your own forms of punishment, you’ll need to make sure that you stay well within the law, to avoid possible disciplinary action yourself.

5. Some schools, colleges and universities receive charitable donations or funding. You’ll need to make sure that all the paperwork is in order that everything complies with the relevant charity laws.

6. If you’re involved in estate management for as school or college, then your job could entail buying or selling land, and hiring contractors. You’ll want to make sure that you get the best deals and service, and that agreements are adhered to minimize disruption to all concerned.

7. Although you work in education, construction, planning and environmental laws still apply. If you’re considering expanding your premises, or building new departments or adding additional facilities, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got the relevant planning permission and your plans don’t fall foul of any laws.

8. Employment law still applies, so you’ll want to make sure that there are no issues regarding bullying or harassment at work, or discrimination on any grounds. You’ll need to make sure that you’re up to date with all relevant guidelines and changes, so that you’re not acting illegally.

9. Your recruitment process will also be subjected to the same sort of laws as other industries. You might need to carry out additional checks too, so an education law expert can prove invaluable.

10. Health and Safety both at school, and on educational trips, is often mentioned in the media. No matter whether you think the rules and regulations are too strict, you still have to comply with them in order to protect your pupils and staff.

Now you know more about it, perhaps now is the time for an Education Law Expert to help you.