Steps to Take Before Calling A Lawyer (From Hope4Families)
Hope4Families is a non-profit law firm specializing in special education rights. They offer free legal services to families and students whose education rights are being violated. They have put together this handy document on steps you can take to have your child’s needs addressed before deciding to bring in a lawyer.
- Notice what behaviors you are concerned about.
What is causing you to think that your child’s education needs are not being met. Do not doubt yourself. Take a while and write down what you have been noticing. As soon as you have any reason to think your child might need specialized services from the school start keeping a folder with all of his/her report cards, some assignments, any letters home, any notes about his/ her behavior. For more about this look at our Binder of Truth article.
Is it learning problems? Is your child behind where he/she should be in her school work? Is he/ she not reading at grade level? Does he/she just keep failing at math, no matter how much work goes into it? Is your child so frustrated with learning that he/ she resists doing any work?
Is it behavior problems? Maybe your child is fighting a lot, cannot control his or her anger, does not seem to know how to talk and connect with other people, or is just acting in ways that do not seem average for a child of his/her age.
Now normal is hard to determine. Every child is unique and that is what makes our children wonderful. If something your child is doing is really getting in the way of his/ her ability to learn or thrive at school there could be services available to help them.
- Sit down and talk to your child’s teacher, a school counselor, a vice-principal, or a principal.
Most people who go into education do it because they love children, they love education, and they want to see youth succeed. Treat the school faculty and staff as friends and allies first. Voice your concerns about your child.
- Ask to have your child assessed.
You can ask your child’s teacher or school counselor to have your child assessed. Be open and honest about some of your reasons that you may want your child to go through some tests because when it comes to assessments the more information the better. At the same time, every parent has the right to have their child assess. You do not have to have a list of evidence that your child needs to be assessed. You do not have to justify anything.
If the school refuses to have your child assessed or says they will but it has been a month, you have reminded them multiple times, and nothing has happened, it is time to call a lawyer.
- Ask about the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Maybe your child has been diagnosed with a learning or physical disability or a mental disorder. It could be ADD, ADHD, Opposition Defiant Disorder, Dyslexia, or a range of other things. If your child does not have an IEP make sure the school knows about the diagnosis and you have a letter from a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or any type of therapist that documents the diagnosis. As soon as they see this, the school should be contacting you within the next two weeks to schedule and IEP meeting.
If you child already has an IEP but it just seems like they are not making the progress they are supposed to be making then speak up. You can be kind, respectful, and assertive. Request an IEP meeting or if one is already coming up then use that as your opportunity to speak about what specific things you do not see your child achieving. Let the school faculty and staff know what has not changed and how it has not changed.
If the school neither schedules and IEP meeting nor asks to have their own assessments done to figure out what services your child needs then it is time to call a lawyer.
If you have voiced your concerns about the IEP and there are not changes to the IEP that address your concerns do not sign the IEP. Keep the IEP, without your signature on it, and call a lawyer.
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