Know Your Rights
How to Sue Your School
Over Special Needs Violations in Arkansas
When you are first contacted that your child may need special education services, many thoughts and fears will run through your head, but keeping yourself informed and knowledgeable about the law will ease your worries and protect your child. Under the IDEA act, there are certain regulations the school should be following to best serve your child. The IDEA Act is a protection for students with disabilities that allow them access to education, giving them access to an individualized education plan (IEP), that gives them support for their weaknesses in either academic or behavioral skills.
You won’t likely be advised of each of your IDEA rights by your school, instead they will hand you a book of dense writing about parental rights. This blog will cover what happens before your first meeting, who to expect at the meeting, and what to expect at the meeting. Having general knowledge of what to expect will give you the confidence to do what is best for your child while meeting with the teachers and staff of the school.
Before going to your IEP meeting, know this first; this should not be the first time you have heard that your child is having trouble in school. The school should have contacted you multiple times before this, and should have given the child opportunity to access any non-special education services that could have helped them. It is also important to know that you have a right to two weeks notice before ANY meeting (which you can waive if you choose).
When they do call you for a meeting, there are certain individuals that must be present at the meeting; the regular education teacher, special education teacher, SPED representative, and a person interpreting the instruction implication. A single person may fill multiple roles. The people serving these roles are usually;
- Your child’s general education teacher – if the gen-ed teacher is someone that doesn’t see your child everyday (such as the music teacher, or the librarian) that is a problem. While the school is within it’s rights to do that, you also have a right to request your child’s home-room teacher. Their homeroom teacher is going to have a much better idea of the nature of your child’s academic or behavioral issues as well as intimate knowledge of how they are performing on grade level standards. This does not require all of your child’s general education teachers (math, science, reading, etc.) only one of them.
- Also at this meeting will be a special education teacher, who may also act as the representative for the specially designed instruction.
- Next, a third party, (it should be YOU) – If you don’t show up, the school will have another member of the faculty sit in for the meeting. In order for the school to have a meeting without you, the school MUST have given you at least two weeks notice of the location, time, and date of the meeting so that you have ample time to make arrangements to be at the meeting. It is a violation of your child’s rights to schedule a meeting without proper notice. The school should work with you if you have a reasonable request for the date or time to be moved. Your school should WANT you at this meeting.
- There may be other school members at this meeting, but there must be at least three to form a committee. The school may ask you to sign paperwork excusing a person invited to the meeting and therefore not a member of the IEP team, however it is up to you whether to excuse them or not.
The school should tell you why your child needs to be tested for special education, with reasoning why the child may have special education needs, backed by data of some sort. For example, reading fluency scores, classroom tests, observations of behavior in classroom — DATA. If the school cannot back up their claims with some kind of data, then there might be cause for concern. Your child should not be placed, or even tested, for special education on hearsay alone. The school should provide concrete data on why they wish to test your child.
After this discussion, they will ask you to sign paperwork that gives them your permission to test your child for a potential disability that will qualify them under IDEA for special education resources. That is ALL that should happen at this meeting. The school will then have 60 days (calendar days, NOT business days; this will include holidays and weekends) to test your child to see if they qualify for special education and then return to you with the results of their testing. At that point the school will schedule a second meeting to determine if your child qualifies for special education resources, and what those services should be.
If the school did not follow these procedures your child’s rights may have been violated, and you can sue them for a significant amount of money damages.
In a follow-up blog regarding the second meeting we will discuss who to expect, what to expect, and what will be expected of you.
This posting is only discussing the law generally and its relevance to Arkansans.
- This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always speak with one of our Fayetteville, Arkansas attorneys before relying on anything. If you are in need of special education legal counseling, please call 479-782-1125 for a consultation.