Group Of Elementary School Pupils Sitting On Floor In Classroom

All children including those with disabilities have equal rights to a public education. Since the 1970’s, rights to public education were expanded to include equal rights to a free appropriate public education, affirming that separate education is not equal.  Unfortunately, special needs students are not always treated as they should be by their public school system. Many public school systems and their teachers, principals, and paras are not well-trained or trained at all in the needs and rights of students with disabilities.  This leaves Parents who are already facing the challenges of raising a child with a disability find themselves fighting to ensure their student’s equal access to the learning environment enjoyed by other families. If you believe that your child is not receiving an appropriate education by your public school system, daycare, preschool or college, Stanfield Bechtel Law’s special education attorneys can help you explore your options.

What To Know About the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA is a federal law that sets certain standards and rules concerning the education of children with disabilities. Under this law, disabled children are given the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE is a term that refers to educational services which:

  • Are provided to students at taxpayer expense and under public supervision
  • Are provided at zero cost to parents, not including ordinary expenses that all students pay
  • Meet the criteria established by an individual state’s department of education
  • Meet the unique needs of each disabled, eligible student
  • Are provided according to an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Are provided to students from their preschool through high school years

School programs must be designed to help special needs students make progress in the general education curriculum while also allowing them to meet educational challenges. These rights extend to participation in extracurricular and other school activities as well as the core academic programs. Where necessary to provide the student with FAPE, extended-year services must be made available.

What Is An Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

If you’re the parent of a disabled child, you have probably heard of an IEP. If you aren’t familiar with the term, think of it as an education plan that is specifically tailored to the exact needs of your child. It is a written plan developed for a special needs student that is created, reviewed, and modified at least once annually by a team of knowledgeable educators, parents, and others (including, sometimes, the student). The plan sets educational goals that will help the student make meaningful and measurable progress toward the demands of the general education curriculum. The plan is a result of meetings of the IEP team during which the student and goals are discussed and set. Parents are an invaluable part of the IEP team.

The parents and the student must be personally involved in the development of the IEP as well as revisions that are later made to it. Parents and their students often benefit from an advocate or attorney advocate present and/or involved in the development of the IEP.

Education With Other Children

Some parents worry about their special needs children being segregated from the general student population. But IDEA is clear that, “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled.” From this has emerged the concept of the Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE, which requires that:

  • Any decision to place a special needs student outside of a general education classroom must be justified by that child’s specific, disability-related needs and interests
  • Students be given when appropriate, meaningful access to peers of the same age who are not disabled
  • Schools must consider providing special educational services in integrated settings which include general education classes
  • Accommodations are to be made for the child’s involvement in art, music, physical education, after-school clubs, field trips, and extracurricular activities
  • A more restrictive placement should never be made on the basis of funding considerations
  • States have a wide array of placement options for meeting the needs of special education children

What Rights Do Parents Have?

To ensure that special needs children have their educational objectives met, parents are entitled to certain procedural safeguards such as:

  • The right to be notified, in writing, of IEP meetings
  • Prior notice whenever the school wants to change, or refuses to change, the child’s educational programming
  • The right to review and be given copies of the child’s educational records
  • The right to take various steps when they disagree with educators’ decisions, including mediation and a due process hearing

Other Laws That Protect Special Needs Children

Although IDEA is the primary federal law concerning the educational rights of special needs students, other state and federal laws also play a role. These include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (also known simply as Section 504)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Connecticut statutes

These laws can be complicated, and sometimes it is confusing which one applies to a specific situation. This is where the guidance of a skilled special needs education attorney is critical. We have experience with not only the unique challenges these students and their parents face in the educational system, but also with the substantive and procedural rights of students and how to successfully assert them.

How A Special Needs Education Attorney Can Help

Special needs education lawyers are focused on the child’s rights, the parent’s rights, and the school’s obligations. More specifically, we can help you understand the legal options parents have when their child’s educational needs are being neglected or refused. The schools have their own lawyers protecting their educators and other employees, which makes it critical for the parents to retain their own legal counsel.

Stanfield Bechtel Law can help if you are encountering such problems as:

  • Your child is not making meaningful academic progress
  • Your child is experiencing educational discrimination on the basis of his or her disability
  • Your child’s school is offering false, misleading, or confusing information about your or your child’s rights
  • Your child is getting into trouble at school or receiving discipline that may be linked with a disability
  • The school is attempting to justify sub-par education by referring to budget constraints
  • Educators and staff are not paying appropriate attention to your child’s educational needs
  • You are encountering procedural roadblocks and other bureaucratic obstacles
  • The school is not providing the student with the correct services for his or her disability
  • Special education services have been abruptly discontinued
  • You are having communication problems with the school and its employees
  • Your child is not being allowed education in the mainstream classroom with non-disabled students and is entitled to this
  • You are having difficulty working with your school in a cooperative way to develop a plan to address your child’s needs

Contact Our Connecticut Special Needs Education Attorney

At Stanfield Bechtel Law, we understand the hurdles that special needs students and their parents must deal with every day. That’s why we are committed to helping your child receive the education that he or she deserves under the law. Reach out to us today to learn more.