6 Things You Need to Know About State Special Education Laws That Will Empower Your Advocacy!

Are you the parents of a child with Autism or other type of disability who receives special education services? Are you currently having a dispute with your school district related to your child’s education? Would you like to learn about State special education laws and regulations to use in your advocacy? This article is for you and will be discussing these laws,and information that you need to know to empower your advocacy!

1. Every state is required by IDEA 2004 (federal special education law) to have laws and regulations that will show how they will be complying with the law.

2. State regulations cannot “establish provisions that reduce parent’s rights or are otherwise in conflict with the requirements of IDEA and Federal Regulations.” Federal law “trumps” or is stronger than State law. State law can give a parent more rights but cannot take away rights.

3. Many States laws are not consistent with federal laws.

4. Some states have been told that they must change their state regulations to be consistent with federal law. For example: New Jersey stated in their regulations that school districts had the right to test a child in an area that they did not previously test—if a parent asked for an independent educational evaluation at public expense (IEE at public expense). Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) found this inconsistent with IDEA 2004 (300.502). They have required NJ to revise their regulations and until they do so make sure school districts are not evaluating children in an area not previously evaluated before paying for an IEE.

5. Other States regulations are also inconsistent with federal law but have not been told by the U.S. DOE that they must change their regulations. One example is New York who has a regulation that ESY eligibility is only for children with multiple disabilities and/or who show regression and slow recoupment. This is not consistent with federal special education law and may hurt children by denying them needed services. Another example is in my State of Illinois the parent guide states that parents must “request” an IEE before the testing is done. IDEA 2004 states that parents have the right to “obtain” an IEE if they disagree with the schools evaluation. A letter to the Illinois State Board of Education pointing out this inconsistency was answered with this statement “The office plans to review the identified guidance document and initiate any necessary revisions during the summer of 2012. Your information will be considered during the course of that process.” It is now 2014, and I will not be holding my breath for the State of Illinois to revise their parent guide.

6. OSEP policy letters often address inconsistent State laws and regulations! They are great advocacy tools and can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/index.html#topiclisting. I use them all the time to show special educators how the Office of Special Education Programs (at the U.S. DOE) interpret IDEA 2004 and inconsistent State regulations.

By understanding these 6 things about State Special Education Law, your advocacy will be empowered! Good Luck!

Making Sure No Child is Left Behind – Education Law Degree

While I do not have a law degree, working in education has allowed me to cross paths with education lawyers on numerous occasions. I found the issues they deal with on a daily basis to be both noble and challenging.

What is Education Law?

Education law deals with schools, school systems and school boards charged with educating children. It is a branch of civil law that encompasses the laws and regulations that govern federal and state education, administration and operation of educational institutions, school athletics and education programs, methods and materials.

What do Education Lawyers do?

Education lawyers work very closely with school faculty, staff, students and administration. They spend their time going over issues such as discipline, suspension, expulsion and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and disability. Additionally, education lawyer’s deal with questions related to school attendance, authority, civil rights, dress codes, drugs, disability, home schooling, immigrant visas, medical requirements, sexual harassment, and special education rights. As you can see, the span of topics coming across the desk of an education lawyer is impressive.

Careers in Education Law

Given that the span of topic covered by this area of the law is quite broad, so are the career opportunities. With an education law degree you could represent post-secondary educational institutions and institutions of higher learning in a number of different matters. Your clients could include a number of colleges, universities as well as school districts.

While representing these education institutions you would work on issues involving discrimination, disability, financial aid, and accreditation and licensing issues facing schools, staff and teachers/professors. Additionally, you could represent individuals, parents or students as well as teachers, professor and school employees on similar issues.

Job Outlook

Education law, and the lawyers that practice it, will continue to be a part of the education system. They are a necessity tasked with ensuring that every student has a fair and equal access to education.

According to the Department of Labor Statistics, employment of lawyers is expected to grow 11% during 2006-2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The increased demands for legal services will result in increased job opportunities. However, due to a large number of students graduating from law school, competition for jobs is quite intense. Those with strong academic records will have the best job opportunities.

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.