Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability or autism that feels like special education personnel are retaliating against, you for your advocacy? Has your child been suspended by the school, because you have complained about your child’s treatment? This article will be discussing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, retaliation, and how you can use the information in this article to prove retaliation.Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a federal anti discrimination law and applies to any entity, that receives federal funding; which all public schools do. The child cannot be discriminated against based on their disability. This law also prohibits retaliation based on a person being involved in a protected activity (advocacy is considered a protected activity). The Office of Civil Rights is the federal agency that enforces Section 504. Any retaliation complaints could be filed with them, or could be taken straight to court.The Office of Civil Rights has developed a 5 part test to determine whether a school district has engaged in prohibited retaliation. You can use these questions to help you prove your retaliation case. These 5 questions are:1. Has the parent/student engaged in a protected activity? Protected activities could be filing a state complaint, filing a due process complaint, filing a lawsuit in court. Any type of advocacy could be considered a protected activity.2. Was the district aware of the protected activity? This would not be hard to prove, especially if the retaliation is based on filing a complaint, or a due process hearing.3. Was the parent/student subjected to an adverse action? This could be any type of action that would harm the child or parent. Examples of adverse reaction may include: suspension or expulsion of the child, suspension from participating in extracurricular activities, or preventing parents from entering school grounds-in other words banning them from school property. This seems to me to be a brand new tactic that is occurring across the USA; parents being banned from entering the school, due to their advocacy. This is a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, in my opinion.Another adverse action I hear about quite often is school districts calling child protective services against parents! A friend of mine had this happen to her because she refused to pick her child up at school, when the school thought she should! Child protective services cleared my friend and even stood up to the school district, for my friend. Unless the school has real evidence of abuse; this action can be seen as retaliation!4. Will a neutral third party decide that there is a causal relationship or connection between the protected activity and the adverse action? Is there sufficient evidence to raise an inference that the protected activity was likely the reason for the adverse action? How close in time was the adverse action to the advocacy?5. Can the school district offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action, which a neutral third party will not consider to be pre textual? In other words if the school district can prove that the action was done for other than retaliation then they will win the retaliation claim. For example: If your child’s IEP states that he or she can be suspended for behavior, and they are suspended after your advocacy, it would be a tough job to prove that the advocacy is what caused the suspension. But if your child has a behavior plan, which does not include suspensions it would be easy to prove that a school suspension is linked to your advocacy.Use the information in this article to help you decide if you can prove retaliation, to OCR or in court. Remember the retaliation must have occurred after a protected activity-advocacy-must be close in time to the protected activity-and must be connected to the protected activity. Good luck!
Research on learning disabilities strongly supports early intervention in children who struggle academically. Children with a learning disability who receive proper attention and support to develop their weak areas are just as likely to be successful students as their peers without a disability, so long as their weaknesses are discovered early. Parents of students who need extra attention might want to consider special education schools. Learning about options in your area can help you select the right program.The first place to start your search may be with an independent evaluation. A team of psychologists and social workers can evaluate your child to determine his or her eligibility. These learning experts may also recommend additional testing if they suspect that the student falls along the autism or language-based learning disabilities spectrum. Further evaluation may help pinpoint your child’s weakness or give some indication of the type of remediation that may be beneficial.Once you have an idea of your child’s needs, start looking at the options your area. Making a list of priorities for your family can help narrow down your choices. Your list should include practical matters, such as location, transportation, availability of after-hours care and financial requirements are some examples.Additionally, academic programs and resources should factor into your decision. Consider whether your student will benefit from tutors, assistive technology and smaller class size. Research the school’s policy on extended time or other accommodations for testing whether classes can be scheduled in a flexible manner. Many people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. Opportunities to participate in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses or a gifted program may be an important consideration. On the other hand, others learn best in a non-competitive environment in which lessons are project- or theme-based.Finally, take the campus facilities and culture into consideration. Participating in extracurricular programs and sports can teach teamwork and sportsmanship to students who have trouble with social interactions. Conflict-resolution programs or a firm discipline policy may benefit some students.Parents should also visit special education schools before making a decision. During your visit, sit in on a class to make sure that students receive enough individual attention. If the special education school utilizes a particular curriculum with which you are unfamiliar, request information about the program’s philosophy and methods. Ask questions about how study periods or homework sessions are structured. Teachers and administrators should have a system for providing regular updates about your child’s progress, so be certain that you are satisfied with the level of communication you can expect. Finally, ask for phone numbers of parents with children enrolled in the school before ending your visit. Speaking with parents of students who currently attend the school is a great way to find out more about the program.Parents are the best advocates for children with learning disabilities. Exploring the educational options available and selecting the most effective special education curriculum can help ensure his or her academic success.
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!