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by Steve Glink
When do problems in school require schools to take action?
I take my 8 year old son to school in the morning and normally have to stay with him until he settles because otherwise he runs out of school refusing to go in. The school told me that if he runs out of school they cannot do much, as they have other children to look after. All they can do is phone me to go looking for him. My son has no sense of danger and would end up getting hurt but the school don't seem to care. I have talk to the center where he goes for his assessment for adhd but they deal with home and families not the school environment. So I phoned social services and they said they couldn't help either so I don't know which way to turn now. The school cannot cope with the responsibility for my son. Yesterday when I went to collect my son he had been involved in a incident where he had put a pencil into another buys leg and all the teacher could say was that she doesn't know what the repercussions are going to be. My son would have been statemented about 2 years ago but something went wrong through the schools side. When he was in the infants he had a lot behavior support and support from other agencies. Paperwork for school did not go through and now he receives no additional help. I do hope you can help or give me somebody that can, as I am at the end of my tether. I also have another 3 children at home 2 of which are very little so I am needed at home. My partner is ill at the moment and will be for a long time, and cannot manage to look after the other children but the school doesn't care. They say I am needed on call for my son, but I cannot be in two places at the same time.
Dear Null: Your e-mail to the ADDHelpline was forwarded to me for response. I am an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois. As such, I am only familiar with laws and court decisions of that jurisdiction. Your e-mail presents a number of factual and legal issues in the area of special education. Special education is governed by a variety of state and federal laws.I do handle many special education matters in Illinois.
Before I comment on your e-mail, I must caution you that my response is based upon the facts you provided and my interpretation of the law to those facts. The facts and the interpretation of the law are disputed in almost every case and it is impossible to predict which version of the facts/law will be accepted by the Court. Therefore, nothing contained herein should be construed as a guarantee of any specific result. Also, since we have never even met, nothing in my response should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship.I merely intend to give you some ideas.
Under the law, each local educational agency has an affirmative duty to locate and identify any child that may be in need of special education and related services. The process used to evaluate a child's eligibility for special education is a case study evaluation ("CSE"). The CSE consists of a variety of evaluations such as medical, speech/language, psychological and social, which are reviewed by an IEP team. The parent is an integral part of the IEP team.
A CSE evaluation maybe initiated by either the school or the parent. If you request a CSE, you should do so by sending a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the superintendent of your district. The school has 60 school days to complete the evaluation. If they refuse to do one, they must tell you that in writing. Similarly, if they do a CSE but find that the student is not eligible for special ed., they must tell you why in writing.
If the team decides that the student is eligible for special ed., then there is an IEP conference. The IEP (individual educational plan) is a contract between the school and the parent/student describing the student's placement, the student's educational goals/objectives and the manner is which the school intends to accomplish these goals. If you disagree with the school's decision regarding eligibility and/or placement (including their refusal to even do a CSE), you must file a request for a due process hearing. The school district is required to provide you with a list of places where you can obtain low cost legal services (to help you) in your area. The due process hearing is like a miniature trial, where an appointed hearing officer serves as the judge. There are various rules and regulations that are applicable to due process hearings. You can get those from your state board of education.
Not every child with a disability is eligible for special ed. The child must have a disability that negatively affects his/her educational performance (see: 20 USC 1400, 1415, a/k/a IDEA). For example, a diabetic who is under perfect control may have a disability but may not be eligible for special ed. There are other laws (section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA) that require the school to make reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. If IDEA is not applicable in your case, perhaps one of these other laws is. Your e-mail states that your son has ADHD. Under IDEA, if that has a negative impact on his education, he would be eligible for special ed. under the OHI (other health impairment) classification. He may also be eligible for educational accommodations (i.e., extra time to take tests; assignment books, etc.) under section 504 and/or the ADA. You would need a proper diagnosis of ADHD to support your case.
Your e-mail does not say whether or not there has been a CSE or if your son has been evaluated for special ed. eligibility. That is the first step. If they refuse, or decide that he is not eligible, you should file for a due process hearing. You can also file complaints with your state board of education, the U.S. Justice Department Office of Civil Rights or the U.S. Department of Education.
Your e-mail presents a distressing, yet common problem, which is a prevailing attitude amongst many school districts that they will not live up to their responsibilities. Quite frankly, they know that they have more resources than the average person and they frequently challenge parents to take them to court, knowing that it is hard to do. My message to you and other parents is to accept that challenge and fight them every step of the way. If you do not, they will walk all over you and your children.
I hope that this information helps. If you need any other information, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. Good luck! Steve Glink
Can a school district refuse to continue a service they previously agreed to?
Hi, I really need help and don't know where to turn next..... My son, Tyler, is 9 years old and in going into 4th grade. The school system in which we live is large and has many grade schools. When my son started 1st grade, we had just moved back to Ohio from Oregon and lived with my grandmother who is also the daycare provider, for a period of time until we were able to purchase our home. Unfortunately, the home we purchased was in the same school system but under a different, much larger, grade school. Because of consistency and daycare, I didn't want to change his school again, each year I have applied and have been approved for an intradistrict transfer to keep him at the smaller school. In 2nd grade, he was diagnosed with ADHD and put on Adderral. We have worked very closely with the teachers and him which turned his grades from "U"s (unsatisfactory) to "P"s (praiseworthy) and I am so proud!!!
On June 17th, I received my response to this years intradistrict request and was DENIED the transfer based on fewer kids per class at the larger grade school! Our 2nd grader was approved to remain at the smaller school but our 4th grader was being forced to change. I called the assistant superintendent of the school system, who makes these decisions, and pleaded with her not to make this decision. I was told it's a "numbers game" and there was nothing I could do about it. I explained that Tyler was ADHD and very withdrawn, doesn't make friends easy and has made incredible progress where he is. I also told her that he is hysterical about the change and told me he won't go back to school at all...She told me it didn't matter and he would have to adjust. Her question back to me is wouldn't you rather have him in a smaller class?? I responded with "smaller isn't always better" and told her that according to the Ohio Dept. of Education, the new school had scored 11% lower in 4th grade proficiency scores and 15.4% lower in 6th grade proficiency scores. I also told her that she was going to devastate my son both emotionally and academically.... she reverted back to the "numbers game" and that there was nothing she could do. She told me to pull my younger son out and put him in the new school too. He is in remedial reading and made drastic progress as well. This confrontation went on for about 45 minutes getting me nowhere and her final response was "you can always reapply next year"....
Both boys see a psychologist on a regular basis as we are a blended family dealing with the aftermath of each child being from a divorce situation and neither ex-spouse being an adequate parent. Their psychologist agrees that unexpectedly changing their school is going to cause for damage and is writing a letter to that effect.
I have since had discussions with the Superintendent who stated "nothing I can do", and 2 Members of the district's Board of Education....I am getting nowhere fast... Do you have any suggestions as to where I can turn next???
Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated. He has come so far and I hate to see this hurt him...
Your e-mail was forwarded to me for response by the addhelpline. I am an attorney who handles many special education cases. I am only licensed to practice in Illinois. As such, I am not familiar with state laws and / or court decisions in Ohio. However, much of special education law is federal, which I am familiar with. Here is some advise. Under federal law (IDEA; 20 USC 1401), ADD is a recognized disability. Under 20 USC 1415 (j), if there is a dispute on placement, the student must remain in the last approved placement until the dispute is resolved. Federal law ( & most state school codes) prohibits unilateral change of placement by a school district, except if drugs or weapons are involved. Here the school district may be violating your son's civil rights under IDEA and 42 USC 1983 if they unilaterally change his placement. The denial of the intradistrict transfer, while normally within the Board's discretion, may be prohibited here because that is your son's placement. At a minimum, they must convene an IEP meeting to discuss the change of placement. Then, if you disagree with their proposed change, they must file for due process. You should find an attorney in your area that specializes in this type of work because you might have to file for a due process hearing. You might need to go into federal court and seek an injunction. Even a letter from an attorney threatening all of this might help because the school's lawyer will know that they could be liable for damages and attorney's fees. You can also call the U.S. Justice Department, Office of Civil Rights or Office of Education and file a complaint. Good luck and let me know what happens. Steve Glink.