August 30, 2019

Special Education Law and Your Child’s Rights

Child raising her hand in class

As the summer comes to a close and a new school year begins, children across the state of Wisconsin head back to the bus stop and school. Some parents may have young children that are just school age and may not know what their rights are for their education. Some laws protect the rights of students with special needs and assist in providing resources for the student, parents, and educators. Learn what rights your family has when it comes to education below.

In 1990, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act replaced its’ predecessor, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). This law provides a framework for children with disabilities to receive public education in a less restrictive environment. The foundation of education for children with special needs is the Individual Education Program (IEP). In Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988), the United States Supreme Court described the IEP as “the centerpiece of the statute’s education delivery system for disabled children”. The Court further stated that the IEP is the “basis for the handicapped child’s entitlement to individualized and appropriate education”.

Individual Education Plans are offered for children that may have disabilities or delayed skills. The IEP provides special services and education plans that are of no cost to families to assist in the education of their child. Each parent needs to know the process to access these services and what steps are necessary to qualify. First, the parent(s) work with educators to determine whether or not an IEP is required. Children may have learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, visual and hearing impairments, developmental delays, cognitive disorders, emotional disorders, speech and language disabilities, and physical disabilities. Typically a parent, teacher or physician may be concerned that a child may be exhibiting symptoms of one of the above-mentioned disabilities and a referral for an IEP is requested.

The school will require that data is collected through meetings with the student, parents, teachers, an analysis of student performance, and observation of the student in their current learning environment. Once this information is collected, several professionals may be brought in to observe the child’s performance on school work. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, speech therapists, and hearing specialists are often used in this capacity. Once all of the parties have completed their assessments they are compiled in a report. The parents are then informed as to whether or not an IEP is appropriate for the child. It is important to note that a child can be diagnosed with a special need and still may not be approved for an IEP. Schools often attempt to adjust the classroom environment before approving an IEP.

Often, parents disagree with the results of the assessment or rejection of an IEP for their child. The rights of your child and access to an IEP may differ depending on whether or not they are in a public or private school. Parents should reach out to an advocate that can clarify all of the issues that they are facing and what possible options they may have to guarantee that their child receives the best education that they can. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is complex and can be difficult for parents to understand and what recourse you may have if you have a child with special needs.

Get more information by speaking with a Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs attorney

If you find yourself with questions regarding the education of your special needs child or feel that your child’s rights have been violated, call Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs. We are here to assist you with your potential case.