The amount of statutory guidance that addresses the special education needs of students can overwhelm parents. Just ask Eric Halluska.
“It was hard enough to figure out why my daughter struggled in school,” Eric said in a recent interview. “What’s worse is trying to figure out how to help her blend in with the other kids.”
Eric’s dilemma is one experienced by a rising number of parents who place their children in the American public school education system. The diagnosis of learning disabilities has improved, but so has the strategies to assist special needs students in the classroom. Enacted as a funding law to boost special education resources, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) remains the most powerful legal resource for special needs students.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates each state to create an educational governing body that develops policies specifically designed to meet the needs of special education students. Each state determines the level of funding that goes towards enhancing the education of special needs students between three and 21 years of age. The legal foundation of IDEA requires local educational entities to create an annual game plan for each student needing special accommodations to thrive in the classroom. Parents have input on the individualized education plans for their special needs children during every step of the process.
As with many federal statutes, some legal terms eventually are interpreted by a judge in a ruling on a pivotal case. Such is the case with the phrase “free and appropriate education” found within the groundbreaking Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA classifies free and appropriate education to mean public education that is provided by taxpayers under the supervision of public education teachers and administrators. Each state has enough legal leeway to define the meaning of the phrase by setting and implementing standards at the preschool through secondary education levels.
The team of educators at the school attended by your special needs child must under the legal terms spelled out by IDEA consider specified factors while creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Factors for developing an IEP include your child’s behavioral issues, such as the tendency for classroom outbursts and sudden, unexpected withdrawals from group projects. Your child’s communication deficiencies must also receive scrutiny by the teachers and administrators responsible for fulfilling IDEA legal mandates. For example, if your child has sight and/or hearing difficulties, the team creating the IEP must take the difficulties into account. The IEP specifically designed for your child must not only clearly identify the learning obstacles, but also offer education aids and services that mitigate the learning impediments.
The original intent of IDEA was to create unique learning environments that addressed the education needs of children who possessed learning disabilities. This often meant placing special needs students in learning environments outside of the standard classroom. In 1997, the United States Congress passed several amendments to IDEA, with one amendment making the seamless integration of special needs students within the standard classroom a priority. The 1997 amendment to IDEA mandated the academic, non-academic, and extracurricular integration of special needs students into the standard education system. Many special education experts agree that the amendment goes a long way towards answering yes to the question can the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act help your child.
Another way for parents to ensure IDEA helps their child is the legal authority to contest any provision of a child’s IEP. IDEA requires each state to fund voluntary mediation systems that resolve disputes that occur because of proposed Individualized Education Plans. Parents enjoy the legal right to request a due process hearing and a thorough review from the state education department.
Even after a failed mediation process, you still have a way to ensure IDEA helps your special needs child by contacting a licensed and experienced California special education law attorney. After a free initial consultation, you will have a better idea on how to proceed with a legal case against the school district responsible for helping your special needs child.