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.

The Need for Cyber Law Research in Education

Cyber law in education is an issue that is ripe for scholarly research and analysis.  The importance of this topic is growing exponentially with the meteoric rise in social networking and other online forums which are becoming a primary source of interaction among school aged students. One result of these “virtual” relationships is a blurring of the lines of jurisdiction for disciplinary responsibility. At what point do a student’s actions fall outside of the authority of his or her school? When the student uses school equipment on school grounds the analysis is very clear, but case law has created a continuum that defies any objective definition of where that jurisdiction ends. Similarly, at what point does a teacher or administrator’s actions leave the authority of their employer and become protected by their right to privacy? The question of jurisdiction must be addressed before meaningful processes can be implemented to counteract the damage that online actions can have on the school system.

The harms that are caused at the hands of students through cyber actions include marring the reputation of teachers and administrators, harassing other students and threatening the security of testing and other educational information. Similarly, educators often cause harm through their own cyber actions by using online forums in an inappropriate manner to the detriment of their school or district. These actions may compromise the safety and morals of their students and affect the integrity of the educational system itself. Yet any restriction on these actions runs the risk of violating constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. Needless to say, there is a careful and ever-evolving balancing process that needs to be maintained in this area of law. And the decisions of our courts and enactments of our legislatures must be monitored and influenced by educators and education law experts.

The bullying laws that are springing up in local legislatures provide an excellent example of the issues at stake in this field. There is an important responsibility for governments to protect children from this new form of harassment. At the same time, however, in addition to the inevitable first amendment challenges, educators need to have a voice as to the practical limits on building level school personnel in implementing these new laws. These issues present a fascinating intersection of legal issues that will only become more relevant and topical in the decades to come. 

Research and analysis will be important in normalizing policy in the field. Ultimately statutory enactments and case decisions will  provide the law on these subjects.  However, these statutes and decisions are by no means immutable.  Like any other area of law, they evolve and change over time.  And these shifting principles are all the more prevalent in a field of law that is in its infancy such as this one.  There are no long-standing seminal court decisions on the topic, nor is there any conventional wisdom with respect to a proper statutory framework.  Therefore, in this field more than any other that I can think of within education law, there is a need for scholarly research and publication to help organize and shape the developing legal trends.

Education Law – 10 Things You Didn’t Know

Just like in the commercial world, the education sector is bound by laws and regulations. Schools, Colleges, University and other educational establishments are increasing having to rely on legal assistance in order to ensure that the law is adhered to, and to settle disputes.

Education Law solicitors can advise on all legal issues that affect the education sector. Here are 10 of the common issues that Education Law covers.

1. Generating Income

Schools and other educational establishments are looking at different ways to create more income. By complying with education laws, income, and return on investment can be maximised.

2. Compliance

Educational establishments need to comply with discrimination laws and other workers’ and pupils’ rights. Staff and pupils shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their gender, age, skin colour, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality, or for any other reason.

3. Special Eduational Needs

Schools that teach pupils with Special Educational Needs need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the relevant laws. Sometimes there are appeals and tribunals.  And experienced Education Law professional can help either side to ensure that their voice is heard.

4. Grants and Loans

Some schools are fee paying schools, and so contracts will need to created and amended as necessary. In addition, grants and scholarships will need to be distributed evenly, and fairly. If there are any complaints or discrepancies, and Education Law solicitor will be able to help.

5. Interaction with the Private Sector

The education sector is looking at more ways of working with businesses, so that students and graduates have the relevant skills that businesses need. Education Laws ensure that the pupils are not exploited or undervalued.

6. Pupil Behaviour

Pupil behaviour has been increasingly in the news recently, and not always for the right reasons. From truancy to violence in the classroom, Education Law solicitors can advise either party to help achieve a suitable outcome.

7. Intellectual Property Rights

Computer and other technical work is more prevalent in schools and colleges nowadays, and the issue of Intellectual Property is increasingly important. Education Law can help advise on the legalities of work produced at school.

8. Students and Admissions

Popular schools, colleges and universities are often oversubscribed. This often leads to unhappy parents and pupils. Education Law can help ensure that all policies and procedures are followed properly, and that those who have not been admitted haven’t been discriminated against.

9. Land and Property

School, Colleges and Universities are increasingly either in need of more land and property, or trying to sell off unused land or property. Education Law makes sure that the acquisition or disposal of land and property is done properly.

10. Accidents at School

Unfortunately accidents at school do happen, and these can sometimes be serious. Pupils and staff have a right to expect that the school buildings and equipment is safe, and there could be grounds for compensation. Accidents whilst at school could include any slips or trips in the playground, or on the sports pitch, as well as incidents in the chemistry laboratory or on a geography field trip. Education Law solicitors help to ensure that cases are dealt with properly.

Now you know more about it, if you are involved in Education, how could an Education Law solicitor be able to help you?