SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW

SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW

Basic Summary of the obligations of Public School Districts, Charter Schools, and those schools that are "Federal Funds Recipients".



Is My Child a Special Needs Child?

  • A child may be a special needs child if he or she is between the ages of three and twenty-one, has not graduated High School, and is:
    • Hearing Impaired,
    • Visually Handicapped,
    • Mentally Retarded,
    • Orthopedically Impaired,
    • Multi-Handicapped,
    • Autistic,
    • Speech/Language Impaired,
    • Learning Disabled,
    • Emotionally Disturbed, and/or
    • Behavior Disordered.
  • How Can You Determine Whether Your Child Has Special Needs?
    • Your child's school is required to identify and evaluate all children with special needs.
    • It is also required to tell you that free special education programs are available.
  • When Should I Request An Evaluation of My Child?
    • If the school has failed to contact you, you have the right to ask the school to evaluate your child.
    • The evaluation must be completed within 60 calendar days from the date after it receives your signed consent to evaluate.
    • Certain days don't count toward the 60 calendar days:
      • All school holidays and Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks as adopted by the district school board;
      • The summer vacation period beginning the day after the last day of school for students and ending on the first day of school for students in accordance with the calendar adopted by the district school board; and
      • In the circumstance when a student is absent for more than eight school days in the 60-calendar-day period, the student’s absences (i.e., those absences beyond the first eight school-day absences) shall not be counted toward the 60-calendar-day requirement.  (There are exceptions, but these are very specific to a given set of facts.)
  • What Happens During A Case Study Evaluation?
    • Within 30 calendar days of a Parent request for an Evaluation, the school district must request consent from the parent or legal guardian to evaluate the student unless the parent or legal guardian and the school agree otherwise in writing.
    • School districts have the responsibility of ensuring that all students who are suspected of having a disability and are in need of special education and related services are identified, located and evaluated and that the evaluation process is at no cost to the parent or legal guardian.
    • The school district should invite you to a meeting to determine what assessments should be conducted to complete the Evaluation so as to assess your child for all suspected disabilities.
    • It is your right to participate and accommodations should be mde for you to attend.  That could mean a meeting time outside the normal school day hours and should accommodate participation by telephone or video-conference if you are unable to attend any other way.
      • If you have specific concerns, then you should be prepared to give them during the conference.  It is best to prepare a list of those concerns prior to the meeting, give the list to the School District, and insist that it be attached to the written determinations made at the meeting.
    • As part of the Evaluation, you may be asked how your child learns, behaves at home, and how he/she gets along with friends and family.
    • Thereafter, the assessments should be completed and a second meeting scheduled for you to find out the results of the Evaluation assesments and the recommendations of the various professional evaluators who conducted the assessments.
  • If your child is found to be a Student with a Disability and who is in need of special education and related services, then the school district should create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) detailing how your child's educational program will be different from the regular curriculum, what additional support "related services" will be given (if any are needed), and how those changes will look over your child's school term. 

The IEP Meeting (IDEA and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act)

  • What are My Rights Prior to the Team Meeting?
    • The school must invite you to this meeting, and, if you request a copy of the evaluation, the school must provide it to you at least 2 days prior to the meeting.
    • You may bring anyone and/or your attorney, but you must give prior notice to the school if your attorney will be present.
  • What is the Purpose of the Team Meeting?
    • To allow an opportunity to examine the results of the available evaluations, and
    • To develop a written Individual Education Program (IEP).
  • What is in an IEP?
    • The IEP is the written description of all of the related services to be supplemented to your child's educational program; how the program will be different form the curriculum for regular education students (what changes, when will they occur, how they will occur, what type of professional will be involved in the change or related service, etc., of your child's education program.
    • The School District does not have to specify who the various support personnel, teachers, or outside professionals will be.  In certain circumstances, you may be able to do so.   However, they are very limited.
  • What If I Do Not Agree With The IEP Plan?
    • You may file for Due Process before the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).
    • While a decision is pending, the school can’t change your child’s present placement unless you agree to do so (even temporarily).
    • You should contact a parent education attorney to assist in the preparation, filing and litigation of any Due Process Hearing.  While theoretically a parent can do so on their own; practically, almost all who have done so, lost their case.

Do You Need an Attorney?

We may be able to help if:

  • Your child has a learning or developmental disability, impairment or handicap, or a mental illness, and is not functioning well in school and/or home;
  • Your child is failing in school and you suspect that he or she may have a disability;
  • Your child has significant problems at home and at school, has never had any testing, and has never received an Individualized Education Program;
  • Your child has been identified as a special education student, but you are dissatisfied with the results of the special education program provided;
  • Your child is in a special education program, your privately obtained testing disagrees with the public school testing, and you want the School District to provide the private professionals’ recommendation(s);
  • Your child has been suspended several times from school and is in danger of being expelled; and/or
  • You wish to plan your child's future financial needs through special needs trusts.

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